Urban Outfitters announces plans to open downtown store, to a mixed reception

National retail outlet Urban Outfitters announced plans on Friday to open a retail store at the corner of Haywood and College streets.

Ken Masri, Urban Outfitters’ director of store development, told a downtown development advisory board that it hoped to open in the former CVS drug store location by fall. Urban Outfitters plans to remove the plaster covering the exterior of the building to expose original brick, Masri said, and improve the “eyesore” of a building. The two-story, 8,000-square-foot store will feature a central staircase, large windows and merchandise tailored to the Asheville market, he said. It would bring life back to a large, two-story building that’s been vacant since the closing of the drug store earlier this year.

“We’ve been looking at Asheville for five years but never felt the timing or location was right,” Masri said. “Now we feel it’s time.”

The store’s plans got a mostly positive reaction from members of the Asheville Downtown Commission.

Small downtown retailers will be concerned about Urban Outfitter’s impact on them, commission Chairman Jesse Plaster said. “However, I feel like you’re really animating what’s been a dead corner for some time. I think there’s real potential to help downtown.”

Commission member Harry Weiss told the store representatives that their proposal will spark debate about the impact of chain stores on Asheville’s downtown business district, which is mostly populated by independent boutiques and locally owned small businesses.

“The whole issue of chain stores in downtown has been a rather abstract discussion,” Weiss said, despite the fact that there are chains in downtown, including Subway, Marble Slab, Mast General Store, and formerly the CVS drug store. “Your introduction into the community is going to be a great magnifying lens on that conversation,” Weiss said.

John Rogers, another commission member, said, “It’s wonderful, I think, to have you here. The building is such a dog the way it is now.”

Downtown retailers offered mixed reactions. Betsy Bradfield, owner of the clothing store Frock on Haywood Street, said she didn’t automatically object to Urban Outfitters, but added that “I think if we had more than one national chain, it would be detrimental to downtown. I definitely don’t want this to be a trend.”

Tamara Serapio, owner of the Talu clothing shop on Haywood Street, said she was opposed to Urban Outfitters coming to downtown.

“It’s against everything Asheville stands for,” Serapio said. “I’m anti-corporation. Corporations drive out people like me. I make clothing, I work directly with the people who make clothing for me. I do fair trade, and these people are going to put people like me out of business. But unfortunately, we have people who shop there.”

The owners of the Union clothing store on Haywood Street directly across from the proposed Urban Outfitters location declined to comment.

Masri told commission members that he understood the apprehension about a national chain moving into a small town.

“We thrive on having a closeness with other retailers,” Masri said, adding that Urban Outfitters won’t be in direct competition with other retailers. “I’m not going to compete with your business. I’m going to increase the draw to downtown,” and that will help all businesses, he said.

Urban Outfitters is still ironing out design details and a construction schedule, Masri said. But the store hopes that it can be up and running by Thanksgiving.

Urban Outfitters sells everything from men’s and women’s clothing to accessories, novelties, books and rugs. Urban Outfitters is a publicly traded company that also owns the apparel stores Anthropologie and Free People, and retail stores Terrain, which sell home and garden products. Aside from its retail business, Urban Outfitters specializes in adaptive rehabilitation of older buildings. It’s headquartered in restored buildings in an old U.S. Navy yard in Philadelphia.

— Jason Sandford, multimedia editor


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131 thoughts on “Urban Outfitters announces plans to open downtown store, to a mixed reception

  1. Great. Just Great.

    A new uniform store for the tragically hip and the celebrities of ‘Street Style.’ Just what we need.
    We’ll never break the chain.
    Urban Outfitters would fit in great in the Asheville Mall. Just like Baby Gap did.

    What we need is another brewery! ;)

  2. brebro

    I haven’t read the article yet, but haven’t we reached a place in our culture where receptions can include people of ALL ethnic backgrounds without it being a big deal that needs to make headlines?

  3. I just tweeted this out as well as @jenbowen:

    Some quick research on the chain stores in the Central Business District of Asheville:

    Currently there are 103 Mellow Mushrooms, only residing in the US. Asheville was one of the first outside markets from their original primary presence in Georgia. I can’t say when they were established in Asheville & how much of a chain presence they had at that time. Regardless, for many years Mellow Mushroom has a beloved downtown hot-spot.

    Subway Restaurant has 31,295 franchises in 90 Countries, with no info on how many specifically reside in the US. I also am also unsure as to the date the franchise was accepted into downtown, but I believe it to be in the past decade.

    Urban Outfitters currently has 124 locations throughout the US, with many others in foreign countries. There are only two others in NC: one in Charlotte, the other in Durham.

    Are there any other multi-state chains in the downtown area that I am forgetting?

    While I am all for filling in empty storefronts, retrofitting & preserving older architecture, and bringing new jobs to Asheville & the Central Business District, my concern is that this may actually cost jobs & create more empty storefronts, as well as hinder Asheville’s creative growth.

    Traditionally an Urban Outfitters would be great in one of our shopping malls, but alas, our malls are not really up to par with the rest of hip Asheville.

    Urban Outfitters would bring more lower-average paying retail jobs, not higher premium wages; and their prices will be cut out most of our indie clothing stores downtown. Asheville is booming right now with local fashion and design – my concern is that a store like Urban Outfitters would be direct conflict to independent talent that already currently exists.

  4. To followup on other Urban Outfitter locations:

    Unofficial ‘Sister Cities’ who have Urban Outfitters:
    Madison, WI
    Charleston, SC
    Portland, OR
    Savannah, GA
    Boulder, CO

    Unofficial ‘Sister Cities’ With-Out Urban Outfitters:
    Sante Fe, NM
    Eugene, OR
    Chattanooga, TN
    Manitou Springs, CO

  5. Piffy!

    [b]I haven’t read the article yet, but haven’t we reached a place in our culture where receptions can include people of ALL ethnic backgrounds without it being a big deal that needs to make headlines? [/b]

    “Urban” or “mixed”?

  6. Other downtown chains noted in the MX article:

    Mast General Store:
    9 store locations, considered a ‘local chain’ with 7 of the stores residing in NC, the other two in Greenville, SC & Knoxville, TN.

    Marble Slab Creamery:
    There are 391 franchises throughout the US, Canada, Puerto Rico, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, and recently Kuwait, Lebanon and Scotland. Majority of these franchising residing in the US.

  7. brebro

    I was going for “mixed” because I forgot “urban” has become a code word, but that works too.

  8. Freddy

    One of the reasons people come here is so they don’t find a bunch of crap that they can find in their own cities. An Urban Outfitters in Asheville is just pure comedy.

    The first one was on lower 5th Ave. in Manhattan. It was a place to get cheap, black clothing you had to rummage in these huge boxes for. The GAP used to be the same way, you would go to the GAP warehouse and search for a pair of jeans amongst huge piles of denim, not anymore.

    This is just dumb. Go away Urban Outfitters – you are the new GAP.

  9. hauntedheadnc

    So, I think we’re all in agreement here that we’d rather have an empty storefront, a mutilated building, and no jobs at all rather than a national chain in a restored building and retail jobs?

  10. John Murphy

    Now, urban outfitters is an interesting store. A friend of mine has a line of his greeting cards there, so I’m happy about that. But in general, Ashvillians already hand make most of what UO sells at top dollar. That location is too close to several local businesses that target a similar audience. I’d hate to see them get Wal-Marted. UO should open in the mall down Brevard road and help keep it from going under.

  11. Freddy

    So, I think we’re all in agreement here that we’d rather have an empty storefront, a mutilated building, and no jobs at all rather than a national chain in a restored building and retail jobs?

    Dude..this is when Asheville was cool.

    but, go ahead..apply for that 8.50 an hour job.

  12. Forrest

    Chain stores are already in downtown, it’s just that some seem less “offensive” than others. CVS was simply a convenience store, Subway,Mellow Mushroom, etc are small and tend to blend in.

    UO’s prominent position will be a stronger statement for better or for worse depending on one’s perspective.

    They are not going to kill downtown’s unique indie feel. The worry becomes the pressure that is placed on nearby local businesses through property values. Chains also often follow each other around. So if UO does well look for GAP and A&F to be scouting locations. There is a tipping point where the intangible vibe can be destroyed.

    I lived on King St in downtown Charleston and watched dozens of local stores being driven out and replaced by chains. Now almost of all of Charleston’s premier retail strip is dominated by chain stores. It’s sad and I fear Asheville will end up the same way.

  13. coursepate

    Too bad someone didn’t have the money to pick up the store on Rankin and Walnut and turn that space into a local version of an Urban Outfitters. Providing jobs and an outlet for regional crafts people like those at the Big Crafty this weekend…and to support local clothing designers … the Urban Outfitters is an awful fit for downtown Asheville. The product mix has become formulaic and is no different than old navy in many ways … miss Jenny is right this thing belongs in the mall .. or maybe they could pick up a forgotten warehouse near sweeten creek….

