The Hartford Chamber of Commerce spoke with the Malick family, owners of Piggy’s Café, to find out how they revitalized a 40-year-old Hartford mainstay.
Give us a little background.
JOSEPH MALIK: I’d worked at a bar prior and I knew I wanted to own my own business. I grew up on Albany Avenue in Hartford and I lived in Hartford at the time. I remember driving by and I really liked this bar.
The building was a supermarket in 1910. A Hartford cop bought it in the 1920s and made it into a restaurant. When it came up for sale, I had two business partners. We offered an additional $10,000 for the property so the owners wouldn’t accept offers from any other buyers.
When she first walked in, my wife Carol cried. The place was a dump! But we turned it around. We opened in October 1979. I remember it was a Friday night and it was packed.
JOELA MALIK: He always had a good crowd until he got ALS. He put the bar up for sale in March 2018 and it closed in April. We had some discussions and, in June, I decided to take over management and try and revitalize Piggy’s. I have sales experience and have worked in restaurants—but I had never worked for my dad.
Tell us a little about that transformation.
JOELA: Dad always had pub-style bar food. I updated the food and bar menu and we changed the interior, too. Since we reopened in November, I’ve been learning how to manage the business—what works and what doesn’t work.
Piggy’s used to have pool tables and stay open until 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning. Now we have set hours and we host different events like open mic night to bring more in people in. We have musicians play here too, and they bring a following. We also have happy hour every day.
How else are you building a customer base and marketing?
JOELA: It’s great having Aetna close by. And having CVS pledge to keep them in Hartford for the next 10 years, is definitely going to help. Already Aetna teams have some meetings here and they’ll bring an entire department.
The Hartford Public School systems having meetings here too, as do some law firms on Farmington Avenue. And we’ve also had students from Trinity College rent our space to host events.
With marketing, it’s been word-of-mouth. Piggy’s also has a website now and I’ve been doing social media.
Have you been collaborating with any local businesses?
JOELA: The owners at Hartford Flavor Company are great. They did a taste test at Piggy’s and they donated a package for the ALS benefit we did in March. We’re trying to figure out a way to get our food over to Hartford Flavor. There are some details to work out, but that may happen in the future.
Where do you see the evolution of Hartford?
JOELA: It’s improving and there have been a lot of changes. There’s new development coming. I like the idea of the Parkville Market. I can’t wait for that open.
The city of Hartford did a fantastic job updating the light posts and sidewalks on our street. I think more people are taking pride in their property around here.