Moog moves digs

Moog Music is moving its retail operation, museum and famous factory from 2004 Riverside Drive to 160-170 Broadway the brick buildings just north of the Interstate 240 overpass and across the street from the ABC store.

Musical and physical synthesis: A rendering of Moog Music's future headquarters at 160-170 Broadway in downtown Asheville. Image Courtesy Of Moog Music

Company President Mike Adams confirmed as much at a joint May 21 press conference with the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce and the Economic Development Coalition for Asheville Buncombe County at the new location. The long-vacant property housed Dinner for the Earth, Asheville's first natural-foods store, from 1979 to 1993.
Moog Music chose the Broadway site for its close proximity to downtown music venues and the River Arts District. "Our plans include an extensive renovation of the structure that will transform the faade from an eyesore to a landmark that embodies Moog's spirit of innovation, one that our company and our community can be proud of," said Adams. The 35 employees engaged in worldwide sales and marketing will also work out of the new facility.
Founded by industry pioneer Robert Moog, who invented the Moog synthesizer, the company is known around the globe for its electronic instruments. The winner of several Grammy Awards, Moog taught music at UNCA until his death five years ago.

Jay Weatherly, owner of the adjacent Dripolator coffee shop, was thrilled at the news. "Tapping into the deep roots of Asheville with one of the very things that makes Asheville so great.  It sounds like a perfect fit for that location," he noted.

The poop on being green

Located just north of Asheville on the way to Marshall is the Buncombe County landfill. Essentially, it's a mountain of trash. It smells terrible and contains all sorts of sad and icky things: derelict furniture, rusting car parts, rotting food and most disgusting of all poopy diapers. Everywhere you look, it seems, you see these little balled-up plastic wads of feces and urine.

Turns out disposable diapers are the third most common consumer item in landfills nationwide: An estimated 27.4 billion disposable diapers are consumed and discarded in the U.S. each year, amounting to about 3.4 million tons. And though no one really knows, one study concluded that it may take up to 500 years for the things to decompose.

Enter BabeeGreens, a small Asheville company that manufactures certified-organic diapers (made from pesticide-free cotton and hemp) and other eco-friendly baby products. Launched about 10 years ago, it was purchased in February by Rachel Friel and her friend Tia Gilbert, two moms with young kids. Friel saw an ad on craigslist and jumped at the chance to make a positive difference for the environment and make some money at the same time.

"Even though it was an existing operation, in many ways we started from the ground up," she reports. "We've relocated to a new space, hired three part-time employees, expanded our product line and really concentrated on marketing and expanding the business." They're now available in five retail outlets around town: Nest Organics, Spa Materna, Spiritex, The Littlest Birds Natural Baby Store and Greenlife Grocery. A slick Web site offers online shopping, and they ship wholesale to places as far off as France.

Apart from the fact that disposable diapers may contain trace amounts of harmful chemicals such as cancer-causing dioxins, cloth diapers are also significantly cheaper, she maintains. In the first years of a child's life, the average family spends thousands of dollars on disposable diapers; according to Friel, a comparable supply of cloth diapers would cost $400 to $500, and they can be reused for the next kid (That does not include the additional costs associated with laundry: water, electricity, etc.). "Not only are people becoming more environmentally conscious," she notes, "in this economy, it's a great way to save a lot of money."

But what about the obvious ick factor? (My only experience changing a diaper resulted in my becoming violently ill; I'm still scarred by the episode). "There are diaper services if you can't handle it," Friel told me. "But really, when you're a parent, it's not all that bad."
To learn more about BabeeGreen's product line and the benefits of organic cloth diapers, visit http://babeegreens.com.

The quest for more customers

Nik Holton has come up with a creative way to stimulate foot traffic for shops in downtown Asheville: He's holding a scavenger hunt. Adults armed with maps and clues will follow the game path through all corners of downtown, with an emphasis on less-visited areas. Teams will be scored and prizes awarded at the final destination.

Holton, who teaches computer science at Christ School, is a recent transplant from New Orleans, where he staged similar events in the wake of Hurricane Katrina as a way to bring tourists and locals back to the devastated central business district. Asheville's community spirit and proclivity for fun inspired Holton to establish Asheville Quest Adventures, a company specializing in role-playing games. The initial offering, an Alice in Wonderland-themed event called Looking Glass Shattered, will happen Saturday, May 29, starting at 5 p.m.

Businesses, he says, have been very receptive so far (Holton was motoring around signing up sponsors as I spoke with him), and he hopes to eventually involve restaurants perhaps having participants order specific dishes as part of the game.

Economics aside, Holton says these activities are also intellectually stimulating. "Playing imaginative games, solving puzzles and logic problems keeps the mind fit," he notes. "More evidence is building up that mentally stimulating leisure activities can reduce the risk of dementia and help maintain cognitive abilities as people age."

The game begins online, where teams register and the initial clues are provided (Registration costs $10 per team member). If the idea takes off, Holton says he'll hold bigger, more publicized events around town.

"The real point is to get out and have fun," Holton notes, "but if we end up doing a little something to help our downtown businesses, so much the better."
To learn more or to register for the game, visit http://ashevillequests.com or call Holton at 423-5519. Registration closes at noon on Saturday, May 29.

Federal grants to WNC schools create jobs, conserve energy

The office of Gov. Bev Perdue has announced that an additional $5.4 million in federal stimulus funds has been awarded to help 38 public-school systems and community colleges in North Carolina create jobs and save on utility and fuel bills.

Recipients include projects in Buncombe, Mitchell and Rutherford counties: A-B Tech will receive $135,414 for lighting controls and improvements; the Asheville City Schools will get $200,000 for lighting retrofits and room-occupancy sensors in 10 schools; Mitchell Community College will be awarded $44,000 to upgrade heating and air-conditioning controls, and the Rutherford County Schools will receive $44,380 for installing room-occupancy sensors and other improvements including lighting, heating and air-conditioning, and solar-assisted hot water.

The grants program is administered by the State Energy Office, an arm of the N.C. Department of Commerce, to encourage energy conservation and investment in counties, municipalities, community colleges and public schools.

Send your business news to business@mountainx.com or call Michael Muller at 251-1333, ext. 154.

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