White Squirrels Taking over N.C.

A double rainbow crosses over Brevard. (Photo by Jake Hackman

By Kate Seiber, 2017

Traveling down Highway 64, Brevard is a town you might accidentally pass without a second thought. Seemingly ordinary, Brevard is your standard All-American, North Carolina town- The people are friendly, the food is decent, and you’ve got your standard, run-of-the-mill wildlife- deer, rabbits, and squirrels. But the “normalness” ends there. Brevard, interestingly enough, is famously known for its random population of white squirrels. Not to be confused with albino squirrels, Brevard’s white squirrels have normal pigmentation and typical dark squirrel eyes- it’s the snow-white fur and gray streak that runs down the length of their spine that makes them stand out. Squirrels are a common critter in every town- you might not view them as anything other than glorified vermin, but in Brevard, white squirrels are revered and put on a pedestal.

Students dressed up as white squirrels (Photo by Jake Hackman)

Colored squirrels aren’t necessarily anything to write home about. We’ve all heard of black squirrels, gray squirrels, and of course the standard brown squirrel, but white? Those are relatively uncommon. Only twelve states in the US can claim populations of white squirrels, which makes these select few outlying critters extra special in the animal kingdom. These squirrels didn’t just appear out of nowhere either. Sometime in 1949, a carnival truck carrying a small amount of these white squirrels overturned enabling them to escape and begin breeding, relatively actively, in the wild. Though still rare to spot, these squirrels have been roaming the county for over 50 years and attracting tourists all the while. As a small, arguably out-of-the-way town in NC, the amount of individuals that come searching for the white squirrel is significant.

Driving through the town, it’s not hard to tell how much the residents of Brevard adore the beloved white squirrel. The love for these creatures is so real that the town hosts an annual White Squirrel Festival every Memorial Day weekend complete with free live music, 5K and 10K races, guided tours, exhibits, squirrel feeder, and photo contests. But the fondness all started in 1986 when a town ordinance was established for these creatures. The ordinance reads as follows: “The entire area embraced within the corporate limits of the city is hereby designated as a sanctuary for all species of squirrel (family Sciuriadae), and in particular the ‘Brevard White Squirrel.’ It shall be unlawful for any person to hunt, kill, trap, or otherwise take any protected squirrels within the city by this section.” So if one of these speedy, little things runs out in front of your car, you’d better slam on those brakes- that goes without being said.

Looking Glass Falls

By Christian Kowalski, 2016

A picturesque view of Looking Glass Falls.
A picturesque view of Looking Glass Falls.

Looking Glass Falls is one of the bigger waterfalls we drove by and visited during our trip. Located in Brevard, locally known as the “Land of Waterfalls,”, Looking Glass Falls definitely was situated in an area that attracted more tourists. Part of this stems from how accessible the route to the falls were. There were clearly made steps down to the falls which would make it safer for families to walk down for the better view. There were benches along the path as well, giving people time to rest or take photos of the experience. Even before reaching the base of the path, it was clear those who designed it took into consideration that it would be a popular destination.

When our group arrived at the falls, there were already tons of cars parked alongside the road, forcing us to park where it would be a few minute walk to the falls. Compared to other waterfalls in the area, Looking Glass Falls was definitely more tourist-y due to its quick accessibility and picturesque look. Everyone had their cameras out around the falls. People were hurdling over rocks to change the perspective while others stayed by the benches to stay away from the cold, breezy chill of the water.

Sam, Dani, Christian and I at Looking Glass Falls.
Sam, Dani, Christian and I at Looking Glass Falls.

The falls themselves were gorgeous. Even though the water levels weren’t particularly high, the size of the falls were far bigger than most in the area. They were also tucked away in a small valley alongside the road provided a full 360 view of the beautiful fall trees around us. Giant boulders were all around the falls, which were prime for climbing to get better views of the falls.

Our group walked down the path and proceeded to walk along the accessible parts of the falls. Many pictures were from nearly every possible point we could take them. The falls in Brevard were more visually impressive compared to Silver Run, but the sheer number of people removed the intimacy. There were crying children, arguing parents and just lots of noise when visiting Looking Glass Falls. They were incredibly beautiful and impressive, but it lacked that hidden gem quality that made Silver Run a lot more special.

