Chain stores in downtown Asheville? What do you think?

With development in Asheville a hot-button issue, chain stores and “big box” retailers in downtown have come under fire, and may well figure in the upcoming City Council election.

The Downtown Commission’s upcoming city-funded master plan will seek to address the issue of local businesses and chain stores. And in this election season, City Council candidate Elaine Lite has proposed banning big-box stores (possibly on streets like Broadway or Coxe Avenue) in downtown, while limiting or prohibiting chain stores downtown in the future.

Currently, chain stores in downtown run the gamut from national giants to more regional businesses — including Subway, CVS, Marble Slab, Mast General Store, Mellow Mushroom and many others.

Should such businesses be prohibited from downtown in the future? Or is banning them a step too far? Tell us what YOU think in the comment field below.

— David Forbes, staff writer

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60 thoughts on “Chain stores in downtown Asheville? What do you think?

  1. Dionysis

    That’s a tough question. Most people have a knee-jerk aversion to banning an establishment, yet if chain establishments become more prevalent in downtown, it will quickly become just another homogenous, boring mirror of every other homogenous, boring downtown which characterizes this country.
    If it was up for popular vote, I would vote to restrict (if not totally ban) the number, size and location of such chain establishments.

  2. lokel

    Before downtown was “revitalized” in recent years, there were all kinds of “National” brands in downtown. In fact almost all of the buildings that have now been converted to condos, were big name chain department stores back in the day.

    JC Penny, Belk, Bon Marche, Ivey’s (Dillards), etc. so what is the big deal now (pardon the pun)?

    What about banks? What if Bank of Kalamazoo wanted to build a 30 story building and locate its HQ here?

    Would Miss Lite and the rest of the NIMBY crowd (Not In My Backyard), object to them as well?

    It is DOWNTOWN for the love of pete!

    I thought she (Lite) was against urban sprawl … so to ban large buildings from downtown only will result in the additional buildings to be built out of the city limits and therefore increase the sprawl in the County.

    Funny no one seemed to mind when the County/City built the new high rise jail and its new addition!

    Does she think she can get elected by turning away tax dollars that would result from businesses locating downtown?

  3. Emily

    I would hate to see Asheville become another clone city. I love it here because it is UNIQUE!!! not because it has stores you can find anywhere else. While I would still have to do some more thinking on the issue, right now I would’nt really mind a ban on chain stores.

  4. lokel

    Isn’t that what downtown is for? Large buildings, department stores etc.

    Before the recent “revitalization” all of the buildings over 2 or 3 stories downtown were major ie chain department stores… now these have mostly been converted into million dollar condos.

    I thought Miss lite was against sprawl, where does she and the rest of the NIMBYs (Not In My Backyard) think these business will go if not allowed in the City Limits? Out in the County of course … more sprawl.

    It is DOWNTOWN for petes sake!

    What if the Bank of Timbuktu came to town and wanted to relocate their HQ here and build a 30 story building … think of the jobs, think of the City taxes etc.

    But NO! Not in Asheville’s downtown!

    I would hope that any business would be a welcomed change from run down empty lots and crumbling buildings from days gone by.

    National chains are what made downtown even exist to start with…. almost all of the “anchor” stores in the Asheville Mall used to be downtown.

    This argument is about as legitimate as some of the crap that comes out of the deciders mouth!

  5. Jon

    I remember when Sears was downtown (on Coxe Avenue). There was a Kress was really a Kress store. There was JJ Newbury’s, a real Woolworths, Ivy’s, JC Penny, Bon Marche, Belks, as well as the Plaza theater on Pack Square and the Imperial theater on Patton. There were also numereous local shops and restaurants as well (for example: Ball Photo, Teagues, and AL’s Hobbycraft, and Dunham’s Music House (Dunam’s moved to Asheville Mall after their store burned in 68)). They all co-existed downtown.

    Downtown died when Asheville Mall opened and provided something that downtown didn’t and still doesn’t provide, easy access to free parking.

  6. JMAC

    no chain stores, buy from local business and your dollar will come back to your local business

  7. No Chain Stores

    Buy from a locally owned business and your dollar will come back to your locally owned business.

  8. You mean that if I buy something from Vigne then they are going to go somewhere I go, like the comic book store? I doubt it.

