Bernadette Peters


I have lived in several communities in my lifetime, but few compare to the amazing downtown Sylva community, especially the business community. It is so cool to see how business owners manage to not only craft their businesses for the greater good of the people who live here, but also manage to volunteer their time and resources to others amidst their busy schedules!

Don’t get me wrong, we have had a few bad apples, but they don’t last long, especially if they are solely looking to profit from Sylva instead of also wanting to be an integral part of the community. Living and working here seems to make the difference.

As a former vacationer to Western North Carolina, we would typically go to Sylva once during our stay and were always intrigued by the vibe we got here. When we decided to move to the Mountains, we first settled in a nearby community that didn’t work out for us. Rather than moving back to Atlanta, we decided to give Sylva a shot. As an outsider, I thought opening a business in downtown Sylva might be challenging, but we soon realized that if we invested into the community, the community embraced us back.

Running a small business has its ups and downs, and the friends we made always helped lend a hand when we were in a bind. I remember the night of a planned event at the café when staff members called out and I was the only one available to work. Two downtown residents came and encouraged me through it, then helped me clean the café at closing. This happened a few more times during the past decade, with countless numbers of folks who delivered orders and bussed tables.

Beyond bailing me out in a jam, I have several business owner girlfriends who help me not only be a better business owner, but inspire me to be a better person. Some may say that we are competitors, but we all patronize each other’s places and brainstorm together on a regular basis. Like my retailer buddy always says, “A rising tide raises all ships.”

Having been involved in the Main Street Sylva Association, we all realize that we live and work in a town with an extremely limited budget, but an extremely dedicated group of volunteers who figure out how to get things done – shout out to our town manager and Chamber director who accomplish so much with very limited resources. Their dedication and our community inspire my fellow business friends to clean up downtown Sylva, plan awesome events, serve on multiple boards and do things anonymously without expecting any recognition.

A lot happened before I moved here too, and I love hearing the stories about what they did to make Sylva a great place. From the fundraising and planning to create our amazing library, to Bridge Park, Poteet Park, the Community Table, the Farmer’s Market and much more. This all happened not because we have a wealthy town, but because we have amazing people! I can’t wait to look back in another 10 years to see what else we have accomplished as a community and how many of our small-town challenges have been addressed through the love and passion of our people. Sylva is truly a great place to do business and a better place to call home!

Bernadette Peters is owner, City Lights Café.