Lindsey Deal

By Jordan Stanley

Lindsey Deal emerged from a swung-open wooden door behind the cash register in the same way Deal Orchards appeared from the road. Driving along Highway 64, the storefront for the orchard looked like a white tin warehouse, named for, perhaps, the bargain-priced produce inside. In reality, it was for the man whose family had founded and run the business for generations, carried on still today. The cashier, busy ringing up boxes of apples, apple butter, apple cider, and old-fashioned candies, called Lindsey on her flip phone to answer a few questions on the business; and there he came, extending a long tree-branch arm beckoning into his office.

Lindsey Deal is a human torch of North Carolina apple country. A tall man with grey hair and beard, Lindsey wore black baseball cap and khaki button down, both branded by the “Enjoy North Carolina Apples” insignia, the “O” of “Enjoy” a bright red fruit. His accent was certainly Southern, a characteristic of his Taylorsville community though occasionally too thick for Northern ears. He was curidsc_0520ous about how Northern eyes saw his little piece of North Carolina, prioritizing a good impression of a place he clearly took pride in. In fact, Taylorsville had been, he said, the capital of the American apple industry for decades, which his great-grandfather had a hand in.

Ready and eager to embark on a thorough history of NC apple country, Lindsey relaxed into his leather desk chair, hands laced together across his belly. His personality was strewn across the wood-paneled walls of his office. From the NRA sign on the back of his office door, to the two elk heads mounted on the wall, to the mosaic of family photos–his children, grandchildren, and ancestors who he introduces–a presumably conservative, Southern persona emerges. Yet throughout his explanations of the culture of his region, his face lit up with enthusiasm. According to Lindsey, this county used to be the moonshine capital of the country, connecting to the popularity of NASCAR in the community. He claims that NASCAR stems from moonshiners “pumping” up their cars to escape the law during Prohibition. Through his stories, Lindsey’s character slowly evolved into a richly diverse man both of traditionalism and understanding.

While the Deals originate from Kentucky, the Deal family has been harvesting apples in the county surrounding Taylorsville for well over 100 years. As Lindsey regaled the history of Deal Orchard, he rose from his chair to point to the largest frame on the wall. Inside is a black-and-white photograph capturing three rows of men, most of whom were dressed in their Sunday best–as Lindsey pointsdsc_0511 out, some of whom wore farmer’s overalls, and two of whom sported bushy white beards. The entire scene, set outside on an agricultural property, looked like it could have been torn from a Civil War history book. One of the two white-bearded men, however, was Lindsey’s great-grandfather–the original Deal’s Apples. The photo is of the first North Carolina Apple Growers’ Association, a group established to align NC apple farmers to compete and cooperate with larger wholesale produce markets. While Lindsey’s great-grandfather chose to partake in this industry, his brother (Lindsey’s great-uncle) chose to start a hardware store. Many will recognize it today as Lowe’s Home Improvement. Now onto the sixth-generation of apple Deal’s, Lindsey’s daughter left her job working numbers at Lowe’s to help run Deal’s Orchard with Lindsey’s other son.

At Deal Orchard’s Lindsey sells about 80,000 bushels of apples per year. The very units used for apple sales has evolved over the years, he says, in correspondence to changing gender norms. According to Lindsey, the apple industry began selling half bushels because a bushel box was too heavy for women–who did all the shopping–to carry. When women went back to work, however, they stopped buying apples in such large increments altogether. Lindsey said that women will full-time jobs were more likely to buy groceries for the night or a week, too busy to make pies or other more elaborate dinner measures apple-related extras in addition to employment. From this, the industry developed the “peck,” an even smaller increment of apples. While describing how feminism altered the apple industry, Lindsey remained a neutral tone, not condescending to a movement that altered his family’s practices. Rather, he was empathetic overall, if not overtly supportive–employing a level of respect that created interest amongst his NRA poster and elk heads.