    Or, they could open a Gap in the Grove Arcade, hire a staff of 8 people from the area, and give 4 of them health insurance. Those people will probably make just as much money as any of us, and the store will pay their rent on time.

    Believe me, I’ve worked downtown long enough to know that it’s already a tourist driven economy. What’s the most common question I hear from the tourists?

    “Where’s the mall?”

    There’s the way things are, and the way things should be. Elaine Lite and her ilk love the idea of turning Asheville into some sort of burlap sack wearing utopia where everyone gets free hemp necklaces and vegan pancakes, but noone is addressing the way things are, where a simple guy like me can’t find work and has to work 3 jobs so that he can be insured.

    Enough of politics that try to turn Asheville into something it’s never been, nor never will be. Let’s get real leadership in that will help the people that live here.

    Noone is arguing that they should level downtown and turn it into a Wal Mart.

    It’s a dangerous precedent when government starts saying who can open up shop and who can’t.

  9. sharon woody

    I LIVE IN DOWNTOWN ASHEVILLE AND HAVE LIVED HERE IN THE SAME BUILDING NOW FOR 18YEARS.I WRITE TO TELL HOW I FEEL ABOUT CHAIN STORES AND I WILL TRY TO BE BRIEF.
    THERE ARE FIRST TOO MANY PLACES TO EAT AND DOORS ARE NOT HANDICAPPED IN SOME OF THEM ALONG STORES NOW TO LET PEOPLE LIKE ME WHO ARE DISABLED AND IN POWERCHAIRS/AND ALSO ALL THE SIDEWALKS ARE IN BAD SHAPE AND NEED FIXED BEFORE WE EVER REALLY HAVE ANY STORES AT ALL.THE SECOND THING IS THAT WE NEED A GROCERY STORE AND BETTER PARKING AND WHEN THE CITY IS CHARGING WAY TOO MUCH FOR PARKING.pLACES LIKE WOOLWORTHS/DOLLAR STORE WAS HERE BUT WHAT GIVING THE EDERLY/DISABLED AND PEOPLE LIVING DOWNTOWN ALONG WITH OTHERS A PLACE WHERE THINGS ARE NOT HIGH WAY ROBBERY?PUT STORES BACK FOR ALL TO ENJOY AND BE HAPPY AND AT HOLIDAYS WE COULD SHOP.PEOPLE LIKE MALLS AND CAN DIVE AND NOT EVERYONE LIKE ME CAN FIT GOOD O ABUS FROM MY CHAIR BUT IF ANYTHING I AM FOR STORE THAT SELL GOOD PRODUCTS AND NOT VERY HIGH ON PRICES.THANK YOU AND GOD BLESS ASHEVILLE IN THE FUTURE.

  10. wncnative

    I say let them build what ever they want downtown. If your going to pick and choose over what “Big Bad Evil Companies” are allowed I say any or none. But no people want to pick and choose what goes in downtown.

    Dont give me any mess about buying local, you think all local stores buys ALL there stuff from local Farmers, and such like, no they use the same outlets the big stores do but it costs them more. No matter what you do your feeding the “Machine”. I shop local when I can when I have extra money, but most of the items I need I can’t get Downtown because they dont carry pratical for non-downtown dwellers.

    I say build, I say let Asheville Move upwards and outwards. The last thing Asheville needs is another coffee shop or bookstore. Give us something that the everyman can enjoy.

  11. ronyvee

    We have a wonderful community here but are not the first to confront this issue. Although on the face of having franchises downtown seems like we are selling out…there are many francises that have also confronted this situation before and in fact have become sensitive and adapted their signage, image, and renovations in a way that have helped the downtown areas to rejuvinate in a good way. Unfortunately it is very difficult to be a succesful independent retailer these days due to the costs of doing business without cheating. We need to be open minded and deal with the franchises on a one b one basis and see what they may be willing to do to become a part of asheville, rather than asheville becoming a part of them

  12. Rob Close

    aye, dealing with these things case-by-case seems the most realistic. if we have intelligent leaders, they’ll know what is out of scale.

    CVS is a chain, yet their presence downtown seems to be serving a tremendously useful function.

    then again, we don’t need a here downtown. but that’s obvious, and anyone who approved that should be run out of town.

    blanket laws seem like naive knee-jerk reactionism.

