The Pigeonhole – A Cafe With More Than Meets The Eye
April 11, 2011 by Joyce HUANG
The Pigeonhole always has a pleasant surprise in store for you.
Looking in through its glass panels and doors, those walking along 52 & 53 Duxton Road may be a little confused about what this place does. A creative space lovingly fitted with bookshelves, eclectic furniture and painted with a scarlet floor, the Pigeonhole is a cosy cafe that attracts visitors with more than its aromatic espressos and delectable desserts.
A place to get to know local NGOs, music, film and the arts
Owners Ave Chan and Rayner Lim work hard to build the Pigeonhole as a dynamic space for the arts community and civil society. They envision it to be a place to hold events for which there is no venue, to discuss issues important to Singapore and Singaporeans, to build capacity and share ideas, and to practise skills and support each other, across disciplines, across industries, and across race, language or religion.
Ave, who was employed with the Humanitarian Organization for Migration Economics (HOME) in 2009, knew first-hand about the difficulties that local NGOs face in organizing events that raise awareness for their cause. It was especially challenging due to a lack of sustained and predictable funding.
It then became their hope to alleviate at least part of that burden, by providing an affordable events space for NGOs and by adding to the promotion and publicity of the events held at the Pigeonhole. Other than HOME, they work together with Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2) and Migrant Voices in an ongoing fortnightly series of talks hosted at The Pigeonhole. They have also organized events such as an Earth Hour fundraiser for the Nature Society and the SPCA.
Things at The Pigeonhole are always kept interesting. On top of providing local NGOs with a place for raising awareness, you might find yourself walking into the middle of an art exhibition, music performance, PowerPoint KTV session, Hackathon or even a ‘music camp’ (that is styled after Bar Camp). The Pigeonhole also gets a regular and diverse pool of clientele that range from Ave and Rayner’s own friends, friends of friends, the tech crowd, Tweeple from the Twitterverse, people who work around the area and pop by for afternoon coffee, artists and musicians. Indeed, it is a melting pot where different communities can come together and engage in fun and meaningful activities.
From idea to execution
The idea for The Pigeonhole first floated in November 2010, when Rayner was already serving notice from his previous job as a film editor. After which, the duo spent all their waking hours scheming and plotting and doing the groundwork. They found a space at Duxton Road in January this year and everything took due course.
“There need not be a Plan B because we’re also investing all our energy and efforts. We’re confident that it’ll work because we’ll do whatever it takes to make it work.”
The determined couple, who threw in all their life savings to set up the place, took a gamble and are positive that things will work out. “There need not be a Plan B because we’re also investing all our energy and efforts. We’re confident that it’ll work because we’ll do whatever it takes to make it work,” explained Ave. She shared that building a stable and sustainable business is their main focus for now. After which, they will then probably set up another shop as a magnification of one of the aspects of their current business, perhaps a bookstore or a takeaway coffee joint.
Advice for those who intend to set up shop
We asked Ave for her advice to those thinking of setting up shop. “Location is definitely important. If your budget allows for it, and walk-in traffic is integral to your business, fight for a more central location even if it takes a longer time to find. Guerilla publicity by way of social media (Facebook and Twitter, to name the more popular) can also work to your advantage provided it is well managed,” she said. The Pigeonhole itself leverages on social media to reach out to its customers through its presence on Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter.
Finding your niche and having good product knowledge is important too. “Similarly, if you intend to market your F&B joint as a coffee specialist, for example, you need to equip yourself with the relevant product knowledge. Simply put, find your niche and build your home within it. Don’t try to be everything to everyone.”
She further explained, “in general we think we are well-received because our concept is simply rooted in what we personally like. Our events are about topics close to our heart, our musicians are all our personal friends and associates, and our drinks are all brands that, prior to setting up the Pigeonhole, we would ourselves drink on a regular basis. I guess you can say that we appeal to an as yet undefined crowd of people who like the same things that we like. That’s our unnamed niche.”
The Pigeonhole is definitely worth visiting not only for its fragrant coffees and delicious snacks, but also for its upbeat atmosphere and interesting concept. If you’re looking for somewhere to relax and unwind, or to meet new people, drop by their location at Duxton Road.
The Pigeonhole has quickly become a place for people to mingle, hangout, share, learn and just do cool things. One of our friends learned the accordion there when a busker made a stop. Ever wanted to build a beautiful third space? The Ultimate Start-Up Space offers you that chance; winners of the competition gets a 1400sq ft space rent-free for one year, $20,000 start up capital and an Executive Education Program from INSEAD – total prizes worth more than $170,000. Follow articles related to the competition here.
52 and 53 Duxton Road
1. All images in this article are courtesy of the Pigeonhole.
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About The Author
Joyce HUANG - Resident Contributing Writer
Joyce is on the founding team of Singapore Geek Girls, a local initiative that serves as a platform for females to connect, share, contribute, mentor and learn from each other. She is currently learning how to code so that she can stop bugging developers. You are more than welcome to teach her.Read other posts by Joyce HUANG