Dema Badr says the motivation behind opening Finch Gourmet Market & Wine Bar in Biltmore Village was a personal craving for a healthy, midafternoon snack to fuel her through long days running her women’s clothing boutique. “I’ve eaten every granola bar the neighborhood Citistop carries,” she says with a laugh. “Twice!”
Badr opened Scout Boutique in Biltmore Village in 2016. “All these little cottages on All Souls were originally neighborhood residences built by George Vanderbilt,” she explains. “Most owners moved out to other planned communities nearby, but I am incredibly fortunate because my landlord, Kathy Stafford, grew up in this cottage. She and her husband, Rusty, are still local and great landlords who really understand and support small business.”
Badr, too, understands small business. An Asheville native, her parents have owned the downtown landmark Asheville Discount Pharmacy since 1982, and she grew up in a retail environment. After spending some time traveling for work, she returned to Asheville in 2015 and opened Scout a year later.
She says that while the village has multiple venues for upscale dining and casual seated options, she had long mulled the idea of something to fit into “that weird time between three and five when you might want a healthy snack, something light, maybe a good glass of wine. It’s hard to find that here. Something to kind of refuel people who work here and tourists shopping and strolling.”
And then the tiny carriage house behind Scout, which the Staffords also own, became available, and Badr jumped at the chance. “I thought it was the perfect little spot for this concept I never thought would come to fruition,” Badr recalls. “Kathy said, ‘Go for it.’”
Because even a business that occupies only 300 square feet of space can’t succeed in a 3-5 p.m. window, Badr plans to launch Finch later this month and operate Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. “We won’t know if that’s what people want until we’re open for a while.”
There is not enough room for indoor seating, but the patio has benches and umbrella covered tables, accommodating about 30 guests.
Finch will offer coffee, espresso and fresh pastries in the morning, and chef Nigel Esser has created a menu of sandwiches and salads to be made by order and will stock the coolers with pre-made items, hummus, meats, cheese and olives to build a charcuterie plate.
Badr notes, “We have list of about 60 wines, so you can treat Finch as your local little bottle shop, or take a glass or bottle outside with some cheese and crackers. We’ll also have several nonalcoholic options. I want everyone who comes to Finch to feel that we thought of them.”
Finch Gourmet Market & Wine Bar is at 10 ½ All Souls Crescent. For updates, visit avl.mx/bjy.
When Hollie West launched The Sweet Monkey café and bakery in Marshall in July 2014, her intention was to open early for breakfast, segue to lunch and sell the baked goods she was already known for. When customers weren’t beating down the door in the early mornings, she tweaked her hours to serve lunch and dinner. A single mother of a young boy, she somehow made it all work. But then COVID-19 arrived, shutting the Monkey down.
Like many, she pivoted, reopening on Labor Day weekend 2020, with a new concept she described as “scratch-made convenience store,” with prepared items in the cooler, take-away-and-finish meals and take-and-bake pizzas.
At the start of 2022, West took a break to turn the space’s kitchen into an R&D lab, testing how to freeze her popular pizzas to sell to food distributors and local restaurants and markets. “We had to modify our recipes so the pizza would come out as if it has never been frozen. It is not a par-cooked dough; it is a raw dough, and that sets us apart from other frozen pizza,” she explains. “You are getting first cook on everything, and everything is made from scratch.”
Positive reviews have resulted in early success. Performance Food Group, out of Morristown, Tenn., now carries the Sweet Monkey brand pies labeled with a cartoonish pair of pizza-making monkeys. Additional carriers include Sara Jo’s Station and Tobacco Road in Hot Springs, Madison Natural Foods in Marshall, Sanctuary of Stuff in Weaverville and West Village Market on Haywood Road.
When she’s not overseeing pizza operations by staff, West is focused on building her catering business. “We don’t have a set menu. The client and I create it together. I love the opportunity to interact with people again.”
For more information on The Sweet Monkey Catering, visit avl.mx/bke.
