Stepping through the door of the Beehive Coffee Bar from the parking lot of its nondescript little strip mall in Arden is a bit like entering a space-time wormhole — one that leads to a comfy spot where you can grab a fresh latte and some Wi-Fi. “One of my favorite things is to go into a space and make it awesome; just completely transform it,” says owner Sophie Charlton of her eclectically decorated space.
Charlton says she spent years sourcing the colorful hodgepodge of vintage furniture and tchotchkes from flea markets and thrift stores — a set of 1960s-era chairs from a dentist office waiting room, a wooden cabinet radio tuned to ragtime jazz, a painted metal pie safe. Everything is lit softly by fixtures created by local artist Jim Bonello out of Edison bulbs and an assortment of old metal tins, teakettles and even an antique parking meter.
The counters and shelves are filled with an equally oddball mix of retail items: Antiques from a local dealer mingle with pieces by local crafters — button flowers, magnets, coasters, pillows, signs and more. Somehow all the diverse components play together nicely in the shop, which opened on New Year’s Day on Sweeten Creek Road. The whole effect is at once homey and offbeat.
“We definitely try to step out of the box whenever we can. We try to be creative,” Charlton says.
This applies in the java department as well. Although Charlton, a former hairdresser and barista who moved to Asheville two years ago from Durango, Colo., offers the usual coffee shop selections (featuring coffee from Dynamite Roasters along with espresso from Bean Werks), there are a few inventive twists. The shop’s signature drink is a honey latte made with honey that’s “fresh out of the beehive,” sourced from a beekeeper who lives right around the corner from the shop in Arden’s Royal Pines community.
The shop also does a latte with coconut oil and honey and often experiments with flavors, such as a recently popular ginger latte created with house-made crystallized ginger sauce. The frappés, she adds, are also something special — made all from scratch with ice cream and real cream. “I feel like the mixes add too many additives and sugar,” she says. There is a selection of Twin Leaf Teas and chai for the noncoffee-drinking set.
Guests who want something sweet to munch on can choose from a number of baked goods by local purveyors like Mountain Mojo, Blue Door Bakery, 50/Fifty Desserts, Famighetti New York Pantry and Bake Hampton. Those looking for something savory can pick from a variety of breakfast sandwiches, biscuits and quiches by Auntie M’s Homemade Pies.
Although the Beehive is now open only mornings and afternoons, Charlton has her sights set on staying open later during the warmer months — a move that would fill a void in the immediate neighborhood, which currently lacks evening gathering spots. The property has a nice, grassy yard that Charlton envisions as an outdoor venue for acoustic music performances, socializing and possibly more — including a long-term goal to eventually serve beer and wine.
The whole point of the shop, says Charlton, is to provide a place where people can get comfortable and enjoy hanging out. “I love it for the connection you can have with people,” she says. “You can make someone’s day just with a ‘hello’ as they come through the door for a cup of coffee. It’s so simple, yet you just don’t get that in so many places anymore. When I created this, I wanted to create an environment where people could feel like family.”