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Books and Coffee Go Hand in Hand

xlfotblra.gif ~ The following was published in the spring issue of All About Her, a regional newspaper insert.

By the time Avis McCutchan's five daughters were grown, the stay at home mom was ready to try something new. In 2003, McCutchan, an avid reader, opened noteBooks, an independent bookstore in the heart of downtown Floyd.

On the front of the historical cedar-sided building (built in 1911) that once housed an appliance store and then a health food store, she hung her business shingle - a large attention getting sign announcing: Art, Music, Ideas, and Coffee.

"Books and coffee go hand in hand," says her daughter Rose, manager of the Black Water Loft coffee house. The loft, which opened in 2004, sits atop the book store and features a balcony porch view of the one stoplight downtown, lots of comfy sitting nooks with couches, and an unforgettable décor that mixes hip with homey. xloft4ksrvs9.gif

Inside the sunlit loft, the hiss of the milk steamer can be heard as Rose's youngest sister Grace serves cappuccino to a trio of customers perched on bar stools. Rose explains that her mother, who has read practically "everything," has a special knack for helping customers pick out books for themselves and as gifts, taking into account the interests and age of the reader.

Avis, a Maryland native, recounts how she and her husband Mac first came to the area, saying, "Mac and I went to Virginia Tech. We loved it." They never left. All five of their daughters were born and raised from kindergarten to high school graduation in Floyd. Theda, Rose, Katie, Elsie, and Grace (named after grandmothers) range in age from 18 to 33 and all have had a hand in running the family bookstore and coffee house.

Theda helped her father write the business proposal and currently writes book reviews for the bookstore blog, Blue Ridge Bookworm . Katie did most of the loft decorating. Elsie was the first loft employee. When Rose returned to Floyd after teaching children's theatre and pursuing an acting career in New York and Los Angeles, she added her past restaurant experience to Katie's to head up the running of the loft.xloft6ft.gif

"When none of us can work my dad will come in and work, upstairs and downstairs," Rose says about the family run business. "We also call dad whenever something is broken," she adds with a smile.

Between the loft and the bookstore, the McCutchan family stays busy. Along with a variety of new and used books and art and music supplies, noteBooks carries the works of local authors and musicians on consignment. The store has hosted authors' book signings and reading events. When the last book of the Harry Potter fantasy series was released, noteBooks decorated accordingly and held a Harry Potter party.

In the fall of 2006 bestselling author Barbara Kingsolver came to the Floyd County High School auditorium to read from her latest book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle for a fundraiser for the Jessie Peterman Library. Kingsolver, an advocate of supporting local economies, asked that a local independent bookstore provide books for the book signing that followed the readings, and noteBooks got the job. That Christmas all the McCutchan daughters got signed Kingsolver books as gifts from their mother, a Kingsolver fan. 2sign.jpg

The Black Water Loft serves a wide variety of organic and fair trade coffees and teas, all-fruit smoothies, and locally made baked goods. They feature live music on Friday nights, host poetry readings and art showings, and are available for private party rentals. All five McCutchan sisters have a background in theater arts. Once a year they host a fundraiser at the loft for Floyd County Forensics (a high school public speaking elective). Team members rehearse poetry, prose, play scenes in preparation for competition. "I'm very proud of it," Rose says of the fundraiser. "Floyd has a reputation for having a good team. They pack the house."

Rose, director of the Floyd's Young Actors Coop (YAC), points out the art displayed on the coffee house walls, wooden window frames with outdoor scenes painted on the squared panels. "They're set designs made by one of the YAC parents," she explains. The YAC group of more than a dozen 7-18 year olds has been performing a variety of plays to enthusiastic audiences since 2005 - everything from Shakespeare and comedy to a parody of NPR's The Prairie Home Companion, dubbed The Floyd Home Companion.

"Rose is energetic and has a lot of ideas. She keeps me inspired to do new things" Avis says about working with her daughter. Rose cites her mother's organizational skills as a trait she admires. Both women enjoy interacting with the public, the local community and visitors. The bookstore's stock of maps, music, and books related to Floyd, are appreciated by customers during tourist season, which runs from summer to December.

Floyd's scenic beauty and its music and art offerings have been drawing more visitors in recent years. Last year downtown underwent a series of renovations, got a new parking lot, a sitting wall, and a timber frame public rest room. A park is slated for development. "I like the way Floyd is growing," Avis says.

"And we are part of it, "Rose adds. "Our business represents family, community, arts, culture, and diversity; everything that makes Floyd great." ~ Colleen Redman

Comments

I went up once several years ago and it was so crowded there wasn't anywhere to go but back down those spiral stairs. Then I sort of gave it over to the "youngins". Think I'll give it another go!

Did you ever sell your book there?
PS I like the name of the store. Was I ever there when I visited?

I did sell my books there and still do. I don't think we went in there but we will next time. Floyfest is your turn next year.

Ok, Colleen, I see a fictional story with this setting. You need to start the outline. It sounds so romantic.

I'm not much of a fiction writer but you may have come to the right place as far as writers go. Rose and her YAC actors team or her boyfriend (a writer) could probably come up with something good.

Here's a couple of links to the loft in action when we had Spoken Word night there.

http://www.looseleafnotes.com/notes/2008/11/spoken_word_at_the_blackwater.html

http://www.looseleafnotes.com/notes/2007/06/junes_new_venue.html

Oh, how lovely!! Really sounds like they've got a nice life there. I'm quite jealous.

Been there several times - great place. Great art on the walls, comfy furniture, tasty treats and drinks. I didn't know that noteBooks had a blog - nice to know that. Thanks for sharing the article with us, Colleen.

Thanks for including this article on your site, Colleen. The whole family really enjoyed the piece in April. I told Mom she should frame it and hang it in the store, it made us all feel proud :-)

Theda (McCutchan) Anderson

You're welcome!

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