  13. There are ways that these chain stores can adapt to the vibe of downtown Asheville as well. I think of the McDonalds in Biltmore. They went the extra mile to blend in, and I must say it is quite nice even though I am not a McDonald’s fan. Decatur GA has a nice mix of both local and chain stores and seems to be prospering well.

    No simple answer I suppose, but there has to be examples somewhere in the country where they have worked this out successfully. Any ideas where?

  14. Sara D

    I say McAsheville all the way. Let’s be just like all the other stale, corporate retail infected homogeneous in-the-box communities that make up the mainstream.
    Why be unique? Why set a precedent? Keep it simple so we can all be the same.

    Don’t rock the boat, just get back in line and feed the machine so faceless shareholders in far away places can reap profits from our local pockets and build more, more, more cloned retail marts that sell more of the same.

    This message is brought to you by Free Enterprise, Inc.

  15. Way to go Sara. Be like Fox News and oversimplify the argument so as to make the opposing argument sound absurd. I’m not sure how you can write that and then have the nerve to say “This message is brought to you by Free Enterprise, Inc.”

    I don’t think anyone here was proposing that Asheville lose it’s uniqueness. But I also don’t think it’s absurd to allow some national franchises downtown on the terms that they jump through numerous hoops to adapt to Asheville, instead of the other way around.

    If there was a Dunkin Donuts downtown it wouldn’t matter to me because I wouldn’t go there anyways. I would go to Eaties for breakfast, or Old Europe for dessert, or Dripolator or Izzy’s for coffee. Let a national pizza chain setup shop. Who cares. I’ll still go to Barleys or Mellow Mushroom – it doesn’t matter.

    With groups like SCORE and Mountain Biz Works helping to build some of the legendary local businesses into timeless establishments, I don’t think we have much to worry about. I don’t think people buy expensive downtown condos or rent a place for the week, only to eat at Pizza Hut or Burger King. They want the Asheville experience and that includes all our local restaurants and shops. Personally I think that kind of competition would just make us stronger as a community.

    This all or nothing mentality really torques me – if you can’t tell.

  16. Leanna

    First, I have to say that while Mast General might have a large store – they’re anything but big box. They’re from right here in the mountains of North Carolina, and the feeling you get when you go in there reflects that…open, caring, people who take pride in their work (not a common occurance among national corporations when low-wage workers could give a flip about your experience).

    With that said, I think there has to be a balance of local and national shops in downtown. Don’s right, you make your choices and shop in a way that feels personally right for you (and we just have to hope that people like Barleys or Mello more than papa johns or pizza hut – especially our esteemed visitors from out-of-town).

    Probably the more important thing to watch is the cost for space downtown. As rent prices inflate, it makes it nearly impossible for locally owned businesses to remain in business. Eventually, the streets change – slowly maybe (if anyone remembers King Street in Charleston before what it’s now become – an outdoor mall of big box retailers) – until you can’t stand walking around there.

    If Elaine Lite really wants to make regulations to protect local businesses, she should advocate and the city should enact rent-rate caps which could only increase a certain percentage annually – allowing local businesses to stay in space and compete for our dollars. (That being said, as soon as a local place goes out of business, the rental rate could and probably would be adjusted to an “average” rate that might price out any new local businesses.

  17. curmudgeon

    Don, I have to disagree. I would LOVE a Dunkin Donuts. Krispy Kreme don’t make it. Of course, I would also love a locally owned organic donut shop that uses hemp oil, but only if they taste like Dunkin Donuts. Any takers?

    Seriouly, tho, it looks like the consensus is that we need a mix. Locally owned is great for restaurants and coffee shops, but have you ever tried to buy a shirt downtown? Like the housing, it just ain’t affordable.

    And I really sympathize with Sharon Woody, who doesn’t have the option of jumping in her car and driving to Ingles or Dollar General when she needs something. Some small versions of these chains would really make downtown more livable for working people. We could ask them to be slightly less garish to avoid offending the sensitive.

  18. That’s what I’m saying “curmudgeon”. I am not against having them downtown. Even though it’s not my preference it doesn’t mean that somebody else won’t like it, and that’s fine.

