Hookah shop opens on Main Street

The newest tenant on downtown La Crosse’s Main Street has been drawing curious stares all week during its setup, and on Black Friday the doors to Azara opened.

The store, at 401 Main St., stocks about 300 hookahs, ranging in price from $20 to $300, as well as apparel, tapestries, hand-blown glass artwork and pipes, incense and burners, pipe tobacco, charcoal, lighters, electric cigarettes, cleaning supplies and other smoking accessories.

Azara Hookah Lounge

The doors to Azara opened on Black Friday.

In the coming weeks, project manager Michael Clatt hopes to also launch a tobacco-free hookah lounge within the business, where people can hang out and share hookah sessions on site. Because tea leaves or flavored rocks would be used instead of tobacco, the lounge wouldn’t violate indoor smoking bans, county and state officials said.

For anyone still scratching their head, a hookah is a smoking instrument that draws smoke through water in a vase to be inhaled through a hose. Smoldering coals are used to burn a mix of tobacco, molasses, fruit juices and flavorings ranging from chocolate to guava to mint. The smoke is drawn down into a glass base where it is cooled in water, or wine, spirits, juice or even milk.

“It’s relaxing and really fun,” Clatt said. “People try to blow smoke rings.”

While cigarettes are for “people on the go” who finish smoking within minutes, he said, a hookah session takes about 40 minutes to an hour. It’s easier to control your breathing with a hookah, he said, plus it’s more social. A hookah can be used alone, but many people like to pass it around. And for the truly germ-adverse, many styles of hookahs have multiple hoses.

Clatt said he expects to hire four to six employees, and eventually will add disc golf supplies to Azara’s inventory. He’s also willing to buy inventory from local artists and glass blowers.

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