Move over ice cream, bubble tea is in the house. On Friday, May 20, Pop Bubble Tea will celebrate its grand opening inside The Hop Ice Cream Cafe, 640 Merrimon Ave.
“Our visions line up so well, and there is definitely synergy,” says Pop founder Eva Peterson in discussing her partnership with Ashley Garrison, co-owner of The Hop. “The creation of the Pop menu utilized Ashley’s experience as an ice cream maker and my knowledge of bubble tea and Asian culture.”
The Pop menu will have classic milk teas (made with either whole or oat milk) and fruit teas using freshly brewed, high-quality loose leaf teas from Taiwan. Fruit teas and slush are made with real fruit flavors, and a large number of drinks will be available dairy-free and vegan. The matcha latte series is made with pure matcha.
Eva points out that the location’s two menus don’t compete but instead offer more options for customers in the same space. “Ashley and I have very similar values and a similar mission. We love to make people happy through what we make, no matter if it’s ice cream or bubble tea, or in the future, a collaboration of both!”
Pop Bubble Tea and The Hop Ice Cream are both at 640 Merrimon Ave. Suite 103. For more information on Pop, visit avl.mx/bk5.
The first Howdy Homemade Ice Cream store opened in December 2015 in Dallas. Its founder, Tom Landis, was committed to providing job opportunities for people with autism and Down syndrome. “Howdy Heroes,” as Landis calls them, continue to staff his expanding company.
Betsy and Pete Brewer moved to Asheville in 2008 with their two daughters, Madeline and Annie; Annie is autistic. Like many parents of special needs young adults, they worried about Annie’s future. Around the time Annie was a student at T.C. Roberson High School, a colleague sent Pete a story about Howdy, and he tracked down Landis.
In March 2020, the Brewers signed a contract with Howdy, coinciding with the arrival of COVID-19. That set up some obstacles, but on Saturday, May 28, Howdy Homemade Asheville will open in Arden, with Howdy Hero Annie Brewer among the staff. The shop will serve proprietary Howdy flavors, as well as some developed by Pete Brewer, proud holder of a diploma from Mystic Ice Cream boot camp.
Prior to the opening, a Howdy ice cream trailer will be saying howdy from a logo-wrapped cargo trailer filled with cold treats. On Saturday, May 21, it will park at The Retreat at Arden Farms, 539 Long Shoals Road, Arden, and on Sunday, May 22, it heads to First Baptist Church of Asheville, 5 Oak St. More pop-ups are planned for the summer.
Howdy Homemade Asheville is at 64 Long Shoals Road. For store hours, menu and trailer locations and times, Brewer suggests following the business on Facebook at avl.mx/bk8 and Instagram at avl.mx/bk9 .
Party like it’s 2002
On Wednesday, May 25, the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project will celebrate its 20th anniversary with a free hoedown at Hickory Nut Gap Farm, 4-6:30 p.m.
Attendees can visit with farm animals, zoom down culvert slides, climb the rope web and stroll through the orchard. There will be live music, a raffle for local gift items, complimentary bites by Red Fiddle Vittles and free beverages from Shanti Elixer, Buchi, Burial Beer Co., Wicked Weed Brewing, Vidl Wine, Pleb Urban Winery and Noble Cider.
A short program with toasts to retired ASAP founder Charlie Jackson is scheduled for 5 p.m. The event is family friendly, but please leave four-legged family members at home.
Hickory Nut Gap Farm is at 57 Sugar Hollow Road, Fairview. For more information on ASAP and the event, go to avl.mx/b0y.
Cheers to beers
No wedge issues, but lots of beer at the Wedge Brewing Co.’s newest location anchoring the Page and Battle Square corner of the Grove Arcade downtown. There is streetside and interior access to brewery’s third Asheville location (the other two are in the River Arts District). There is no kitchen, but guests can order from Huli Sue’s BBQ & Grill two doors down and chow down on that fare inside the taproom or on the patio.
The Wedge at Grove Arcade is at 1 Page Ave. Suite 152. For more, visit avl.mx/bkd.