    Sometimes the intolerance of the “liberal” people (whom I consider myself one of) borders on the radicalism of Conservative Talk Radio. The icy glares I get if I walk into a friend’s house or a small business with a Wal-Mart bag under my arm smacks of intolerance and elitism.

    I guess that was what I was trying to address more than anything. :-)

  19. Sara D

    My sarcasm wass only meant to contrast the “I say let them build whatever they want downtown” attitudes.

    If not for those nasty “liberals”, beautiful downtown would have been bulldozed to make way for a mall as proposed during the 70’s. It took a few “extremists” to rope off the malls footprint to show the locals what impact the project would have on the local landscape and what architecture would have been turned into rubble. The jeers and sneers they received were well worth the effort, wouldn’t you say?

  20. I figured as much Sara. No worries. Although I didn’t put “nasty” in front of “liberals”. I have a little better self-image of myself than that ;-)

    I am so grateful for the downtown we have now. When I tell visitors downtown “almost” became a big strip mall even the most Conservative striped people cringe in horror.

    I don’t think ANYONE wants that.

    DM

  21. By the way, is there REALLY a group that says, “Let’s build whatever” downtown? Is there an action group or something of the sort? I would be interested in hearing who these people are.

    DM

  22. orulz

    Anchor stores? Yes. Free parking? No. The key is to make it enough of a draw that people don’t care about dropping a few bucks to park. Actually, downtown already IS enough of a draw to fill the parking decks in spite of the fact that they’re not free. On weekends when the weather is nice, downtown seems every bit as busy as the Mall.

    Anyway, 3 bucks covers the gas you’d burn driving to and from the Asheville Mall. Big whoop.

    Free parking takes up land with lots & decks that would be better used to provide a greater density of shops, amenities, to make it an even greater draw.

    I’d love to see some anchor stores downtown. However, I struggle to think of how anchor stores can be brought in without crowding out the local galleries, boutiques, and restaurants that make downtown so great today. Tough dilemma.

  23. “for downtown to succeed it needs what makes malls successful. plenty of free parking and anchor store. period”

    yeah downtown is really suffering, we need anchor stores, so that we can buy cheap imported crap that we don’t really need.

    Mr. Bugg, you missed the point, I will simplify

    A dollar spent at Vigne does not necessarily go to your favorite comic book shop.

    A Gap in the grove arcade may provide low wage jobs with half ass benefits that is true, but the profit goes where? to the corporate headquarters in the San Fransisco bay area, while that will surely provide extra money to the Bay area very little will remain in your community.

    Buy from a local outfit (which may appear more expensive) and the profit remains in your town.

  24. And the profit staying in my town helps me how? Is this the “trickle down” thing that Reagan was on about? If a millionaire in town makes a buck of me, or a millionaire in San Francisco makes a buck off me, it makes no difference.

    You people need to learn that just because something is “Asheville” that it doesn’t automatically make it a good thing.

  25. Okay, hold the anchor stores (I have all the anchors I need anyway) and give us free parking.

    You gotta admit, ANY store downtown would do better if there was plenty of free parking.

    This ain’t brain surgery, bubba.

    Free parking.

    Lots of free parking.

    Otherwise, I’m going to the mall.

    And so is the rest of Western North Carolina.

    Yep!

  26. sonjia

    Jason,

    just out of curiosity, why don’t you move to, say Greenville SC, if you want to get away from dreadlocked trustafarians? there are all kinds of ‘regular joes’ down thatway. AND!, most of the fashion and pop-culture has only reached about mid-1990’s.

    Not to say that asheville doesn’t need people who hates hippies, because it does. i’m just saying, living in asheville might not be the best place for someone who hates hippies. i worry about your health.

  27. Mr Bugg

    I don’t think I can dumb it down any more.

    Do you really think that the vast majority of downtown business owners are millionaires?

  28. RHJ

    When you let big business compete directly with local small business, big business is going to have a huge advantage.

    Without going into a serious economics course, their is something called the “Economies of Scale”. What that means is, larger companies can sell the same or similar goods cheaper per unit than smaller companies. Look it up on Wikipedia.

    “Yeah! Cheaper goods,” you might say. What it really means is the inability of local businesses to compete, and downtown becomes the homogenous American town that no one wants to go to.

