A year of renovations to 45 S. French Broad Ave. are nearing completion, says building co-owner Charlie Ball, of Asheville Distilling Co. “We’ve gone from what was essentially a two-tenant building to multiple tenants,” says Ball. “The first phase was to relocate Downtown Market to make way for the Hopey & Co. expansion.” Downtown Market, an eclectic indoor vendor space, has moved into a smaller, 7,700-square-foot space, while Hopey & Co. an Asheville-based discount and artisan grocery, will almost triple in size to 20,000 square feet, he says.
“We don’t add anything until we find out that people in the community really want it,” says Hopey & Co. co-owner Danette Hopey. “We’ve found that’s the best way — grow slow and just grow along with the community.”
The expansion into the renovated space, she says, will include the addition of a stone-baked pizza parlor, butcher shop, espresso and fresh juice bars, ice cream shopette, bakery and a glass-enclosed wine room. “It looks like we’ll be opening the main store, with all the groceries — 10 times more groceries — sometime in July.”
The space formerly occupied by the grocery store will be transformed into a restaurant and taproom with seating for 75 and featuring about 500 beer varieties, Hopey says. “The food, of course, is like our city — very eclectic,” she says, noting that the new Hopey & Co. will offer lamb roasts, steaks, Mediterranean fare, shawarma, sandwiches, salads and more. “We’ve just grown and grown,” Hopey says. “The logical thing is to pair [that growth] with fantastic food that’s ready to go.”
On the other end of the building, Susie Watson and Lance Hardcastle, operators of the Downtown Market, say they are maximizing efficiency as well as enlarging their own bar, the Sly Grog. “When we had to move and get smaller, we decided that this was a good venture to have the bar and use part of the space to do that,” says Watson.
The Sly Grog originated in a booth space Watson and Hardcastle shared in 2011. Since then, it has gained popularity and has grown into a dedicated wine, beer and sake bar and music venue with a 3,000-watt audio recording system, says Theo Crouse-Mann, bar manager.
“This little bar was always in the Downtown Market as sort of just a cool thing, that you could have a wine or sake and walk around and shop,” Watson says. “When we had the opportunity to move, we realized that we had the opportunity to make it like a grown-up bar, so that’s where this is coming in now.”
The owners started with a soft opening in April and say the grand opening will be held near the end of this month. “I’m hoping we can have everything from puppet shows to burlesque,” says Watson.
Crouse-Mann says the Sly Grog will be open seven days a week and until 2 a.m. on the weekends. The taproom at Hopey & Co. will also be open until 2 a.m., and the main grocery store’s hours will be extended to 9 p.m., according to Hopey.
In addition to the expansions of the two existing tenants, Ball says other sections of the building will soon be filled with new businesses. “We’ve got a to-be-announced brewery that will take up a corner of the building in the lower level,” he says. “We’re working on the deal.” The brewery will occupy between 3,000 and 4,000 square feet.
Little Bee Thai, the restaurant-turned food truck, will soon be within permanent walls once again. “They should be in here this fall,” Ball says.
One of the biggest sites downtown, the building offers an additional 10,000 square feet of unoccupied space, he notes. Although nothing firm is planned yet for that area, Ball says, “We’ve got some ideas.”
The current tenants say they are excited to welcome new neighbors and business partners. “It was an underused building before,” says Crouse-Mann. “The more life that can come into this building, the better, I think,” Watson says. “I’m just anxious to see how it all evolves.”
The next phases of the renovation include putting in new floors and installing an elevator, which the building did not previously possess, Hopey says.
As they renovate, Ball says, they are reinforcing the building’s structure so they can grow vertically in the future. “That’s what we do — we recycle buildings,” says Hopey. “All of our stores are in buildings that needed a family.”
The Hopey family purchased all of the furniture for the new facilities at Habitat for Humanity ReStores in Asheville and Hickory, she adds. The company will hire an additional 30-40 employees, with the expansion slated to be complete in November when the restaurant and taproom open to the public.