No more Nutmeg

Bakery/cafe closes in Maggie
By Stina Sieg | Jan 11, 2013
Photo by: Stina Sieg The building that once housed The Nutmeg Bakery Cafe has been empty since the end of 2012.

MAGGIE VALLEY — When people say there are two sides to every story, they probably haven’t been to Maggie Valley, where sometimes it can feel more like 20. As donut lovers have probably noticed by now, the Nutmeg Bakery Café shut down at the end of 2012. What its fans may not know, however, is the controversy the now-closed business left in its wake.

Reading the blistering comments left on Facebook and TripAdvisor, it’s clear something took place at the little restaurant located in the heart of town, now in bankruptcy. What happened and who is at fault — if anyone — however, may forever remain unproven, as it all seems to boil down to a fiery, ongoing dispute between several previous employees and former owners Beth and Gary Schwartz.

For many people, this apparently tense situation only came to light recently when a long and undated comment was left on Nutmeg’s TripAdvisor page. In the “description” section, typically filled in by business owners, it states that Gary “has accepted a position in Seattle, Washington, and we are relocating there very soon.” It goes on to say that “we” have decided to close because it’s “impossible to find reliable, honest staff.” After naming a few specific instances of supposed illegalities, the writer closes with “we are very glad to get out of such a miserable town.”


A hornet’s nest

A predictable barrage of negative comments follow, many lambasting the owners and speaking protectively of Maggie. At first glance, it might look like a typical case of burning your bridges on the owners’ part, but Beth Schwartz contends otherwise.

By email, she explained that she did not write the note, though “I cannot say that I totally disagree with part of the statements.” She went on to write that she paid employees to manage her social media sites and that several people had access to them. She also stressed that the text would be changed and the listing taken off TripAdvisor, though neither had happened by press time.

After putting out a call on Facebook for feedback on Nutmeg, The Mountaineer received a barrage of responses, many of which were negative. A handful of emails were sent in and about half a dozen phone calls were received, either from past employees or their families. In addition, upwards of 25 comments were left on The Mountaineer’s Facebook page.

The allegations against the Scwartzes are salacious and — in most cases — unprovable, even if they did happen. Beth Scwartz, however, did take the time to respond by email to a few of the most often repeated accusations.


Who’s right?

Below are highlights from the email exchange.

A claim made more than once was that money from the tip jar at the front of the store was pocketed by the Schwartzes. Beth Scwartz, refutes this, saying that the money was used to pay the cashier.

When she or Gary Schwartz was staffing the cash register, however, she wrote the money went to help “whoever needed it at the time” in the pool of employees.

As for another tip allegation, that money collected on the tables went to into the tip jar, she cried foul, saying “I have signed receipts from where the wait staff was paid their credit card tips and they (I assume) picked up their cash tips from the tables.”

As for the allegation that Gary Schwartz started a physical alternation with another employee,

Beth Schwartz said that was “totally false,” and pointed to the fact that Gary Schwartz actually took out charges against the employee. (It should be noted the employee refutes Gary Schwartz’s version of events and the charges were dropped).

Beth Schwartz did admit that some art work from a local ceramist was never returned and still remains in the building. She explained that was not out of malice, however, and since the business entered into bankruptcy, she wasn’t able to access the artwork.

“The owner of the building came and locked the door before we could return any art work ... so this is true and the artist needs to contact the owner of the building,” she wrote.

In response to an accusation that some employees were never paid, she admits this, too, but stressed that she did her due diligence to try to rectify the situation.

“This is also true,” she wrote. “I instructed each employee to email what they were owed to the Nutmeg email address... only one did. Since a bankruptcy has been filed I can not pay anyone. ... the court decides who and what gets paid.”

She also stressed that there are not many sides to this story. She wrote that “Facts are facts,” explaining that the facts of this situation are as simple as not having enough capital to cover expenses.

There were “no hidden agendas or nefarious activity” she continued, calling it “a typical business closing in Maggie Valley.”

In her words, “I expect you will see many more closing in Maggie in the next year or so.”