Café Hookah is a little different from most businesses hoping to make their mark on the crowded downtown scene. Here, you can just plug in your iPod and puff the night away.
The shop sits attached to a string of other businesses in downtown College Park, including staples such as Potbelly and Marathon Deli. While the shop’s tinted windows and dark lighting may appear uninviting from its exterior, manager Aaron Czarnolewski said he strives to create an accepting atmosphere, calling the store “an open place.”
“We welcome different people,” Czarnolewsk said. “And we really invite them to bring their own experience and expectations in.”
While the economic downturn has seen many local spots come and go in recent years, the café is off to a solid start, Czarnolewski said. It has seen a steady flow of customers since opening Feb. 10, he said, adding that store traffic usually intensifies around 8 p.m. and is busiest on the weekend nights. It opens at noon every day and closes at 1 a.m. from Sunday to Wednesday, and 4 a.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.
“It fluctuates — on the weekends; sometimes we get a nice line out the door,” Czarnolewski said, adding that one flavor, “blue mist,” has already become a favorite among the store’s loyal fanbase. “We have to restock that one a lot; it gets gobbled up pretty quickly.”
It offers two different kinds of hookah — “premium” and “not premium” — and allows up to two people per hookah.
Café Hookah faces competition from Prince Café and Mosaic Café, which are both located in the Campus Village Shopping Center near Berwyn House Road. But Czarnolewski said the store’s downtown locale and customer-friendly attitude set it apart.
“We’re a little close to campus,” he said. “We definitely put customer service above everything. … People here are really, really dedicated.”
Some Café Hookah customers, such as 2008 graduate Swati Divakarla, said the shop’s overall vibe places it above other city hookah spots.
“The environment is a little bit nicer. … The music is good, the hours are good,” Divakarla said, adding that while she frequented Prince Café during her freshman year, it has since plummeted in quality. “Prince sucks; they just didn’t maintain the place. … Mosaic is a better spot for people looking to sit down and eat.”
Freshman theatre major Adriana Sedjeu began her first day as a Café Hookah employee yesterday. Her passion for hookah combined with the store’s “chill” attitude enticed her to apply, she said.
“I came in here, and it was, like, really chill,” Sedjeu said. “[Management] takes care of their customers — they see you, and they talk to you.”
The store takes requests from customers, even allowing them to plug in their own music players, she added.