  14. Mysterylogger

    Bring it on!! Less trinket stores is a better thing, the last thing this town needs is another, coffee shop, brewery, head shop, trinket stores, books store . .. Something you know different.

  15. Piffy!

    we should get JRM to dress up in his chicken work suit and pelt anyone who goes there with rotten eggs wrapped in coupons for local artisans’ wares.

    or pay local panhandlers to poo in the dressing rooms.

    that works too.

  16. Time to Go!

    “Too bad someone didn’t have the money to pick up the store on Rankin and Walnut and turn that space into a local version of an Urban Outfitters.”

    There is a much better, more interesting, local version of Urban Outfitters.

    It’s called L.O.F.T.

    The fact that anyone can be even one bit excited about ANOTHER chain moving into downtown only means one thing: It is over. Time to move on.
    The natural progression of a neighborhood or small city has taken place.
    Asheville is over.

  17. Freddy

    The more I think about this, the more depressed I get. I mean, right smack dab in the middle of town..

  18. Yes we SHOULD

    If you have actually ever been in an Urban Outfitters, it is a cool, fun experience. Great music, edgy, well-priced clothes and funky, affordable home decor for those who are into having fun with new trends without breaking the bank. Every store is organic in merchandising and the floor plan and it is the “un-chain” of chain stores. After all, they are restoring the building, not tearing it down or building it up. This will provide inspiration to local businesses, foot traffic and increased interest in the downtown area. Oh, and provide jobs and benefits to a state that has over an 10% unemployment rate. This is great news about the growth of Asheville and the economy.

    It is one thing to protest an obtrusive company that will cheapen the experience of downtown, but now we have folks protesting for the sake of protesting. Please. Do your research-and watch downtown thrive.

  19. hauntedheadnc

    Jenny, you’re hard to read… You don’t get upset about a church’s plans to turn two historic buildings into parking lots, but you do fret about an empty building becoming home to a retail store.

    I prefer to think of what I do as distilling, by the way. I’m only saying what you’ve already said in a clearer way. You’re upset about retail and the wages it pays. What would you rather go in there that pays better?

    Actually, I’m thinking that if you’re taking a stand against retail, and we already have Cecil Bothwell coming out against hotels, if we could just get Esther Manheimer and that other guy to take a hardline stance on art galleries and restaurants, we’d pretty much have all the downtown bases covered, don’t you?

  20. Trey

    What we need is another head shop in that location… wait, octopus garden may be considered a chain.

    How about another futon store or bead shop?

    Another store full of cheap plastic crap to sell to the tourists?

  21. hauntedheadnc

    Jenny, in retrospect, I do apologize for the cheap shot I took in my last paragraph. Trust that I have nothing but the utmost respect for you and your intentions.

    I did mean it though when I say you’re hard to read, and I’m seriously asking — if you’re apprehensive about chain retail because it’s chain retail, and because of the wages that would pay, what do you suggest as an alternative?

  22. ThePhan

    I will remind everyone that the space was formerly occupied by a chain store, and has sat vacant for over a year. The plan to renovate it is a good one, on a major corner of downtown, and who else has the capital to renovate 8,000 sq ft into an attractive building? This particular store will draw shoppers downtown who will also visit local stores carrying complementary merchandise.

    Again, who should decide which chains are okay? City council? Planning commission? Merchants association? This isn’t a private mall. And does this mean we should have no chain hotels downtown? Banks? Gas stations? Accounting firms? Brokerages? What about chains already downtown–should we boot them? What if a local downtown business expands to one or more locations outside downtown? Is it now a “chain?”

    Good luck trying to justify this one. It is a very slippery slope.

  23. travelah

    I am sure the nut eaters and rag patchers are opposed to it but I think it is great that a viable retailer will take that mess of a corner and do something good with it.

  24. Austin

    I’ll have to start shopping at Union again just out of spite.

    The ownership of UO donates money to Republican candidates (Rick Santorum-homophobe and bigot), exclusively, so far as I can tell. I love it, Repubs. making money off of thoughtless hipsters.

    It seems UO drudges the internet and steals designs, modifying them just enough to get by copyright infringements.

    “If you google “Urban Outfitters” and “Infringement” – you will find a couple hundred court cases about Urban Outfitters screwing over young/small designers & clothing lines. Urban outfitters makes 856 Miliion dollars a year. They put small shops out of business. They’re the Wallmart/Hot Topic of clothing stores.”

    But hey, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs. Oh, it’s orgasmic contemplating all the wonderful new things we can all do with all this new money flowing through our community. All of our social ills will be magically swept away as their generous flow of cash fills our local coffers. They are going to save us from our own……………????????? what? What the hell do we need this for?
    Oh yeah, to fill an empty building. O.K.

  25. Austin

    Hey, nuts are healthy and delicious, that’s the lamest insult I have ever seen hurled.

  26. Jason

    It more than just filling an empty building. It’s bringing more people with disposable income into downtown Asheville. People who will eat at Tupelo Honey, maybe have a drink at the Frog Bar, coffee at Green Sage, perhaps wander into Union, or Woolworth Walk, Malaprop’s. I don’t understand why everybody is so against luring people looking to spend money into downtown Asheville. No, let them go to the mall and increase Stewart Coleman’s coffers. This is not the Gap. There is not one on every corner. There are only 124 of them in the nation. It’s not just serving Asheville, but would draw people from Greenville, Spartanburg, Knoxville, etc. No, No why don’t they all go to the mall and buy their books at Barnes and Noble, get their coffee at Starbucks, asnack at McDonalds, then head out to eat at Chilli’s or the Olive Garden. Damn, sometimes I feel like Ashevillians would even protest Buddha if he wanted to set up a store in Downtown Asheville.

  27. hauntedheadnc

    Same question I’m asking of everyone else against it, Austin: If you don’t like it, what do you suggest as an alternative?

    I can understand being against a specific chain for specific reasons as you are with this one, but why would you be upset about the jobs it would bring? Should we not be trying to bring more jobs to the community?

    No, a job at this place isn’t going to put enough in anyone’s wallet for them to afford a downtown condo, but it might keep the lights on or it might make sure you can eat and not have to go hungry so your child can eat. And yes, I do personally know of a situation where a menial job does make that difference for a family.

  28. brebro

    I would suggest Banana Republic as an alternative, but I heard that they actually do send their proceeds to prop up self-elected, corrupt leaders of politically unstable Central American and African countries.

  29. jeff

    It’s interesting to note how people’s very articulate and specific criticisms of why Urban Outfitters is a bad fit for this location are boiled down and simplified by the Peanut Gallery as “No Growth”.

    As if the opinions of people who live in the area somehow arent relevant.

    This will add a few measley minimum wage jobs, and will continue the slippery slope of the homoginization of downtown asheville.

    Will it destroy asheville? No. Will it save asheville? No. Will it contribute to asheville’s unique character? probably not.

    [b]Hey, nuts are healthy and delicious, that’s the lamest insult I have ever seen hurled. [/b]

    well, they are generally even lamer. you shouls see some of the crap he posts.

  30. entopticon

    Some of the conservatives who are convinced that I am always predictable may be surprised to find that I am actually very supportive of the UO going into the downtown area. I think Jason is entirely right that it is about bringing people who will support local businesses as well to the downtown area.

    Local designers already sell their wears through UO, and we should encourage the AVL UO to support local crafts people as much as possible. From what I hear they are planning to bring back the brick on that eyesore of a building, which is great news. Anyone who doesn’t think a vacant building has a deleterious effect on the surrounding shops is misguided, because it most certainly does have a significantly negative affect on the surrounding businesses.

  31. Piffy!

    [b]why would you be upset about the jobs it would bring? Should we not be trying to bring more jobs to the community? [/b]

    First of all, UO isnt hiring any poor, single mothers. They will hire cute little highschool and early college kids. Second, Making minimum wage is not really going to help anyone make any bill payments or get food. but, hey! they can get a 40% discount on skinny-clothes!

  32. Mysterylogger

    Jobs are jobs. And I bet the pay is more then a Coffee Shop, head shop, or any other of the great places of employment downtown, oh wait . . . There isn’t any.

    If it was another typical Asheville shop no word would be said, but something a bit different you know “Diverse” people get their panties in a wad.

  33. ThePhan

    Those of you who are so opposed to retail jobs might want to consider the thousands of retail workers who have lost theirs in the last year. What exactly do you propose they do while they are working to be retrained as bankruptcy lawyers, federal government clerks, and rocket scientists?

  34. entopticon

    For what it’s worth, my wife supported herself by working at UO when she needed some way to support herself. With the lack of jobs in this area, any new jobs have to be taken seriously. I think people have some legitimate concerns when they worry about chains taking over, but they are also reflexive at times when it comes to that subject, and I think this may be a case of that.