    Also read “The Wal-mart Effect” to understand how small towns throughout the country have been effected negatively when local businesses can’t compete with a big business.

  29. Jay

    I’d love to have an Urban Outfitters downtown rather than yet another new age crystal shop.

  30. Laugh Your Asheville Off

    I want to open up a coffee/art gallery/bumper sticker shop that is an produce market on the weekend.

  31. Dionysis

    “You people need to learn that just because something is “Asheville” that it doesn’t automatically make it a good thing.”

    Whatever you say, Professor Know-it-all.

  32. Laugh Your Asheville Off

    Once, I bumped into Jason, and I was like “hey whats the capital of Mongolia” and he said “Ulaanbaatar”. He might just know it all.

  33. Robert

    Well Jason, your little sarcastic “burlap sack wearing” and “vegan pancakes” comments does come a little close, but since they were also pretty funny, Kudos! (Kudos meaning “congratulations”, not referring to those crappy candy bars you could buy in the 1980s.) Lighten up people!

  34. puttyfoot

    jason, name-calling is all you do.

    no offense intended.

    you are like the disclaimer. funny when i dont care about the issue, angering when it hits home.

    well, like the disclaimer, but much, much less witty. and i know you consider that an insult because i know you hate the disclaimer.maybe more like andrew dice clay. a one-hit wonder with a shtick of insult and shock.

  35. Rob Close

    someone brought up the mellow mushroom…

    this is a great example of a chain store that has gone the extra mile to blend in with our unique nature. so well that it seems ya’ll forgot that they’re a decent-sized corporate chain from across the Southeast.

    then again, i’d hope we didn’t get a dunkin donuts down here, simple because they’re every 100 yards up north. but maybe if they made the coolest DD ever i’d want to reconsider. a moratorium against corporations would prevent even consideration.

  36. Once again, I stick to the issues, and posters like “puttyfoot” just throw out lame insults. For the record, if I disagree with you, I’ll form a logical arguement, and hopefully you will see the light.

    Some people when disagreed with instead resort to personal attacks and insults, and they somehow feel smarter and wittier for doing so.

    It’s amazing some of you haven’t been hit by trains this late in life.

  37. Dionysis

    Mr. Bugg disingenously claims:

    “I stick to the issues” and “I’ll form a logical arguement”

    Sure you do; from another topic in this week’s Mountain Express, you offer your typical “stick to the issues…logical arguement (sic)…”.

    “You know what the problem with public transportation is? It lets the public use it. The very idea of me riding with the likes of you people makes me feel ill.”

    This is typical. A dose of insult, a little invective, a dash of condescension, wrapped in a haughty delivery. Impressive!

  38. Aw… don’t bug the Bugg, guys. His is a unique voice on this board.

    In fact, we all should stay away from personal insults and stick to discussion of the topic.

    er… what was it, anyway?

    Oh yeah, chain stores in downtown Asheville. You know, when I was growing up out here on the farm in Alexander (in the 1950s) we regularly patronized a REAL chain store in Asheville, T.S. Morrison’s Hardware down on Lexington Avenue. No matter the kind of chain you needed — from a heavy logging chain to the light chain we used to ‘stob out’ cows for grazing, Morrison’s had it. I bought my first Barlow knife there with money I had earned helping a neighbor with chores.

    Today, the world has changed. Just try to find a ‘stob’ chain in Wally Mart, they don’t got them. … Thank goodness for Tractor Supply!

    But… national stores in downtown Asheville… sure, why not. The more, the better. It all has to do with economic models. Plenty of room too for local merchants, just find a niche the big boys don’t want. I’ve made a very good living in Asheville and Western North Carolina for the last 30 years by mining those niches.

    But… whatever you do, don’t bug the Bugg.

