Is Asheville no longer a ‘weirdo’ city?

Photo by Caitlin Byrd for Mountain Xpress.

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.”

Click here for the full story.

So, Asheville, what do you think? Have we lost our weird?

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About Hayley Benton
Current freelance journalist and artist. Former culture/entertainment reporter at the Asheville Citizen-Times and former news reporter at Mountain Xpress. Also a coffee drinker, bad photographer, teller of stupid jokes and maker-upper of words. I can be reached at hayleyebenton [at] gmail.com. Follow me @HayleyTweeet

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7 thoughts on “Is Asheville no longer a ‘weirdo’ city?

  1. Keep Asheville Weird.

    It makes for a diversified urban environment for everyone to socialize, exchange ideas, have a great time, and enjoy life. Those that “don’t get it”, do not need to travel or visit the city environs here if they feel that offended as there is always Johnson City, TN, and Greenville, SC for their “vanilla” pleasures. Heck, even the wealthy get a kick out of this town and spend their money here until they find another place to go and “play”.

  2. Argus

    I never thought Asheville was all that particularly weird, perhaps because eccentric, accepting, creative, & kind bohemians have always been my kind of ‘Normal’ since encountering such beautiful spirits at Allen Ginsberg’s farm, where I wrote my first collection of poetry – Letters from the Dog Head Hotel. If Asheville isn’t what you remembered, or if there’s a particular weird you’re missing unleash it with love into the community – there’s room for all with kind loving hearts everywhere.

  3. Scotty_Mack

    Luxury hotels, real estate grifting, and eateries selling $30 pork chops and $20 martinis isn’t weird, it’s sick. Our once beautiful and unique town is now a playground for rich yuppie out of town scum, Only things that can save Asheville now are a major real estate crash or a crime wave.

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