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Country coffee: Blue Ridge Roastery opens in Sylva

Located in Sylva, Blue Ridge Bootleg Roastery & Coffee Shop provides high-quality beans and a delightful atmosphere in the heart of the Jackson County town. Donated photos Located in Sylva, Blue Ridge Bootleg Roastery & Coffee Shop provides high-quality beans and a delightful atmosphere in the heart of the Jackson County town. Donated photos

Situated in the heart of downtown Sylva, Blue Ridge Bootleg Roastery is the newest home for coffee drinkers, country music lovers and those looking for a place to work or catch up with a friend. 

Upon entering the roastery, you’re greeted with the smell of fresh ground coffee beans, quiet chatter of patrons and a rustic ambiance. It’s also likely your eyes will be immediately drawn to the large stage set for live music.

Soon thereafter, you may notice a man in a cowboy hat either behind the bar brewing coffee or chatting with customers. That man is Blue Ridge Bootleg Roastery owner Matt King. 

Born and raised in Hendersonville, King’s entire life involved the mountains of Western North Carolina and the music that called him home, specifically bluegrass. After spending a little time at Appalachian State University in Boone, King dropped out to pursue a career in music. For a year, King commuted from Hendersonville to Nashville, Tennessee.

“Eventually, I realized there’s going to be 20 people that get up every morning that are there and I’m not,” King said of Music City. “So, I went with $300 and a 1980 Jeep Wagoneer with a hole in the floorboard and I said, ‘I’m going to make it.’” 

Matt King

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Matt King. 

Four years later, King signed with his dream label, Atlantic Records. After a few years with Atlantic, King became a staff writer for Warner Chappell Music, where he wrote and produced songs for film and television.

That job ultimately led him to coffee.

“Rather than [write] in the cubicles, which I hated, I would go to this coffee roastery in Nashville,” King said. “I loved to drive [the owner] crazy. I would ask him a million questions about coffee roasting.” 

King frequented the roastery so often that eventually the barista let him make his own coffee behind the bar. Coffee had always been an anchor to King, especially during his touring days.

“When you’re on the road constantly, you [need] a sense of normality,” King said. “So, I would stop in every town and look for a bookstore and all the hipsters. If I saw skinny jeans and a hat, I would go, ‘I bet that’s good coffee in there.’”

Much like everyone else, King’s life was put on pause during the COVID Pandemic until his birthday when a new path presented itself.

“My two best friends from California sent me 50 pounds of green coffee and said, ‘See what you can do with this,’” King said. “Ironically, it was the coffee that my [Nashville] buddy used to roast at his roastery.”

King began experimenting and working with the Nashville roaster to perfect his own coffee. To test its success, he sold the coffee on his website. After the Pandemic ended, King began to pick up gigs again.

“I got to play a gig at Castle Ladyhawk. It was just an acoustic night to get out of Tennessee for a night. And I fell in love with Sylva and Cullowhee and the Tuckasegee,” said King. “It was what I always wanted. And I like college towns. They were always my favorite places to play.”

King adopted his own space to roast coffee on the Tuckasegee River and began providing coffee to many Sylva businesses. As King’s venture continued to expand, he was approached about opening a location in Sylva. The stars were aligning.

Coffee roasting

“When I left [WNC], I said the one thing I want to do is go do music and then bring that back to the mountains and share that through the eyes of music,” King said.” “So, with coffee, I’m getting to do the two things I love the most.”

As an artist, King hopes to make the roastery a place where musicians can share their work.

“It’s always going to be a musical space,” said King. “If you really want to pursue music, I want us to really foster that part of their career and say, ‘You can come here and play.’”

Outside of live music, King also hopes to incorporate different activities to engage with the local community like trivia nights and board games. Since opening the roastery in late May, King has been overwhelmed with positive feedback from customers who have already wandered into the new business.

“Being here and being welcomed by the community, I’m thankful to the community for the opportunity to give back what I’ve been given,” said King.

King aims to create an experience for customers that extends beyond a cup of coffee by combining the best elements of every coffee shop he’s been to around the world and incorporating it at the roastery.

In addition, he has ensured that all baristas working at the roastery are certified by the Specialty Coffee Association. King also hopes to eventually offer coffee workshops where anyone interested can learn about coffee through cupping events and by watching it be roasted.

Coffee cup

Beyond coffee, King imagines his roastery can become a place where the community can gather. He wants people to utilize the roastery to catch up with friends, host club meetings, study and create their own workshops to hold in the space.

“Both [my wife] and myself feel incredibly fortunate to be able to come here and share, not just our passion for coffee, but for the community,” King said. “We want to create a legacy and we want to be another chapter in this town’s legacy.”

Want to go?

An elevated coffee experience, Blue Ridge Bootleg Roastery & Coffee Shop recently opened in downtown Sylva.

Owned and run by Western North Carolina native and country musician Matt King, the business serves coffee roasted by King on the Tuckasegee River. Beyond artisan beverages, the roastery will also host live pop-up performances.

The roastery is located at 582 W Main St. in Sylva. Hours are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.

To learn more about Blue Ridge Bootleg Roastery, visit blueridgebootleg.com or follow them on Facebook or Instagram.

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