After operating for 14 months in downtown Asheville, the Apothecary is closing its doors Nov. 1. Located at the corner of Eagle and Market streets in the historic YMI Cultural Center building, the beloved multi-use venue has been home to a wide array of progressive concerts, performances, art exhibits, yoga classes and other community events.
"I think we were able to create a community there," says Nick Scavo, who founded the Apothecary last year with Frank Meadows. "A lot of incredible stuff went down with really minimal means — that's inspiring."
Scavo says that the venue's landlords at the YMI informed them Oct. 17 that they would not renew their lease at the end of the month. Teresa Johnson, the owner of Wall Street Coffee House, says she's currently negotiating to start a new business in space, located at 39 S. Market St.
Scavo says it was their own choice to switch to a month-to-month lease this summer, as they looked for another space to move the venue to. He reports that they came close to relocating into the Pink Dog Creative building in the River Arts District, but the deal fell through.
The YMI, Scavo notes, "is not kicking us out in any way." However, he adds: "It's unfortunate how little notice we got. We ended up canceling a bunch of programming for November and December." He also admits, "We were having some 'land-lordy' problems in terms of noise, and being able to pay rent."
But Richard Fort, vice president of the YMI Board of Directors, says the Apothecary was a good tenant. “We don’t have a problem with the Apothecary,” Fort says. “They were great.” In fact, Fort says that the Apothecary founders declined an offer from the YMI to house the Apothecary in a bigger room in its building — for the same price as the current space. When the Apothecary opted to go to a month-to-month lease and made it known they were looking for another space, it made sense for the YMI to consider other tenants, says Fort.
Scavo says his concerns about gentrification near the venue's current location in The Block, which has historically been an African-American center, were key to him and his business partner's effort to look for a new space. A group of partners, including the city of Asheville, are currently constructing an affordable housing and mixed use development nearby.
With its space gone, the future of Apothecary is in doubt. Scavo and Meadows are both full-time students at UNC Asheville, and they're going to "take a few months off and try to get our heads together," says Scavo.
"There's no definitive plan, because it was such short notice," he adds. "Plus, real estate's tough in Asheville."
Meanwhile, Scavo says that the venue will continue to operate through Halloween (check its Facebook page for the latest schedule at facebook.com/ashevilleapothecary). And Scavo says that, in one form or another, he'd like to find a way to continue to facilitate progressive arts and music in Asheville long into the future.
"I feel like we're addicted to it. We had so many incredible musicians play in that tiny room," he says. "If I could do this forever, I would love it, and actually figure out a way to make money doing it."