Old Europe, a downtown Asheville fixture for 15 years, has shut its doors on Lexington Avenue after a foreclosure forced the sale of the property.
The coffee house and pastry shop first opened in 1994 on Battery Park Avenue. In 2006, the business moved to larger premises at 41 N. Lexington Ave., transforming itself into a bistro and bar and opening the upscale Z Lounge next door.
Co-owner Zoltan Vetro had originally said Old Europe’s lease was not renewed, but in fact, Vetro and his wife, Melinda Vetro, owned the property through their company, Old Europe Café of Asheville. Carolina First Bank foreclosed on the property Jan. 30 and immediately sold it for $731,850.
Undaunted, however, Vetro said he’s optimistic about Old Europe’s future, though nothing is certain yet. “I’m still looking at plans, talking to so many people,” he told Xpress. “We’re talking to people and looking at spots all over the place.”
The problem, said Vetro, was “the economy—that was what really hurt us. The money just wasn’t coming in. We dealt with a lot in the past few years, being kicked out of our first location and now, part of the [foreclosure deal] was that we’d move out. But we’re looking ahead to the future.”
Will the business stay downtown? “Hopefully, yes: We’ve been here for 14 years; we’re part of the scene. I mean, everybody knows Z; everybody knows Old Europe.”
At the same time, Vetro couldn’t offer any guarantees, noting, “Everything is up in the air—I looked at three locations this morning.”
Together, the two businesses employed 21 people.
The property was snapped up by The Whiteside Fund, a partnership of real-estate developers, on the same day as the foreclosure. The documents show that Carolina First initially sold the property to Cascade Mountain Properties LLC. Whiteside attorney David Matney declined to comment on the relationship between Cascade and Whiteside.
Whiteside owns only the Old Europe and Z Lounge portions of the multistory building, which also fronts on Rankin Avenue; the rest is in the hands of a condominium association.
“This was purchased purely as an investment,” Whiteside Chief Operating Officer Joshua Schley told Xpress. “Obviously, we’d like to get an exciting business in there as quickly as possible, something to keep downtown interesting and draw people in.”