Every Tuesday afternoon a group of Asheville Middle School students and I walk a block and a half from the middle school to the Asheville Downtown Market, where we gather on a couple of cozy sofas in a corner of the Hi-Fi Cafe to talk philosophy. Our group of young philosophers, Plato’s Cafe, is part of Asheville Middle’s In Real Life after-school programs, and the Hi-Fi Cafe has welcomed us and all our wild ideas for the last two months.
This week, I was saddened and angered to learn that the new owners of the Downtown Market, Troy and Charlie Ball of Troy and Sons Distillery, do not see how the Hi-Fi Cafe fits into their plans for the building and have given Hi-Fi three to five months to vacate.
I am not sure if the distillery will operate in some capacity in the building, but it is important to note that in a city already awash in alcohol, places like the Hi-Fi Cafe, where a group of young people can comfortably and safely gather to discuss ideas, are dearly needed and deeply appreciated. To have such a place as the Hi-Fi within walking distance of a middle school is a blessing. In our philosophy group, we explore the real-life meaning of such concepts as justice, friendship and community. This situation leads us to an examination of the meaning of “value,” and the heartbreaking realization that too often the true value of a place and the people it serves are overlooked.
There is a value far deeper than the bottom line, and I would encourage the Balls to rethink their plans for the Downtown Market if those plans preclude the inclusion of a business that nurtures and nourishes the local community the way the Hi-Fi Cafe does.
— Leslee N. Johnson