After we walked around the falls, we took one more group photo up by the benches and continued on our trip.

Review of The Phoenix: “Live Music, Local Food, Lovin’ Life, Livin’ Good”

By Molly Spero, 2016

Lounge area of The Phoenix provides prime spot to listen to live music.
Lounge area of The Phoenix provides prime spot to listen to live music.

Established in 2012, The Phoenix is Brevard’s premier farm to table restaurant, promoting food from local sustainable farms. Its motto is “Live Music ~ Local Food ~ Lovin’ Life ~ Livin’ Good.” The purple front door immediately sets the tone, giving off a unique, hipster-like vibe, and you won’t be disappointed when you walk in. On the right, a comfy lounge area invited guests to sit and enjoy the live music up close. New artists and seasoned musicians alike played live music 7 days a week. The lounge reminded me of a ‘70s living room with bright orange sofas and olive green recliners arranged with a few wooden tables in the center. Beside it, a bunch of high tables were placed around the room as normal seating, and a bar was in the back. Chalk boards hung over the bar, displaying the daily specials and the musician’s name. Although it was dark inside, the paintings and drawings of local artists showed up vibrantly on the purple walls.

Tasty quesadilla arrives late.
Tasty quesadilla arrives late.

By the time we ordered our food, every table was seated in time for the live music to start at 9pm. As I looked at the menu, I peaked at other customers’ dishes. There was poached pear salad made with mixed greens, poached pears, Gorgonzola, and pecans. My mouth watered for an appetizer of fried green tomatoes made of cornmeal encrusted tomatoes, blackened NC shrimp, and Cajun cream sauce. I decided on shrimp quesadillas that were stuffed with grilled onions, green peppers, mushrooms, and blackened shrimp. The quesadilla was worth the long wait time. It was overloaded with all the items and knowing that the ingredients were procured locally made it extra tasty.

There was a mix up in the kitchen, so everyone got their meal before me and I had to wait an extra ten minutes until mine was ready. Since it was crowded and it looked like the servers were understaffed, we were not assigned one specific waitress, but had several waitresses who seemed to bounced between tables. One of the waitresses apologized to me for the extra wait and explained, “Oh honey, I’m so sorry. This place is crazy right now, so I think your plate was given to another table instead. Everyday there is some mix up, and I guess you are the lucky one today.” She was very nice, which I appreciated. I really didn’t mind getting my food after everyone; I was enjoying the live music, anyway.

Purple door gives off a retro vibe.
Purple door gives off a retro vibe.

The female duo was called Blown Glass. One woman sang lead vocals and the other harmonized and played the guitar. They performed indie/singer-songwriter original music that had a melodic and organic sound. The music complimented the atmosphere of the restaurant and enhanced the dining experience. Surprisingly, the music and mood was interrupted when a bunch of men in ridiculous, matching outfits called Pisgah Thunder randomly enter the restaurant and start to dance around the diners (*hyperlink to travelogue).

After a marathon day of sightseeing Brevard and all the other Mountain towns along Highway 64, we were happy with our choice to eat at The Phoenix. If you are in Brevard looking for local, sustainable food, live music, and a retro, fun vibe I highly recommend stopping at this purple restaurant.

Pisgah Thunder: All Male Dance Troupe

By Molly Spero, 2016

Pisgah Thunder logo
Pisgah Thunder logo

The meal at The Phoenix was normal up until a swarm of twenty men between their mid-twenties and mid-life crisis wearing matching outfits—head to toe—enthusiastically banged on the front window outside and swaggered into the restaurant drunkenly. They looked like too-old fraternity guys in their red letterman jackets with white tank tops with a black mustache on the front peaking out underneath. Some had actual mustaches. On the back of the jacket was their logo: their name, Pisgah Thunder, bolded in white and blue on top of a black lightning bolt. Short jorts (jean shorts) showed off way too much of their hairy legs; on some you could even see the tan line on their thighs. To complete the outfit, they all wore white crew socks with yellow stripes at the top, white sneakers, and a bright red sweatband around their head.

They were boisterous, and the room loved it, hollering and whooping at the guys as they shimmied, gyrated, and pumped their fist around the restaurant. These men were part of a “local Semi Synchronized Man Dancing Troupe” from Brevard, NC. From observation of how they erratically pelvic thrusted to imaginary beats, the phrase “semi synchronized” seems generous. As a charity group, they dance to raise money for the Boys and Girls Club and “dance because [they] were born to.”