  39. travelah

    Unfortunately for Asheville, we seem to be governed by a leadership swayed by the eclectic mindsets of a minority interested more in promoting their own foreign mindset than governing for the interests of the whole community. Chain stores located downtown are very much the same as chain stores located out of the downtown.(duh) Of course that’s an obvious statement however what does not seem obvious to the seeded pot mentality is that a business such as Mellow Mushroom (using them only as an example) IS a local business. I believe it is a franchise owned and operated not by a large corporation but by local people who have invested their time, sweat and equity to make a living in a community that appreciates their business. Look at the crowds they draw to illustrate that reality. The same is true of Subway. It is again a locally owned franchise. It seems to me the real problem these short-sighted individuals have is an irritating dislike of the names of these establishments. I suspect that if Subway took down the signs, changed the décor and advertised itself as Franklin’s TowerSubs or Blue Mystic Eatery, there would be no further complaints. The real problem is a dislike for anything outside the cultural paradigm of this narrow minded group of supposed “free thinkers” whose agenda is to force a foreign culture upon the long time residents of Asheville, NC. … They might succeed but in the end all they will have done is brought the same mindset with them that they ran from in the first place.

    A.M. Mallett

  40. orulz

    “Okay, hold the anchor stores (I have all the anchors I need anyway) and give us free parking.

    You gotta admit, ANY store downtown would do better if there was plenty of free parking.”

    Perhaps you’ve missed it, but well-run businesses downtown that serve a market where there is demand already do well – free parking be damned. The idea that oodles of free parking is the only way for stores to survive is a product of the post-war suburban mindset, and that mindset went the way of the Dodo in downtown Asheville at least a decade ago.

    Oh, and by the way – when there’s “free parking” – the stores pass the cost of that parking on to you indirectly through the cost of goods & services. As they say, “There’s No Such Thing As A Free Lunch.” It costs lots of money to build, maintain, and pay property taxes on parking lots & decks, particularly in places where land is valuable, like Downtown.

    Thirdly, refusing to paying a couple bucks for parking – and then burning $4 of gas and 20 minutes driving out to the Mall and back because of it – makes no sense.

    And finally, is I said before, putting in lots and lots of free parking downtown won’t help it at all. It will only dilute the concentration of shops and restaurants with “dead space”. If you can put the parking above ground or below ground, and leave all the ground-floor space for retail, then fine, because have all the parking you want, – but most places that I’ve seen, parking that is above or below ground, the parking is not free because it costs so much to build.

    As long as parking is reasonably priced (it is – particularly compared to gas these days) downtown will do just fine.

  41. orulz… for the MAJORITY of folk in Buncombe County, the mall (or a shopping center of some sort) is ON THE WAY INTO town. So, if there’s not sufficient parking downtown, we don’t need to go there.

    How do you think downtown got in the trouble it was in for several decades — no free parking.

    Let me drive this point home. 219,000 people live in Buncombe County (and you can add another 100,000 or so in the outlying counties. Asheville itself has a population of about 68,000. Do the math. You want a lot more consumers downtown, provide more parking or we won’t come.

  42. Thomas guillard Pennigliea

    Mr. Roberts,

    Why, again, would downtown Asheville “need more customers”?

    Is not the issue that there are too many people downtown? Or at least, just a perfect amount?

  43. Rebecca Mitchell

    It’s called using creativity to create an ambiance that is unique and competitive. Other cities have capitilized on these concepts and turned themselves into “The Place To Shop” “The City To Visit” You have to think big to maintain native. You have to cater to what made us famous.

    1. DEVELOP WITH SENSITIVITY:
    A. Buildings must be build and/or remodeled with historical appearance.
    B. Tax breaks for new businesses using locally purchased products, hiring local employees and utilizing local resources.
    C. Heigth restrictions to maintain views.
    2. INCENTIVES
    A. Consumer incentives for shopping non-chain/locally owned enterprises to compensate for nationally competitive pricing by “Big Company Purchasing Power”
    B. City sponsored rebates for locally owned shopping.
    C. Purchasing co-op for locally owned enterprises for better purchasing power.
    D. Redirect percentage of parking fees for city native remodeling.
    E. Tax breaks for “updating” look to historical.
    3. UPDATE TO GO NATIVE
    A. More streets like Wall Street to induce tourists to forego the “Mall White Sound Look and Feel” for an aestetic experience.
    B. Incorporate local landscapers to build graden and rock fountains in city to bring the forest feel into the city.
    4. CAMPAIGN
    A. If you chain yourself to a tree or stand in the streets for a protest, you can stand with a bucket for money for local business endeavors.
    B. Start a “tax write off” fund for the development of a “Go Native Ashville” development program.

