Black Mountain business reopens after roof collapse

Fred McCormick
Black Mountain News
Kathleen Madden, manager of Sassafras on Sutton, greets customers on March 13.

A Black Mountain business is open again after a collapsed roof forced it to shut its doors for nearly three months.

Sassafras on Sutton, one of two businesses forced to close their doors after heavy snow caused significant damage to the historic building in December, began welcoming customers again on March 2. 

The bookstore will hold a "belated birthday party" on Saturday, March 23, to celebrate its return, according to general manager Kathleen Madden. 

"Our birthday was Feb. 17," Madden said. "Since we were closed for our birthday we decided we'd use this as an opportunity to celebrate our birthday and being open again."

The event will include a gift basket raffle, other giveaways, cupcakes and a special latte at store's coffee bar, she added. 

Madden is among the seven Sassafras employees excited to return to work after the collapse that forced the store and its upstairs neighbor, Poppy Handcrafted Popcorn, to vacate the historic structure. 

Sassafras on Sutton manager Kathleen Madden is one of seven employees of the bookstore to return to work recently after a December roof collapse caused the business to close for nearly three months.

The lower level of the building was built in 1912, when it served as a livery stable with the original upper level. The current brick structure that sits above the lower rock level was constructed in 1915. 

A truss system on the north end of the upper level failed under the weight of over a foot of snow that fell on the area during the second weekend in December, resulting in a partial collapse of the roof. 

The incident threatened the structural integrity of the building and access was prohibited until engineers stabilized it. 

The failed truss system and collapsed roof forced Poppy to remove merchandise and equipment from the upper level, while Madden and other Sassafras employees worked to protect the bookstore's goods. 

"We had to move everything from the back up toward the front," Madden said. "We covered everything in tarps and stuff."

Although "a fair amount of water" found its way the lower level of the building, the damage was minimal, according to the manager. 

"There was no mold or anything," Madden said. "That was a big worry for us. None of the books were damaged."

Town building inspector Dan Cordell granted limited access to the building on Jan. 25, and removed the order for the downstairs business exactly one month later. The top level remains closed to the public while repairs continue. 

It took employees around a month to get the bookstore reorganized, Madden said. 

"The whole time we had people stopping by and asking when we would be opening back up," she said. "We didn't like that we had to be closed, but it was nice to know that so many people missed coming in."

The Saturday after receiving the certificate of occupancy, Madden arrived at work and left the doors unlocked while she was there. 

"We just unlocked the doors and people started coming in," she said. "We've been open during our normal business hours since then."

Madden said Sassafras owner Susanne Blumer and the employees of the store were "excited" to return to work.

"This is a great place, with great staff and we love our customers," she said. "It's like being back home."

The store has also updated its website ( to allow customers to order books online and have them shipped directly to their homes or to the bookstore itself. 

"We have so many folks with different taste in books, this gives our customers access to all kinds of books that we can't fit in the store," Madden said. 

Sassafras is open seven days a week, from 10 a.m. - 6 p.m., Monday - Friday and from 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. on Sunday.