Maggie’s Neighborhood Bar and Grill: The Emory Tradition
by Xavier Stevens

Oct. 26, 2022 | Emory Life

It usually takes Ivan Faulkenberry a minute to find the right key for the door. Once inside, he flips on the lights; the neon of Miller Lite, Yuengling and Modelo cast a red-and-blue haze across the room. In the glow, the 81-year-old walks past six booths made from the steel doors of old shipping containers, one slightly bent by a student last Friday, and a long concrete bar worn smooth by waves of elbows.

Since 2008, the Faulkenberry family has owned Maggie’s Neighborhood Bar and Grill and transformed it into the bar the Atlanta community and Emory University students affectionately refer to as “Mags.” Ivan and his son, Rand Faulkenberry, set prices low, decorated the dark interior with license plates and neon lights, and removed permanent chairs and tables to open up the room when needed. Later tonight, Maggie’s staff will remove the tables between the booths and the bar to make it an open space for students to dance.

 “We have always hoped to send a message with the way we do things that Maggie’s is a place where you can come and have a good time,” Ivan Faulkenberry said. “Not too much of a good time but enjoy your night, and we won’t screw you on the price.”

Maggie’s has become ingrained in Emory tradition, a place where students flock for a good time during the first week of classes or after graduation. Alumni have gone on to work for the bar, including Byron Hoffman (03Ox, 04C), who is the general manager.

The University has never officially recognized or worked with Maggie’s, but the unspoken tradition drew President Gregory L. Fenves into the bar last year to celebrate with the class of 2022 after graduation.

“I wrote a letter to the President and said thank you for coming and taking a look to see what Maggies really is because we want to be tolerable, not this thorn in his side,” Faulkenberry said. “I also sent him a T-shirt, but I don’t know if he wears it.”       

Where the bar stands

The bar is an Emory tradition that started well before the Faulkenberry ownership or its namesake. The Toco Hills shopping center was built in 1957 with a bar called Toco Taverns, where Hoffman’s dad went with friends when he attended Emory Medical School. When Maggie Martin bought the bar in 1990, she changed the name to Maggie’s Neighborhood Bar and Grill.

“I went to Maggie’s as a student back then, and Maggie was quite the drinker,” Hoffman said. “She was definitely the life of the party.”

When Maggie Martin passed away in 2002, her husband decided to tailor the bar toward an older crowd with gambling machines and private poker games in the back. But, the bar struggled and went up for sale in 2008.

Ivan had been retired after a long career in finance since 2000, but he started investing in the restaurant business and wanted to involve his son. The Faulkenberry family moved quickly to buy the bar with Rand as the owner and operator.

The life of the party

 Rand was a recent art graduate from Skidmore College, and after working as an artist in New York for a few years, he moved back to Atlanta and started to operate Maggie’s. Rand worked to cater the bar towards a younger crowd with the renovations, expansions of an outdoor patio and specials, like free Maggie’s t-shirt night.

“Rand held the bar together and was the life of the party,” Hoffman said. “He replaced the role of Maggie when I went there, and he was very forward and hung out with everyone like they were a good friend.”

The bar saw even more student traffic under Rand, who implemented new safety measures to make sure people back home safe. Before Uber or Lyft, taxis lined up in front of the bar, and Rand often bought a taxi home for a student who had too much to drink. He started a safe word if anyone wanted to escape an uncomfortable situation. Come to the bar and order a shirley temple, and Rand would order you a taxi home. The safety system is still in operation today.

Rand built a small but loyal staff with Hoffman returning to Maggie’s as a bartender joined by Krasi and Megan at nights. A security detail of Peter, Big D and Little D took care of student events and checked IDs at the door. Maggie’s operated like a family with Rand as its face, Hoffman said.

In 2015, Rand suffered a series of aneurysms to the left-side of his brain. He survived but lost use of the left-side of his body and has short term memory loss. After the near-fatal tragedy, Ivan took over operation of the bar at 74-years-old. He believes the bar has changed significantly since Rand could no longer work at the bar.

“People see me, and their first reaction is ‘What is an old man doing here,’ but that’s the reality,” Ivan said. “After a while, people kind of know what the story is, but I’ve never built the relationships that he had.”

Ivan and Hoffman still consult Rand about ideas and new additions to Maggie’s. He recently gave them the idea to open the backroom, once a workshop for Rand’s artwork, to use as a venue space. Ivan left his artwork up and started events in the backroom with great success.

On his good days, Rand sees his wife and kids but may even come to Maggie’s to chat with regulars during the day. He is learning to paint with his right hand on canvases in the backroom, and he hopes to come every Halloween in costume and work on free Maggie’s T-shirt night to talk to students.

“It’s a heck of a thing for a father to say, but he’s generous to a fault,” Ivan said. “Rand has not changed his personality at all. He’s still a generous person.”

A place to relax


Following Rand’s aneurysms, Ivan took a few years to get a handle on things. He started by introducing poker nights and dart leagues, and he formed relationships with students who came to Maggie’s.

The COVID-19 pandemic halted business for the bar, forcing it to close two times in the summer of 2020 and in the winter of 2021, but Maggie’s survived. Most of the staff stayed, and business has returned strong but the atmosphere has changed.

Students still come, but all at once, usually on one night on the weekend, so Maggie’s has looked to other areas to expand. Ivan and Hoffman have built out the food menu to welcome more people during the day.

“I cook some good hamburgers with fries, and we make great wet lemon pepper wings,” Ivan said. “Unfortunately, students don’t come here to eat, and if they do, it’s an accident.”

The evening and dinner crowd range from doctors at Emory to construction workers who tend to come back each week and earn the title of regulars. On the back wall at Maggie’s, two big picture frames fill with photos of regulars from over the years with Rand, Ivan or another member of Maggie’s family.

Hoffman joined the family after graduating from Emory with a degree in biology and chemistry. He put a future in medicine on hold to take care of his grandmother, and during that time, Hoffman got a job at Maggie’s. After 10 years with the bar, he’s here more than anyone, at night cleaning up messes but also bartending during the day.

Even during his off-days, Hoffman finds himself at Maggie’s to talk to Rand or play pool with his friends.

“Maggie’s is a very fun environment that can be stressful, but it is more fun,” Hoffman said. “And it’s peaceful during the day because I know the older regulars who have their stories. I think it’s a happy place.”