As a well-established apple man, many beginning farmers come to Lindsey to ask advice to begin an orchard of their own. Lindsey laughs to himself when this happens, knowing how they underestimate the “hard parts” of farming. To establish an orchard, one must purchase land, equipment costing upwards of $6,000, and seeds to plant the trees. From there, farmers have to wait at least six years for the trees to grow for any return on their investment. He tries to pass on some wisdom, of course. For example, Lindsey has his orchards scattered across Taylorsville rather than in one area, so if there is a storm, not every orchard is impacted. One hailstorm can knock out a farm for 18 months, Lindsey said; when there’s bad weather, most people don’t even think about how this affects the farmers.

To continue constructing a behind-the-scenes look at the farming process-and to build the empathy of the farmer’s life–Lindsey provided a tour through his refrigeration units and warehouse. The massive refrigerator, full of innumerable wooden crates, smells crisp and sweet like ice-cold cider. There is actually cider in the fridge, which is outsourced for production due to strict health standards but made from Deal apples. Lindsey said, while he would like to, it is impossible to grow organic fruit in the East. There’s too much rain, which promotes fungus and rot without chemicals. Deal Orchards are, however, GAP (Good Agriculture Practices) certified.

He proceeded to walk through the entire apple-sorting process, from the conveyer belts, to turning on the washing mechanisms, to showing how each moving process worked–how apples were sorted by hand and through machine into high and low quality piles. He pointed to a 30-foot stack of boxes, with High Quality and Low Quality written in different colors. Years back, Lindsey’s customers would switch apples from high and low quality boxes in attempt to pay the lower price, so Lindsey color-coded the boxes so he wouldn’t be swindled.

Finally he approached a box of small red-green apples, the size of which make them most appealing dsc_0507to deer hunters. These were Bushy Mountain Limbertwigs– native to the region and the very apple that his great-grandfather grew to found Deal Orchards. He picked up one apple and offered a bite to anyone with “good teeth.” The consistency was firm, difficult to chew, but flavorfully balanced between tart and sweet. He took another apple and placed it on the ground, proceeding to step and place his entire weight on it. Then he picked up the apple again to reveal that there were no dents or bruises.

The day with Lindsey concluded with one last question: What was his favorite apple? He answered that if he was ever out in the orchard–after all the customers had come and gotten their pick–and he saw one last Golden Delicious, he would climb to the top of a tree to get it.

From there he returned inside to his office, encouraging a car ride through the orchards, just off to the west. Lindsey Deal tucked himself away as quickly as he had shown himself; he was a representation of the apple country in the nicest way: a man of history, tradition entwined with progression, and a Southern hospitality that opened and welcomed an eye into Taylorsville, North Carolina.

Befriending a Stranger in Buck’s Coffee

By Samantha Lubliner, 2016

Located in Highlands, NC, Buck’s coffee sat isolated from other buildings. Across the street from the welcome sign, the coffee shop was a staple of the town and a buzzing place filled with people of all ages. The decor was trendy with a country finish, and the people were from all walks of life. The room in the back was for “stuff” and antiques ranging from lamp fixtures to deer horns.

The armchairs were big and looked comfortable next to the fireplace. The windows gave excellent natural lighting to the whole room, and the attention to detail and design lent to an ambiance of __. People sat both alone and in groups to enjoy their coffee or treat.

Inside Buck's Cafe.
Inside Buck’s Cafe.

I ordered a Chai Tea Latte with a shot of espresso. Distracted by the delicate jewelry on display, I missed when my name was called. I traipsed over to the biggest, comfy leather chair I could find unoccupied. The five chairs surrounding a coffee table were inviting, and I asked the one man sitting in the circle if he minded if I sat.

Before long my three group members joined me—and there we were, having a group meeting with a stranger. He was curious in our conversation of town hopping and pumpkin rolling and asked what we were up to. I explained to Matt the mission of our trip and the inquiry we were practicing. He showed interest and mentioned that he’s been to all the towns we had mentioned. When prompted he then discussed how he’s been to the many towns ranging North Carolina–all to capture the beauty of waterfalls.

