sassy closes

Consignment store Sassy Frass closed after a decade-long run in downtown Sylva.

By Dave Russell

 

Sassy Frass Consignment, a longtime cornerstone of downtown Sylva, was set to be completely empty by last Saturday. The sign above the entrance came down last Monday.

Owner Violetta Ohlinger turned a little teary-eyed when talking about the closing of the shop, which sells a variety of antiques and items for the home.

“It broke my heart to see the sign come down,” she said. “Sassy Frass was a destination. People would come to Sylva to shop here and they would go eat and to different stores.”

Ohlinger owned the store for three years, but went to work there in 2016 for former owner Tammy Fuller, now owner of The Farmhouse Mercantile & Coffee Bar.

In November, Sylva NC Holdings, LLC, listing Dr. Jack Jawitz, a dermatologist in Bradenton, Florida as its agent, bought the building Sassy Frass has called home for over a decade from Tom Massie of M & M Management Company, for $645,000.

“When he first bought the building, I knew there would be a rent increase,” Ohlinger said. “It’s just normal. We were trying to negotiate that maybe I could have half of the building and he would do something else that would help me not to have a large increase. He’s actually a very nice guy, a very sweet man, but I don’t think he understands this is a really small town.

“We never talked about how much of an increase it was going to be. He said it would be a good deal to pay a dollar per square foot, which equals $11,000. I can tell you right now that is not doable.”

Ohlinger worries about Sylva’s charm and worries about a chain franchise coming in, she said.

Merchandise remained in the store on Monday of this week.

“I’m waiting for some people to come and pick up their things,” she said. “I’m going to donate some things to certain people, certain organizations.”

Ohlinger does not know what the future holds for her.

“I don’t want to leave Sylva,” she said. “I love Sylva. This is my home. I’ve had people call me to relocate to Cherokee, Bryson City, Waynesville, Dillsboro. I don’t know what God has in store for me.”

Ohlinger plans to keep the Sassy Frass website and Facebook page active, she said. 

The new owners think students and young people are the answer for the building.

“We need to bring that up to speed and turn it into a modern-day building,” said Artie Brown, advisor to Jawitz. “It’s (a big building) with one bathroom.”

Following Ohlinger’s exit, once permits are approved Sylva NC Holdings would begin the rehab, Brown said.

“We’re guessing it’s going to be six months before it is ready to be leased,” he said. “We want to bring the downtown back to life. I know a lot of people don’t want to admit this, but it’s a college town and it surprises me that there is not one purple awning on Main Street in Sylva.”

A game room that would mix a bar with games, could occupy one level of Sassy Frass.

“An old school arcade mixed with new-school virtual reality and Xboxes,” he said. 

Pinball, PacMan and air hockey would mix with the latest entertainment technology, Brown said.

“We’re looking for a restaurant to come in there,” he said. “I can’t disclose a lot, but there are several restaurants in town that are looking to relocate.”

Brown thinks he can put more cars in spaces and feet on sidewalks.

“A year ago this time, that downtown was not very busy,” Brown said. “It’s a lot busier this year than it was a year ago. I don’t know if that is just tourists or more people moving there. I also know there is not a lot to do for the kids who actually go to school in that area. Between 2 and 3 p.m. all of a sudden Main Street gets populated with kids walking up and down because there is nothing for them to do.”