East-west revival

"It's on fire," says Carrie-Welles Craven about the business growth near Wood & Spoon, the store she and her husband Mark Craven opened in September. Located on Clingman Avenue, close to the east end of Haywood Road in West Asheville, Wood & Spoon is about “good home finds."

"West Asheville is making the turn around the corner with new places like Villagers, Bari Salon and the Hub," says Mark. “As more commerce comes to the east end of Haywood Road, the River Arts District is coming up the hill. We are sort of at the nexus here, where we can connect West Asheville to the River Arts District. I've been referring to the area as Midwest Asheville. Some people call it East West Asheville, but I like Midwest because it's kind of new."

Wood & Spoon shares the building with Short Street Cakes, whose owner Jodi Rhoden “is the pillar of this neighborhood, kind of the pioneer,” says Carrie-Welles. “She has been in that space for more than five years and has been one of the few businesses to land here and survive. Our landlord, Sam Pinkerton, made it all possible by pouring his heart, time and resources into renovating the beautiful spaces that we occupy, and by keeping the rent affordable.”

Wood & Spoon is bright and airy, with tall arched windows and pressed-tin tiles covering the high ceiling. While working as a realtor (her former career), Carrie-Welles enthuses, “I actually helped Jodi find her space, and during that process saw this space for the first time and really fell in love with it.”

Other established Clingman Avenue stores include Peterson’s Appliances, Anam Cara Collective Theatre & Shoppe, and the nonprofit Partners Unlimited Thrift Store. Anam Cara is an indie theater company with a clothes-and-sundries store. Its upcoming events include a poetry open mic, an evening of storytelling and a performance by the Experimental Theatre Ensemble. Partners Unlimited raises money to support programs for youth between the ages of 10 and 18 who have been suspended from school or have fallen behind in their classes. The organization also offers parental support and a computer lab.

Across the street, the soon-to-open Urban Orchard Cider Company and Bar marks another significant part of the “East West” growth. "I think there are a least four new businesses that are opening up on this side of [Interstate] 240," says owner Josie Mielke, citing Crossfit and King Daddy's in addition to Wood & Spoon. "I think it's pretty exciting."

Urban Orchard uses apple juice from Hendersonville and will open with four flavors of craft cider. Their building, with a bar upstairs and production downstairs, features a striking mural from local artist Gus Isrich. A notable fact about the owners: "Everyone is from here," says Mielke, who was born at Memorial Mission Hospital. "We're a family-run business — my mom, my dad, my husband, my two brothers and myself."

The opening date for Urban Orchard will depend on the timing of a final inspection and their first batch of cider, says Milke. "We've got 1,000 gallons in our fermenter right now. It's just based upon how the yeast wants to turn around."

Meanwhile, Wood & Spoon is open for business.

And when asked about the name, Carrie-Welles explains, "Mark and I have a love for all things wood and hand-crafted, and Mark especially. And I have a soft spot for the built-to-last utensil. The spoon represents the most basic level of feeding a need." The name Wood & Spoon combines "Mark's passion for wood and working in the trees and my passion for useful simplicities," says Carrie-Welles.

"Our focus here is to create a space for the artists, craftspersons and woodworkers in the area to have a retail outlet," says Carrie-Welles. In addition to art and custom items, the Cravens are "filling in the gaps with antiques and 'picked founds.'" For those, “We’re going for useful, needful, and solid made. Most of it is U.S.A.-made and things that are built to last.”

She is quick to point out, however, that they “don’t want to get too caught up in the vintage or the antique, because that stuff is already being done. We'd really like to focus more on local and made." With that focus, “It still translates because a lot of craftspersons are doing crafts and arts from an earlier time, so it could come across with an antique or a vintage look.” The store will also feature a wide selection of prints from local artists.

In addition to selling a lovingly selected inventory, Mark says the couple wants Wood & Spoon to be “a community hub where people can come and hang out. We envision this as a place where we can have solo shows for artists, as well as neighborhood gatherings or events and intimate musical performances.”

Ultimately, says Carrie-Welles, “Our target market is our neighborhood. We live in West Asheville, love West Asheville, and we want to be a resource to and for West Asheville. … We're hoping to be at a price point our neighbors can afford.”

Wood & Spoon will hold a grand opening celebration on Saturday, Oct. 19, which coincides with the first-year anniversary parties of Villagers and Bari Salon. Find out more at woodandspoonhome.com.

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