Sam sits in her comfy arm chair, talking with Matt.
Sam sits in her comfy arm chair, talking with Matt.

Matt began to tell all about his passion of photography and his strong convictions toward travel for a bigger global understanding. He explained that materialism and big homes don’t make happiness but travel and making a bigger world are more important. He spoke about his plans to travel to Japan to visit his college roommate and his plans for travel and photography fitting in with his day job of IT. He showed us his Facebook page, his pictures of the Amsterdam canal and wished us well on the remainder of our journey through North Carolina.

Originally from Charlotte, Matt has big dreams and wishes to continue pursuing photography and travel. He gave us his Facebook page and advised us about the seasonal shadow of the bear that he had traveled to capture. Since the shadow bear was only visible for a few minutes during dust, we said good-bye to Matt and hurried out of Buck’s Coffee to catch the sight.

Maggy McGloin

Maggy is an ambitious, creative, and innovative student with a passion for writing, editing, and . She is an English major with a concentration in Professional Writing & Rhetoric and a Communications minor at Elon University. When she’s not focusing on her studies, Maggy enjoys traveling, cooking, listening to music, and reading anything hilarious. After graduating in May 2017, she plans to pursue an editorial, publicity or copywriting position.


The Daily Grind & Wine in Murphy

By Molly Spero, 2016

Delicious black bean burger served at The Daily Grind & Wine.
Delicious black bean burger served at The Daily Grind & Wine.

The excitement was palpable as we pulled into a parking space in front of a coffee shop called The Daily Grind & Wine in downtown Murphy, NC. A four-plus hour car ride from Elon to Murphy had stiffened my legs—and “nature called.” The café was situated in the “Town of Murphy,” which was founded in 1835. Originally founded as Huntington after the first Postmaster Col. H.R.S. Hunter, Murphy gained its current name after Archibald D. Murphey, later dropping the “e” in Murphy. Since 1851, Murphy has been the county seat of Cherokee County. The Cherokee Indian Nation called Cherokee County and the surrounding area home prior to 1839, until they were removed to Oklahoma over the “Trail of Tears,” which follows a pathway out of town.

Located downtown in the historic building, The Daily Grind is nestled among several shops, including a neighboring bookstore and a basement music shop. Since May 2000, the coffee shop considers itself to be “the ‘Cheers’ for locals and visitors alike” and serves espresso, cappuccinos, and lattes. All day customers can choose off the breakfast and lunch menu that offers fresh baked goods, wraps, salads and grilled Panini sandwiches. Hanging chalkboards display the menu on the wall behind the cash register.

I opted for a black bean vegan burger with a whole slew of toppings—lettuce, tomato, mayo, Italian vinaigrette, provolone, and pickles—all on a skinny wheat bun and served with a choice of chips, grapes, or potato salad. Trying to be health conscious, I went with grapes. (This health craze didn’t last long; my diet became progressively saturated in fats, carbs, and sugars throughout the trip.)

The cashier gave me a table tracker, where the number card was displayed upright, inserted between two wine corks. This was a fitting nod to The Daily Grind’s other service: wine. With its Celtic themed wine and beer bar, the coffee shop doubles as the only retail wine shop in downtown Murphy. The bar specializes in regionally crafted brews and prides itself in being “a great place to meet old friends and make new ones.” In a small section beside the bar, a few tall tables were clustered together, inviting people to sit and enjoy their wine. Close by, wine racks lined the surrounding walls, serving as a little shop.

Molly flips through The Daily Grind & Wine scrapbook.
Molly flips through The Daily Grind & Wine scrapbook.

I sat down with my number at a two-seat table with Dani. Sam and Christian occupied the one next to us. The seating area was small and cozy, brightened by the natural light streaming in from the long wall of windows. While I waited on the food, I spotted a photo album resting on a seat. Curious, I opened it to reveal a scrapbook that documented the history of The Daily Grind through pictures and news articles: a flyer announcing its grand opening and promotional free concert, the first menu, pictures of the shop’s original layout, and many more pages.