    I am very glad to see somebody doing something with that eyesore of a building, and I think it will help draw more clothing shoppers away from the mall to the downtown area, helping local businesses and it will help to keep that corner from feeling like a dead zone right in the middle of town as it does now, which certainly hurts local businesses.

    If it were up to me, instead of a UO it would be an emporium for sustainable practices and green technologies, selling everything from organic chicken feed (surprisingly not sold at any store in asheville) to canning supplies, to home cheese presses, to wind turbines, to gardening equipment, to solar panels. But it’s not up to me, and I think an UO is a whole lot better than the vacant eyesore that’s there now.

  35. Ezekiel

    Why did CVS leave? Is there any drug store remaining downtown?

    Personally I’d prefer something besides UO, but I guess even UO is better than an empty building.

  36. entopticon

    The greatest irony here may be that Urban Outfitters, which has around 125 stores, making it roughly comparable to the Mellow Mushroom (where are the Mellow Mushroom protestors?) will be replacing one of the largest chains in America, CVS, which has around 7,000 stores. In the process they will be making the building much more attractive, drawing business to the downtown area, and even selling the goods of local designers.

    In the above article they mention that Urban Outfitters specializes in rehabbing urban architecture, which is very true, and exactly what many in Asheville have been calling for. They have saved some pretty amazing buildings in other cities, rather than building ugly new box stores in suburban sprawl. They are already talking about getting rid of the god awful facade on the the former CVS site and returning it to the original brick, which would be a great service to the downtown community.

  37. ashkat

    Why did CVS leave? Now we don’t have a drugstore in walking distance. We used it a lot and there were alwys people in there.

  38. There is still a great drug store downtown, on Pritchard Park. Asheville Discount Pharmacy next to Jerusalem Garden. Their drug prices are often lower than BCBSNC co-pay, and they’re locally owned and friendly.

  39. What was going to go in there a local manufacturer of Solar Panels paying outstanding wages to the workers? It is a retail space! Retail does not pay very well local or chain, so the wage argument is silly. In general I would prefer that it was not a chain, and I surely do not want to change all of the shops downtown into chains. I was completely against Kilwin’s (Still prefer the fetish) on Battery Park, but it may the one reason that the bland and poorly managed local business Johnny’s Uptown Grill is still in existence. A symbiosis of chain and local may be a healthy mix.
    “Now we don’t have a drugstore in walking distance”
    Try Lords Pharmacy down on Pritchard Park they sell drugs, drinks and cigarettes, but I don’t think that they sell 10 pound bags of candy corn or cheap Chinese trinkets that the mini Wal-Mart(CVS) sold.

  40. LOKEL

    “Chains” downtown:

    Bank of America
    First Citizens
    Carolina First
    Coldwell Banker
    Merrill Lynch
    Indigo Hotel
    Days Inn
    Starbucks (on Charlotte) but still “downtown”
    Tripps Restaurant
    Wild Wing Cafe
    CVS (now gone)

    not to mention any other National Real Estate franchises… brokerage firms, car dealerships/rentals, tire stores, gas stations etc.

    Are we going to ask all these folks to move out of Downtown?

  41. tacostacos

    People are reading their own ignorance into this headline – without reading the article. “Urban” Outfitters isn’t code for anything ethnic. It’s just cheap hipster crap.

    I’ve worked scads of jobs across the spectrum, and Urban Outfitters is one of the worst places I’ve worked. They hire young people, pay them pennies, and trust they will reinvest their paychecks into the store. They are the rudest company I have worked for and they refer to theft-deterrents as “enhanced customer service.” The irony being that it is the only time they ever offer to help people.

    Anyway – yes, we have many many better alternatives here in Asheville and yes, it is a very slippery slope before your town turns into yet another “small tourist town” that is suddenly awash in faceless stores that belong in the mall, not downtown. I could list a dozen small cities that have been largely overrun by The Gap, B&N, A&F, Victoria’s Secret, etc, etc, etc.

    But, it will make money, so good for them (?)

  42. Exactly what Forrest said upthread – I am another former Charlestonian who watched King Street turn from a nice mish mash of local businesses into a bland mall with exactly the same stores as any upscale mall. The same thing on a larger scale happened in NYC on lower Broadway and it diminishes the whole appeal of an area.

    The problem is not the chains by themselves, it’s that they attract other chains who can afford to pay much higher rent than a local store and thus the locals get pushed out. And as for jobs, well, yes, they will certainly be providing more minimum wage service economy jobs for twenty somethings but unfortunately, I tend to feel that we have enough of those here.

    I work downtown and it seems like the Discount Pharmacy is now the only place that carries small and useful items that anyone might need in a pinch, like duct tape or nylons, or, another lack downtown these days, quick, cheap, healthy carryout lunches, which are now pretty much the exclusive province of Lorettas. It’s too bad the Grove Market closed and I wish they, or someone like them, could have taken the CVS store.

  43. funguy

    [b] “Urban” Outfitters isn’t code for anything ethnic. It’s just cheap hipster crap.[/b]

    Way to not get a joke.

  44. tacostacos

    Way to not get a joke.

    Just trying to clarify for someone who might not be as enlightened as yourself.

  45. I question how many people will actually come into downtown just for UO. I doubt foot traffic in downtown is really the issue here.

    I’m all for balance of commerce in downtown between chains & local independent business, although I’ll always shop local if given the choice. Money spent in locally owned businesses have 3x the impact on your community as dollars that are spent at national chains.

    Regardless, after a lot of thought on the subject this weekend, my conclusion is that ethical consumerism is really the topic at hand. Chains like Mellow Mushroom put money & support back into the communities where they set up shop. A closer look at UO and one can see that there is little that is ethical in their practices or their consumerism.

    One of my main contentions with UO is not only the practicality that it will bring serious undercutting competition to the indie fashion market downtown, also bringing with it the danger of actually closing more shops & thus costing indie retail jobs; but the greater conflict with UO is in their general business practices.

    If one does a little wiki research on the company, you can see that this business makes it profits from exploiting workers in foreign countries (i.e. sweatshop standards, mostly from China or India) and from what I’ve read of UO consumer’s in cities similar to Asheville, the majority of the products are over-rated, under-quality and over-priced. From what I can tell, the only reason folks really like shopping there is for exceptional sales. If a business can have such high mark-downs doesn’t that say something about how much original mark-up is in reality?

    UO has been deemed highly controversial concerning racism, stereotyping, and exploiting localisms to their worst potentials. (If the desire is to get a few more local activists to take up a cause we’ll find one in the development of a UO downtown.)

    Going up the UO chain of command, we find the cofounder and President Richard Hayne’s is anything but hip or cool – including donating large sums of money to anti-homosexual senators & causes, including the controversial task of pulling a pro-gay marriage shirt from the UO line.
    ( http://la.racked.com/tags/richard-hayne )
    Urban Outfitters is just one example of a company that projects an image completely different from what its executives are really all about. As consumer’s wake up to their values, we have to ask ourselves what our hard-earned money is really going to support?

    But the major issue I take with UO, as an artist, is that they have been shown to rip off & steal independent designs, modify them minimally, and them market them as their own. It’s all blatantly abundant with painfully obvious examples on this blog – Urban Counterfeiters: http://urbncounterfeiters.blogspot.com/

    In Asheville, we tend to pride ourselves in being a community where we are able to shop our values; UO is the exact opposite of what a creative community should support.

    I suppose the free-market will decide, and if our local retailers and artists combine forces it wouldn’t be too difficult to get the word out about how un-hip this exploitive chain is in reality. Other cities with communities that have a strong arts & design scene have picketed outside of stores when first opened, handing out flyers with the above information. In the meantime at least they will make that building space more usable.

  46. hauntedheadnc

    Thanks for that research, Jenny. It sounds like this might end up being another store where the locals work and the tourists shop, and never the twain shall meet.

  47. PatD

    Ok, so the shortsighted folks, with a craving for mediocrity and the almighty dollar, are in favor of UO moving in. As always.

    The comment about ‘bringing people to town with disposable income’ is a joke. You can’t be serious.
    Have been to the Asheville Mall lately. Try it one day ( I know, it’s hard but do it anyway). Have a look at the people there, the kind of people I mean and let me know if you see any disposable income. Unless you count on mullet types, buying cheap imported crap or gulping on sodas and ice cream as income disposing. Yeah baby.

    Yes, downtown Asheville will, without any doubt, follow the examples (given above) we have seen in all other cities. It WILL become a mall driven by chain stores with only one goal … Profit (as a business owner, yes profit is most important but NO, not ‘the’ most important). That is, if nobody stands up to stop this.

    So, where and when is the action to stop this nonsense?

  48. Ugotta be kidding

    “the majority of the products are over-rated, under-quality and over-priced. From what I can tell, the only reason folks really like shopping there is for exceptional sales. If a business can have such high mark-downs doesn’t that say something about how much original mark-up is in reality?” then the free market should put them out of business.

