If you’ve ever eaten at The Pigeon Hole, it’s likely you remember how great its home fries or hollandaise sauce are– as Charlottesville residents, we consider ourselves experts on the brunch scene, with the homegrown Elliewood restaurant as a go-to for a sleepy Sunday morning bite. But what you probably don’t know is that the person responsible for keeping this delicious tradition alive is a UVa graduate– and she’s only 24 years old.
In the summer of 2015, The Pigeon Hole was in dire straits. After years of mismanagement, its previous owners had run it into the ground and were forced to put the restaurant on the market. Fortunately for its fans, recent UVa graduate and future owner Roya Makki had been spending her summer working on a political campaign in Charlottesville at the time. A Foreign Affairs and Economics major, Roya was taking a few years off to work before attending law school. Though she thought she would end up practicing corporate law in a big city like D.C., Roya had always entertained the idea of running her own business. Like many at UVa, Roya had grown to love The Pigeon Hole during her four years as a student in Cville. So, when she heard the business was for sale, she saw it as a perfect opportunity to give back to her college community and test herself as a businesswoman.
Taking over a restaurant, though, is easier said than done. Since day one, she’s faced the less glamorous set-up tasks of hiring an entirely new staff, working on a new operations plan and applying for permits. Few of us understand the number of behind-the-scenes logistics of running a successful restaurant. Roya is modest– though she says there are many hurdles left to overcome, her mark on The Pigeon Hole and its new identity has already left a lasting impression on customers and community members. The line for weekend brunch, extending down the block of Elliewood Avenue, speaks for itself.
However, Roya’s ambitions don’t stop at providing delicious brunch. Since her college days she has always lamented the absence of a proper dive bar on the Corner. Taking over The Pigeon Hole was the perfect opportunity to make that vision a reality. Three weeks ago she opened her very own bar, The Hole, downstairs from her restaurant and next to Coupe’s, another popular late night bar. She wants it to be a different kind of experience than what the other student-friendly bars offer. After all, who better knows what’s missing from the lineup of student options than a UVa grad herself?
So, the next time you get your favorite brunch item at The Pigeon Hole or venture down for a drink in The Hole, know that they don’t have typical origin stories. They were made with the sweat and tears of a former student tenaciously salvaging the things we love most about a classic Charlottesville weekend: Sunday brunch and a good drink.