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'Hole in Da Wall' Perfects Art of Serving in Tiny Space

By Jill Colvin | July 19, 2011 6:41am | Updated on July 19, 2011 8:13am
Staff say their unique name has attracted the most attention.
Staff say their unique name has attracted the most attention.
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DNAinfo/Jill Colvin

MIDTOWN — A tiny new breakfast spot in Midtown is redefining the “small" in small business.

The aptly named "Hole in Da Wall" café, at 22 W. 34th St., is taking the city's reputation for cramped spaces to a whole new level with a storefront smaller than some walk-in closets.

Employee Armya Khilla, 35, said he had serious doubts about the plan when he first laid eyes on the pint-sized store, which measures seven-feet across and not many more deep.

“I was like, 'How's it going to work?'" he said. "It was crazy. Three people are going to work on top of each other?" he asked.

But while it took some getting used to, Khilla and other staffers who work two or three at a time in the space, say they're managing well.

After two months in business, the café, which is dwarfed by the surrounding stores, is now a regular stop for many students and workers in the area, who say they're drawn both by its prices and its name.

“It’s awesome because it’s right here. It’s really convenient and real quick,” said Brooklyn's Cesia Pena, 25, who goes to school nearby.

Pena said she was immediately attracted to the storefront, which reminded her and others at the school of local hole-in-the-wall places in Brooklyn, the Bronx and Queens.

“It was just cute,” she said.

In addition to bagels and morning classics like the bacon, egg and cheese sandwich, the counter also serves smoothies and cold cut sandwiches for under $6.

“[People] love this place. The food is not expensive and they’re very efficient,” agreed Michael Coleman, 35, a ticket-seller for for CitySights NY, who stops by for breakfast or a smoothie every morning he works on the stretch.

To maximize the minimal space, every corner at "Hole in Da Wall" is packed with appliances, utensils and supplies, including a large grill, microwave, oven and pots for coffee. Refrigerators hum under every counter and cupboards line the walls to the celling.

While extra supplies are housed in a basement storage space, most of the food in stored around the kitchen, with bagels on the counter and sliced cheeses stacked by the grill.

Getting in and out can, however, be a challenge. Instead of a door, staff must either crouch under the hinged service counter or move a display case holding muffins out of the way to be let out.

Accessing a fridge keeping soft drinks cool also requires some re-jiggering, since its door won't open all the way.

But Khilla said he's hoping the West 34th Street location will make up for the tiny space, which was playfully named by the owner's daughter, he said.

While business has started off slow, he's hoping larger crowds will soon take notice of the little store.

“Little by little it goes up," he said.