In search of a sense of community: Highly-anticipated pub opens in Waynesville
Serendipity is a word Makyia Blair has been using a lot lately. “I’m a firm believer in that everything happens for a reason,” Blair said. “And, so far, everything that’s happened has been serendipitous — it’s just worked out that way.”
Perched at the end of the dimly-lit bar at The Scotsman Public House in downtown Waynesville one recent afternoon, Blair, alongside her husband, Scot, opened the business this past February to great fervor, where the space has already become one of the most popular spots in Western North Carolina.
“My first thought has been, ‘How do we know this many people already?’” Makyia reflected on the first few months in operation. “It’s just been so beautiful to see it all unfold. It was also really emotional, knowing how much we’ve put into this space to make our dream a reality.”
Originally from Washington State, Makyia went to college for creative writing. But, upon graduation in 2008, she quickly found herself in the food/beverage industry during the crippling economic collapse that year.
From there, she left behind the seeming never-ending rainy days of the Pacific Northwest and traded it in for the signature sunshine of San Diego, California. And it was in Southern Cali where Makyia rose through the ranks of the storied San Diego craft beer and culinary industries, eventually crossing paths with Scot.
Hailing from rural Illinois, Scot joined the Marines after high school, soon to be stationed in San Diego, his longtime home where, following his honorable discharge, he dove deep into the food/beverage scene of the city, ultimately parlaying itself into the opening of his own brewery/restaurant.
“And when the pandemic hit, I was laid off from my craft beer sales rep position, only to start working for the family business alongside Scot,” Makyia said. “There were so many ups and downs and unknowns when COVID hit, especially with the protocols and closures in California. So, we were able to leave the business behind, to take our investment of time and money elsewhere — and we did.”
With a blank canvas in front of them, Makyia and Scot started looking around the country as to where they wanted to put roots down next. In an almost “Goldilocks & The Three Bears” fashion, they came across a place not too hot, not too cold, something that was just right, in terms of the physical and economic landscape offered — Western North Carolina.
“We had traveled through this area for our honeymoon, and Scot had been coming to the Smokies since he was a kid, so he knew the beauty of this region,” Makyia said. “Something about this place felt right, and we started looking around for a property to launch our next idea — a Celtic-style pub. Then, we stumbled across this building through a simple Google search.”
Once the building at 37 Church Street in downtown Waynesville was discovered, Makyia and Scot jumped at the opportunity for a fresh start. They packed everything up in California and headed for Haywood County, only to immediate rent the first floor of the building and begin the long renovation process on a beloved space that had sat empty for several years.
Checking the time on her smart phone, Makyia knows the doors to The Scotsman will be open once again within the next couple of hours. The Thursday afternoon rush will soon be here, this maddening vision of people and conversations, interactions and reactions all occurring in real time.
With The Scotsman now in motion, the business has already been happily embraced by the community — this vibrant beehive of humanity and a highly-anticipated addition to Waynesville’s ever-growing culinary and social scenes.
“With everything that’s gone on in the world these past two years, it seems crazy to be opening a business, let alone a pub,” Makyia chuckled. “But, being behind the bar counter and interacting with people is what I enjoy doing. I love making a connection with customers and bonding with my co-workers. We want to provide that second home to this community — that feeling where everyone is welcome and belongs here.”