Rather than quit, Troy Hill cafe owner changes business idea, name


The Pig Hill Cafe opened in May at the site of the former Magnolia Cafe. Owner Naomi Auth changed her business idea and name when she realized Magnolia wasn’t making enough money to stay afloat. (Photo/Jeanette Lee)

When she realized that Magnolia Café wasn’t doing enough business to make ends meet, rather than giving up, owner Naomi Auth decided to renovate her business idea, the space and its name.

The Pig Hill Café, at 1721 Lowrie St. in Troy Hill, specializes in homemade fermented foods like sauerkraut. It’s also the operating headquarters for Redstar Specialty Foods, a food distributer and Pig Hill Café’s parent company.

Auth removed some partitions to make her café more spacious and installed a new tin ceiling in the back in the hopes that it would create a more welcoming atmosphere for her customers.

The new name keeps with the new space and ties in to the neighborhood’s history. The café is named after a 20-foot-wide, 24-percent-grade Rialto Street, which is fondly referred to as “Pig Hill” by locals because it was the path once used to drive pigs from Herr’s Island (now Washington’s Landing) to the old meat packing district in Spring Garden.

“It was appropriate to the neighborhood, and just a catchy name,” Auth said.

Auth met her business partner, Kevin Evilsizor through “a friend of a friend” and the two connected over their love for healthy food. Evilsizor has a degree in agriculture, and like Auth, previous restaurant experience.

Pig Hill Café is only in operation on the weekends for brunch. Its menu changes on a weekly basis, but some of the offerings include a ricotta turnover with asparagus, biscuits and gravy, or white beans and rice. According to Auth, the most popular item on her menu is the breakfast tacos.

On weekdays, Auth manages business for Redstar Specialty Foods, the parent company of Pig Hill Café, out of the same space. Also owned by Auth, the company makes and sells fermented food such as Kombucha tea and sauerkraut. Redstar distributes to several businesses and coffee shops around the city.

Auth, who has a six-year history of making fermented food, was initially drawn to it because it is “an ancient art and technique.”

“My heart was in the fermented food. It’s delicious and good for you,” she said.

Auth said the biggest challenge of managing Pig Hill Café is devoting appropriate attention to both of her businesses. From Monday through Thursday, she spends most of her time fermenting food for Redstar.

Fermentation is a process that occurs in several stages, so Auth might spend one day boiling 40 gallons of Kombucha tea, and another day putting tea in the cultures to allow it to ferment.

From Friday to Sunday, she focuses on prepping, cooking and serving brunch for her Pig Hill Café customers.

Auth doesn’t plan on many any further renovations to her café. Moving forward, she hopes to conduct her business on a “slightly larger scale.”

Jeanette Lee is a graduate student at Carnegie Mellon University studying Professional Writing and Investigative Journalism.

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