    AM I ALONE??? SEND IN YOUR POSITIVE CONTRIBUTIONS!!! WHO CARES ABOUT YOUR WORDS??? WE NEED ACTION BEFORE WE BECOME EXTINCT!!!

    COME ON PEOPLE. YOU CAN’T STOP THE INFLUX OF PROGRESS. STOP WHINING AND TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR SAVING OUR LITTLE PIECE OF HEAVEN. PUT YOUR BRAIN, MOUTH AND POCKETBOOK WHERE YOUR DREAMS ARE!!!

    KEY WEST – MANHATTEN – SAN FRANCISCO – MIAMI

    WAYNESVILLE (Mainstreet) – WEAVERVILLE (Secret Garden Spa) – Maggie Valley (New rock fountain)

    What is your little town doing?

    Share what brings you downtown!

    P.S. There’s a lot more parking than alot of you project. You want everything for free. I throw all my quarters in my glovebox and know where all lots and structures are located…do you??? Or do you just JUSTIFY your lack of committment and laziness???

  44. Thomas, have you ever been a downtown merchant? I have and it’s a hard row to hoe. Ask any Asheville merchant if they need more customers with all the rising costs. They will answer ‘yes!’

    Ask also what it takes to get more customers.

    The answer will be ‘parking’ … often, ‘free parking.’

  45. Thomas

    Mr. Roberts,

    Well, i can tell you that if you were to be in the business of selling unregulated pain medication out of Pritchard Park, your business would be booming. Perhaps these ‘local merchants” need to change their product.

    Rebecca:

    Great ideas. Truly. The nay-sayers will poo-poo on them, and you, by saying that promoting a beautiful, thought-out downtown is ‘elitist’. They think that supporting McDonald’s and Staples is being a Populist.

  46. thommy

    I know that whenever I need a cup of free-trade Chiapas coffee, three malakite crystals, and a book about Mayan Astrology, Downtown Asheville is the Place for Me!!

    But when i need cheap white tea-shirts in a three-pack, manufactured by 20-cent-a-day Chinese children, well, then, its the Mall all the way!

    Yeah! for Diversity ™

  47. Thomas… no, what I’m saying is that for about 200 years Asheville has been the commercial hub of Western North Carolina. I don’t any small group of flatlanders are going to change that (nor should they be able to) anytime soon, no matter how ‘progressive’ they claim to be.

    The sheer force of real progress and economics will grind such unrealistic concern under much like corn through a grist mill.

  48. Thommy, Wallymart would be better for cheap white teeshirts… and if enough consumer demand arises, they will stock Chiapas coffee and malakite crystals… I believe they already have the books about Mayan astrology at a quite reasonable price.

  49. I notice that some of the commenters in this thread are quoted in the print edition of this week’s Mountain Xpress.

    Is it Mt X policy to quote often anonymous sources directly from their blog message boards to the print newspaper? Do you say so somewhere? Did you ask these folks’ permission to reprint their opinions?

    Maybe it’s splitting hairs, but I would want to know if what I was saying here might be reprinted elsewhere, particularly in the paper/magazine. At the least, I’d be more careful about my grammar and sentence structure.

    Also, it seems that, while the opinions expressed here are often quite good, it’d be easy to go downtown and get good quote from folks whose names and identities are verifiable.

  50. ken van alsburg

    Target and other stores should be allowed to enter, stimulating street activity…All buidings however must conform to New Urban Rules, such as art deco, art nouveau etc….Downtowns are stimulated by retail, so what is the fuss….Small mom and pop stores don’t exist and where they do, the majority are ugly and demeaning….Look at the ethnic stores in most city neighborhoods,with their fluorescent lighting and lack of a STORE WINDOW….Disgusting? Provide, one long crosstown light rail line, as in 24 french cities the size of Asheville and Asheville would be the pride of the USA…..Downtown,needs great architecure, from the twenties, not the seventies,in order to reinvent itself…Don’t you cry when you look at photos of asheville in the twenties ,thirties and fourties.?…No glass monstronsities….Send the Yale and Harvard schools of architecture back to the Bauhaus in Germany….They ruined the USA for the next century with their glass rectangular boxes…Worse yet, they called it architecture….

