Local Profile: The Borough’s Liz Masnik

Local Profile: The Borough’s Liz Masnik

February, 12, 2011, by Monica

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Liz Masnik wears neither cloak of pretension nor air of detachment. I sat down with her on a quiet afternoon in Landmark, our conversation imbued with the same warmth and conviviality found in her downtown Raleigh bar and restaurant, The Borough. I wanted to know about her experiences as a local business owner, and what kept her going in such a highly demanding industry.

Natively from Springfield, Virginia, Liz has called Raleigh home for nearly a decade. And, like many, her first dose of the service industry was in college. Entrepreneurship had not entered her mind at this point; in fact she had yet to form a clear idea of where her post-William and Mary days would lead. “I was an English major,” she laughs. If there was one thing she knew for certain, it was that office life and the nine-to-five career path were not for her.

Fast forward to 2011, when The Borough enters its fifth year as a downtown Raleigh fixture. Liz likens her relationship with The Borough to a parent-child relationship. She explains that in the beginning, she had no idea what its identity would ultimately become. Her concerns hedged primarily around getting the business up on its own feet. “Let's just get the doors open and see what happens after that,” she says.

Liz's “don't look down” mentality and openness to the path her business would naturally take provided a strong infrastructure, while the personalities of its staff and clientele gave the place substance and texture. Today we have a Borough where piercings and tattoos mingle with popped collars and sculpted coifs, and people from a multitude of demographics share the same stage. This convergence “should be really natural,” Liz notes. “I think about it every day. It's like a really fascinating social experiment... I've never been to a place with such a mixed clientele... [a place that] doesn't define itself one way or another.”

When asked what life experiences helped form her business philosophy, Liz immediately referenced her time in Ireland. Tucked away in a rural landscape, far from anything remotely metropolitan, Leitrim never quite regained its footing after the mid-nineteenth century potato famine. It was here that Liz worked in a family owned pub, stepping into the newly vacated shoes of a much loved predecessor. As a freshly minted American university graduate, ingratiating herself to the pub's regulars was quite the brackish task. Not more than a couple of months into her tenure, Eilish, the pub's matriarch, pulled Liz aside. She chided Liz for being “too American” and for too freely dispensing her opinions and worldview on those for whom it had no historical or social context. “Shut up and listen,” Liz summarizes Eilish’s advice. This interaction—intervention, really—“totally transformed my way of thinking and transformed my life,” Liz recalls. When asked how her 22-year-old self’s experience affects her business philosophy today, Liz describes her interest in the lives of her customers and the value their exchanges have in her life. “I honestly prefer listening to their stories and how they live their lives... and how they view the world.”

For all of her ambition and business savvy, Liz's lack of ego is refreshing. Toothsome food and drink menu aside, The Borough offers much to its community simply by being an establishment that does not drip with pretension. In turn, it offers much to Liz as well, providing a kinetic and social environment that is far from beige. “If I didn't own a bar, I would work in one,” Liz assures me.

See the Borough, The {categories show="257|236|256|96" show_group="9" limit="1"}{category_name}{/categories} page.

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The BoroughLiz Masnik


  • 150
    02/14 09:22 AM

    You have to give the Borough credit.  I haven’t been there in a few years, and to be honest, it’s not really my scene, but I really enjoyed the enthusiasm and hospitality when I’ve been there.  Definitely a positive addition to Raleigh.

  • JT#2
    02/14 12:06 PM

    Definitely one of Raleigh’s best businesses.  Great drinks/food and they may have the friendliest staff in town.

  • matt
    02/14 12:29 PM

    Absolutely one of the best - both Liz AND The Borough!

  • klute
    02/14 02:51 PM

    I’m at the Borough about once a week and I love it! Like home for me and my friends.

  • Joe
    02/14 04:07 PM

    I’d really like to see a downtown Raleigh blog that focuses on something other than eating and drinking.  Good restaurants are great and all, but restaurants and bars alone do not make a great economy, or a great quality of life. 

    You wouldn’t know if by reading the Raleigh blogs, but there are plenty of good businesses downtown that don’t cater exclusively to hipsters, too.  In order for downtown Raleigh to be a great place to live, we need stuff for people who don’t have gobs of disposable income to spend on drinks and food and designer clothes.

  • Stacey
    02/14 04:20 PM

    if you’d really like to see it, joe, start the blog that you want to read. things don’t just appear magically because we say we want them.

  • matt
    02/14 05:12 PM

    Yeah, me, I like to read about restaurants!

