Cathey Bolton juggles pottery, specialty foods and sandwiches in a property her family has owned since the ’20s.
Waynesville’s Cathey Bolton runs a high-end craft gallery, an olive oil/vinegar shop and a cafe. All under the same roof.
The mashup is no mishmash. It’s strategic. “Someone will come in for a cup of coffee and meander over and look at a sandwich being made and say, ‘Oh, that’s that roasted garlic pepper I saw in the shop.’ Or ‘That’s the Madagascar black peppercorn olive oil.’ And then they can buy it. One thing leads to another leads to another.”
That describes how Bolton, who trained as a potter, came to own three distinct businesses and work nights and weekends at a fourth one. The Raleigh native began working in clay as a high school student at the UNC School of the Arts in Winston-Salem. From there, she went to East Carolina University (Class of ’91) and earned a degree in studio ceramics with a double minor in sculpture and textiles.
She opened her first business, Art on Depot, in downtown Waynesville in 2008 — “the best year ever to open up a nonessential shop,” she says facetiously. Art on Depot was a fine art gallery, featuring the work of more than 30 artists, and Bolton’s working studio.
She expanded by selling her pottery wholesale to olive oil companies and high-end kitchen shops from New Jersey to Texas. Then came marriage and motherhood.
Bolton and her husband separated when their daughter was 3 months old. On becoming a single mom who works full time (and then some), she says, “You just figure it out.” She’s turned “figuring it out” into an art form.
In 2018, she diversified even more.
“I’d been selling high-end art and crafts since 2008,” she says. “I had a customer base. When I opened Corner Station Olive Oil Co. — in the building next door — people came because they knew me. And, I found there are quite a few people out there who know what really good olive oil is.” One clue is the label showing the date the olives were crushed.
Waynesville’s many visitors include olive oil aficionados. “I have customers who purchase spices, olive oils and vinegar during a vacation who can’t find these items in their own towns,” she says.
Her pottery has gone global, too. She’s shipped to customers in Australia, Austria, Canada, France and Italy.
KEEPING IT IN THE FAMILY
In 2016, a prime piece of commercial real estate — the old service station at the downtown intersection of Depot Street and Branner Avenue — came on the market. Her great-grandfather opened the station in 1928, and it was later run by her maternal grandfather and then an uncle. “When Mom [Katy Bolton] and her three brothers wanted to sell, Mom and I couldn’t imagine driving past and seeing somebody else running it,” she says. So she and her mother bought the property.
Crafts and specialty food items now take up space once occupied by wrenches, oil drip pans and tire inflators. In May 2019, Bolton added Third Bay Filling Station, a breakfast and lunch spot offering coffees, teas, sandwiches, soups and homemade grab-and-go items like tomato pie and salmon dip.
With the tagline “Where craft meets food,” the popular eatery joined its siblings Cathey Bolton Design & Claywork and Corner Station Olive Oil Co. All operate in a building filled with family history.
“My mom thought the cafe idea was crazy,” Bolton says. “She felt I already had enough going on. But I said, ‘No, we need to show people how to use these olive oils, specialty vinegars and over 200 spices and seasonings.’”
A self-taught cook, Bolton develops the recipes for Third Bay. “I love to figure out how to make things happen. I think that’s part of the creative process I’ve always enjoyed.”
Her sandwich lineup changes every four months. She’s elevated the humble grilled bologna sandwich by adding sharp cheddar, roasted garlic mayo, mustard and black pepper olive oil.
Bolton’s 10-year-old daughter, Katylou, wanted a sandwich named for her and her mom. The “CatALous,” a sliced turkey/spinach/brie/cranberry sandwich with smoked applewood chipotle aioli quickly became a bestseller. In its first two months, Third Bay sold $6,000 of them.
Bolton’s trifecta of businesses has helped overcome the “craziness of the economy and COVID,” she says. “Being able to have so many different gourmet specialty items in one place — it’s really helped us through this past year.”
A FAMILY OF ENTREPRENEURS
Family support helps, too. A building that’s nearly 100 years old requires constant upkeep. Fortunately, she can turn to family for electrical, plumbing and HVAC help. Her brother, Mark, and father, William “Bill” Bolton III, operate Bolton Construction and Service of WNC, a fourth-generation business and a Business North Carolina “Small Business of the Year” honoree in 2020.
When she’s not at work, she’s on call as Bolton Construction’s emergency service coordinator — a one-person, after-hours answering service. “The phone is by my bed every night and every weekend,” she says. “After a cold spell or a snowstorm, that’s when you get a lot of calls. And they come at all hours of the night.”
Bolton still manages to have a personal life. “When I go on a date, I have to say, ‘Oh, by the way, I don’t want to be rude, but I may have to answer my phone.’” ■