Books, comfort and coffee to go speak volumes about Sassafras

Paul Clark
Black Mountain News
Kathleen Madden, left, asks local author Sarah Thomas, right, to sign her books for sale at Sassafras on Sutton recently.

Sarah Thomas walked into Sassafras on Sutton the other day to buy some books and was delighted to see her new book for sale near the sales counter at the downtown Black Mountain bookstore.

Store manager Kathleen Madden insisted that Thomas, an inspirational fiction writer, sign a few copies, which Thomas was delighted to do. The laughter around the cash register mingled with the smell of strong coffee brewed in the café in back. It was just another magic moment in the teal-painted repository of all things interesting and tasty. And it’s the vision of Susanne Scott Blumer.

Blumer and her husband have been coming to Black Mountain for 20 years on vacations, holidays and church retreats. “There is just something magical about this town, and we always planned to someday live here,” she said in a recent email about the coffee shop/book and gift store that opened in February on Sutton Avenue.

Blumer and her husband were in Black Mountain on vacation last Labor Day weekend when they saw the space on Sutton Avenue for rent. “I could immediate envision it transformed into a cozy bookstore and coffee shop,” she said. “The building itself has so much charm and character, plus it's in the downtown historic district and across from the train tracks.” It was perfect, she said.

She wanted to design a space that was inviting to locals and visitors. She hoped Sassafras on Sutton would be “a destination for people who need a book, a cup of coffee and something sweet to eat, a greeting card or a unique gift,” she said. “I also wanted it to be a place where people could meet a friend or two and have a beautiful place to gather with plenty of intimate seating.”

She also hoped to create a community gathering spot. “And it is becoming just that place,” Blumer said. It serves Dynamite coffee, roasted in Black Mountain, and sweet treats made locally.

The shop has a “quaint, cozy, literary nerd” feel, Madden said. “There’s lots of fun stuff here.” More than 6,000 books are divided into categories that include novels, nature, travel, mystery, poetry and Christian fiction. Many local artists like Thomas are featured.

Blumer’s story is as interesting. She’s the published author of eight children’s books and has a book of poetry, “Becoming,” coming out in July. She owned a bridal salon for many years in South Carolina, “so I do also have retail experience, though the last 10 years I have been wrangling sheep instead of brides.”

The space that Sassafras on Sutton is on was originally the livery for the railroad across the street. It was also once a car dealership. Blumer kept the stone walls and open ceiling of the historic building but also “glammed it up a little,” she said.

Sassafras on Sutton will have its first author event from 4-6 p.m. Thursday, June 14 when mystery writer J.G. Hetherton talks about his book “Last Girl Gone.” The story is set in Hillsborough.