    Of course their board is tragically uncool if they dont use their dollars EXACTLY the way you think they should be used. Of course they are a business nemesis if they dont pay the exact wages you believe are appropriate. I dont believe mellow mushroom pays the living wage minimum out here do they?.

    And of course conducting commerce in a building that has been vacant almost a year ceertainly will ruin the downtown economy. If the clothes are as awful as you imply based on that highly factual wiki site and your regurgitation of other peoples views- they will quickly succumbe to market forces and the locals shall not worry as their quality/price is far superior as we take your word for it.

    A little competition and the city goes nuts. Child labor abuses are rampant.Shoes, clothing, sporting goods. If you truly want to prevent child labor abuse- weave your own fabric after picking your own cotton using you own organic farm that you walk to.

  49. entopticon

    Where were the people picketing CVS, a giant megachain that systematically put mom and pop drug stores out of business across the country and pays crappy wages and sells goods at steep prices?

    I respectfully disagree with anyone who seriously thinks that UO won’t draw a good deal of shoppers to the area. I think you are wrong, but time will tell. If you think that their architectural revamping of the space is a step down from the CVS, I don’t know what to say to you. They have won awards from the National Historic Preservation Society, and from what I have seen that have done a pretty good job with some of their spaces.

    Again, I certainly don’t think they are the greatest store ever, but I think they will help the area by bringing that building back. I’m no fan of chains on the whole. I would have to be pretty darned desperate to actually eat chain pizza.

    I have to admit, when people gripe about tourists here, it is a bit of a pet peeve of mine. Tourists may be annoying at times, but this has been a tourist town, literally since its inception. The baseball team is called the Tourists for a reason. If you don’t want to live in a tourist town, you probably shouldn’t have moved to one, or if you were born here and you don’t like living in a tourist town, nobody is keeping you here. It reminds me of someone going into an Italian restaurant and complaining that they don’t like Italian food.

  50. entopticon

    I would have to be pretty darned desperate to actually eat chain pizza.

    I have to admit, when people gripe about tourists here, it is a bit of a pet peeve of mine. Tourists may be annoying at times, but this has been a tourist town, literally since its inception. The baseball team is called the Tourists for a reason. If you don’t want to live in a tourist town, you probably shouldn’t have moved to one, or if you were born here and you don’t like living in a tourist town, nobody is keeping you here. It reminds me of someone going into an Italian restaurant and complaining that they don’t like Italian food.

  51. PatD

    Renovating the space into something better is only a very small part of the equation Entop.
    Agreed, on that level, anything is better than what it is now or what it was for many years.
    But a mass market merchant like Urban Outfitters is as much the answer as it would be to have Wall Mart or Best Buy move in.
    Embracing such a move, just to have the space look better, is terrible shortsightedness.

    There is no shortage in this town on people who can think outside the box.

  52. entopticon

    Sorry PatD, I disagree. UO is not Walmart or Best Buy. And the notion that if UO doesn’t move in there some great local business will take it over and spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to renovate the space like they will is doctrinaire at best. I don’t think it is short-sighted not to protest the UO. In fact, quite the contrary.

  53. PatD

    Well, it will happen anyway. Mediocrity, as seen in any US city, is unstoppable.

    Rather than striving to keep this a town where people live and work, it is quickly turning into a town where people only work … for the tourist dollar.

    America learns nothing at all from Europe where they still have exactly that. Thriving city’s where people live, shop and work.
    It’s all about balance and that is hard to find in the country of extremes.

  54. Jason

    Rather than striving to keep this a town where people live and work, it is quickly turning into a town where people only work … for the tourist dollar.

    Asheville’s economy is based on tourist trade. People live and work here because people come here from other places to visit and spend their money. Outside Mission hospitals the second largest employer in Asheville is The Grove Park Inn. What happens in the winter when the tourists go away? That’s right our economy gets slow. If the tourists go away permanently, guess what, all the shops, restaurants, bars, and galleries will close down. How about you try an experiment and go downtown one weekend. Compare how many local faces you can recognize with shopping bags, with how many unfamiliar one you see. I’d be willing to bet that tourist shoppers outnumber local ones by at least four to one. The point is your kidding yourself if you think you can remove the tourist from the local economy equation.

    Again I’d like to point out that Urban Outfitters is not the Gap, there is not one in every city. Would it be the only reason for a 14-32 year old with money to burn to go downtown, of course not, but it would be a good incentive.

  55. Mysterylogger

    Too late this town IS a tourist town, you can’t stop it, its already happened. It will probably reamain a tourist town and change with it, the 90’s brought the 17 year woodstock and thats ending and it will change again.

  56. PatD

    Who is talking about removing the tourist from the local economy equation Jason?

    The only point I am trying to make is that of diversity and balance. Something that is already hopelessly gone from this town, as it is from most US cities.

    The people that work here, can no longer afford to live downtown and every decision or plan I see is always one from a commercial viewpoint. It’s always about making the dollar, nothing else.

    I come from a very old European city and notice the total lack of balance that is rampant here. They just can’t see anything else here than making money … at all cost. Nothing else seems to matter.

  57. Wiki-demic

    Come on now, JBo. Don’t spend a few hours googling and searching wikipedia and passing that off as genuine research. I mean this in the nicest way, but you seriously have no idea what you’re talking about and your comments make you come off sounding like you never left the small confines of WNC. If there’s any exploitation going on it’s from your use of wiki “facts” on message boards.

    Jenny, linking UO to Chinese sweatshops is a really terrible argument with a McCarthy-like approach. You then keep the “research” going with your donation-tracking of Dick Hayne, but what you fail to realize is that the UO CEO, Glen Senk and his partner (yes, partner) Keith Johnson are amazing supporters of the environment and gay/lesbian community.

    They are known for their community involvement at a store level and numerious donations throughout the year. They take great pride in each and every store they open. They love Asheville just as much as we do.

    Without giving too much detail, I have a much closer perspective into the workings of the Urban Outfitters company and can tell you that they are great people with nothing but the best of intentions. But they are also a business. That alone doesn’t make them a sweatshop-endorsing group of gay-haters, despite your attempts to classify them as such.

    UO was forced to pull a gay marriage t-shirt because some bigots in California threatened lawsuits if they kept it there after prop 8.

    UO ripping off desingers? Please. If you’ve ever been to their headquarters, particularly for Anthropologie, you’d see a huge design team dedicated to keeping their product new and fresh (and a lot of the time the plagirism is the reverse).

    You know better than to only tell one side of the story, particularly when that side comes from wikipedia and google. Don’t believe everything that you read.

    Attack the larger problem of sweatshops, design theft or bigotry where it actually makes a difference, not a retail store with several degrees of separation in between. But, if you’re intent on being so PCU and down with evil busineses, you could always go talk about it at Beanstreets or Old Europe….oh…wait.

  58. Dionysis

    While there are some valid reasons expressed here to welcome UO, it seems worth noting the obvious: the reason Asheville is a popular tourist destination includes the fact that downtown is NOT simply full of chain stores, as other city centers have devovled to become. If Asheville’s array of independent businesses goes away, replaced by the same boring crap found everywhere else, there goes one of the reasons people come here.
    The addition of UO may not signal the demise of unique Asheville, and it may (surely will) provide some low-wage jobs (and clean up an empty eyesore of a building), it is a trend that could become worrisome.

  59. tacostacos

    Anyone who complains about the tourists downtown (even this time of year when they are going the wrong way on one way streets, trying to turn from the incorrect lane, and filling our parking spaces) is very short-sighted. This town is run on tourist money, plain and simple. There is next to no industry in town. That’s the equation as it has stood for a long time. Directly or indirectly, a large number of us wouldn’t have jobs without them.

    However, I can’t believe that UO is going to haul thousands of tourists who wouldn’t have otherwise been downtown onto our streets. The appeal is mostly for college kids, and that’s a demographic that has been hanging out downtown for decades. I don’t see any advantage to UO being in the space over any of our small local stores that basically sell similar “hip” clothing, but hold themselves to higher standards of manufacturing and keep their dollars locally.

    True, Urban Outfitters is not “The Gap,” but the slippery slope would certainly indicate that it isn’t far behind.

  60. Ugoota be kidding

    But parking lots aren’t run by the evil doers from out of town (oops some are- where are the pickets). At least when cars are illegally towed from the lots they support the local economy. So, I guess noone will complain. Of course, the people that complain about new stores and demolitions could be slightly more proactive and run for office, rather than whine after the fact. They could also band together and buy the properties and attempt to do what they wish with them. That of course would be logical and prevent inflammatory rhetoric while sitting comfortably in their apartments.

  61. PatD

    Amtrak once made the crucial mistake of believing it was a railroad company. And so they lost most of their business to other companies who actually knew they were in the transport business.