After dancing for a few minutes around the tables, the troupe exited to a “thunder” of applause. Although not to be upstaged by the jeering diners, the men tapped on the windows again and danced without a care past the restaurant, embarking on to who-knows-what. Our normal meal had become much more interesting. We had no idea that we were getting dinner and a show!

Review of Mayberry’s Soup and Sandwich

By Dani Halliday, 2016




Mayberry’s was an adorable bistro in downtown Brevard. A bar separated us from the kitchen as we ordered. I chose the ginger turkey sandwich and tomato soup combo, with a cream cheese swirl brownie on the side. This meal completely hit the spot. Warm and gooey sandwiches and thick, hearty soups warmed me up from the inside out. I saved the brownie for the car ride home.

Mayberry’s makes everything in house, whether it was sauces, soups, or their sandwiches and dinner entrees. They specialize in comfort food, which is exactly how I would define my own meal. Comfort food is all about gooey, homey meals that feel like you’ve eaten a hug. The restaurant was one of the few restaurants that was simply priced (about $8 for a sandwich and cup of soup) and was actually open on a Sunday in Brevard. Wine and beer were available for purchase (starting at 12p though since it is illegal in NC to sell alcohol before noon), as well as Bloody Mary, Long Island Iced Tea, and Screwdrivers. We all stuck to water.

Mayberry’s made us feel right at home in Brevard, with its wooden floors and walls, colorful signs featuring the White Squirrel Festival in May, and eclectic groups of people enjoying a casual meal as well. I would recommend this restaurant to anyone who needs a quick stop for a simple meal. The atmosphere warms you up as much as the food does and the restaurant bid us a fond farewell from Highway 64 as we headed back to Elon.

Searching for the Elusive White Squirrel

By Dani Halliday, 2016


White squirrel in mural descends upon Dani.
White squirrel in mural descends upon Dani.

There was a heavy chill in the air that clung to our bones. A thin fog hovered above the ground of the Brevard College campus, making the empty campus feel abandoned and creepy. We were here for a reason and would not leave without seeing the elusive white squirrel of Brevard.

Images of white squirrels were everywhere in the tiny mountain town of Brevard, NC. There was a white squirrel store, white squirrel statues in the hotels, white squirrel forms on the traffic lights, and even a giant mural of a white squirrel diving into a pile of nuts painted on the side of a restaurant.

The white squirrels weren’t residents of the town initially, but according to the Transylvania Times (the local newspaper of Brevard and other towns in Transylvania county), a carnival truck overturned in 1949, releasing two white squirrels with gray streaks down their backs into the wild of the Great Smoky Mountains. The squirrels were found by Mr. Black, who found them eating in his pecan grove. Black passed these squirrels to H. H. Mull, who subsequently passed them along to his niece, Barbara, to attempt to breed them, which failed. Eventually, one of the squirrels escaped and then Barbara released the other. Breeding apparently was easier in the wild of the mountains because now there are significantly more white squirrels than the original two. In 1986, the white squirrels became a protected species in Brevard with a vote by the Brevard City Council stating that is “shall be unlawful for any person to hunt, kill, trap, or otherwise take any protected squirrels within the city.” This law does not extend to the non-white squirrels of the area, though. While there are other white squirrel sightings in other states, such as Kentucky and Illinois, only Brevard holds a White Squirrel Festival every May.


Main Campus of Brevard College.

The receptionist at the Holiday Inn we had stayed in the night before recommended the college campus as the place where we would most likely find these rare creatures. We set out into the brisk 35-degree air at 9:00 am to begin our search.

We scoured the campus, which housed only 729 students, seeing beautiful brick buildings, massive trees, and copious amounts of brown squirrels, yet no people or white squirrels. Brevard College is a private, four-year institution, home to the Tornadoes. It stands on the outskirts of downtown Brevard, a prime location, and is about 120-acres. These are 120 acres that white squirrels can roam free on without any fear for their safety.


White squirrel poses for his picture.
White squirrel poses for his picture.

