Star City Six – Austin Hillis
Capital Cigar Lounge (capitalcigar.com), located off of 16th and Old Cheney, is the Midwest’s premier cigar lounge. Austin Hillis is a co-owner of Capital Cigar Lounge.
Tell us a little about your business.
Capital Cigar is a modern indoor smoking lounge where “Friends enjoy friends.” Non-smokers enjoy their time in the lounge as well, as it is equipped with a state-of-the-art ventilation system. The purpose of the lounge is to create a space that allows for quality conversation between friends, old and new. Yes, we sell cigars and liquor, and we do a good job at offering our guests the best selection of both, but that means nothing without friends and family to enjoy it with. Our goal is to make everyone who walks through our doors feel like they belong, and we love to see new connections form as people come together over a shared passion for community, good cigars, and fine spirits, wine, and local beer.
How did you get started in the business?
I purchased Capital Cigar from the original owner in June of 2017. My business partner, Tony Goins, was a customer of Capital Cigar, and we hit it off right away. Over several conversations, and cigars of course, we came to the realization that Lincoln needed a space like the one we’ve since created at Capital Cigar Lounge today.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced professionally?
My age. I purchased Capital Cigar six days after I turned 21, which is pretty uncommon, so I’ve had to overcome many misconceptions from my peers. There are people who think I’m just a rich kid and that I’ve been handed everything, but I know I’ve worked hard for what I’ve built.
What has been your most important achievement professionally?
The mutual respect I have established with prominent business leaders in Lincoln, as well as in other markets.
Tell us a little about your family.
I am the oldest of three children. My father, Jeff, has a background in IT and experience starting/owning/selling 12+ businesses. My mother, Stephanie, has a background in the medical field. She was a stay-at-home mother for 17 years and then stepped back into medicine when I graduated high school. I definitely got my entrepreneurial spirit from my family.
What do you see as one of the biggest turning points in your life?
For a long time, my plan was to play collegiate baseball. I had played the game 4–5 hours a day, year-round since I was a toddler. However, I made the decision to leave baseball after being blessed with the opportunity to work for a law firm in my hometown. I matured a lot in my role there, and it allowed me to gain an understanding of business early on. Ultimately, that decision brought me to Lincoln to enroll in UNL’s law program.
What is your favorite thing to do on a day off?
Traveling. I love experiencing different cultures.
What is your favorite quote or the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
One of my mentors, Rory Fulcher, consistently reminds me not to waste my youth.
What local nonprofit organization(s) are you passionate about or involved with, and are there any special reasons why?
Tony and I decided to support Homeless Veterans. With Tony and many of my family members having served in the military, we have a special place in our hearts for vets who have a hard time adjusting to the civilian lifestyle.
What is your favorite movie?
The Godfather, of course.
What is your favorite local restaurant?