    Asheville is not a tourist attraction. Asheville is a town where it’s inhabitants are supposed to live, work, commute and enjoy what a city has to offer. Tourisme is, or should be, just one small part of the economy of any real city.

    Disney is a tourist destination and only a tourist destination.

    Too much emphasis is put here on tourism.

  62. tacostacos

    PatD Too much emphasis is put here on tourism.

    There is no other viable industry here. How else would you suggest local businesses make money? With no local industry, we are reliant on people from outside Western North Carolina coming here and bringing their wallets.

    Unless you plan to plant tobacco or build furniture like the rest of the state, we need an alternative. In the meantime, be thankful that these outsiders are eager to come visit our local establishments and clog up our parking garages.

    The only other industry that is of any note here is the medical industry, which largely works on the backs of retirees – basically long term, late life tourists.

  63. entopticon

    PatD, I am all for encouraging other businesses besides tourism. One great example is what my friends at the Bent Creek Institute are doing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gJGqArAWH9E&feature=PlayList&p=DD3860C4059D63D4&index=0

    That said, saying that Asheville is not a tourist attraction is incomprehensible. Asheville has always been a tourist town. Early on, people thought the mountain air and local springs were curative and it has continued to be a tourist destination ever since.

    Again, if you don’t want to live in a tourist town, what on Earth are you doing here? It is exactly like going to an Italian restaurant and complaining that they serve Italian food. You don’t have to like Italian food or tourism, but why on Earth would you go to an Italian restaurant if you don’t like Italian food or atown that has always been tourist town if you don’t want to be in a tourist town?

  64. bobaloo

    Yet again I agree with Entop.
    If you don’t like the tourist culture and economy of Asheville, move out to the county and get the best of both worlds.

  65. PatD

    Twisting words eh?

    I never said I don’t like tourism.
    It is part of this town, always has and always will be. But it is not the essence of any town or city unless that town is of course simply a tourist attraction. If you believe that is what Asheville is then there is no point in arguing.

  66. entopticon

    Dionysis, I entirely agree that there is a danger in letting chains overrun downtown, and I definitely agree that it could be bad for tourism. I think we should bend over backwards to encourage viable local businesses and it is definitely reasonable to be concerned about chains.

    It is a tricky situation that many cities have dealt with. Artsy small businesses see the gem in the rough in an area with economic problems, and they take advantage of the affordability. Once they create a thriving network of small artsy shops, the area becomes popular. When the area becomes popular, the rents go up, and gentrification ensues.

    It is not an easy situation, despite what critics say on both sides. If you completely limit growth and artificially perpetuate the economic problems that made the area affordable for small businesses in the first place, it will eventually be unsustainable. If you let big chains overrun the area it will price out most small vendors and lose its character. As with most things, compromises have to be made with our best judgment.

    In the case of UO, I think it is extremely unlikely that a small local business would put hundreds of thousands of dollars into returning the building to being an attractive building, and I think the foot traffic it will create make it a sensible compromise. Certainly a hell of a lot better than a giant chain like CVS in an off-putting eyesore of a building.

    In a related issue, I am extremely concerned about some of the upside-down nimbyism trumping environmentalism in Asheville. Having studied environmentalism, the single most important factor may be verticle development. Virtually every model of sustainability puts verticle at the center. Like the issue with UO, it is reasonable for people to be concerned with uncontrolled growth, but it is also absolutely necessary to make compromises. Whether we like it or not, the footprint of someone living in a fancy condo downtown is a miniscule fraction of the McMansion they will build outside of town if they don’t have that option, and if we block that too they are still going to live somewhere. This is all one planet and Ashevillains have to stop with the out-of-sight-out of mind nimbyism that loses sight of that.

  67. entopticon

    PatD, I honestly was not trying to twist your words. I was just responding to the fact that you said that “Asheville is not a tourist attraction.”

    Again, Asheville was founded as a tourist city and it has continued to be one for hundreds of years, so it most certainly is essentially a tourist city; in fact more so than all but a few other places in the entire nation. Doesn’t it just make more sense that if you don’t like tourism, you don’t live in a city that was founded as a tourist city and has always been a tourist city? There are thousands and thousands of cities in the US that were not founded as tourist towns and have never been tourist towns.

  68. PatD

    But the point I am trying to make is that Asheville is first a city. Ssecundary, it is a tourist destination. Not the other way around.

  69. entopticon

    Pat, technically you are wrong. Tourism literally started in the area even before the city was incorporated, so it was a tourist destination before it was a city. I do think you make a reasonable point that tourism shouldn’t be our only focus, and I also agree with you that tourism for tourism sake is not always a good thing as some on the far right seem to argue; we have to look systemically at all the considerations.

  70. James L

    “Too late this town IS a tourist town, you can’t stop it, its already happened. It will probably reamain a tourist town and change with it, the 90’s brought the 17 year woodstock and thats ending and it will change again.”

    Great news, and I agree! How can I help speed up the transition? I really look forward to the day when we’ve replaced the many faux protesters, wannabe artists, and unskilled chest beaters with genuine professionals skilled in their various trades whose sole motivation is running a thriving business instead of squatting and telling the world how impressive they are.

  71. Dionysis

    entopticon, I agree that some balance is needed. I lived for many years in an ‘artsy’ enclave of a city in Virginia. I moved in just as it began a resurgence from a seedy area in decay (with the ubiquitous porn theatre) to a thriving art/restaurant/entertainment area. It had a strong sense of community and was a joy to experience. Once it became a trendy area, it all began to change rapidly. Within two years, chain restaurants and jewelry shops moved in, parking became a nightmare (even for those of us who lived there) and before long, it was a place to avoid. I doubt if anyone wants to see Asheville end up that way.

  72. wow

    Man, Ashevillians sure know how to make a mountain out of a molehill. Because they aren’t a ton of other more pressing issues to discuss other than a clothing store coming to an empty retail space downtown… Would everyone be happier with another store chock-full of rain-sticks and incense holders?

  73. psychotic fearmongerings

    I like local stores. I would love to be able to support them too. But they are so overpriced! I have seen stuff at certain “cool local stores” online for much much less.

    Maybe if they lower their prices they can actually attract the local shoppers. Fact is, local vendors market to the tourists. I make Asheville money, which is the equivalent to Pesos anywhere else. Heck, I can’t even afford my own town. It’s a two way street.

  74. entopticon

    I for one think that for the most part the changes in Asheville since the 90’s have been very positive. If you want to go back to the way Asheville was before that there are plenty of depressing towns that fit the bill just perfectly. At one point they even wanted to turn the downtown area into a mall.

    The arts and vibrant, progressive community are at the core of Asheville’s success. If anything, we should be finding more and more ways to support the arts. Studies have shown time and time again that any investment into the arts pays for itself many times over. Without the artsy-fartsy progressives that James L is complaining about, Asheville’s economy would collapse over night and those skilled workers wouldn’t have jobs.

    We need to look to new innovate ways to support the arts community here such as very cheap studio space, as well as creating sustainable, socially and environmentally conscious green jobs that can thrive in the new economy, as with what places such as the Bent Creek Institute are doing.

  75. Forrest

    Just to add that other towns have banned chain stores in their downtowns : From an NYT article in 06. Nantucket is not the first community to ban chain stores from its downtown: Carmel, Calif.; Bristol, R.I.; and Port Townsend, Wash., are among those that have enacted similar bans.

  76. I’m surprised that I’m the only downtown business owner to speak up about this…

    I say bring it on. Not to sound like a broken record, but it’s occupying a space that would be hard to rent, it will at least bring some new jobs and will attract some new people to downtown. And like others have said, being close to a larger magnet store will likely benefit other stores as well.

    If all of these towers and condos get built, there will be a LOT more retail spaces coming to downtown. Can mom and pops fill them all?

  77. entopticon

    For what it’s worth, Wiki-Demic is correct. The CEO of Urban Outfitters, Glen Seck, and his lover/design/business partner Keith Johnson, are outspoken supporters of and contributors to liberal politicians and progressive causes such as gay rights.

    I don’t see Best Buy winning awards from the National Historic Preservation Society. Most chains only make ugly box stores, but UO has done some pretty amazing things to beautify spaces that were going to pot. If they want to spend a small fortune beautifying that eyesore of a building at their own expense, more power to them, and if they use their wherewithal to support some local progressive causes, that will be icing on the cake.

  78. entopticon

    Typo correction, the CEO of UO, who has donated heavily to progressive causes, is Glen Senk, not Seck.

  79. ThePhan

    “Amtrak once made the crucial mistake of believing it was a railroad company. And so they lost most of their business to other companies who actually knew they were in the transport business.”

    That’s a horrific comparison. Amtrak, a government corporation, never was allowed to be in anything OTHER than the passenger rail business. They depend almost entirely upon government subsidies and the infrastructure of other transportation companies.

