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Hidden Gems: Meet Josh Gagne of The Haymaker

Today we’d like to introduce you to Josh Gagne.

Hi Josh, we’d love for you to start by introducing yourself
I started around 8 years ago working at a restaurant in downtown raleigh as a necessity for just paying bills. I had just moved to raleigh for opportunity and was trying to find myself in a new city. I quickly fell in love with hospitality and night life. Fortunately i was in a position to be taught the ins and outs of running a high volume night life establishment where we were creating an experience for people every weekend through events, live dj’s and big holiday parties. A few years later i got an opportunity to step away from high volume and move in the a smaller lounge that my company was opening that was more cocktail focused. That was my first shot at completely running a bar and was able to really find my creative light through the world of cocktails. Since then we have gone through everything from being almost completely closed off due to a new 22 story building being constructed at our door step, to a global pandemic shutting us down for an entire year. We have not only survived, but we hit the ever so tough mark of 5 years in business. I have since grown as an individual and worked my way in to the opportunity of opening a second bar which survived the pandemic and is about to celebrate our first anniversary.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
Not at all. i have come to learn to expect the unexpected in this industry. You can prepare as much as you want, but something is always going to present itself and you are going to have to manage it while keeping your composure and continuing to provide an experience for everyone else at the same time. There are always ways to get better, so constant learning is a must.

Great, so let’s talk business. Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
Haymaker is a modern day cocktail bar in the heart of Downtown Raleigh. Located next to 3 main hotels, the Duke Performing Arts Center, Raleigh Convention Center, Red Hat Amphitheater, and the middle of the hustle and bustle of downtown. We have just passed our 5 year mark of surviving the challenges and changes that has happened in raleigh. Two years in we showed up to a scaffolding walkway from the street to our front door as the 22 story building directly in front of us. 2 years later when we survived the construction, the Covid pandemic shut everything back down again for a year. Since day one we wanted Haymaker to be a cocktail bar that welcomed everyone that was exploring downtown Raleigh. We knew that cocktails can be intimidating so we did our best to create a comfortable environment and have fun with our cocktail program. During our construction phase we were forced to be creative with our events from cocktail contests, christmas pop-ups, curated Dj’s, and live art shows. I have found we are our most creative selves when we have our backs against the wall, which is how we made it through such challenges. We are excited to see where we can go now 5 years in and hopefully through the thick of everything holding us back.

Who else deserves credit in your story?
G Patel has pushed me to never stop moving forward even when you feel like you can’t go anywhere. Weston Hill taught me how to be a better manager and get the most out of people. Dustin Slemp helped me find a creative side with things beyond cocktails like decor and aesthetic. Sherif Fouad was my go-to person for when I needed help challenging the way something was being done and needed a perspective outside of my everyday processes. Sherif gave me the entrepreneurial mind set to hustle everyday to build relationships that would lead to building business. And Laura Thatcher for pushing me to find a way to create some normalcy in this crazy service industry life, while always pushing me to keep going when I was beat down from grinding day and night.

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