In a piece originally titled “Remembering Max and Rosie’s,” Katie Herzog, social editor at Grist, takes a look back at Asheville’s changing cultural landscape over the last 10-ish years.
The commentary, originally written for Charlotte’s NPR station in October, shows both Herzog’s nostalgia of Asheville’s “weirdo” population from a different time and her sadness that it has evolved into something she no longer recognizes — that she can no longer go “home” to the same place she left.
Grist revamped the title in what seemed to sum up the writer’s feelings about our mountain oasis: “How a weirdo city became just like everywhere else.”
I left nearly ten years ago, and in that time, Asheville has become a different place. It’s not just the downtown lofts, the Urban Outfitters, the high-rise hotels where weekly flops used to be—it’s the people who have changed. It has a world-renowned food scene and a multitude of bars, breweries, and now distilleries, but you don’t see locals or even many freaks anymore, just packs of visitors taking selfies with buskers. Many of the businesses that survived rent increases have thrived, but they serve a richer crowd now, those attracted to the city by articles in the Times, GQ and Wine Spectator. When I talk to friends who still live there, they all say the same thing: “Downtown? I never go downtown,” and I don’t think I would either.
Across the river from downtown, West Asheville has become a new home to many locals, and long-empty storefronts are now bakeries and bars and record shops. The woman who used to cut my hair in her kitchen for a six-pack of cheap beer now owns a salon that gives away PBR with haircuts on Haywood Road. But if the trend continues, all the people making it a good place to live will get priced out by lofts and hotels, and the refrain will become, “West Asheville? I never go to West Asheville.”
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So, Asheville, what do you think? Have we lost our weird?