    “Too much emphasis is put here on tourism.”

    If anything, we don’t place enough emphasis upon it. It’s one area where we have some competitive advantages. And it’s supporting a lot of privately-owned small businesses. Not to mention this is an industry where some of the major players actually tax themselves to support its continued growth. How many other industries do that? If we truly put too much emphasis on tourism, why are the streets and sidewalks downtown so dirty?

  80. James L

    “We need to look to new innovate ways to support the arts community here such as very cheap studio space, as well as creating sustainable, socially and environmentally conscious green jobs that can thrive in the new economy, as with what places such as the Bent Creek Institute are doing.”

    And there’s the “artsy-fartsy” self proclaimed “progressive” stance in action again. The self proclaimed “progressives” have figured out that the way to save downtown is to provide subsidized studio space for those “artists” who aren’t successful, marketable, or talented enough to pay for market priced space. This is exactly what I’m so sick of in Asheville.

    I’ve got no problem with Art, and there are actual talented and capable creative people in Asheville. They’re the ones not blowing their own horn or calling themselves artists. I’m in visual media myself, but I will not call myself an artist, pose as something I’m not, or expect anyone else to support me because I’m “creative”.

    I work for a living. I’m more concerned about being good at what I do than appearing better than I am or expecting handouts if I’m not as good as I think I am.

    The term “progressive” has been hijacked by so many people wishing to lend some kind of legitimacy to thier ill-informed opinions that it has no meaning anymore. It used to mean progress. Now it’s supposed to relate to some kind of misguided counter culture notion that anyone with a dream and a wandering heart should be given a place to blossom and share their “gifts” with the rest of the world, thus raising the standard of living and prosperity for everyone in their shadow, all while saving the environment at the same time. Well, I call BS on that self indulgent tripe.

    Ya know what brings prosperity? Talent and business savy. In short: actually being legitimately good at something. How much more time and money must this town waste on posers and wannabes that can’t deliver or support their claims without subsidies or handouts? It’s a fair question that the politically correct don’t seem to want to ask. There’s plenty of communes out west for the artists and “progressives” who can’t cut the mustard yet. If they go to one of them, they may actually learn something to develop the talents they claim but have yet to attain.

  81. tacostacos

    Ok, so Asheville should be anti-chains, anti-tourism, and anti-art.

    Are we going to grow all our own food, or what?

    Trying to bring this conversation back to center:

    UO is a chain – whether over a hundred stores qualifies you as a “big chain” is up for discussion. It is wonderful that they are going to fix up that dilapidated building that I walk by everyday, and I’m sure they will find some folks who are overjoyed to work for $7.50 an hour. (I’ve worked for them before in Burlington, Vermont and they are just another company, don’t kid yourself.)

    The question remains – is this a net win for the city? Does the extra foot traffic brought to Pritchard Park for the hipster t-shirts also pop into Malaprops or Jerusalem Garden? Or does UO just claim some of the existing “disposable income” from a segment of our population and cart it back to headquarters?

    I’m firmly in the camp of “chain stores will invariably come to Asheville, let’s try and keep them out on Tunnel Road or on I-26.” I’ve seen too many funky little towns taken over by these faceless, character-less facades. Asheville is extremely fortunate and/or lucky to have staved off the influx for so long. Without a stated and legislated plan, we will look like every other “small town that has been found.”

  82. entopticon

    James L said: “This is exactly what I’m so sick of in Asheville.”

    By all means, don’t let the door hit you on the way out. There is no shortage of right-wing cities who do little to support experimental art in this country. I am sure they would love to have you.

    JamesL went onto say: “Ya know what brings prosperity? Talent and business savy.”

    Well, you might be surprised to learn that there is overwhelming incontrovertible evidence that what brings talent and acumen to an area is the arts. As a matter of fact, that is the central tenant of the Creative Class by Richard Florida. Areas that don’t put money into sustaining a vibrant arts scene lose all of their talent to other cities. It has been proven time and time and again. The most cutting edge and talented thinkers are drawn to open-minded, progressive cities with strong support of the arts, particularly cutting edge art.

    The notion that the only good artists are financially successful is absolute hogwash. Most of the greatest artists in history were not financially successful. You may want to live in a world of god-awful market driven art like Thomas Kincaid, but I sure as hell don’t.

    Time and time again it has been shown that $1 spent on supporting the local arts scene puts as much as $50 back into the community. People flock to Asheville because it is artsy. Even more people would if we did more to support struggling artists and art spaces. Again, if you took the artsy-fartsy element that you have so much problem with out of Asheville, it would be a ghost town over night because the tourist industry would instantly collapse without them. People come to Asheville because it’s artsy. If they wanted to vacation in a town without a strong arts presence, they would go somewhere else.

    By the way, I am pretty sure that I have some talent as an artist. If nothing else, I have museum shows and an ivy league MFA that support my claim.

  83. PatD

    You don’t understand the purpose of analogies, no do you Phan?

    James L
    It helps if you put quoted text between quotes.
    Your long ramble is lost on me.

    As always, this turns into a silly debate where extreme sides have extreme views but mostly just like to listen to or read themselves. Lot’s of ego problems on this site apparently.

    Nobody disagrees that the said building is an eyesore but in my world having to choose from two lesser evils does not automatically make it all ok.
    Anyone who disagrees on big box chain companies being bad for downtown Asheville, either has a financial interest in it, as in Orbit’s case understandable, or is just plain dumb.

    entopticon, Forrest, Dionysis, JBO, Haunted and others, thanks for some interesting views.

  84. ThePhan

    “Anyone who disagrees on big box chain companies being bad for downtown Asheville, either has a financial interest in it, as in Orbit’s case understandable, or is just plain dumb.”

    And I see you don’t understand the purpose of polite and constructive discourse, do you, PatD? I do understand analogies. I just didn’t understand yours.

    The idea that a governmental body should decide which retailers and chains are “good” and which are “bad” is farcical. Why should chain and franchise hotels, banks, gas stations, and other businesses be allowed to operate unencumbered downtown while we hold retailers and restaurants to a different standard (particularly an artificial one that is established to “protect” some businesses from competition)?

    I don’t want to see downtown Asheville become littered with chains, either, and as another poster noted, we’ve either been lucky, or overlooked. And I certainly don’t want to see building and architectural standards relaxed in order to accommodate them, or do anything to attract them. But I don’t believe in letting government “protect” us from them, either.

  85. Mysterylogger

    Wanna be artists are already here. And yes, yes everything is Faux’s fault, just blame them on that.

    Get a new rhetoric.

  86. ashkat

    Jul 13, 2009 at 8:24 AM
    “There is still a great drug store downtown, on Pritchard Park. Asheville Discount Pharmacy next to Jerusalem Garden. Their drug prices are often lower than BCBSNC co-pay, and they’re locally owned and friendly.”

    Thanks. I don’t know how I never noticed them.

  87. JOHN-C

    Gee I don’t know how to dress myself…

    Maybe I’ll go down to Urban Outfitters and they’ll make me look cool…

    Then I’ll have friends and get laid…


  88. Andy

    It really is the beginning of the end as somebody else has pointed out. If UO is successful than there is nothing stopping Gap from coming downtown also. Asheville will then be no different than any other town.
    I don’t understand why UO is so determined to be downtown when there is obviously so much opposition. We HAVE a place for retail chain stores; TUNNEL ROAD!
    I love how the owner talks about the fact they will bring more people downtown and will help out other retail businesses. What a crock of sh*t, and he knows it. The only additional people that will be coming downtown will be teenagers being dropped off by their parents and picked right back up after the shopping in OU is done.

    This is a terrible, terrible thing for downtown Asheville. If anything, they should have held out for some sort of grocery store ala Greenlife. That is what is really needed down there now.

  89. Dallas Taylor

    Trendy store for a trendy town…CVS was a huge chain store though, much bigger than Urban Outfitters and it seemed out of place anyway. Support your local drug dealer, not a huge cartel.

  90. PatD

    The analogy I used Phan was to point out that one could mistakenly think Asheville is a tourist attraction. Regardless of what some people seem to think, it is not.

    It is a city which happens to have a draw on tourists. It is not a tourist attraction where also some people live. To me, this makes a huge difference.

    Our first concern should always be our city and it’s people. Commerce considerations should be secondary.

    Bringing UO in our downtown is a mistake.
    There is plenty of space, for big box chains, outside of downtown and there are plenty of other creative possibilities for that ugly building.

    Interesting how the DVD shop across the street loves the idea of UO in that spot. I wonder if our friend Orbit would also welcome one of the big DVD/CD chain stores across from him?
    I suspect not.

  91. entopticon

    PatD, it is perplexing that you still insist that a town that was founded as a tourist town, and has always been a tourist town, is not a tourist town. It is not a city that just happens to have some tourists.

