By John Ross
The first time I passed Feed & Seed on Hendersonville Road down in Fletcher, I thought, “How quaint.” Struck me as a relic of the ‘20s, a small town’s farm store that once sold feed and seed now fallen on hard times.
I didn’t pay any more attention to it until a friend suggested we go there to listen to bluegrass. I probably made some dumb quip about not knowing that bluegrass seed made any noise.
The name of the group we heard escapes me, but not the rollicking good time we had. We arrived just in time to squeeze into the last two center seats. Each tune rang as clear as a mountain stream. Before long the floor in front of the stage was filled with flat-footers and cloggers. Whether 8 or 80, everyone was grinning.
The evening was terrific and the fact that admission was free delighted my Scottish soul. Guests were only asked to make a donation if they wished. I noted that church services were also held on Sundays, but after that didn’t give it another thought.
Deadlines kept me away from Feed & Seed until the idea came up that the venue and how it came to be might make a good column. A few weeks ago, I sat down with its founder and manager, Philip Trees.
He’s actually the Rev. Trees, an ordained minister with a master of divinity degree from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Charlotte. For about a decade, he was pastor of Christ Community Church in Arden, a mission outreach of First Baptist Church in Hendersonville.
Rent for the building where Trees was then holding services was rising above his congregation’s resources so he struck a deal with Harry Thomas, who owned what had been Fletcher Supply Company. At one time, Fletcher Supply had been a magnificent general store.
“It was the Walmart of its day,” Trees tells me. “Garage in the basement; they hung hams upstairs to cure; and this main floor—wall-to-wall merchandise.”
Fletcher Supply had long closed by the time Trees and Thomas got together to discuss a new home for the church. The last tenant, a TV repairman, had vacated the premises, leaving behind piles of broken sets and related junk. Thomas had closed his ceramic shop on the other half of the main floor. Since then, someone had broken the front window.
Rather than raze the building, Thomas agreed to let the church use it for a little bit of rent if they promised to maintain it. “A handshake lease” is what they signed, Trees says.
“Feed & Seed is the perfect church name,” he tells me. “Feed & Seed is basically the whole New Testament combined into two words. Christ is the bread of life, and the Bible is the seed. We plant seeds of the gospel and they nourish the soul.”
With a bachelor’s degree in music from UNC-Asheville and a maestro on the guitar himself, Trees was immediately impressed with the acoustics of the main floor with its pressed tin ceiling. So, too, are bluegrass groups, among them Larry Sparks & The Lonesome Ramblers and Ron Block of Alison Krauss & Union Station.
Since those musicians performed nearly a dozen years ago, the region’s best bluegrass has been played for free at Feed & Seed every Friday and Saturday night, almost without exception. (And, of course, there’s no charge for having the soul fed again at church services on Sunday.)
Feed & Seed is located at 3715 Hendersonville Road in Fletcher. For more information, including a schedule of upcoming performances, visit FeedandSeedNC.com. John Ross has written a number of books on history and the outdoors. The University of Tennessee Press will publish his new book on the physical and social history of the French Broad watershed in 2021.