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voyager12

Preserving local shops in downtown Asheville

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Is there any incentive program sponsored by the city, etc that encourages the preservation of locally owned stores in downtown Asheville? Or at least a resolution from City Council? I suppose its not legal to ban chains from opening in a certain area but through concerted support of local establishments you can hold them mostly at bay. I notice there is a Subway not too far from The Grove Arcade. Locally owned businesses are vital to preserving the intangible qualities that make cities unique.Watching most of Charleston's quirky independent downtown stores being driven out by GAP, Starbucks etc was very depressing and while there was some hue and cry the city did nothing to help merchants. Charleston will always be a beautiful city but a lot of soul is missing and it detracts from the downtown now. It would nice for Asheville to buck the trend.

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Yes, and No i think is the answer. The city of Asheville owns the Grove Arcade and have classified it as something like a "community market" which restricts tenants to non franchise type businesses. I forget what the details of the restrictions are, but they do allow some out-of-towners. AnnTony's for instance, had a couple locations in Charlotte before they opened the Asheville restaurant.

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The citizens of Asheville are probably more influential in keeping downtown independents alive than city policy. This is why some thrive and others flop.

I was speaking to someone at the city development office not too long ago and voiced my concern that so many downtown businesses have failed recently. It turns out that only one, Vincent's Ear, was deliberately pushed out by a landlord with her eyes on the gentrification prize. The others -- Beanstreets, Blue Moon Bakery, Gypsy Heart, two antique stores, and a slew of others -- basically failed for the same reasons that other stores fail. The owner's drug habit, lack of customers, an artificially low rent rising to market rate, some high hippie concept failing miserably... It's alarming, but it's not a concerted effort and to combat it, all Asheville has to do is get downtown and spend more money.

That and perhaps a few owners need to sober up, or realize that a hippie commune is not the best way to run a bakery.

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It seems to me like Blue Moon is being replaced by City Bakery, another locally owned business. Are they moving from their Charlotte Street location (in the same building as Waechter's Silk Shop and the former location of Kosta's Menswear), or do they really plan on having two stores so close to each other? Their website seems to indicate that they will keep both locations open, but it's not entirely clear.

I haven't actually lived in Asheville for several years, but it seemed to me that for every locally owned store that goes out of business, there's another entrepreneur waiting in the wings to jump on the market niche or location. Asheville, and downtown in particular, is a really attractive location for people wanting to run their own retail business. It doesn't bother me too much when individual stores close down; that's just the way business goes. We should start worrying when that draw evaporates, or rents go so high that only chains can afford to pay.

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The inclusion of chains is probably inevitable and depending on the type and location its not always a negative. Its important to try and prevent them from completely dominating the whole area though. It sounds like this issue has been debated ad nauseum in Asheville which is a very good sign. People started only started voicing concern in Charleston until after the major retailers began moving in downtown in full force and by then it was too late.

sorry about starting twice lol

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One of the things that makes Asheville attractive is its lack of chain store retail in the downtown area. As soon as it is converted to Starbucks, Barne & Nobles, McDonalds and the rest, there won't be any more reason to go there than there would be a fancy new shopping mall. I hope it doesn't happen. Over gentrification turned Charlestion into a dead city when you get beyond looking at the few touristy things that seem to attact a certain crowd.

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Nobody will close due to UO stealing their business. It is likely that UO will bring some locals downtown to shop who would otherwise go to the mall. Rent may go up, however, because of more people going downtown to shop than before. The businesses that might close, would be the ones who don't manage to attract some of the new shoppers as well to cover the increase in rent.

Having lots of local shops, galleries, and particularly local restaurants downtown is nice - but it seems that a lot of that is focused towards tourists. I really have a hard time seeing how something like UO that will draw more locals downtown as a bad thing.

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Orulz makes a good point that places like UO artificially hike up rents all over a downtown. Asheville and its mix of influences create quite a conundrum for property owners. The high-end tourist and 40 hour job folks and the folks of "grit" (for lack of a better way to put it) cater to different stores have a different amount of income they can inject into them and hence different levels of rent support they can offer. There is not a lot of middle ground from what I can tell.

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Does anyone know if Urban Outfitters is still considering opening a store in that spot? Asheville is not listed as "coming soon" on their website and last I heard, they were planning to open in the fall. I know UO is a chain, but I think it's a good fit for Asheville.

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The building has continued considerably since this photo. The fencing is down in the front; you can see inside now and it is looking very good. Asheville has been very careful to stop the foodchains at the border of downtown, with some notable exceptions, namely the Subway and Starbucks. UO may be the start of a trend, which is not necessarily a bad thing, if it gets people back walking in town instead of doing 99.965% of their shopping at Wal-mart. Mal-Wort is the standard to which all pricing, shopping, value, tradition, specials are judged. No matter what you are looking for in Asheville, some point in the conversation will be, "I got it at Wal-Mart," or "went to Wal-mart," or "they have it at Wal-Mart." So, I'd much rather see something like this bringing people downtown than a McDonald's or Mal-wort. (Personally, I haven't stepped foot in a Wal-Mart since 1995 and I only go to McDonald's to pee. Best place in all of America to take a piss. You always know where the toilets are; they are usually fairly clean; and there is usually good parking. NEVER, I repeat, NEVER eat anything there. Just use the toilets. Keep America Clean!

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