We passed underneath a clock tower which was built with bricks engraved with names from back in the 1900s. The brick buildings, white pillars, and trees scattered around campus reminded me of Elon on a much more rural scale. We wandered aimlessly around campus scanning the ground and the trees for a flash of white. We knew they were out there. We would find one.

Finally we saw it. It hopped around the ground, standing out a stark white streaked with gray against the fallen yellow and brown leaves and the dark green grass. It looked just like any other squirrel: same tail, same twitching nose, same large dark eyes—except for the white fur of course. We had to wonder as we followed the creature, much too close for its liking, whether the white squirrels were treated differently by their brown squirrel brethren. Were they allowed near the other squirrels? Did the white squirrels act as an exclusive group and not let the brown squirrels into their white squirrel club? These were questions only the white squirrels could answer for us, yet our friend had darted up a tree, out of sight.

Restaurant Review: Rocky’s Grill and Soda Shop

By Katherine Makepeace – 2014

Rocky’s “Carolina Burger” topped with chili, slaw, and onions.
Rocky’s “Carolina Burger” topped with chili, slaw, and onions.


Rocky’s Grill and Soda Shop, a town staple since 1942, is among the most aesthetically vivacious attractions that one notices while browsing Brevard’s downtown district. Its retro signs lure visitors inside for a nostalgic return to what many consider a “simpler time” in America. Massive black and white portraits of stars from Hollywood’s Golden Era smiled down at me, inviting me to stay and revel in the comfort of a more wholesome and pure perspective of an America that I have never experienced first-hand.

The nostalgic image of post-WWII America is a familiar narrative that has been perpetuated to millennials by their baby-boomer parents. Although I myself cannot identify with the old days of 40’s and 50’s American idealism, I still felt palatable warmth envelop my heart that made me feel like I was home safe after a long, hard day. My group and I decided to seat ourselves at the bar, and I couldn’t help but imagine us all coming there 60 years ago in our poodle-skirts and bouncy ponytails to talk about boys over malts and milkshakes. The restaurant describes itself as an old-school “soda fountain” so I ordered a conventional root beer float to sip along with my “Carolina Cheeseburger” – an irresistible heart attack stacked with cheese, chili, slaw, and onions – and a side of fries with a dill pickle spear. I wanted to complete the American diner experience with the most “American” fare possible. And if a burger slathered in chili and slaw isn’t it, I don’t know what is.

The burger was astounding in size, but also in every other aspect. After cutting it in half so I could manage to shovel it into my mouth, I decided just to “go for it”. Taking my first bite was difficult given all the chili exploding out of the burger’s sides, but I developed a strategy as I munched along on my merry way to achieve ultimate fullness. I learned to let a lot of the chili fall onto my plate before attempting to take a bite; the lost toppings from my burger were just recycled as toppings for my fries later in my meal.

The buns were buttery and soft, but sturdy enough to keep my burger generally intact. The patty itself was hearty, thick, and cooked medium, so it still retained its natural flavors. It was not overly greasy like one might expect from a diner burger. The moist, smoky chili gave the sandwich plenty of juiciness without the excess grease that I expected. On the other hand, the sweet, crunchy onions and slaw layered the burger with many nuanced textures.

The root beer float was a true “float” in that the ice cream sat prettily amidst a thick layer of foam near the top of the glass. The generous cooks at Rocky’s must also have been physicists because the scoop of ice cream was simply too ginormous not to sink to the bottom. I suppose this is evidence of their use of fresh products – particularly their bubbly, uber-carbonated root beer soda. The Edy’s vanilla ice cream was thick, creamy, and smooth – a huge departure from the frost-burned varieties littering my freezer.

Overall, I would rate Rocky’s Grill and Soda Shop “excellent” in terms of their food, beverages, and atmosphere. From what I saw of my peers’ menu choices, everything looked massively appealing and nothing disappointed. I could tell from the expressions on my peers’ faces that they were as awash with the same nostalgia that I was.



Made in the USA, Yeeha!: A Discussion with Kim Provost of Brevard, NC

By Casey Brown and Margaret Bryant, 2013

Not many children will lie and claim they are Native Americans. When Kim Provost, owner and founder of Hunters and Gatherers in Brevard, NC, was about six years old, her grandmother gave her a piece of Native American jewelry with the signature turquoise stone. That sparked her fascination with Native American culture, especially its artifacts like jewelry and artwork. Now, her appreciation, love, and fascination with the culture and art have translated in her professional life and in her store.

