On a recent trip to Berlin, I came across an exotic pastime hailing from the shores of India hookah or shisha, the smoking of herbal fruits and tobacco, was featured in almost every bar or lounge we either frequented or passed in pursuit of other recreation. So, I was rather surprised to have run across The Vapor Hookah Bar and Social Club smack dab in the heart of my community better known for birthing Kings of surf, shuttle launches, and miles of beaches.
Located at 701 E New Haven Avenue in downtown Melbourne, Vapor is still a newbie in the Space Coast after hours scene, but telling from the Club’s website and full schedule of events it seems like its already a local favorite. Interested in how the owner came up with an idea that originated several oceans away, I decided to send her an email to appease my inqusitive mind.
Where did you get the inspiration to open a hookah bar? I have three college age daughters who had been to hookah bars in major cities. Although I was familiar with hookah, I went to a few to find out what my daughters were getting into… I found them to be a great, safe hangout for young adults and when circumstances placed me in a position to open my own business, I thought Melbourne might be ready to a “next generation” hookah bar – one that didn’t only focus on the college crowd, but opened the experience to folks of all ages.
Was there a lot of resistance from friends/family? No. I have a very supportive network that trusts my judgment on business matters. There were a few acquaintances that felt that city government would give me some resistance, but I have to say I had an exceptional experience dealing with all of the city’s governing agencies, from Planning and Zoning, to the Building and Health Departments, City Council, and the Architectural Review Board. I think we have a fantastic set of folks working for our taxpayers in Melbourne. As a first time business owner, I needed plenty of guidance and hand holding, and found it in our city employees. I was able to open my business in less than four months from the time I made the decision to do it, and a big part of that was the result of their assistance.
How has the reception been to the business? Better than I could have hoped for. From a dollars and cents standpoint, the business has been covering its own expenses since the third week after we opened our doors. We managed to see some growth from our first month to our second even though we are in the slow season, and I have high hopes for August and September once the college folks come back to school. We have about a 60/40 split in our customer base, 60% being young adults (under 30) and the remainder a mix of young professionals and older folks like me. I think one thing that they might all have in common is an adventurous spirit and an open mind – There is very little familiarity with hookah in this area, so the folks that come in and give us a try are ones that are looking for something new. Many have the misconception that the environment is going to be like that of a cigar bar, but are surprised to find that the smoke is virtually undetectable, even for folks with smoke allergies. The tobacco never burns, so I would say it produces a vapor, rather than a smoke.
What do you see in the future for your business? Growth. As we get the word out and educate the general population about the nature of hookah, I believe we will gain a footing in the “event venue” space. We’ve hosted a few parties here, both public and private, and our unusual seating arrangement (large U shaped couches and living room style setups) provide a unique environment for socializing. We see quite a few professionals bringing customers here as a stop in their entertainment agenda. I also see more folks being converted once they understand the difference between hookah and other forms of smoking – less than 5% nicotine per serving, zero tar (because the tobacco doesn’t burn and there is no paper to burn), wonderfully aromatic, and great tasting. I find that non-smokers tend to become more passionate about hookah for a number of reasons: cigarette smokers require the higher levels of nicotine, and non-smokers enjoy the experience once they realize it is unlikely to create a habit because of the low nicotine content and the fact that the hookah is difficult and time consuming to set up, smoke and break down.
The Vapor Hookah Bar and Social Club is open Monda y- Saturday from 6:00 p.m. – 2:00 a.m. The atmosphere is upscale yet relaxed. Theme nights include: College Night (Monday); Gentleman’s Night (Tuesday); Vaporize the Midweek Blues (Wednesday); Ladie’s Night (Thursday); Smokin’ Fridays (Friday) and Single’s Night (Saturday).
The menu includes 22 flavors or mixed flavors of tobacco. The club also serves beer, wine, sake, Kahlua, Margaritas, Mojitos, champagne cocktails, small snacks, and specialty coffees. And free wi-fi is available to all patrons.