    As for your statement: “There is plenty of space, for big box chains, outside of downtown and there are plenty of other creative possibilities for that ugly building.”

    Sorry, but I just don’t have any patience for that kind of radically anti-ecological blather. There most certainly is not plenty of space for big box stores in the sprawl outside of town. And again, the notion that some local business is just itching to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to fix that building back up and pay the enormous rent there is just a doctrinaire pipe-dream at best. That building could sit empty for years.

  92. PatD

    Entop, it is perplexing that you can’t see the difference between a tourist attraction and a city.

    Disney is a tourist attraction where every decision is and should be made with tourism in mind.

    Asheville is a city with a good portion of tourism and not every decision should be made with tourism in mind. That is all I am saying.
    If you don’t agree, so be it, have it your way.

    As for your opinion that UO is great just because they are willing to spend money on a ugly building, oh well….
    Let’s get it over with and get all the big chains into downtown. No more discussion needed then. It is so much easier to be just the same as the next city. That is obviously what Americans like.

  93. entopticon

    PatD, I have been pretty clear here that I certainly don’t think that all decisions in the area should be made around tourism. Quite to the contrary. That said, there is simply no rational grounds for your fallacious contention that this is not a tourist town. Tourism has always been a central industry, thousands of people have spent lifetimes developing the tourist industry here, and however you slice it that makes this a tourist town.

    Am I supposed to think it is terrible that UO wants to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to fix up that eyesore of a building? Where on Earth did I say that we should encourage every big chain to set up downtown? I said quite the opposite; that we need to carefully weigh the balance to encourage a thriving, sustainable downtown, and after weighing the issue I think it makes very good sense to welcome what Urban Outfitters wants to do here, which is to spend a small fortune on fixing up an eyesore of a building that is centrally located downtown, because dead space in ugly buildings is bad for everybody.

    This doctrinaire fantasy, that there are ethical, green local businesses with hundreds of thousands of dollars to invest in rehabbing that space, and UO is somehow pushing them out of the way, is bordering on delusional. UO is moving into the space because it is sitting empty and it will cost a small fortune to make it nice again, so nobody else is going to do it.

    You can keep fabricating a straw man argument where I say that chains are wonderful and ideal, but that won’t make it any truer. I would love it if a locally owned, environmentally focussed business wanted to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to fix up that building and pay a fortune in rent there, but that is not on the menu.

    Yes, we may agree to disagree. You don’t agree that UO could be a good thing for the downtown area, and I don’t agree with you that the sprawl outside of the downtown area has plenty of room to be expanded with more and more box stores.

  94. tacostacos

    I believe that my opinion concurs with entopticon. I think that growth and/or chain stores in the heart of downtown is less than desireable but not the end of the world. I would hate to see Asheville turn into a characterless town.

    However, I think the mere fact that this article has over one hundred comments speaks to the fact that Asheville is engaged in the dialogue. As long as the path forward is intentional and balanced, I believe we are in good hands.

    Sometimes it takes something idiotic like the giant Staples sign next to I-240 for people to realize “wait a minute, it would suck if there were zero regulation.”

    UO moving in won’t singly destroy all aesthetic in downtown. Neither will UO’s absence doom Asheville to a future of hillbilly ignorance.

    Middle path.

  95. Forrest

    Well, whether some of us like it or not UO downtown is a fait accompli.I happen to think it would have been a perfect fit for Biltmore Park or Tunnel.

    City Council did ban gated communities but I don’t think there would ever be enough political support to get a chain store ban passed. As I posted yesterday other towns have done this, and just grandfathered in the chains that already existed.

    Anyway, the best option now is to encourage them to incorporate clothing and art from locals. Perhaps devote space at the front of store to community happenings etc etc.

    We just have to do our best to make our Urban Outfitters as Ashevillecentric as possible. As of now, they will be one of a handful of major chains downtown. One would think they would like to be good neighbors with the majority of neighboring indie businesses. Given the sorry state of the economy I don’t expect an imminent flood of other chain stores after UO opens. But we do need to come up ideas and promotions to try and keep a balance in mind for the future.

  96. PatD

    So be it. Agreeing to disagree is a good thing. What a luxury that we can do that.

    On the tourism thing, I think we are arguing over semantics. I never said tourism is not a large part of this city. Of course it is. Although I believe people underestimate all the other not tourism related business going on here. In my opinion, having tourism is not the same as being a tourist attraction (as explained in previous post)

    As stated before, having UO is the lesser of two evils. But only in the short term. In the long term it will bad. But that’s just my opinion and dependent on viewpoint.

    You are right in that it is probably not realistic to have anything else in there, at this point. Certainly not in today’s economy.

    In the end, my or your opinion does not really matter. It is not really our city as it is not our property. We just live here and will have to see the changes as they happen.

    Anyway, nice arguing with ya :-)

  97. Interesting how the DVD shop across the street loves the idea of UO in that spot. I wonder if our friend Orbit would also welcome one of the big DVD/CD chain stores across from him?
    I suspect not.

    Like I said, bring it on. My biggest competition is ASHEVILLE, with everybody and everything competing for your entertainment dollar, yet I have successfully found a niche. Further examination of our stores will show that we have a better selection and are actually cheaper than the chains.

    For mom and pops like me, you adapt or die. Many smaller stores have been able to compete in the shadow of a big box. Besides, all of the stores in my industry are going under: Movie Gallery, Blockbuster, Tower Records, Virgin Records, FYE, etc. I might be the only one left.

  98. entopticon

    Orbit DVD makes a very good point. They have made sure they they excel in the areas that big chains like Blockbuster can’t compete with. They have a far more knowledgeable staff, a better selection of movies, and better prices. Blockbuster can spend infinitely more on national advertising, but as a huge chain they can’t deliver the same quality of service as Orbit.

  99. entopticon

    Thanks for taking the effort to consider both sides PatD. In the end, time will tell.

  100. ThePhan

    “On the tourism thing, I think we are arguing over semantics. I never said tourism is not a large part of this city. Of course it is. Although I believe people underestimate all the other not tourism related business going on here.”

    PatD, I do agree with you on this. Tourism is a driver of commerce in the area, but it’s not the ONLY driver. This isn’t Gatlinburg or Myrtle Beach. There are 400,000 residents in the metro area, most of whom are employed in something other than hospitality.

  101. Jason

    What exactly constitutes a big-box chain store?
    I compiled a list of other clothing retailers and the number of stores they have. Compare their numbers to U.O.’s. Many are already here in the Asheville Mall, and we would never have to worry about them moving downtown. Others like Wal-Mart, Target, K Mart, Best Buy would never move downtown because there isn’t enough space. I also threw in various other stores that one might not consider a chain. Would any of these “fit” into downtown Asheville. Would all these meet the same reception as Urban Outfitters has?
    Remember U.O. has 124 US stores (140 worldwide).
    Sears – 926 stores (There used to be a Sears store in Downtown Asheville.)
    JC Penny – 1,093 department stores (Also used to be downtown)
    Also let’s not forget Bon Marché which was also a chain department store located in downtown Asheville
    Limited – 4000+
    Gap – 3,100+
    Target – 1488
    American Eagle – 1101
    Old Navy – 1000+
    Aéropostale, Inc – 900+
    Pacific Sunwear – 927
    Hot Topic – 668
    Express – 550
    Banana Republic – 500+
    The Wet Seal – 494
    Abercrombie & Fitch – 300+
    Brooks Brothers – 210
    J-Crew – 198 retail stores and 65 outlet stores
    H&M – 1700 worldwide (169 US)
    Pier 1 Imports – 1000
    Macy’s – 810
    Dillard’s – 330
    Belk’s – 306
    Nordstrom – 109 full-line department stores, 56 Nordstrom Rack clearance stores, two Jeffrey Boutiques, and two final clearance stores
    Saks Fifth Avenue Enterprises – 54 Saks Fifth Avenue stores, 48 Saks Off 5th stores
    Lord & Taylor – 48
    Bloomingdale’s – 40
    Neiman Marcus – 38
    Ben & Jerry’s – 450
    bebe – 312 stores
    Diesel – 300 (worldwide)
    Guitar Center – 214
    Apple Store – 257
    American Apparel – 200 (worldwide)
    Pottery Barn – 200
    Crate and Barrel – 125
    REI – 90
    Versace – 81
    IKEA – 35
    DKNY – 44
    Buffalo Exchange – 37
    LL Bean – 33
    Newbury Comics – 27
    Coach – 25

  102. PatD

    Point taken Orbit. I know all about working niche market and doing it successfully.

  103. Apple Store – 257

    This one is interesting. How many people that don’t want UO would be happy with an Apple Store? Isn’t that the same thing?

  104. PatD

    Please Orbit, don’t write stuff like that :-)
    no, not an Apple store.

    Jason, please, you gotta relax.
    Have a beer or smoke something.