When we arrived in Brevard, we promised each other we would stop at any store that looked interesting. We wanted the authentic small town experience on our last day in the mountains. But at first, we hadn’t had that great of luck. As we wandered down the road, we came across a mariachi guitar player named Bobby who was sitting outside of a sandwich shop. While talking to us, he mentioned he would be performing outside of his friend’s store to support her political campaign. He was referring to Hunters and Gatherers, the little hole in the wall shop, nestled amongst iconic small town stores like Brevard’s Celestial Mountain Music and the White Squirrel Shoppe. The sign proudly declared that it was a “Made in the USA” established. Intrigued, we decided to check it out.

When we entered, it felt as if we had just crossed over the threshold into crafty wonderland. Shelves and tables overflowed with trinkets, pottery, and tiki candles made from Heineken bottles while handmade leather goods, like belts and shoulder bags, hung thoughtfully from hooks and racks lining the walls of various sections of the store. We wandered through narrow hallways, a result of all of the items packed closely together, careful not to knock anything out of place. The rich leathers and vibrant turquoise jewelry accents the rest of the items nicely.

When Kim first opened the store eight years ago, she had to settle on only a portion of her inventory fitting the image of the store, while the rest was what she considered as cutesy. She explained that “cute” items got her off the ground, though it wasn’t ideal. She clarified that she is not a purist. We would define her more as homegrown. In the shop’s first few years, she had to hunt down artists and crafters, which was tiresome in addition to running and working at the store. Now, they come to her.

Currently, there are close to forty local artists and crafters and over one hundred additional artists across the country. Most made in the USA stores are currently online and although Hunters and Gatherers has a website, Kim is proud of the fact that they operate in house. After speaking with her for little over an hour, and being shown around the store, it is clear that the store is a beautiful reflection of its creator.

For Kim, the store is not only an extension of her personality, but it has also been a place where those close to her could gain artistic recognition. One of those people is her mother. A longtime painter, she had hundreds of different sized paintings of wolves, horses, flowers and other natural settings, all lying around the house. With Hunters and Gatherers, Kim has offered her mother a place to hang her work and since then, her mother has had many of her pieces sold.

“I don’t think [pieces] are worth buying when they’re on their own,” Kim said, referring to the more enlightened art purchasing experience a person can have when they can see a full collection of an artist’s work. This is why Kim sets up separate nooks for each artist in various parts of her store. Her mother’s section takes up half the length of the store’s back wall.

Kim Provost grew up in Detroit, MI and attended Michigan State University. Throughout her life, she planned on pursuing a variety of careers. Originally, she was going to be an attorney, but then Kim changed her mind. She wanted to be a forest park ranger. So, she switched her major to Natural Resources and Outdoor Education and after graduation, she searched for jobs in Alaska and fell in love with the outdoors, eventually becoming an outdoor educator.

However, in 1988, she asked her boss if she could attend an outdoor education conference in North Carolina. Her boss was hesitant, knowing how easy it is to fall in love with North Carolina landscape and the quaint Southern lifestyle. Kim assured him that this would never happen. She went to the conference and when she returned, she put her letter of resignation on her boss’ desk. She was moving to North Carolina.

After talking to Kim for close to an hour, she gave a personalized tour of Hunters and Gatherers. Each section of the store had a story worth telling. Kim showed us the leather cowboy boots, belts and other accessories that she had just shown at a rodeo. They attend every year. Towards the end of our tour, a mild-mannered friend of Kim’s came into the store. As it turns out, she is one of the featured artisans at Hunters and Gatherers. Her craft is making jams and she spoke very highly and proudly of Kim and her work. It was clear to us what a special impact Kim’s dream has had on the community of Brevard.

Now, after nearly 25 years working and living in Brevard, Kim is running for Brevard City Council. She wears her candidate pin broadly. For her, running for office was the obvious next step to give back to the small town that has given her so much.

“It’s my time to step up and serve my community,” Kim said. “I’ve been able to have my dreams come true, and I want to keep Brevard a cool place.”