    I’m open to reading about some of these businesses you speak of, though. I guess my usual travels don’t take me past them. So get to writin’, Joe. Make sure you quantify exactly how hip you think each business is, and whether we’ll be accepted or rejected accordingly. That’s always MY first consideration when deciding to enter the premises of any enterprise. To make it easy for us dolts, you might want to rate the readers first, in order of how hip you perceive them to be.
    our post contained so many back-handed slaps I practically couldn’t believe it. We know what you don’t like, OK. Now what are you FOR?

  • arthurb3
    02/14 05:42 PM

    Their half price apps are great. The weekend specials and sweets are good, too.The “How do you Q?” is the best drink on the planet! And on a good weather day, the patio out front is the best place to people watch!

  • Isaac Weeks
    02/14 06:12 PM

    Joe, I would actually be happy to hear more about the types of places you would like stories about. As a dude with a wife and a mortgage, I get where you are coming from, although I do love to hear about the restaurants.
    Don’t take this as snark either, I’m actually wide open to suggestions for story ideas.

  • Aly
    02/15 12:18 AM

    The Borough makes me really happy about Raleigh. It’s a warm and wonderful experience every time I go - solo, as a couple, with our dog or with our son.

  • 150
    02/15 10:12 AM

    Joe has a valid point and simply dismissing it is New Raleigh’s loss.  This blog does have a hipster vibe, but NR is entitled to that; it’s their blog.  I would, however, take NR’s opinions more seriously if the blog was more robust. 

    But, Joe hijacked the thread.  This is about the Borough and Ms. Masnik.  That should remain the focus, as this is a fantastic addition to Raleigh.

  • Katy
    02/15 10:48 AM

    It has been a while since I have been a regular at the Borough, but I have seen the start of many a great idea and the end of many a rowdy night there.  It’s where my husband and I celebrated our marriage, and where we have entertained out-of-town guests, who, by the way, clamor to return at each visit!  Liz is really one of the smartest, friendliest, kindest people I have known.  If it weren’t for her, I wouldn’t have kept on going back, and going back to the Borough.

    (PS—I am not a hipster, and I live in APEX, of all things!)

  • Varani
    02/15 04:29 PM

    since when do hipsters have disposable income? heh.

    the borough. too much love and appreciation for such a welcoming place. best hangout joint ever. [to stay on topic.]

  • Ian F.G. Dunn
    02/15 10:16 PM

    Wonderful, Monica.  I’ve been waiting for this.  For me, it is usually very obvious when an establishment is run and/or owned by a person of competence and passion.  The Borough has always been one of these places for me.

  • Les
    02/16 07:20 AM

    I heart Rocket!

  • RaleighRob
    02/16 09:31 AM

    Some of these comments are funny.  Raleigh has its share of hipster bars, but I’ve never thought of the Borough as one of them.  You’re more likely to find yuppies, gay fashionistas, and ex-raver kids than hipsters.  (Aren’t they usually at Raleigh Times or Busy Bee??)

    Back to the article…Cheers to Liz for a great neighborhood bar many of us love.  I must say, since the smoking ban has taken effect, I love it more now than I used to.  (Sorry Liz, but you were behind the times allowing the whole place to be smoke-filled like that….sorry the law had to force you to change.)  It’s great the Borough is here.

  • matt
    02/16 05:48 PM

    You are TOO a hipster, Katy!  :)

  • Micah
    02/17 02:14 AM

    Rob, while I TOTALLY agree with you that the Borough was a little much in the smoke-filled department (on weekends especially), why do you think they were “behind the times?”  If you sat outside the Borough on a Friday or Saturday night before the smoking ban (and now), you would see loads of people walk up, open the door, then walk away.  They leave because the Borough was (is) standing room only on weekend evenings.  A very large portion of their patronage smokes, and it didn’t seem to keep too many non-smokers away.  If it did keep some away, it wasn’t noticed by the bar’s bottom line.  There were nights there we stood around in clouds of smoke for HOURS and couldn’t get a table. I support the Borough’s decision to make whatever smoking decision they wanted in the pre-ban days.  I am happy that they are now smoke-free though.

  • 150
    02/18 10:10 AM

    Psst…NR:  For Joe’s sake, how about a mention of Bogart’s closing?

  • Caroline
    02/21 10:20 AM

    I recall walking by the Borough prior to opening to a Schmitty and the Rocket sitting on the newly concrete stained floor taking a much deserved break. Even prior to opening the doors for business, these two smiled at me and my out of town girlfriend and welcomed us. The Borough and Liz’s support for Raleigh and small business owners in Raleigh is mind blowing. She is and always will be an inspiration for those of us whose dreams still seem caught in a cloudy haze.

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