  105. PatD

    Food for thought.

    Competition is not what the local indie stores have to fear. As in Orbit’s case, they are usually very specialized in areas where large chains are weak or don’t pay enough attention.
    So all is good.

    Ultimately, the problem will be in rent and affordability. Large chains are able to invest large sums (as in renovating the old CVS place) and pay high rents/mortgages. This is where the small independent business eventually will lose ground.

    So Orbit, I wonder if you will still say, ‘bring it on’, if your rent reaches the astronomical levels we see happening in other cookie cutter cities.

  106. Ugotta be kidding me

    oh so now the discussion is in essence, “small business people can’t handle competition” and “need protection” from the big bad national chains. But the thread started with protectionism of consumer and residents from the big bad child labor abusing, homophobic UO upper management that had the nerve to decide to invest money in a store location almost closed a year next to that wonderful tourist spot filled with ashevilles finest- Pritcherd Park. I am doubfounded as to how this conversation has convoluted and contorted itself to the point that in essence you say to the small businessman, just you wait and see, I can predict the future, rents will skyrocket if the chains come in.

    Yet on the otherhand, you all proclaim that the chains suck and aren’t ashevillian in nature.

    So, which arguement is it- they suck and will receede into bankruptcy because they dont “get asheville” or that they will thrive and force the small business person out.

    I for one am of the opinion, you can’t hold both views. For the comments regarding “all the outrage” about UO moving in, make them an offer, they will sell you the lease/property, after all its just business. It’s a dead issue, they choose to invest and build up a tax base in a business district surrounded by panhandlers and other assorted activities that everyone decries, yet you don’t want them there?

    And yes PatD, most small businessmen will always say bring it on, let the market sort out the winners and losers, not government intervention or do-gooders. if as everyonekeeps proclaiming, the quality/price ratio is not there, they will fail- and that is america. If they provide acceptable quality/price, they will thrive. That is free market economics, that is America.

  107. tacostacos

    Rumors have been flying that Apple store is coming to Biltmore Park. That sounds perfect to me. Put it with REI, B&N, PF Chang’s, etc.

    Why not take UO to Biltmore Park? As I say, I am not opposed to these stores, let’s just keep them away from our precious, unique downtown.

  108. Elizabeth

    I love this store. im soooo glad theyre coming to asheville. especially downtown!

  109. Glad to see Pack Square looking great and for UO coming to downtown, another Asheville urban renewal phase to fad out the “ugly side of Asheville”. That building has been an eyesore ever since the eighties anyways.

    As I read the posts, anyone who opposes great positive growth, expecually downtown, I think of the Taliban since the “hippies” dosn’t want growth and change for the better. Besides isn’t that why the majority of y’all voted for Obama anyways. Now I love the uniqueness of Asheville but STOP living in the dark ages :).

  110. So Orbit, I wonder if you will still say, ‘bring it on’, if your rent reaches the astronomical levels we see happening in other cookie cutter cities.

    How much is too much? Being in business for yourself you have to be prepared for what comes your way like rent increases.

    And for the record, I will fight for my mom and pop brethren until the day I die. I just get a little nervous when restrictions start to happen, chains or no.

  111. September Girl

    Someone above stated that chains are able to pay higher rents than local businesses, but that simply is not true. Chains may have deeper pockets when it comes to upfits, and they usually sign longer term leases, but the fact is, they typically pay lower per square foot rents than smaller businesses.

    If a local business is so popular and so well run that it evolves into a chain, should it be banished from downtown. Did chains ruin the Haight in SF? Are all chains bad?

  112. smallbiz

    As a small downtown business owner (7+ years!)and former corporate employee, I am completely opposed to UO for many reasons, most of which have already been discussed (higher rent, less ethics, less community involvement, cookie cutter mass-produced crap, etc). I have worked the ins and outs of the corporate world and was shocked at things I learned, especially when it came to the ever-ominous profit margin, which directly affects corporations’ bottom lines and values on the stock market. Hopefully most of you have been educated in basic math and have taken at least Economics 101, thus able to understand that an infinite growth rate in the stock market(pushing for +7% per year) is simply not realistic or sustainable long-term. The first things corporations cut to boost their profit margins (at least the 2 I worked for) are employee hours and/or wages/benefits. (A company I used to work for has given my former co-worker a total raise of 10 CENTS per hour in 3 years due to a lagging profit margin!!!!!)

    True, the building is an eye-sore, but let’s not be short-sighted about the issue. Letting UO in does open a door for other chain stores. Remember Boulder, CO, or King Street in Charleston, or Santa Cruz, and how they’ve changed?? And it is ridiculous to think people will flock to Asheville to come to UO. In fact, I love that our tourists always shower our town with compliments of our uniqueness, and I am concerned that opening the door to UO (and other corporate stores) will lead to the destruction of our individuality and rent affordability long-term. Ultimately, it is up to consumers and landlords to dictate the future of corporate presence in downtown Asheville. Perhaps had I not had such a scarring close encounter with corporate America, I may not be so concerned.

    I’d also like to add that I donate to various organizations within our community (AMP, A’ville Art Museum, LAAFF, Helpmate, On Coal River documentary, The Canary Coalition, among others) as well as a Kids with Cameras project in India thru Brevard College, volunteered at a school for the disabled in Nebaj, Guatemala, brought meat-curing supplies to a village there, as well as working directly with artisans to ensure fair trade practices concerning the products we buy and sell. So you see, profit profit profit (as pounded into my former corporate-employed brain) is NOT my focus. And unfortunately, profit is inherently the focus of corporations.

  113. entopticon

    I am confused as to why people keep posting that they don’t believe that UO will draw any business to the downtown area, while claiming that it is going to be so successful that it is going to raise rents and kill off other businesses, in the very same breath.

    If it doesn’t attract people to its store it will go out of business pretty quickly, and leave us with a greatly improved building. If it is successful it will draw a great many shoppers to the downtown area. Don’t they teach that in economics 101?

  114. PatD

    Entop, you seem to be a well educated person. Perhaps too well as you clearly have a problem grasping basic economy. Adding stores does not automatically equal adding customers. Does the phrase ‘dividing the pie’ mean anything to you?

  115. entopticon

    PatD, I think it is you that has trouble grasping the economics here. As a matter of fact, I am pretty confident that more economists would agree with me. I think your dividing the pie analogy is plainly flawed. As I’ve already stated, I am confident that UO will draw a good deal of business to downtown. If anything, they will draw business from people who usually do most of their shopping at the mall. You can disagree. That’s fine. It doesn’t make me ignorant, it makes me opinionated.

    I own a small building in town. For relatively minor renovations, the architect’s fee was nearly $40K and the construction estimate came in at $200K, and UO’s renovations will dwarf mine. Disagree with me all you want, but I am glad that a company with an exemplary history of fixing up dilapidated urban spaces, even winning a major award from the National Historical Preservation Society, is wanting to pour a huge amount of money into that building.

    I’m all for anything that we can do to give local businesses a leg up, but there was a slim to none chance that a local business was suddenly going to come out of the woodwork and invest hundreds of thousands into that building. I think your opposition is reactionary and doctrinaire, which is probably my single biggest gripe with my fellow liberals. I wish liberals made more considerate decisions by looking at all factors in the systemic whole, rather than just reflexively reacting with doctrinaire Pollyannaism.

  116. PatD

    Glad you are confident Entop. It makes everything ok. I believe you bring up arguments that are totally besides the point but so be it. This is whole argument is irrelevant anyway. As I stated before, mediocrity is unstoppable and Asheville will end up exactly the same as any other US city.
    Done deal, argument closed.

    uhm.. and Entop, “I wish liberals made more considerate decisions by looking at all factors in the systemic whole, rather than just reflexively reacting with doctrinaire Pollyannaism“?

    I thought the meaning of Pollyannaism is to be overly positive which, in the case of UO coming to town, is not exactly my position.

  117. entopticon

    What I find Pollyannaish is the doctrinaire notion that if we just reflexively pooh-pooh everything that isn’t perfect, our problems, such as that eyesore of a building, will magically resolve themselves. I think it is hubris to carelessly dismiss the opportunity to bring in someone who wants to pay a fortune to fix up an ugly building that drags down the downtown area as it is.

  118. Abigail

    I understand people being angry about Urban Outfitters taking away other people’s profit, but they do have nice clothes and I’d enjoy shopping there because it’s cheaper.

  119. Dora

    To be honest, I love local businesses, but I don’t always shop there because it’s not convenient and I can’t afford most clothing in the local shops. The Urban Outfitters would bring me into town and I think it will bring others like me downtown therefore bringing even more business to downtown Asheville. I don’t think it’s going to hurt local businesses, I think it will help them. There’s no way to know for sure if it will go either way. However, for me, I’m more likely to shop downtown first instead of going other places once the Urban Outfitters opens.

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