Four Stories From Brevard: A Travelogue by Nicole Esplin, Casey Brown, Margaret Bryant, and Hillary Dooley

Searching for a Souvenir

By Nicole Esplin, 2013

I’m still a child at heart.  When I was younger, I was a die-hard souvenir collector and although I don’t have an organized stash anymore, if you look around my room you’ll notice mementos from trips scattered about.  There’s a starfish necklace from St. Thomas, my name on a piece of rice from Virginia, skiing medals from Colorado and a candle from Asheville.  Naturally, I started panicking when I realized we were already at our last stop in Brevard and all I had to bring home was some honey and pumpkin bread, which would likely not make it past Hickory on the ride back to Elon.

After eating a quick lunch and browsing a few stores, the itch for something real and truly special from this trip set in.  I began scouring the stores and asking the owners about their businesses, hoping for some kind of story to go with my souvenir.  I wasn’t looking for an airport t-shirt.  Anyone can pick up a “Washington D.C.” t-shirt at the airport on their way home.  I was looking for something to remember Brevard with.

Ten years ago, I would have happily settled for one of the stuffed white squirrels in the tourist-filled “White Squirrel Shop,” but I veered towards the smaller stores, still looking for that inspiration to buy something for more than its monetary value. Brevard reminds me of a smaller Asheville; less quirky but more homey and community focused.  I wandered into a little hippie shop that sold local fine arts, crafts, jewelry and other trinkets.  The sign out front said “Local Color,” and I felt like I was at home.  A tall man with long brown hair and a hawaiian-style shirt stood behind the register and welcomed me, offering his assistance.  He opened the shop 4 years ago after moving to Brevard to escape the “urban sprawl.”  His name is Paul, and his wife’s name is Pauline.  Here’s my story.

As I browsed the store, Paul described exactly how he ended up in Brevard at this little shop.

“I’ve lived in Brevard for 18 years,” Paul said.  “I grew up outside Chicago and it was pretty busy.  I moved to Raleigh in ’86 and lived there for 3 years before moving to Pittsboro, right near [Jordan] lake.”

Paul stayed in Pittsboro until the town announced that they would make Highway 64 a 4-lane expressway right past his home.  So, Paul did what any righteous North Carolinian would do and drove down Highway 64 until he found the right town to settle in.

“I didn’t want to see Pittsboro change from the highway,” Paul said.  “I fell in love with Brevard right away.”

Shortly after moving to Brevard, Paul met his wife, Pauline, who was working at another store down the street from Local Color.  After Paul lost his job in the building supply industry, he decided to help Pauline open her own shop, which is now Local Color.

“There’s about 100 artists and 70 are from the area,” Paul said.  “We have a mixture of some resale areas and some new items from the area. “

I found my souvenir tucked in a corner.  It’s a simple wooden plaque with a sailboat and the words “You can’t change the wind, but you can adjust the sails,” painted on.  The painting spoke to me, and it matched the colors of my room. But more so Paul’s story spoke to me, and I knew that this store was where I was going to buy my trip memento.  Not because I couldn’t find anything else I liked more at the next store, but because of Paul’s association with Highway 64 and his free spirit to uproot his home and move somewhere simpler.  The mountains are a simple place, a place where people move to get away from the congestion of city life in central N.C. while maintaining close friendships with community members.  I couldn’t help but smile as we walked back to the car and I felt my wooden plaque weighing down my purse.  I had found a souvenir that was more than just an artist’s work.  The journey had given me insight into the town of Brevard itself.


The Meaning of Community

By Casey Brown, 2013

I know what it’s like to have a community you’re proud of. I was raised in the Boston area, which instills pride in its residents from birth. We’re proud of our rich history, of our distinct culture, our sports teams. We stand by and defend our way of life, much like the patriots did when we were still under English rule. But I don’t think I’ve realized how deeply pride can move you until my visit to Brevard.

When Mags and I ate at the Phoenix restaurant, it was all about celebrating what’s local. They proudly boast that 90% of their menu comes from local farmers and markets. The other 10% is seafood from the coast. The walls are coated in art from local artists and they are all for sale. Bobby, the mariachi guitarist we met in downtown Brevard, was proud to be in the town. He was an avid supporter for his friend Kim Provost’s upcoming city council campaign and while he was moving to Chicago, he couldn’t wait to return to his town in Brevard. Kim Provost, the owner of Hunters and Gatherers, has used her store to promote American-made products. She supports her community and now is giving back to it by running for office.

