Words by Thandiwe Ogbonna
The Lotus Lounge, visible at AURA Music & Arts Festival 2014, is a highly capable relaxation epicenter. Housing a DJ booth at the center and a 5000 watt sound system, it is equipped with ambient lighting with the option to add a professional lighting system.
An ongoing design, The Lotus Lounge is the brainchild of Eagles Nest Outfitters (ENO) CEO Peter Pinholster, who I spoke with about the design over the phone. He started “bending aluminum pipe” because of a desire to give back to the community that has loyally supported ENO in the past.
“I did it mainly because I wanted to give a little bit more at these festivals and add a little more to the environment … be more proactive and involved and provide relaxation during the event,” Pinholster says.
Design and Implementation
The lotus flower, an iconic symbol of life and beauty, is a personal favorite of Pinholster’s and the basis for the Lotus Lounge structure. With the addition of 25 companion ENOpods, born out of the Lounge’s design process, the Lounge becomes a de-stress zone containing up to 87 hammocks. Inflatable couches can be added for another layer of comfort. Capacity meets coverage in the 60 ft. by 60 ft. tent that significantly enlarges the Lounge’s footprint.
The Lotus Lounge was debuted at Highland Brewing Company’s “The Meadow” in Asheville, N.C, in June of 2013. Asheville-based DJs Marley Carroll and Push/Pull provided the soundtrack for a night of laser shows, projection art, and fire spinning.
The Lounge has also been spotted at other North Carolina events, as well as last year’s CounterPoint Music Festival in Kingston Downs, Ga. Pinholster says, though, that the version of the lounge that is to be seen at AURA is much closer to the final goal.
“What you’ll see at AURA fest will be pretty much the best I have currently for Lounge. I’m bringing everything out there.”
Overall, The Lotus Lounge Project has required serious resources: Roughly $200,000 has been seeded into its creation, with the price tag ever-rising as more improvements and adjustments are made.
But Pinholster’s not in it for the money.
“I’m not trying to make any money with it. Currently I can’t quantify what it’s given back, but I know it’s going to happen. It’s just going to take time. But it’s just my way of thanking everybody for being fans of ENO and just sticking with us. It’s been a long road.”
ENO began in 1999, initially a side project of brothers Peter and Paul Pinholster, Florida Keys natives who grew up going to Phish and Grateful Dead shows and spent a lot of time in hammocks. The brothers sewed parachute nylon hammocks in their sister’s garage.
“My very first show that I ever sold a hammock at was Suwannee, Suwannee River Music Park,” Peter says. “I didn’t have a booth there. We hitchhiked up there with hammocks in the backpacks, and I would go into campsites and show people our hammocks. I think at that show I sold $750 in hammocks just walking around.”
After purchasing a van, Peter and Paul began vending out of booth spaces at bluegrass and jamband festivals, RV, boat and sports shows, as well as arts and crafts and home and garden shows. The brothers hit everything they could. They quit their jobs, and ENO became full-time.
Constant life on the road proved unsustainable, and two years later, ENO began expanding into wholesale markets, as well as several mom and pop camping and hiking supply stores across Virginia and the East Coast.
Operations moved from Florida to a trailer on Peter and Paul’s parents’ Virginia farm. For two years ENO was headquartered there, continually expanding its wholesale client list and making appearances at two shows a weekend.
Disaster struck when that trailer on the farm burned to the ground, while both Peter and Paul were working events.
“I got a phone call at 2 a.m. saying that our whole trailer had burned to the ground with all of our business in it. It was very traumatic.” Peter says. “It was a huge setback.”
With nothing to go back to, Asheville, N.C., was chosen as the place to rebuild because of a high level of resident interest in camping and hiking. ENO continued to grow and after a few years, the once fledgling company was capable of sending representatives to up to six shows a weekend.
ENO now sits as the premier provider of parachute nylon hammocks to over 700 premium and specialty retailers across the country and online at enonation.com. Products include single and doublenest hammocks and hammock accessories, shelter systems, tarps, bags, and cases.
ENO Hammocks Covering the Suwannee’s Amphitheater Stage