I’ve been thinking recently about what makes Sylva so cool. In my view, it has only been in the last 10 years or so that Sylva has hit the bull’s eye. Previously, it was no more cool, than, say, Robbinsville, Waynesville or Franklin. Sorry folks, you are all nice enough, but you ain’t cool.
Bryson City, my hometown, is sort of cool, but only just a tiny bit. And, honestly, probably despite the wishes of most who live there. Bryson City has been dragged toward coolness, I think because people persist in opening up bike shops, and coffee shops, and so on. There’s even a brewery. What’s next, a head shop?
Anywho, back to Sylva. A bustling farmers market on Saturdays helps Sylva. So does Eric’s Fish Market, and the nearby Heinzelmannchen Brewery. The restaurants — Guadalupe Cafe, Lulu’s, Spring Street and so on add a lot, as does City Lights, the independent bookstore. A good coffee shop, such as the one below our office on the first floor of the Spiro Building, helps, too.
The Smoky Mountain News, come to think of it, undoubtedly adds to the ambiance, because every cool town needs an alternative newspaper. Though, honestly, I don’t find my new employer particularly outrageous or provocative. Kind of left leaning, yes, and the writers do sometimes pen their excessively purplish prose in the present tense, an affectation that drives me nuts.
I have observed a lot of the staff wear running shoes to work. And, on my first day helping layout the newspaper, which required me to go to the main office in Waynesville, I noticed Amanda the bookkeeper was wearing no shoes at all. I certainly never saw anyone without shoes during my many years at the Asheville Citizen-Times.
I remember at yet another newspaper company where I worked — Community Newspapers Inc., the one that owns most of this region’s weeklies — one of the owners sent an intern in Highlands back to the house to change because he wore shorts in to the office. I don’t think the owners of the Smoky Mountain News would even blink if I showed up in shorts.
It occurs to me, by extension, I’m cool now, too, because I opted to join The Smoky Mountain News as a staff writer instead of returning to the Asheville Citizen-Times. Though I’m fond enough of my previous employer and keep in touch with former colleagues, I recognize that on the neat-o-meter, working for the largest newspaper publishing company in the nation (Gannett) is really not very cool. It’s akin to working for Wal-Mart, or the state Department of Transportation, or the FBI.
There’s yet another business in Sylva that helps make this town cool. And I’m here to tell you, they are not — as rumored — pulling up stakes and moving to Asheville: at least not completely.
(This is what’s nice about working for an alternative publication. I wasn’t allowed to report on rumors at Gannett, or for Community Newspapers Inc., but the business involved needs some help on this one, and what the heck — Amanda isn’t even required to wear shoes.)
Annie’s Naturally Bakery, which has helped anchor Main Street in Sylva for the past eight years, is staying put … for the most part. The word on the street has the bakery abandoning Sylva.
Annie told me they are indeed moving the wholesale portion of the business. The bread baking will be done in Asheville, as will the wholesale delivery. Most of the 75 wholesale accounts they have are in that area, anyway, not here in the far-western counties. Too much money is being lost in buying gasoline, and through wear-and-tear on the delivery vehicles.
But the Main Street shop is staying in Sylva. Cookies, pies, cakes, all will still be made right here. And the cool people can continue to see, and be seen, in Annie’s.
“We promise not to abandon Sylva,” she told me.
Well, I think that’s great. I like Annie’s Naturally Bakery. And I promise not to leave for a while, too. It’s really quite fun to work in the coolest town of them all.