A PERSONAL TOUCH: Local businesses around Asheville, such as Dancing Bear Toys (above), play an indispensible role in driving the area’s economy and lending the city its unique ambiance. Through a combination of hands on ingenuity, creative approaches and a strong sense of community, Asheville’s specialty shops and boutiques are a testament to the viability of independent, locally-owned businesses in a world of big box chains and internet megastores. Photo by Max Hunt.

Local businesses drive Asheville vibe

Walk any downtown Asheville street and you’re likely to encounter some quirky storefronts offering unusual products. Together, these “specialty shops” or boutiques, most of them locally owned businesses, are a key component of the city’s distinctive flavor, attracting thousands of tourists each year and helping fuel the economy.

Asheville hosts forum on Growing the Appalachia­n Food Economy

With local-food sales predicted to reach $7 billion this year, it makes sense for cities, counties, states and regions to focus on the local food company. To that end, the Appalachian Regional Commission is hosting a forum on the issue today and tomorrow, April 4, at the Renaissance Asheville Hotel. As one participant noted via Twitter, “Sustainable farming only occurs when social responsibility, environmental stewardship and economic viability work together.”