Bouquets of bright flowers have been left in the alley beside the Dripolator the past several days, tributes to a barista and customer favorite who died July 23. Vince Bahorik, 37, had a heart attack during work July 20 and died in Asheville three days later.
“It was completely out of the blue,” the coffee shop’s owner Amy Carroll said. The Dripolator closed its usual evening hours July 24 so that staff could remember Bahorik together. The nearby Trailhead Restaurant, where he often went to see his girlfriend, had a private celebration July 23.
“Vince was a very good friend to many, an incredibly humble and caring person, and everybody loved him,” his friend Karen Tressler said. “I’m sure a lot of folks in town are hurting immensely.”
“His mother stopped by (the Dripolator July 24) before she left to go back to Pennsylvania,” Carroll said, “and said she was stunned by the community he developed in the five years he’d been here.”
Bahorik moved to Black Mountain about five years ago to be near his best friend, John Tressler and Karen, Tressler’s wife then. Tressler recommended his friend to the Dripolator, and Carroll decided to give him a chance.
“You never quite know until a barista gets behind the bar whether they’re going to work out,” she said. She thought Bahorik would do well. During the job interview he was “funny and sarcastic and showed a lot of personality,” she said.
Tressler, Bahorik’s pal since their 20s, was uber-pleased that Vince got the job. In 2000, the two worked together in a record store in Johnstown, Pennsylvania – “probably the best job that both of us ever had,” Tressler, a jam band fan like his pal, said. “It was just perfect. We’re both music nerds. We became instant friends.”
On a lark, they moved to San Francisco to try out living there. In 2003, they decided they were not city folks and moved back east. Tressler and Karen moved to Black Mountain. Bahorik went back to Pennsylvania.
But the coal and steel town that Bahorik moved to didn’t work out either, Tressler said. “There’s really nothing there, just a lot of our friends going down the wrong path.” Bahorik mentioned that he’d like to check out Black Mountain, and Tressler was all about it.
“I said, anything I can do,” he said. Tressler gave him a job as a health care executive recruiter at his business, Mountain Management Group, an executive search firm in Black Mountain. They both knew Bahorik wouldn’t be any good at it – “he was too nice a guy to be in a job where he had to hear no a lot,” Tressler said - but it was a start. He stuck around and found “the perfect fit” with Carroll at the Dripolator.
Bahorik worked behind the bar – and made a lot of friends – before he started roasting the coffee beans for the Dripolator. Carroll got to know him well partly because the roaster is in her garage.
Roasting is pretty scientific. “You have to take a temperature measurement every 30 seconds,” she said. “There’s a lot to know, the type of bean you’re roasting, its humidity factor, its varietal, the elevation at which it’s grown. There’s a lot of ‘trying and tweaking.’ Vince did great at it. We think he had really found his groove as a roaster. He took a lot of pride in what he did. I hear all the time what incredible coffee he roasted.”
And he was all about music. He and Tressler had seen dozens of concerts over the course of 17 years. They traveled to see Phish shows, and Widespread Panic. In 2015, they were with a bunch of friends who went to Chicago for one of the Grateful Dead farewell shows.
“Vince loved music. It was his passion, for sure,” Karen Tressler, who met him during the San Francisco days, said. “Such a happy fellow always, a very kind and loving soul. People on Facebook are saying he’s at a Phish concert right now.”
“He was probably the kindest person I ever met,” John Tressler said. “He didn’t have an enemy. I never saw him get angry at anyone. He loved his family.”
“Vince was genuinely interested in what was going on with all his customers and his friends,” Carroll said. “The outpouring of love and support and care that has come our way since he passed has just been incredible.”