PLATTSBURGH - Junaidz Hookah Lounge is filling a popular social niche for many Plattsburgh locals.
The business, owned and operated by Junaid Tarar, occupies the space where the former Oraja Lounge once served hookah customers of its own. When the former business closed last year, Tarar saw a void left in the community.
"I had a feeling it would work," claimed Tarar.
The idea was to create a relaxing, inviting setting that allows people to gather and enjoy smoking hookah - a tobacco-free and drug-free waterpipe - a pastime that dates back hundreds of years. What he's created is something Tarar prides himself on - an all-inclusive environment that creates social interaction.
"Environment is very important for me, Iwant [customers] to come for the environment, music, good product, customer service - together, these things create a successful business," said the 24-year-old Tarar.
The business has taken off since opening in January, with Tarar attributing the popularity to his personal ideology, which is reflected in his lounge. "This hookah is my reflection." noted Tarar. "You should always love your job, you should love your place, and what you do."
The young businessman also recognizes the importance of having not one, but two colleges within a 10-mile radius, drawing in college students much like himself, looking for an alternative to the local bar scene.
"I'm not a big drinker," said Tarar. "I drink occasionally, but you want to have the same environment - somewhere to sit, chill, relax."
In addition to being a viable substitute for drinking, hookah can also be a healthier alternative to smoking, said Tarar. Despite its association with marijuana smoking and bongs, Tarar lauds smoking hookah is actually safer than both smoking and drinking, as it allows one to relax without "losing your sense."
"I'm health conscious, with hookah your smoking dried fruits," explained Tarar.