The Black Sheep Deli

By Mary Katherine McNeill, CISA Intern


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In 1986, Nick Seamon noticed that Amherst needed a place with good coffee, baked goods, and prepared foods and recognized Amherst’s potential as a destination for dining.  This missing niche in the restaurant scene caused him to open the Black Sheep Deli with two of his friends.  Nick seized the opportunity to own a local business where he could really connect with the community.

In an interview, Nick emphasizes the importance of community.  Owning a restaurant, for him, meant being able to give something back to the community, creating a spot for people to hang out, and also gave him the opportunity to be creative with food.  He soon realized, however, that his restaurant could allow him to further connect with the community by supporting local agriculture.

“People around here get it,” Nick explains.  “They like to support local and understand the importance of buying locally produced food.”  Nick believes that local agriculture is the key to America’s survival and notes that it is a “disaster to buy food from 3,000 miles away” because “local products are what keep the economy going.”

Nick also believes that people generally need to be more aware of where their food is coming from when they’re buying local or even international food.  He doesn’t expect everyone to grow all of their own food themselves, but thinks that people could buy more of their food from farmers’ markets and make simple things like pesto.  Additionally, he notes that supporting local agriculture can create a cycle to improve the local economy.  If the demand for locally grown food in restaurants increases, then the number of farmers can increase as well.

Some of the produce used at the Black Sheep comes from Nick’s small farm in Leverett.  If he didn’t own the Black Sheep, Nick expects that he would be farming full time.  Before opening the restaurant, he worked on farms in California and Maine and earned a degree in agriculture and seasonal solar greenhouse design.

Nick describes the restaurant as a combination of a “New York style deli and a European bakery.”  The Black Sheep cooks or bakes everything that they sell.  They offer a variety of sandwiches and salads as well as breads and pastries, all baked daily, something that Seamon notes is “pretty rare” these days.  Since opening twenty-five years ago, the menu has changed, reflecting changing customer interests and a desire to work creatively with food and keep customers interested.  The Black Sheep also changes seasonally; they bake and cook with seasonal fruit and only offer cold soups during the summertime. No matter the season, The Black Sheep Deli is always a great local place to grab a bite to eat!

The Black Sheep Deli is open Sunday through Wednesday from 7 am to 7 pm and Thursday through Saturday from 7 am to 8 pm.

Here’s a recipe from The Black Sheep using locally grown products that you can try yourself!

Garlic Scape Pesto:

2 cups chopped scapes
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 ½ tbsp. salt
¼ cup chopped parsley
½ cup pine nuts
½ cup parmesan

Pulse above ingredients in food processor.

Slowly add 1 cup olive oil and pulse until blended.  Use this pesto as you would basil pesto.

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