Detroit is one establishment closer to being the blueprint for Black-owned innovation and it has Lance McGhee to thank.
McGhee is the founder and CEO of Storm Cigar and Hookah Lounge, a luxury cigar and hookah shop on Wyoming which recently opened.
“So far, we’ve been doing great. Storm Cigar and Hookah Lounge had an outstanding first week, we’re going into our second week, the response has been very good on social media and when people come out to the building,” said McGhee. “I’m very proud of the work that has gone into it and I’m very grateful that the people have supported us.”
Despite the success he’s seen, McGhee says he saw more smoke than fire during the business’ initial stages.
“In terms of building safety and engineering departments, while some of them have been helpful, others have created hurdles that prevented me from opening,” said McGhee. “COVID presented some problems because I couldn’t get my inspections done to open the business in the timeframe that I wanted to get it open.”
“I don’t think that the fear of the pandemic is going to stop people from wanting to have a good time,” said McGhee. “Storm Cigar and Hookah Lounge has an outside patio and is a relatively small lounge so we’ve allowed for social distancing. People want to get out, have a good time and do it safely, and Storm Cigar and Hookah Lounge provides a space for inner-city Detroiters to do that without having to go to the suburbs or having to go downtown to enjoy themselves.”
Located in the heart of Detroit’s Fitzgerald neighborhood, Storm Cigar and Hookah Lounge is the first of its kind to create a home in one of the city’s more urban areas. McGhee, a Detroiter who finds great reward in taking risks, says his decision to place the building on Wyoming Avenue was done purposefully.
“I specifically wanted to put my business in a neighborhood like Fitzgerald so we could see that it’s possible, so that we could see these out-of-the-box types of business and know that they can survive. Hopefully, it motivates other people to invest in businesses like this,” said McGhee.
“There was a thirst, a lack, a void of businesses other than barbershops, beauty supply [stores] and liquor stores. We can put things other than that in our neighborhood. It doesn’t always have to be the same old business. We can put more innovative businesses like what you see in the suburbs. I wanted to be the first to do something like that and with Storm Cigar and Hookah Lounge, I am. There is no other Black-owned cigar and hookah lounge in Detroit that is state-certified.”
McGhee created Storm Cigar and Hookah Lounge with inner-city Detroiters in mind. Determined to increase the convenience of engaging in recreational activities while in Detroit, Mcghee added an outdoor heated patio, a brand-new rehab lounge full of cedarwood walls, colorful hookah, music and televisions to his business – elements that can’t be found anywhere else on Wyoming Avenue.
“It’s a whole experience they’ve never seen on Wyoming before. [Detroiters] appreciate that in their neighborhood,” McGhee said. “People are going to come out and patronize, they just want it in the neighborhood.”
“When people come to Storm Cigar and Hookah Lounge, I want them to say, ‘Wow, this is nice! I’m comfortable here and I want to come back’,” said McGhee. “When you walk in, you’re going to be treated like family. Our staff is extremely engaging. It’s comfortable, classy, it’s unique. It is afro-centric so you’ll see African masks on the walls blended with hip-hop icons. It’s just a total vibe.”
The business owner says he’s run into many challenges as a result of creating a new and innovative business in Detroit’s urban area.
“The bureaucracy that comes with putting a business in the city is almost enough to turn you away,” McGhee said. “Building Safety and Engineering, they’ll walk past five blighted buildings to come and mess with us when they see we’re building something shiny and new in the neighborhood.”
McGhee, who hasn’t let the obstacles destroy his entrepreneurial spirit, says he has always been the type to persevere through the storm – even before the five-letter was attached to his newest business.
“I don’t have quit in me,” McGhee said before laughing. “I may have to pause and change my approach or I may need to get some assistance if there’s something I don’t understand, but as far as quitting, when I’ve run into all the issues I’ve had with getting my certificate of occupancy or getting my tobacco license or business relationships I’ve had to sever, I’ve been through a lot, but I once I lock into something I’m going to complete it. That’s the beautiful and terrifying thing about me.”
Detroiters can visit Storm Cigar and Hookah Lounge at 15850 Wyoming Ave.