Although the coffee shop had been around for less than two decades, the history within the scrapbook and the bustling vibe of the small eatery showed just how homey it felt, helping to create the friendly environment of Murphy. I looked around and saw locals and visitors alike enjoying the quaint, comfortable, and chill atmosphere.

My vegan burger arrived shortly in a basket lined with newspaper. The vegan burger, textured with black beans and a combination of breadcrumbs, onions, corn, and other seasonings, was moist and flavorful. The toasted wheat bun was crisp and warm, complementing the burger and all of its condiments.

After the long car ride, The Daily Grind & Wine provided an excellent pick-me-up stop. The atmosphere was cozy and relaxed, making it easy to talk with people, and the menu offered many tasty breakfast and lunch options perfect for a light meal. From my co-travelers, I heard enthusiastic approval of the coffee and appreciation of the local wine collection. If you are looking for a place in Murphy to sit back and relax while eating delicious sandwiches and drinking rich coffee or regional, unique wines, I highly recommend you skip a chain or fast food place and come to The Daily Grind.

Janette Franich: Jewelry Artist

By Molly Spero, 2016

Armed with hot chocolate clutched between my cold hands, I was ready to explore Franklin’s Pumpkin Fest. The streets were crowded with rows upon rows of booths that offered handmade crafts from soaps to aprons. A few minutes into roaming the aisles, Sam, Dani, and I were attracted to the jewelry stand, Designs by Janette. Christian was not nearly as interested.

A variety of necklaces made from14k gold, sterling silver, brass, and copper hung from nails in a wooden box, evoking a simple, rustic vibe. The pieces were simple, yet caught the eye with their intricate detailing. Small pendants adorned each paper-thin chain: a bird woven into its nest, a tree entangled by its branches, and a simple bar inscribed with a word, BADASS (and yes, it fittingly was in all caps). The juxtaposition between the powerful, confident statement and the delicate design made the piece unique.

Molly shows off her BADASS necklace.
Molly shows off her BADASS necklace.

When I conversationally mentioned this juxtaposition to the lady overseeing the stand, I discovered that she not only was the Janette of Designs by Janette, but also appreciated that I had picked up on the contrast in her piece. “I draw inspiration from the juxtaposition of the natural and man-made world with the combination of organic and geometric lines,” she said. Among her most popular pieces include her Tree of Life design and Bird’s Nest necklaces and earrings. Framed by a rectangular border, the Tree of Life emerges from the intertwining wires that twist into sprawling branches. To add texture to the Bird’s Nest pieces, the eggs are made of freshwater pearls or aquamarine.

Growing up in Michigan, Janette loved art and the creativity involved. Today as a North Carolina artisan specializing in metal work, she employs wire-wrapping and metal-smithing techniques to create “elegant, lightweight, and feminine jewelry.” She participates in numerous art shows, festivals, and craft fairs throughout North Carolina. Last weekend she had set up her stand in Cashiers, NC for Art for a Cause. Before pursuing her career as a professional artist, Janette taught art class to elementary and middle schools in North Carolina for five years. She smiled at me, explaining, “While I enjoyed working with youth, a career as a professional artist was calling.”

After learning from numerous how-to books on jewelry making, she dedicated herself as a self-taught jewelry artist and started her company, Designs by Janette, in 2011. In addition to handcrafted jewelry, she creates oil and acrylic paintings, photographs, and prints. Her art is displayed in galleries across North Carolina, South Carolina, and Michigan. When I asked her about selling her art in multiple states, she replied, “My love of travel and exploring the outdoors serves as a constant inspiration and is reflected in my work.”

Janette displays her jewelry at the Franklin Pumpkin Festival.
Janette displays her jewelry at the Franklin Pumpkin Festival.

To create her beautiful one-of-a-kind designs, Janette starts at the beginning. “My creative process begins with the raw materials in my hand. My ideas go directly from my head to my hands with typically no sketch in between. I solder the wire, hammer the pieces and continue by adding gemstones or textures with the rolling mill. Each piece is completed by being filed and polished,” she described. Her designs center on reshaping recycled materials, metals and natural stones into wearable art. Many of her jewelry are inlaid with precious and semi-precious metals with natural and faceted gemstones. The malleable metal and wire undergoes hot- and cold-forging processes to be fashioned into her wire-wrapped creations.