  51. Lloyd

    I am moving to Asheville from a city already taken over by big box stores that have driven many small business owners out of business. If the large chain stores come into downtown then rent prices will be raised through the roof and may force many of the privately owned businesses that we love….out of business. I am moving to Asheville because I am tired of all the chain stores and want to live somewhere unique and different. I love Asheville for all of its unique businesses, I can go to downtown. If I want to go to a chain store I can just head out of downtown on Tunnel Road!

  52. The Wine Mule

    The question is, can downtown Asheville prosper on an economy based on quirky local stores. As best I can tell, you can live life around here without ever having a real reason to go downtown, unless it’s to go to court. I honestly don’t know whether that’s good or bad, or somewhere in between.

    PS: Regarding parking–when parking stops being an issue, then we’ll be in REAL trouble.

  53. I am curious about this dichotomy that seems to surface any time this issue is discussed. Personally, I don’t understand why anyone would actively lobby for big, out-of-town box-stores to come into their downtown area. They receive all kinds of local government kickbacks, and then turn around and out-price local merchants with predatory (and illegal) under-cost pricing of similar merchandise.

    In contrast, I can understand why any self-styled ‘good-‘ol-boy, local’ may feel that it is too elitist to have a bunch of over-priced eco-fashion stores and crystal shops downtown that don’t seem to carry the same populist appeal of, say Wal Mart or Sears.

    But, again, do we want to invite that presence to the downtown area?

    Where as a local merchant has a much higher chance of having ties to the community, keeping profits in circulation, and keeping a local flavor alive, any massive, out-of-town entity like Staples or McDonald’s is only beholden to their shareholder’s desire to constantly show a profit. The notion that the few, petty jobs these multi-nationals provide the community in any way balances out the cost of them gutting our local economy until it no longer serves them seems wishful, at best. Taxpayers are always left to foot the bill when Wal-Mart decides to abandon it’s shell and move on to a new area.

    Although both ‘sides’ of this issue bring up incredibly valid points, to say that Asheville, as a community, needs to actually encourage the eventual collapse of such a colorful, quircky, and, yes, vibrant downtown seems self-destructive.

    Locally owned and controlled Franchises like the Mellow Mushroom, and even Subway, can have a lot more beneficial impact on the community than the big chains some on this blog seem to be rallying for.

    And, Ralph, if you truly demand the convenience of The Mall in your neighborhood, why don’t you lobby for one to be built right near your house? Perhaps that freeway you so desperately need could be built right through your yard as well? :-)

  54. So, here’s an actual solution oriented idea: Require all companies above x number of employees to provide at least 75% of them with insurance and a living wage. Then you have a small business incubation built in.

    Downtown has to go taller to accommodate demand, so require that all buildings being remodeled with a budget in excess of x provide at least 20% of their own energy or reduce energy use of similar buildings by 20%. The protestations of NIMBY’s have to diminish (look at the new Montford development) when the developer actually makes a place better with their building.

    And if paying for parking was really a problem in downtown, there wouldn’t be so much problem finding a parking space. I submit that Mr. Roberts would actually rather go to Tunnel Road, regardless of the parking situation, while I personally avoid it like the plague. Nothing says “ick” like a three mile long parking lot with stoplights.

  55. Nate

    Isn’t CVS a chain? It was there. At least the Urban Outfitters store will fit in more than a big red neon “CVS” on the street. Plus, this will bring more people to downtown. There isn’t much shopping in the area and the shopping that is available is expensive and just as trendy for the for the most part. It will also open up jobs, bring revenue into the city and again, it will look better than a CVS or a vacant building.

    Places like Charleston, Savannah, San Fransisco and many more are all UNIQUE cities, but they also realize that if they didn’t have chain stores providing tax dollars and employment, their cities would crumble.

    It’s easy to understand that people may be offended by these chain stores, but come on, no one is making you buy their goods. Continue to shop at the same stores you shop at, but don’t make it unavailable to everyone else.

  56. Piffy!

    Asheville is not comparable to San Francisco, Savannah, or Charleston.

  57. Rebecca

    I think Asheville should place a ban on incoming “big box” chains within the downtown area. Outside of downtown…fine. But keeping Asheville unique and independent is relevant to it’s success as a tourist attraction…not to mention population growth. Who would come to a city that was a tinier version of where they were leaving?

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