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.
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.