Queen Elizabeth I liked ermine; Benjamin Franklin had a weakness for beaver. But somewhere along the line, fur managed to gather armies of detractors.
Detractors such as Carolina Animal Action, a local animal-rights group fronted by Stewart David. A Nov. 13 press release from the group announced that the Asheville business Kriegsman Furs was closing its doors, adding that CAA would “rejoice knowing that Asheville will no longer have a fur store.”
But word of his store’s closing came as news to owner David Kriegsman, who says he’s merely changing locations. “We are not going out of business,” he insists. “We’re trying to move.” One of three Kriegsman locations statewide, the Asheville store is situated downstairs at 35 Battery Park Ave., beneath Kosta’s Menswear. In June, the property was purchased by developer Tony Fraga, who, Kriegsman believes, has other plans for it.
“It’s obvious I can’t stay,” he says.
When downtown Asheville’s previous fur store, Inman Furs, closed in 1996, David’s group celebrated with nonalcoholic champagne, picturing a blessed, fur-free future for Asheville. Two years later, Kriegsman came to town.
David says his group has protested the store at least a dozen times since it opened. The demonstrations have tapered off in recent years, but another protest group, the Ohio-based Mercy for Animals, paid Kriegsman’s a call on the day after Thanksgiving.
“We’re in America—land of the free, home of the brave,” says Kriegsman, who speaks with the wary manner of someone who knows controversy. “They have every right to stand in front of my door and say that they don’t like my fur coats”—as long, he adds, as the protests stop short of threats to himself, his family or his customers.
Kriegsman’s family has been moving pelts for 80 years, and he expects to continue. The company, he says, is a good corporate citizen.
“We’ve given to churches, we’ve given to synagogues, we’ve given to education, we’ve given to wildlife. Yes, I said wildlife. We put our money where our mouth is,” he says.
“We’re not a cruel industry,” he adds. “We’re policed. We’re humane.”