After talking to this self-starting businesswoman about her labor of love, I couldn’t leave without a souvenir. I admired a pair of Tree of Life earrings and examined a Bird Nest necklace, but it wasn’t until my gaze turned toward the bar necklace stamped with “BADASS” that I truly smiled. That word doesn’t represent me at all – so naturally, I had to have it.

Janette swiped my debit card using her iPhone card reader, and started to put my necklace in a fancy box with her logo on it. “Wait!” I said, gesturing for it. “I want to wear it now, please.” She smiled and placed the delicate necklace in my palm. I thanked her and walked out of her stand to find my other Mountain group members, who were looking at handmade soaps next door. With the necklace fastened around my neck, I could feel the slight pressure of the bar every time I inhaled the crisp mountain air, making me grin as I was reminded of what I could be – or perhaps what I am: BADASS.

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!

Nancy from Murphy

By Dani Halliday, 2016

Town of Murphy historic center.
Town of Murphy historic center.

Nancy, an elderly twenty-seven-year resident of Murphy, NC, works in the visitor’s center in downtown Murphy. As we had just arrived, maybe an hour prior to entering the center, she was the perfect person to talk to.

“I used to be a real estate agent, so I know all about the town and it is my job to make it seem as great as possible,” she said when we asked her about the town itself. Nancy went on to say that she loved the small-town, family feel of Murphy. “We don’t wave with our middle fingers here, and we only let nice people in.” Her blue eyes sparkled as she told us of a time when a family she was showing a house to asked if there was somebody who came around and swept all the leaves off of the streets. She did not like this family too much and apparently, they chose not to move there.

She handed us some maps of the River Walk we were about to embark on and gave us directions to the Murphy to Manteo sign. “It’s just down Highway 64. You turn right at the McDonalds and keep going.”

As we shook hands to leave, Nancy had to know how Christian ended up traveling with such lovely young ladies. We explained our research task of interviewing and exploring the towns of Highway 64, and that Christian was the only boy in the class. We waved goodbye and as we opened the door to leave for the Murphy to Manteo sign, Nancy turned to her colleague and exclaimed, “How cute!” I have to agree with Nancy; we are adorable.

Raleigh Roots

By Caroline Zybala – 2014

While at the International Festival in Raleigh, NC, our group kept seeing this man, wearing some traditional ethnic attire and a hat with a large feather, walking around the convention center. We finally decided to approach him and figure out his story. We figured he would be a good character to interview for our project. Quickly, we discovered that this individual was a wealth of information about Highway 64 and the evolution of North Carolina over the years. Alvin M. Fountain, 2nd, (“How southern can I be?”), lives in Raleigh, North Carolina and grew up with Highway 64 being an important travel route.

“We used Highway 64 to get to the beach. I mean, it goes to both the beach and the mountains, but the trip to the beach is only two hours, compared to the four hours to the mountains.” But travel was not the only use of this road—Fountain also used the road to travel south to Charlotte on occasion. Looking around at the bustling crowd, he lowered his voice and said, “I like it because it is quieter. Until you hit the traffic!”

We all laughed, and then we changed topics to figure out what had prompted the outfit. “I am actually here with the Polish group. I am the Honorary Consul of the Republic of Poland for North Carolina. But, I am not Polish. I am your typical southern, white, Anglo-Saxton Protestant. But I studied German in high school and got really interested in the cultures over there.” Referring to his hat, he explained it was created by local, elderly Polish-American ladies, who bought the materials themselves. “This is a traditional Polish hat. They made it back in 1986 for the opening for the International Festival. I was there for that. I’ve actually been to the festival every year. Well, in 2010, I did miss the festival proper, but I helped set it up, so I count it. My wife had her 50th high school reunion.”

