A group of eight local investors, including Tim Schaller, owner of the Wedge Brewery, has bought the Wedge Building in the River Arts District. The new owners plan to keep things much the same as they have always been in that particular artsy corner of Asheville — but some changes are afoot (although the brewery itself, says Schaller, is pretty maxed out and there are no plans for its expansion).
“The price of real estate down here has gotten a lot bigger now, so, to pay what we have to pay, we’re going to have to do a little more commercial stuff on the lower level,” said Schaller earlier this month when Xpress spoke to him in reference to a story about New Belgium moving to the area. (Schaller requested that details of the sale be kept confidential until it was final.) Improvements include a restaurant coming to the bottom floor. Rumors swirling about that addition speculate that plans include Matt Dawes, the former co-chef of Table, but nothing has been confirmed yet.
When Schaller first moved into the building, the River Arts District was a different place, with bands and various performance troops occupying (then very low-rent) studios alongside artists, including former Wedge owner John Payne, who passed away in 2008.
“I remember coming to the earlier studio strolls and you’d go down to the far end [of the Wedge Building] and you’d say, ‘What’s going on down here? It smells a little bit like patchouli,’” Schaller laughs. “I had no idea that this many people would show up down here. I’ve spent four years trying to adapt to the crowds.”
Schaller says that being in charge of what moves into the Wedge ensures that no drastic changes occur to the community — he’s invested in keeping the arts in the Arts District, he tells Xpress. It’s what makes the area tick.
“It feels good, because if somebody else bought it, I don’t know if I’d be able to stay,” he says. “This way, I can sort of control my destiny as far as I can. Our intention is to keep the building [occupied by] artists as much as we can.”
Expect the Wedge to retain the same gritty charm that’s helped make it one of the busiest hot spots to quaff beer in the area.
“It’s a lot of luck,” Shaller says of his success. “It’s easy to work here. And it’s still why people came to Asheville — it’s not slick yet, and hopefully we can keep it that way. I don’t want to be saying five years from now, ‘Remember when it was cool here?’”