When word of the Snuggle House first landed in Madison, it quickly became a popular topic of discussion in TriBeCa, the "TRIangle BEhind the CApitol" centered around King Street. Many of us who live and work in the neighborhood simply laughed at the entire concept of the business -- it just seemed so ludicrous.
Of course, cuddling has obvious benefits, but paying for it with a stranger? That just seems counterproductive to the actual benefits of cuddling with a friend or even somebody you love. And let's be honest, the type of person who pays to cuddle might expect a bit more comfort for a $60 per hour fee.
The Snuggle House seemed like a well-orchestrated practical joke and, at best, a bit of a scam. It all made sense that it would be located on the near east side (as the business initially claimed) since that fit the concept's vaguely hippie-ish vibe. But once we learned it was going to be in our neighborhood, it became slightly less funny.
Visitors to downtown Madison often forget that King Street is at the heart of an actual neighborhood. Most of the business owners are friends with each other, not to mention the many people who live and work in the neighborhood too. No one seemed to know who these "professional snugglers" were, and even was less was known about their mysterious owner, Matthew Hurtado.
On Tuesday, WKOW reported on a delay in the Snuggle House's opening. It raised questions about the owner's financial history, and noted his self-promotional message about "being a sex-addicted misfit, who becomes a millionaire." (It's a motivational video titled Misfit to Millions, where he is billed as the CEO of RnAdrops, a supplements business.)
While the city's "primary concern" was not wanting a "house of prostitution popping up," that seemed hypocritical. After all, no official government body really appears to be concerned about well-known local prostitution operations that have remained in business for years.
It seems to me that all anyone wants, at least in TriBeCa, is some sort of direct communication with the Snuggle House to allay valid concerns as to what exactly is supposed to be going on there. There's a pretty diverse array of businesses in the neighborhood, and the fact that they all get along with each other and have open lines of communication helps keeps the area thriving and relatively problem-free.
On Wednesday, the State Journal reported that Hurtado and his staff are working to address concerns about their business plan. And along with responding to criticisms on their Facebook page, the snugglers also made sure to offer free hugs on the Square.
Meanwhile, buzz over the Snuggle House swelled rapidly. As news outlets focused on the government shutdown, somehow the Snuggle House broke through the media cycle and went from being an amusing local story to a national topic of conversation. The story was picked up by multiple national news outlets, and was naturally a hot subject online, particularly the business' young lineup of snugglers. Even Al Roker had an opinion about it.
Say what you want about the Snuggle House's business concept, but you have to admit it's done an incredible job of creating hype. If the owner and his staff were smart, they would cash in on it by marketing their awesome T-shirts and other gear. At this rate, merchandise sales could easily drive their business with no snuggles at all. I would gladly sport a Snuggle House hoodie, and might even pay a few bucks extra if it said "Professional Snuggler" on it as well.
When it comes down to it, so as long as they're good neighbors, I say let the people snuggle! And if patrons can bring delicious tacos from Francisco's up there too, then the Snuggle House just might succeed. The George Costanzas of the world would fully approve.
Nick Nice lives in Madison and is a resident DJ at several TriBeCa nightspots "Citizen" is an opinion series that presents the views of the author. If you would like to reply, please comment or consider submitting an op-ed in response.