At this point in the conversation, Alvin tried to think of other things to tell us about Highway 64 and North Carolina history. He explained how his family had been in North Carolina for over 300 years, and he could remember back to 1949, when North Carolina was very different. “There were almost no Catholics in North Carolina when I was growing up. When Kennedy was running for president, they were looking at the breakdown of Catholics in each of the states. North Carolina actually had the smallest percentage. But now, things have really changed. Right by Siler City, there is a giant Catholic church that looks like it could be right out of Mexico.”

When prompted to explain why this changed happened, Alvin responded, “Culturally, the state of North Carolina has changed greatly. When I was growing up, everyone was a WASP.” He quickly explained the acronym (White Anglo-Saxton Protestant) because we all must have shown some real confusion in our expressions. “The other group of people was what I like to call BAAP—Black African American Protestant.”

“But now, we have so many other people in the state, like people in the Polish club. The Research Triangle Park is really influenced this change. When companies moved down here, it would really shake up the whole Triangle. A big one was IBM, which brought people from the upper Midwest and upstate New York. Overall, Raleigh has really grown.”

We asked him for his final thoughts on Highway 64 in regards to his life, and he thought for a moment. Squinting his eyes, he said, “64 is really a sort of central road. It can be a connecting route if you want to make your trip worthwhile and get to point A to point B. The road can take you east to the zoo, and to Rocky Mount—that is where my mother grew up. Or you can head west, and the road splits at Zebulon. There are parts when it turns into single lanes, and the traffic really slows down. Then you reach the coast and Kill Devil Hills.”

After talking briefly about the project we were completing, we were able to takea picture with Alvin. I mean, it’s not everyday you get to meet a WASP, Polish Honorary Consul!


Toys of Appalachia

By Rachel Fishman – 2014

After being told by a Brasstown local that we could see a gorgeous panorama of the town from the hill above the shop-lined main street on Highway 64, we could not resist. As we turned up Emily Lane and drove the short, but steep incline to the top, we realized that we were on someone’s personal property. Parking our car in what seemed to be a small parking lot, we got out and looked around to see if we were truly in the outlook spot promised to us by the townsperson. Before we had much time to figure anything out, we were greeted by Carol–a spunky, sweet-voiced, middle-aged Southern woman.

Carol is the owner of Hill Gallery & Working Studios, the place that we had apparently stumbled upon. After learning that we were visitors, she eagerly invited us onto the porch to explain a bit of Brasstown history before launching into her family’s role in the town. Because of the deeply rooted Appalachian culture, she explained that there are some unique items that can be found in the mountains, especially toys. Taking us inside, Carol gave us a rundown of some of the most famous toys of Appalachia, including the Whimmy Diddle—a toy which her husband is a worldwide champion for playing.

A Whimmy Diddle is a ribbed stick that you rub together with a smooth one to produce a sound along the lines of “Gee-Haw.” This Appalachian toy has been used by the Hill Gallery & Working Studios owners for competitions and personal entertainment, in addition to being sold in their store. It has been the focus of many different types of benefit competitions that they put on for various charities last October, November, and December. Carol excitedly explained that the winner of these competitions gets a moon pie, an RC Cola, and a certificate of participation.

To play the Whimmy Diddle, it requires that you to hold the top stick with one hand like a pencil, with your thumb on one side of the top stick and your pointer finger on the top. The other hand holds the bottom stick in place. You then must drop your pointer finger slightly to the opposite side while letting your thumb hit the stationary bottom stick, rubbing it back and forth across the stick to produce the intended sound. Katie tried it out, making slight alterations to her hand placement per Carol’s suggestions until she got a sound that more closely resembled the one coming from Carol’s sticks. Much to our excitement, we even got a special demonstration from the Whimmy Diddle champion himself, a man to which Carol endearingly referred to as “my mountain man.”

The difficulty of achieving the right sound far surpassed what would have been expected. Carol explained, “You know, it’s just like riding a bike or anything. You just have to practice, and it becomes a piece of cake.” However, after learning that it is created using a mathematical formula and a consideration of not only the type but also the condition of wood that is used, the “simplicity” of the toy was quickly wiped away.

