Asheville’s small legacy businesses: surviving long term

Businesses come and go. But some survive for decades — and a very few, like Hearn's Cycling and Finkelstein's, have succeeded locally for more than a century.

Bikes old and new: Hearn's might be one of Asheville's oldest businesses, though it moved from its Broadway location to a bigger building off Asheland Avenue two years ago. Photo by Jonathan Welch

Hearn's Bike Shop, established in 1896, is the oldest continuously run business we've found in Asheville. Owner Clark Hollins says it's possibly the oldest bicycle shop in the United States.

While that's impressive, those businesses that make it for a quarter century or longer are inspiring too.

All the businesses listed below are small, homegrown operations that have survived at least that long. While they may have changed and diversified over the years, they've stuck where they started — in Asheville. Many of them have stayed in the hands of the same families for many or all of their years.

And they all plan to stay around for many more years to come.

"We've been in Asheville our entire 107 years, and we'd like to stay in downtown as long as we can," says Joel Parker, owner of Finkelstein's, a pawn shop.

Here are some of Asheville's legacy businesses listed in order from oldest to youngest. Each owner was asked how they've survived over the years and what their future plans are.

Hearn's Cycling & Fitness

Bicycle sales, service and repair since 1896
28 Asheland Ave.; formerly on Broadway
www.hearns-cycling.com

Clark Hollins, owner (the last Hearn family member sold the shop in the 1970s): "This was always a family business that has been involved in the community. We regularly have 85-year-old men come in and tell us that they bought their first bike here. We've been here so long, we're just part of everyone's memories."

Future plans? Hollins moved the bike shop to a larger location with off-street parking a couple of years ago. "I'm absolutely in love with downtown Asheville," he says. "I'd be happy as a bird if I could do this for the rest of my life."

Finkelstein's

Pawn shop, since 1903
21 Broadway St.

Joel Parker, owner (family-owned until the '70s): "I see this as a service industry. It gives me the opportunity to help people in need, and the guys [who owned the business] before me had the same mentality."

Future plans: We've been in Asheville our entire 107 years, and we'd like to stay in downtown as long as we can," Parker says.

Waechter's Fine Fabrics (formerly Waechter's Silk Shop)

Fabrics since 1929
9-D Reed St.
www.fabricsandbuttons.com

Joyce Yarling, owner (the Waechter family owned it until until 1981): "I think this store has survived for varying reasons at varying times. Asheville has always attracted people with an arts-and-crafts background. It used to be that people needed to make their own clothes. Now people are coming back to sewing because they can't find what they want in stores, or they want to make clothes for their children or grandchildren."

Future plans: Yarling hopes to continue to grow her Internet sales while continuing to offer exclusive fabrics at competitive prices to locals.

Three Brothers Restaurant

Greek food and more since 1959
183 Haywood St.

George, Dino and Jimmy Zourzoukis, co-owners: The restaurant was founded by brothers George, Gus, Demo and Chris Zourzoukis. "We're a family business, and we've served generations of the same families in Asheville," says Jimmy Zourzoukis.

Future plans: "We'll stay here as long as we can," he says. "We have staff who've been with us 15-plus years — they're like family too."

Tops for Shoes

Sells mostly shoes, along with socks and handbags, since 1960
27 North Lexington Ave.
www.topsforshoes.com.

Ellen and Bob Carr, owners (the previous owners and founders were Ellen Carr's parents, Louis and Sylvia Resnikoff): "We differentiated ourselves by offering our customers different sizes, widths and brands of shoes. We offer them products they can't get elsewhere," Bob Carr says.

Future plans: "We plan to grow the store, but we're going to grow it right here in downtown."

Foam and Fabrics Outlet

Retail and wholesale sales of foam and fabrics since 1968
175 Biltmore Ave.
www.fabrics4you.com

Bobby Gurley, owner: "Our staff has always gone out of their way to greet customers, to be helpful to customers and to figure out what they need. We also keep our prices as low as possible. If we get a good bargain on something, we pass that on to the customer," says Pete Garaventa, secretary/treasurer and general do-it-all guy (he was building shelves in the business' warehouse when Xpress talked to him).

Future plans: "Though we doubled the size of the Asheville store about 20 years ago, we could stand to do it again. We're packed wall-to-wall in there, and I'm standing in a warehouse stocked with over a million yards of assorted fabrics," Garaventa says.

A Dancer's Place:

Retail dance clothing and shoes, since 1978
14 Patton Ave.
www.adancersplaceonline.com

Jeanne Brown, owner (previous owners/founders: Mary and Sidney Schochet, who founded A Dancer's Place in 1978, though the Schochets started selling dancewear from a corner of their Star Store and Bootery 60-plus years ago when the Fletcher School of Dance came to town): "We've survived because of our arts community and the support of our arts community. The traveling performing arts groups that Asheville attracts often shop directly in the store, then they become repeat customers. That's business from all over the world," Brown says.

Future plans: The shop has recently branched out to offer an online store.

Asheville Discount Pharmacy

In business since 1982
76 Patton Ave.

Hashim Badr, co-owner/founder. He credits hard work and persistence for his success. "This community has become like a large family," he adds. "A lot of people we know by name and they know us."

Future plans: "We'd like to stay where we are but maybe remodel. We've always been downtown," Badr says.

Malaprop's Bookstore/Café

Books, coffee and pastries since 1982
55 Haywood St.
www.malaprops.com.

Emöke B'Racz, founder and co-owner: "Our customers are people who value detail and customer service and certain standards, and we support those standards, "B'Racz says. "And we're frugal."

Future plans: "We hope to be a downtown Asheville tradition for a long time," she says.

Anne Fitten Glenn can be reached at edgymama@gmail.com.

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One thought on “Asheville’s small legacy businesses: surviving long term

  1. Strickland30April

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