If you made your way around downtown Asheville on a Saturday night last December, you might have noticed that staff members at several local businesses were wearing the same shirt. It was no coincidence: You were witnessing the birth of Asheville Grown.
The goal of the campaign is "educating consumers about the importance of buying local, of supporting independent businesses," explains Director, Franzi Charen, co-owner of the downtown vintage-clothing store Hip Replacements.
Last summer, she and other members of the Lexington Avenue Merchants Association met to brainstorm ideas for promoting local commerce. Afterward, she says, inspiration struck: "I was in the shower, thinking about it, and then I thought, I've got it! Everyone's going to wear the same T-shirt — it's going to be like a crazy moving billboard."
Another downtown merchant, Union clothing store co-owner Orlando Hernandez, coined the Asheville Grown name. Two Lexington Avenue businesses joined the effort, with Spriritex providing the shirts and On a Roll doing the screen printing. Several downtown stores and restaurants volunteered to provide the shirts for their employees.
Now, Asheville Grown is branching out further, forming an alliance of local businesses and spreading the message not just on T-shirts but also via posters and bumper stickers. And, Charen says, a steering committee is forming to shape the campaign into a group that will seek nonprofit status and ratchet up the outreach.
The main message Asheville Grown hopes to get out is spelled out on the campaign's Facebook page: "We are letting consumers know that we are voting with our dollars when we make the choice of where to spend money. Every dollar spent at a locally owned and independent establishment is a vote to keep Asheville's independent spirit growing."
For a list of merchants selling Asheville Grown T-shirts and other goods, or for information on participating in the campaign, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.