In Brevard, the people are proud of their little city. But more than that, they are willing to preserve it. Their pride motivates them to do something more productive, to give back to the city that has given them a life, a family, a home. It’s an admirable sense of purpose the people of Brevard seem to feel about their community.

Leaving Brevard after witnessing this affection for home, it made me really think about my future. I want to move to Los Angeles after graduation, but spending time in the mountains made me really rethink that decision. Did I really want to move to a city where I’d become a faceless member of a community so vast, you’d never really be recognized? It’s sort of a depressing thought. I’m still not sure what I’ll do when I have to leave into the real world, but my time in Brevard showed me how important it is to find a community you’re proud of and that if you’re truly proud of a community, you’ll do what you can to give back to it.


Reclaiming My Carolina Roots

By Margaret Bryant, 2013

I am a North Carolina girl. I may not have the sweet southern drawl, with subtle annunciations with which I say sticky, drawn out colloquial phrases that drip slowly like honey. I certainly don’t have a whole lot of southern pride because history and politics below the Mason Dixon line are almost always messy, but nonetheless, I am from the South. I have struggled with North Carolina over the years, often wondering what life would have been like if my Northern and polite, moderately opinionated parents had raised me and my older sister somewhere else. My mother is from New England and my father is from Virginia. After the Highway 64 project and our trip through the mountains, I have been gratefully reminded of why I love the place I have been reluctant to call home for so many years. Growing up, I spent a few weeks of summer at a co-ed summer camp near Brevard. It had been so many years since I have been to that part of North Carolina and I was excited to be back again at such a beautiful time of year.

On the third and final day of our mountain adventure, we planned to pass through Brevard on our way back to Elon. We had a few places as planned stops, but generally, the day had been blocked off as time to explore. We split into groups of two, as we had done many times over the past two days, in order to cover more ground. Casey and I wandered down the main street, in hopes of finding somewhere or someone interesting. We ate at The Phoenix, a local farm-to-table restaurant. During our time in the sleepy town, as most places in the mountains are on a Sunday afternoon, I began to notice a thread that tied place to place on our trip. There is this sense of gratitude at the very core of the local people. After lunch, we explored on foot, stopping in a few shops that looked interesting.

There was a table set up outside the Celestial Mountain Music Store, with a piece of paper with “FREE” scribbled on it in big, block letters. Inside the boxes were vinyl records, exploring a variety of genres. Everything from Christmas Carols to Claude Debussy were covered in dust and stacked carelessly. I dug through the boxes, a few couples passing by, peeking in for a minute or two before continuing on their way. To find records like the ones outside the music store for free is rare. Not only are they considered collectibles at this point, but every apathetic hipster in fake glasses and clothes straight out of Nylon Magazine live for these finds. I took two to add to my family’s collection at home. Not long after, we came across a guitarist from Mariachi group named Bobby. Originally from Mexico, he now splits his time between Chicago and Brevard, he told us a little bit about his life, but mostly emphasized why he loved North Carolina. He talked about how the people care and support one another. To put it in greeting card words, they are all about the local love.

Not long after, we ended up talking with and interviewing Kim Provost, the owner of a store that exclusively sells art and other hand-made items. Everything comes from somewhere in the United States, nothing is mass-produced or a product of a sweatshop assembly line. Hunters and Gatherers, like The Phoenix, supports local, a movement that is not as common as it should be. Kim is also running for city council. When I asked her why she wants to be involved with the politics, she told me something that will probably stay with me for a long time. In her “twenty-four year love affair” (as she calls it), Brevard has treated her well. She has been able to be a prominent member of the community, and the town has taken care of her and her family. She says that now it is time for her to give back and show her gratitude.

I was surprised again and again during our trip by how much successful individuals care for the people who got them where they are now. The endless gratitude that people like Kim and Bobby express is infectious and it reminded me in a humbling way of how I am so lucky to call this state my home. There is a sense of loving humility in Brevard that you just can’t find in a big city. After seeing it so up close, I hope I can take that with me as I travel and explore, eventually returning to the place I am now thankful to call home.


How Chocolate Can Change Your Life

By Hillary Dooley, 2013

Brevard is one of those small mountain towns where you can spend hours exploring and run into people with the most unique stories, and although everyone has a different story about what brought them to Brevard or what has been keeping them there, there is always one thing in common: passion. You can almost feel the passion float through the town as it rustles with the leaves.

