The Black Sheep Deli: A diamond in the rough

By Jessica Chaiken

(Jessica Chaiken/ Daily Collegian)
(Jessica Chaiken/ Daily Collegian)

As the work from the semester begins to pile high, many University of Massachusetts students flock to the library or the coffee shops of the area to buckle down and study. There are many places to go to study and do homework, but few have a distinct and homey atmosphere that distinguishes it from the others. Most coffee shops play the same music and have the same menu items with no unique qualities except employing different names. It is a rare find to come across a place that has such character. But when you do, it’s hard to ever return to average coffee shops again.

Nestled in the heart of downtown Amherst, The Black Sheep is a deli and bakery at 79 Main Street in Amherst Center that embodies the rustic and local charm that most coffee shops lack. The café, which has been around since 1986, is unique with its wide-ranging menu and catering department. They have everything from a variety of coffees and blends to sandwiches, salads and an assortment of baked goods.

There are several different blends of coffee offered at The Black Sheep. Owner Nick Seamon suggested some of the most popular blends are the Black Sheep House Blend, the Sumatra blend and the French Roast. They also have a selection of other coffee drinks such as cappuccinos, lattes and Café au lait.

(Jessica Chaiken/ Daily Collegian)
(Jessica Chaiken/ Daily Collegian)

One look into the dessert display case at The Black Sheep will have any mouth watering and will easily persuade customers to purchase a delectable sweet. Pastries and baked goods are prepared from scratch daily. Fruit tarts and éclairs are among the deli’s more popular desserts.

Upon entering The Black Sheep, very enticing jars full of cookies tempt customers to try one of the many flavors. One of the many unique flavors is the deli’s popular “Republican Party Cookie,” which is described as containing many “fruits and nuts.” Seamon is a proud supporter of the Bernie Sanders campaign for president, and for every Republican cookie sold, Seamon will donate one dollar to the campaign.

There is a politically liberal vibe expressed by The Black Sheep and its efforts as a local business devoted to its customers and the people. In fact, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren spoke there in 2012.

The environment in The Black Sheep is conducive to those who need to focus and get work done. They play relaxing and upbeat folk-style music that gives it the “mom and pop” persona that is usually unachievable by most venues. And the best part of going to the deli is the food: whether someone goes in the morning, afternoon or evening, its wide culinary selection can feed you along the way. With options of breakfast sandwiches, deli sandwiches, salads or desserts, customers will not go hungry any time of day.

Another great feature is the deli’s abundance of events and weekly shows. Eric Lee hosts a bluegrass night called “The Great Blue Grass Open Jam” every Wednesday from 6 to 8 p.m. The band Gypsy Wranglers also performs every Sunday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. These are only some examples of the many musical guests and performances. There is nothing like a little live music from time to time to break up the week and encourage people to let loose and relieve some stress.

It’s also a great place to get out, support a local business and meet new people.

The Black Sheep has all of the small-town appeal and welcoming atmosphere that invites locals to stop inside. It is a great place to study and do homework, meet and have a laugh with friends over a cup of coffee and a pastry or enjoy some live entertainment. The cafe is open seven days a week 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Thursday.

Jessica Chaiken can be reached at [email protected]