Meet Your Merchant: Carson's only hookah bar serves up flavored tobacco

Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal

Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal

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On a Friday night inside Caterpillar's Hookah Lounge on Carson Street, a couple dozen people sink into overstuffed couches as they puff away on hookahs, a water pipe filled with flavored tobacco known as shisha.

Music and bottles of water flow - the lounge doesn't have a liquor license - as people converse around clouds of smoke, amid murals of scenes from Alice in Wonderland.

It's Carson City's only hookah lounge, which came under new ownership in July.

"It's our living room on Main Street," said Nathaniel Killgore, 25, who co-owns the business with his wife Dana, 22.

Since the Killgores took over they say they have been enjoying life running a small business. They also acknowledge their line of work stokes as much controversy as it does intrigue.

Both of them were raised in Northern Nevada. Nathaniel previously worked for a local grocery store.

"We were working for the man," Dana Killgore said with a chuckle. Then they were invited to run the shop by a friend who opened it about two years ago.

"It fell into our lap, it was an amazing opportunity," she said. "There was no way to pass it up."

Nathaniel said they remodeled the business, building a bar where customers can order soft drinks, snacks and their preferred shisha flavors, which range from peanut butter to pumpkin pie.

They also hang artwork from area residents.

"We just let local people come in and if they have art we just let them put it up," Dana said. "We want to bring in all kinds of art forms."

They host live music, poetry and comedy as well as events such as drum circles and parties: A "Sexy Mardi Gras" soiree is scheduled this month, for example.

Since the 1990s, hookah lounges have grown in popularity around the country, especially near college campuses.

Histories written on the hookah suggest it originated in India and expanded into the Middle East about 400 years ago.

Today, the Killgores' customers range from legislators in business suits to "18-year-old punk rockers," Dana Killgore said.

Meanwhile, the owners say that hookah lounges have been the subject of criticism, largely for making smoking tobacco products appealing to young people.

Experts say the practice carries the same health risks as cigarettes.

To reduce the potential for nicotine addiction, the Killgores said, is why they offer a tobacco-free shisha, which is made out of tea leaves.

As for business, they're doing enough to put some money in their pockets, "but not enough to make you rich," Nathaniel said.

"Somehow things worked out perfectly that we got moved into this place," Dana said.

If you go

Caterpillar's Hookah Lounge

Where: 314 S. Carson St.

Contact: 775-883-2777


Hours: 3 p.m. to midnight Sunday-Thursday; 3 p.m. to 1 a.m. Friday-Saturday


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