Asheville Archives: Silk and juvenile shoes arrive at the Grove Arcade, 1929

A NEW PROJECT UNDERWAY: Construction of the Grove Arcade began in 1926. Its architect was Charles N. Parker. Photo courtesy of North Carolina Collection, Pack Memorial Public Library, Asheville

In her 2007 book, Asheville: Mountain Majesty, historian Lou Harshaw writes that the Grove Arcade was one of the earliest shopping malls in the South. E.W. Grove (who also built the Grove Park Inn in 1913 and the  Battery Park Hotel in 1924) began construction on the commercial project in 1926. The original design called for a 17-story skyscraper to extend out from the center of the arcade.

Early reports estimated its completion in the summer of 1927. In January of that year, concerns arose about just who would operate out of the new building. On Jan. 23, 1927, The Sunday Citizen reported that 250 applications had been processed for space inside the arcade. Of these, “about 80 are from out-of-town organizations[.]”

The article went on to state:

“In discussing the nature of the applications for store and office space, Mr. [Harry L.] Parker [local manager of the E.W. Grove Investments] declared that few enterprises now occupying favorable business locations in Asheville have approached him for space. The vast majority of those applying are now situated outside what is commonly known as the ‘business district.’ The fact that one-third of the applicants are out-of-town business concerns is interpreted to mean that a number of large national organizations are being attracted to Asheville in its era of prosperity.”

Construction, however, came to a halt following Grove’s unexpected death on Jan. 27, 1927. Financial struggles and litigation kept the project in limbo for over a year. Walter P. Taylor & Associates would eventually take over the property, and complete the job in 1929. The intended 17-story skyscraper was scrapped from the final design.

NOW AND THEN: The first shop to open inside the Grove Arcade was the
NOW AND THEN: The week of March 4, 1929, Waechter’s Silk Shop became the first store to open inside the Grove Arcade. Top photo, circa 1930, courtesy of North Carolina Collection, Pack Memorial Public Library, Asheville. Location research and bottom photo by Will McCloud.

On Feb. 24, 1929, The Asheville Citizen reported that Waechter’s Silk Shop would be “the first mercantile establishment to open” inside the Grove Arcade the week of March 4. The article went on to state: “The establishment will specialize in the sale of piece silks for feminine apparel, and ladies hosiery, underwear and accessories. It will be the only store in Asheville specializing in piece silks[.]”

Other shops and special events would soon follow. The Automobile Show arrived to the Grove Arcade on March 14. An advertisement for the three-day gathering promised readers that “the motor car of today is a swift, silent chariot of the gods.” It went on to state that the show “typifies the culmination of man’s quest after perfection in transportation.”

Later that year, on June 30, 1929, an advertisement in The Sunday Citizen announced the opening of Lyle Jackson’s Fine Tailoring and Clothier. In celebration of its big day, Lyle Jackson’s offered a free pair of trousers or knickers for “each man who orders one of our Tailored Suits.”

Shortly thereafter, on July 31, 1929, The Asheville Citizen notified its readers of the arrival of a unique store, both to the Grove Arcade and overall region. Named Barker’s, it was “one of the three exclusive juvenile shoe stores in the Southeast[.]” According to the article, the shop’s interior had “miniature furniture and various toys [in order to create] a playroom background which is direct in its appeal to small boys and girls.”

Later in the piece, the paper stated:

“Another unusual feature of the service offered by the store is the dispatch of orders by air mail when necessary. This special order service is proving very popular with all customers who have tried it, Mr. [R.W.] Barker has announced, and its success is another indication of the growth of air mail parcel delivery in the South.

“The Grove Arcade building store is modern in every detail of service and equipment and is in charge of competent clerks, all of who have many friends throughout this section, including the juniors and their parents.”

Editor’s note: Peculiarities of spelling and punctuation are preserved from the original documents. 


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About Thomas Calder
Thomas Calder received his MFA in Fiction from the University of Houston's Creative Writing Program. His writing has appeared in Gulf Coast, the Miracle Monocle and elsewhere. His debut novel, The Wind Under the Door, comes out on March 23, 2021.

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5 thoughts on “Asheville Archives: Silk and juvenile shoes arrive at the Grove Arcade, 1929

  1. Carol Ball

    Great article! Interesting that all of that was happening in1929….right before the big crash.

  2. bsummers

    I’m a little weirded out by that last sentence about the competent clerks and all their friends throughout the section.

    • Craig Randolph

      I interpret it to mean nothing more than being an acknowledgment that, while not every place of business in the Grove Arcade is locally owned/staffed, we are here because we want to be, and look forward to meeting/doing business here. Competent clerks ? There used to be a time when excellent customer service also meant getting to know your patrons and addressing their needs on a personal level.

      • Phillip Williams

        Yes indeed! I knew a number of men and women who spent their entire working lives clerking in the stores downtown – was a time when folks were pretty much identified for life with their employer – and were indeed well known by the clientele….used to be a couple of clerks in Tops who’d been there at least 30 years – don’t know if they are still there. We had a gentleman at Wachovia Bank back in the 80’s who’d been with them 50 years – Mr. Arthur Graham – started as a messenger boy in 1936 and retired as a security guard in 1986.

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