In our constant goal to bring you the best information on the newest products I now present to you my interview with the owner of Project One. What is Project One? It’s the newest line of glass hookahs hitting the market and it’s something that deserves your attention. You can’t get your hands on these beautiful hookahs yet as they are still taking pre-orders to gear up for the full launch, so you’ll have to be satisfied with this look behind the curtain as Stephen, the owner, answers my usual barrage of questions.
What is your earliest hookah memory?
My earliest hookah memory takes place sometime around 1998. I would have been around 15 at the time. Some of my friends had heard of a shisha lounge (and I use the term loosely) called Nefertiti’s in downtown Montreal that apparently didn’t card, so we decided to go and check it out.
** Thanks to our local supporters from the Young Black Professionals New to Houston on Meetup.com group**
It was a dimly lit, little hole in the wall surrounded by strip clubs. The place was wall-to-wall bookshelves and open display cases filled with Egyptian nic-naks, souvenir’s and paintings, with little white handwritten signs saying “please, no touch”. Everything was gold! Well, gold painted anyways. The owner was an older Egyptian man who we would later refer to as the shisha nazi, for his soup-naziesque business practices. If you were more than two people on a hookah, if you didn’t order a soft drink or a tea, if you touched any of his things, if you were too loud, he’d throw you out.
As a matter of fact, if you google “Nefertiti’s Montreal shisha” or search the forums I think you’ll come across a few stories about the guy. He’s sort of a legend. My first time there I ordered what I now know to be Nakhla double apple, and after taking my first pull I was in love. I loved the taste and the feeling of exhaling big clouds of puffy white smoke. Nothing at all like smoking a cigarette. I remember walking out of there and telling myself I would buy a hookah as soon as I had my own place.
What made you realize you wanted a career in hookah?
I sort of fell into it really. I remember when glass hookahs started gaining in popularity a few years ago and thinking they were really cool. I spent a long time watching YouTube reviews and reading about them, but I never pulled the trigger. They were really nice looking, but not exactly what I wanted. Fast forward a little bit and I found myself out for drinks with some friends when the topic of glass hookahs came up. It turns out one of the guys I was with had some ties in the glass industry. After explaining what a hookah was, and that it would cost me about $400 to get one shipped to Canada, he kind of laughed and said he was sure he could have one custom made for me for much cheaper.
I knew I wanted to make something around 24”, with a real tray, a purge valve and a stem that would fit a female bowl, so that I could use my other bowls as well. I knew then and there that if the piece turned out well that I would to turn it into a business. Fast forward a few more months, and the oohs and ahhs from everyone I showed it to convinced me to dive in head first.
Excluding your own, what is your favorite hookah product on the market today?
This one isn’t even close. The Kaloud Lotus, hands down. This one was a game changer for me. I bought one pretty early on and haven’t touched my aluminum foil since.
If you had to choose just one, what is your favorite product that you make/offer? Which are you most proud of? Why?
My favorite has to be the Alpha hose. The glass mouth tip has this awesome weight to it. It just feels great in the hand. It’s a nice wide gauge, and it’s really easy to clean the hose.
I am most proud of the Alpha hookah though. I think it is one of the most beautiful hookahs you can buy, whether it be glass or traditional. Seeing something that you’ve designed come to life is a very special feeling for me. I’m really proud of the work we’ve accomplished.
How would you like to see the hookah industry change in the future?
I’d really like to see the industry shed some of it’s frat-boy stigma. Although it has gotten much more accepted over the last decade, I think there is still this idea, at least in North America , that hookah is something only kids smoke in their dorm rooms. I’d love to see it become adopted more among an older demographic as something do with friends. I’m picturing a bunch of seniors retiring to the foyer after a meal to enjoy a nice single malt scotch and some Fumari. Haha.
Three flavors to smoke for the rest of your life; what are they?
What do you being to the market as a vendor that makes you unique?
There isn’t anyone else out there producing traditional looking glass hookahs right now. There are guys like Santino (Crown Hookahs) who can custom make you one, but the price point for a custom build means they are out of reach for most buyers.
This isn’t work for me. I get to be surrounded by other enthusiasts all day and talk about hookah. I think my love of hookah really comes through in our products. Although we are making these to sell to the customer, the ultimate person I am making them for is myself.
Do you have any other projects or new products on the horizon? Anything in development?
Absolutely. We have some new models in the pipeline that we’re really excited about. Without giving too much away, I’ll say that our ultimate goal is to offer something very customizable and modular to the customer. Something you can really make your own. 2014 is going to be a very exciting year for us.