Small bites: Looking back on Asheville’s grocery scene

PAPER OR PLASTIC: On June 27, local historians Nan Chase and Terry Taylor will discuss the history of grocery stores in Asheville at Pack Memorial Library. The multimedia lecture will feature images and ads from the past. Photo courtesy of Taylor
PAPER OR PLASTIC: On June 27, local historians Nan Chase and Terry Taylor will discuss the history of grocery stores in Asheville at Pack Memorial Library. The multimedia lecture will feature images and ads from the past. Photo courtesy of Taylor

A city’s history includes countless diverse narratives. And for local historians Nan Chase and Terry Taylor, the chronology of Asheville’s grocery stores is a story worth exploring. On Wednesday, June 27, the pair will host a multimedia lecture, Asheville Shops for Dinner: A Grocery on (Almost) Every Block, in the Lord Auditorium at Pack Library.

The free event will look at the decades from 1880 to 1960, with a particular focus on 1925. That year, says Taylor, marked the largest number of grocery stores within city limits. Trivia nerds and history buffs eager to learn the exact count will have to attend the talk, though. Chase and Taylor plan for a giant reveal at the event, with a map pinpointing each location. “It’s a big number,” Taylor says.

The presentation will offer other quirky insights into the city’s past, including diet trends and unusual food preferences, says Chase, and will highlight the ways history tends to repeat itself. For example, while the majority of people today still push carts up and down supermarket aisles, a 2017 Gallup poll found that 9 percent of Americans order groceries online at least once a month. The technology might be new, but the luxury of having groceries delivered to your door is far from revolutionary. According to Chase, prior to the emergence of chain stores in the 1920s, most neighborhood shops offered free home delivery.

Taylor will pair the talk with a series of images and advertisements from decades past. Many local stores, he notes, were concentrated on North and South Main (present-day Broadway and Biltmore Avenue), as well as Patton Avenue and College Street.

Along with providing attendees a sense of where these shops stood and what they looked like, the images will also showcase how the sector evolved over time. Improvements in transportation and refrigeration had major impacts on the trade, Taylor notes, ultimately leading to a reduction in the overall number of stores in town.

In a broader sense, Chase hopes the upcoming event will offer some fresh insight on the city’s overall history. She notes that between 1880 and 1930, the number of grocery stores grew rapidly because of Asheville’s growing popularity. During that time period, she says, the city’s population ballooned from 2,610 to 50,000.

“This was a booming tourist town 100 years ago,” Chase points out, noting once more the cyclical nature of history — part of the area’s appeal was its culinary scene. “There were fruit orchards, vegetable farms [and] cideries,” she says. “It was what we have today: a food city.”

Asheville Shops for Dinner runs 6-7:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 27, at Lord Auditorium in Pack Memorial Library, 67 Haywood St. The event is free.

The Summer of Fermentation

On Thursday, June 21, White Labs Asheville will host Fermented Pairings Series Vol. 4: The Summer of Fermentation. The event will be led by White Labs’ education and engagement curator, Jo Doyle, and Fermenti co-founder Meg Chamberlain. The menu will include dishes such as the “Holy Mole,” a fermented chocolate, cayenne pepper and cabbage combo atop a wood-fired brisket torta paired with a Taberer IPA made with WLP066 London Fog Ale Yeast.

The Summer of Fermentation happens 6-7:30 p.m. Thursday, June 21, at White Labs Kitchen & Tap, 172 S. Charlotte St. Tickets are $25 and are available at avl.mx/512.

Food: An art exhibit

Local artist and curator Constance Vlahoulis has a motto: “Fine food deserves fine art.” This aphorism inspired her latest group art exhibit, Food, which opens at the Adler Gallery in Posana Restaurant on Thursday, June 28. Hors d’oeuvres will be served at the gathering, which will feature pieces by over 20 local artists. According to a press release, styles range from representational to the abstract and whimsical. As its title suggests, food will be the common thread connecting the various mediums.

The opening reception runs 6-8 p.m. Thursday, June 28, at the Adler Gallery in Posana Restaurant, 1 Biltmore Ave. For details, contact Vlahoulis at cvlahoulis@icloud.com.

New dishes at bartaco

With summer’s arrival comes new menu options at bartaco. New seasonal dishes include gazpacho, a cold soup made of raw blended vegetables; blistered shishito pepper with hoisin sauce; arugula, corn and tomato salad; chicken pastor taco (or rice bowl); duck quesadilla with caramelized onions; and a maitake mushroom and spring asparagus taco with sweet corn purée.

Bartaco is at 121 Biltmore Ave. Hours are Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. and Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-midnight. For more information, visit avl.mx/513.

Bouchon opens La Fête

Bouchon recently announced the opening of La Fête, a private event space in the former Crêperie Bouchon building. The courtyard location offers indoor and outdoor seating. A statement from the restaurant says La Fête will feature recipes from Bouchon along with a full bar. The space can seat up to 45 guests.

La Fête is at 62 N. Lexington Ave. For information or to schedule a private event, email michel@ashevillebouchon.com.

Smoky Park Supper Club adds lunch menu

Smoky Park Supper Club recently added lunch service. The menu includes pulled local pork, kale salad, the Smoky Park burger and a veggie burger. Sandwiches come with a choice of fries or side salad. Prices range from $10-$13.

Smoky Park Supper Club is at 350 Riverside Drive. Lunch hours are 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday. For more, visit smokypark.com

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About Thomas Calder
Thomas Calder received his MFA in Fiction from the University of Houston's Creative Writing Program. He has worked with several publications, including Gulf Coast and the Collagist. For his weekly #tuesdayhistory tidbits on Asheville, follow him on Instagram @tcalder.

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