One of these people runs a chocolate shop down a small street in the center of Brevard. It sits in the perfect location, right across from the Square Root. After I had finished my lunch there, I ventured across the street to the chocolate shop to satisfy my sweet tooth and take some dessert for the road.

Upon walking in, it is a quiet shop. No one was there to greet us, but we could hear a bustling in the back kitchen area. Pretty soon, a 71-year old man named George walked out ready to take our order. This was the complete opposite of whom I had expected to own a chocolate shop. I was imagining a young mother in her early 30s pursuing her passion and making some money on the side for her three children. But Brevard is unique, and who says a 71-year old man can’t make chocolate?

I stared at all the chocolates, wondering what to get. There was everything imaginable from all kinds of truffles to chocolate covered Oreos and graham crackers, nut clusters, bark, and much more. I spotted several chocolate covered Twinkies in the corner. A smile was painted on each, and a sign reading, “We’re so happy to be back!!!” accompanied them. I decided against the Twinkies, but I taste tested a few truffles and got an assortment of milk chocolate treats.

As we were checking out, we began to talk to George to see how he came about running this place. He said he didn’t set out to make chocolate, but that it accidentally fell upon him. He told us how he used to be a real estate developer and how he gave the building we were standing in to his daughter. She began a restaurant there with her husband. Before long, business was booming, and they had no life. So, they sold the business and kept the building. Next thing George knew, a man and woman walked in from down the street, asking if the building was open for business. They said, “Well, the Lord talked to us and told us to open a business.” When he asked what kind of business, they answered a chocolate shop. And that’s how the chocolate shop came to be.

However, George wasn’t supposed to be the one operating the business. It turns out a week before opening, the Lord told the man and woman to go elsewhere, and George had no choice but to open a few chocolate books and get started himself. He chuckled as he explained to us that it took him a couple months to learn and that he “turned a lot ‘a brown chocolate white” in the process. That was eight years ago, and since then George has been so successful he has been shipping chocolates across the globe to Belgium, Finland, Spain, Japan, Jerusalem, Guatemala, and Germany.

We thanked George for his time and delicious chocolates, and on our way out, he had one piece of advice for us: “You can do anything you set your mind to, but don’t ever trust a Christian.” But after all, George wouldn’t be successful doing what he has come to love if he hadn’t trusted a Christian.

The Square Root

By Hillary Dooley, 2013

Located down a tiny alleyway in Brevard, North Carolina is The Square Root restaurant. It was a beautiful, warm day in the mountains. The outdoor patio with hanging green plants and bustle of people drew me to the restaurant. There were families with young children, couples in their late 20s sitting at the bar, and older gentleman watching football at the bar. It is a gathering spot for locals and tourists, and on a busy Sunday, we managed to find two seats at the bar.

The bar is unlike any I have ever seen. It is made from the most magnificent wood, and I felt a newfound sense of serenity as I took a seat. The back of the menu described the bar top as “a milled slab of spalted Ambrosia Maple felled in recent years on King Street.” I noticed the unique design of the floor: 6,127 blocks of yellow pine, intricately and thoughtfully fitted together to create a strong foundation to support the naturalistic theme, not to mention the actual restaurant itself. The atmosphere itself was warm with dark brick walls, vibrant paintings, and a light that softened the restaurant.

I ordered the local Brevard Oktoberfest beer, and it came in a tall glass with a green Brevard label. My friend and I began talking with the couple next to us. Bill Vanderwerff is a local to Brevard who spends half the year selling real estate in Florida. As it turns out, he was from the same town in Pennsylvania as me. Here we were in a small mountain town along Highway 64 at a local bar, and this man was from the same town as me. That is just the kind of place Brevard is. In that moment, I was reminded of what a small world we live in and how taking the time and effort to talk to others around you increases your understanding of the world and brings you closer to the ones around you.

My meal came, and the Square Root salad was the perfect match to my ginger squash soup. I finished up my conversation with Bill, ate the last delicious bites of my salad, and headed out much happier than when I went in. As I left this small restaurant with natural décor and mountain friendships, I heard a local tell the bartender, “See ya ‘round the barnyard.”