The Biz

Big changes are happening at the Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity, and if you're even an occasional visitor to their Home Store on Meadow Road, you'll start seeing them by summer's end.

The organization plans to add 13,000 square feet of retail space and more than 90 parking spaces. They'll accomplish this by moving their administrative offices into the adjacent Southern Railway building, which they purchased in December 2008 and are busy renovating. The group is also tearing down some internal walls in the store and converting the former covered drive-through to pedestrian-friendly retail space. A new drop-off station is being built to the right of the existing entrance.

Proceeds from the Home Store cover all of the organization's administrative costs and pay for building one Habitat house every year. The renovations are projected to increase the store's sales by 50 percent over the next five years. Of the 800 Habitat for Humanity stores nationwide, the Asheville operation boasts the most sales per square foot. And only five stores — all in much larger cities — have higher gross annual sales, notes Executive Director Lew Kraus.

To learn more about the Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity, visit http://www.ashevillehabitat.org.

Bake It Pretty opens retail location

Bake It Pretty, a local baking, crafting and party supplies company that began as an online Etsy store just two years ago, is opening a new bricks-and-mortar location at 58 Wall St. in downtown Asheville. The operation specializes in items such as retro baking cups and molds, cake decorations, specialty papers, boxes and baskets. Xpress found owner Amanda Krueger working on her laptop in the empty space (the former home of Red Wolf Run) while waiting for the painters to arrive. "We were thinking we'd open around the middle of August, but things are going really well," she reports. "At this rate, we may open a few weeks early."

For more information or to shop online, visit http://www.bakeitpretty.com

Airport sees big jump in passenger traffic

More and more people are flying into Asheville, according to numbers released by the Asheville Regional Airport Authority. April saw a 21.6 percent increase in "deplanements" (the number of passengers who got off a plane) compared with the same period last year. That works out to an additional 5,183 people.

It's the second straight month that the airport has reported a major increase in passenger traffic. The number of travelers departing from Asheville ("enplanements" in airportspeak) jumped 23.8 percent in April compared with last year — the biggest increase in that category in nearly five years. "If the trend continues, we're on track to break the 300,000 mark for the calendar year," notes Amy S. Burritt, interim marketing and public relations manager. "If that happens, it will be the first time since 2005."

The airport, which first opened in 1961, has added five new direct flights in the past year: to Chicago's O'Hare, LaGuardia in New York City, Dallas/Fort Worth, Tampa and Orlando. Burritt credits those new offerings, plus more targeted television and radio advertising, with triggering the upsurge in passenger traffic. "We've also forged deep partnerships in the community," she points out. "We're proud sponsors of the Apple Festival and The Health Adventure."

"When people begin to travel more, it is often an indicator of an improving economy," says Airport Director Lew Bleiweis. "Of course this is great news for the airport, but we're also really excited about what it means for Western North Carolina as a whole."

To schedule a flight or learn more about the Asheville Regional Airport, visit http://www.flyavl.com.

N.C. Bar Association honors Bissette

Asheville attorney Lou Bissette has won the North Carolina Bar Association's Citizen Lawyer Award for 2010. The award recognizes lawyers who provide exemplary public service to their communities.

A two-term Asheville mayor (from 1985 to 1989), Bissette has chaired the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce, the I-26 Corridor Association, The North Carolina Arboretum Society, the Grove Arcade Public Market Foundation, The Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation and the Buncombe County Economic Development Commission, among many others. He's also been active with the YMCA, Red Cross, Helpmate, Pisgah Legal Services, United Way, Habitat for Humanity, Industries for the Blind and other local nonprofits. In addition, Bissette was a key player in Asheville's downtown revitalization in the 1980s.

He's served as president of McGuire, Wood & Bissette since 1999 and has practiced law with the firm since 1976. The award will be presented at the bar association's annual meeting in Wilmington later this month.

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

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