The reason for promoting the Whimmy Diddle and the other types of Appalachian toys in their store represents a desire to keep the Appalachian culture alive. Carol explains that they are trying to teach children that they don’t need a computer or other forms of technology to have fun—the expertise of the Appalachian toy creators makes simple toys largely entertaining.


Toys Toys2










Mountaintop Wine Shoppe

By Alexa Dysch & Rachel Fishman

When Highlands’s locals and visitors alike finds themselves wondering, “Where’s my wine destination?” they need not look further than the Mountaintop Wine Shoppe.

Whether you plan to grab one of their many, and unique, bottles being sold at the front of the store, or prefer to sit in the back with friends and sample wine, you’re in luck! Mountaintop Wineshoppe in Highlands has everything to offer.

Inside, the atmosphere is warm and welcoming, while also being a bit swanky and cool. The wooden floors add to the class of the establishment, but also to the inviting feeling. About forty people can comfortably sit in the back room, either at tables of two, four, or eight, or on one of their plush leather chairs. Although cozy and not necessarily very large, you do not feel like you’re sitting on top of others. The owners, Mike and Christine Murphy, are incredibly easy to strike up a conversation with. They manage to maintain this friendly persona without intruding on customers’ time to wind down and relax.

The first room in the store boasts not only bottles for sale, but also self-service tasting machines. You can buy a “Pour Card” and be able to freely sample the wines of your choosing. At all times, you can choose from 8 reds and 8 whites. If you like the taste, you can try a full glass or even buy the bottle. Mike and Christine make themselves available in case you need a little advice in this decision.

The pairing menu is pretty extensive, with about 20-30 different types of cheeses and meats, both local and global. The wine is listed under the categories of red, white, and reserves, and then further divided by grape variety.

For a change of scenery, customers can take a seat outside and be treated to gorgeous Appalachian views around a blazing fire, while having a glass from a selection of over 500 bottles of wine.

In their first year of business, Mike and Christine Murphy find themselves discovering what works and enjoying the fruits of their labor. They strike the ideal balance between having an upscale business without excluding anyone, including those who are new to wine. Their knowledge of wine is extensive, coupled with a friendly and warm atmosphere. While the Murphys had no previous wine involvement, their business partner brought his previous distribution experience alongside.

From Western North Carolina to Western Florida, visitors from major cities and small towns stop by for great wine and wonderful company. Their varied customer base is a true testament to the population of Highlands. A primary destination for weekend getaways in the fall due to all the “ooh’s-and-ahh’s” of the color-changing trees, Highlands pulls in a large seasonal tourist population. In fact, as we were trying to enjoy the last couple drops of wine in our glasses, Mike explained to us that Highlands has only 2,500 full time residents, yet enough occupancy space for 25,000. And on the 4th of July, Highlands is visited by up to 35,000 people.

The inns in the area cater to this touristy population, providing a prime destination for weddings as well. From outdoor weddings to cozy indoor ceremonies and receptions, the facilities are well-equipped to host a good number of weddings. The Old Edwards Inn hosts 7-12 weddings per weekend! But what about the nights before the wedding day? Mike wanted the Mountaintop Wine Shoppe to be a destination for the wedding goers who travel to the area.

It’s no surprise that since their March opening, they’ve gathered a good local following as well. After a previous wine shop closed down years ago, there was an open void that the Murphys felt they could fill. The reasonable prices and the relaxing atmosphere allow for Highlands’ residents to gather at the shop, without having to treat it only as a “special occasion” event.

The trek through the windy roads along Highway 64 is a worthy adventure to reach this charming town and its wonderful wine destination. The stunning views of Bridal Falls on your way hint at the beauty of what’s to come.

A bottle at Total Wine will cost you the same, but a visit to this local gem is an experience worth more than a bottle of Dom Pérignon.

Owners Mike and Christine Murphy
The outside of this quaint shop