ICYMI: Xpress feature reads of the week

Looking for some longform (or longerform) reads to cozy up with over the weekend? Here’s a round-up of our leading feature stories from the last seven days. Happy reading!

News

Getting by in the Land of the Sky
By Hayley Benton

In Asheville, it’s almost a cliché that the server who’s bringing your appetizer just might have a master’s degree in anthropology — or even a Ph.D. With jobs in short supply and rents sky-high, the story goes, highly educated professionals are reduced to waiting tables as they scramble to make ends meet.

THE STRANGE CASE OF THE Ph.D. WAITER: "Some areas aren’t even close to having their pre-recession jobs back, and we flew right past those years back,” explained Tom Tveidt of Syneva Economics. So when people think of “the waiter with the Ph.D.” cliché, the question is: What was their field of study? Landing jobs in Asheville — and around the country —"requires that you figure out what’s available and equip yourself for it,” said Kit Cramer, president of the Asheville Chamber of Commerce.
THE STRANGE CASE OF THE Ph.D. WAITER: “Some areas aren’t even close to having their pre-recession jobs back, and we flew right past those years back,” explained Tom Tveidt of Syneva Economics. So when people think of “the waiter with the Ph.D.” cliché, the question is: What was their field of study? Landing jobs in Asheville — and around the country —”requires that you figure out what’s available and equip yourself for it,” said Kit Cramer, president of the Asheville Chamber of Commerce.

The numbers, though, show a somewhat more nuanced picture. The unemployment rate in the Asheville metropolitan statistical area is often the lowest in the state: In October, it sat at a modest 4.4 percent, according to the N.C. Department of Commerce. So the problem seems to be not so much the number but the type of jobs available.

“Job quantity is where we’re doing very well,” says Tom Tveidt, of Syneva Economics, an Asheville-based consulting firm. “We’ve been growing for several years, adding a lot of jobs and doing much better than a lot of places. We’re adding more jobs at a higher pace. We’ve passed our pre-recession totals: The number of new jobs is good.”

In fact, between 2005 and 2014, the job-growth rate in the Asheville metro (comprising Buncombe, Haywood, Henderson and Madison counties) outpaced the nation’s — and took less of a hit during the Great Recession. (There was also massive growth in 2004-05, but that was due to the fact that the metro was expanded to include Haywood and Henderson that year.)

However, continues Tveidt, “The flip side of that is wages. We’re not doing as well as far as wage growth goes. The main reason is because we’ve had such tremendous growth in the leisure and hospitality industries, and those aren’t always the highest-wage jobs.” (continue reading)


Art

Tuning into Asheville’s teen bands
By Alli Marshall

“Not every high-schooler gets to tour with a band,” says Jesse Barry. The petite frontwoman with the huge voice led her group, Skinny Legs and All, throughout high school. The blues-rock five-piece played local stages, private parties, festivals like Springing the Blues in Jacksonville, Fla. and the International Blues Challenge, an annual competition in Memphis.

IT MIGHT GET LOUD: Members of The Laters and The Lowdown, both bands that formed at The Rock Academy of Asheville, performed as part of this year's Hometown Holiday jam at The Orange Peel.
IT MIGHT GET LOUD: Members of The Laters and The Lowdown, both bands that formed at The Rock Academy of Asheville, performed as part of this year’s Hometown Holiday jam at The Orange Peel.

Those experiences not only left Barry with an enviable collection of photos and videos, but also helped to form her career goals. Currently enrolled at Warren Wilson College, she’s majoring in psychology, minoring in Spanish and beginning to book shows with her new group, The Jesse Barry Trio (with guitarist Kelly Jones and bass player Daniel Iannucci).

Among a long list of plans and dreams, Barry is passionate about working to increase the prevalence of music programs in schools. Skinny Legs and All formed at Evergreen Community Charter School during a jam-band elective initiated by local musician Rick Praytor. “I’ve been told by other kids that we inspired them,” Barry says. “After I was out of high school, I started noticing all these kid bands emerging, and I thought, ‘That’s so cool.’” (continue reading)


Food

Spirited business: The growth of microdistilleries
By Jonathan Ammons

Microdistilling in North Carolina is booming. Since 2005, more than a dozen distilleries have popped up, steaming off a wide array of flavors. Locally, Troy & Sons has garnered plenty of attention, as has Howling Moon. Like most Western North Carolina distilleries, they’ve mainly focused on moonshine: straight corn liquor, usually served clear and unaged. Lately, though, a few new labels have been finding their way onto WNC cocktail menus. Hailing from a little farther east in the foothills, these distillers have been taking their time to produce elegant, aged spirits.

COMING OF AGE: Blue Ridge Distilling Co.'s Defiant single-malt whiskey and Carolina Distillery's Carriage House Apple Brandy are two brands of aged spirits made just outside the Asheville area that are becoming popular with bartenders at local craft cocktail spots.
COMING OF AGE: Blue Ridge Distilling Co.’s Defiant single-malt whiskey and Carolina Distillery’s Carriage House Apple Brandy are two brands of aged spirits made just outside the Asheville area that are becoming popular with bartenders at local craft cocktail spots.

It’s a dreary, rainy morning, and Lenoir looks like a ghost town, with an abandoned theater still clinging to a few random letters clinging on its display. Once home to thriving manufacturing industries, the town has seen most of those jobs move away. But right in the heart of downtown, a new economy has sprouted: booze.

“We don’t call ourselves moonshiners, but we’re using a lot of the same methods,” says Tim “Hippy” Sisk, head distiller and co-owner of Carolina Distillery. The operation, which opened in 2008, recently moved into a building shared with Howard Brewing Co. “There are a lot of people calling [their products] moonshine, and they’re not using the same methods that the ’shiners did. But we just wanted to do something a little different with those same old methods.” (continue reading)


Living

Not your usual New Year’s Eve: Setting intentions with Asheville’s wellness alternatives
By Emily Nichols

The numerical shift from 2015 to 2016 may have little significance to some people, but to others, the arrival of a new year offers an opportunity to review our lives, to pause in sync with nature’s behavior, just as the tree draws its energy and resources down into its roots. Just another day or not, New Year’s Eve indubitably brings a lot of energy. Growing up, you may have experienced it as staying up late to watch effervescent confetti rain from a gigantic silver ball in Times Square followed by bubbling golden drinks. The question looms: How will you spend this new year?

LIGHTING THE PATH: Asheville's New Year's Eve events include a host of wellness-oriented approaches, including this candlelight altar from Sangita Devi's intention-setting ceremony. Photo courtesy of Taylor Johnson of Taz Digital
LIGHTING THE PATH: Asheville’s New Year’s Eve events include a host of wellness-oriented approaches, including this candlelight altar from Sangita Devi’s intention-setting ceremony. Photo courtesy of Taylor Johnson of Taz Digital

For those interested in having an experience that evokes mind, body and spirit this New Year’s Eve, here are several local opportunities for setting your intentions.

First, what are being “intentional” and “setting intentions” really about? “Intention came from the Latin word ‘intentio,’ which means a stretching, a directing of the mind towards something or a purpose,” says Maia Toll, founder of Witch Camp Online and co-owner of Herbiary in Asheville.  In her work, she adds, intentions usually “have to do with hooking into [your] soul’s purpose.”

Ferris Fakhoury, co-owner of Anjali Hot Yatra Yoga in South Asheville down Hendersonville Road, says that living with “intentionality means to be purposeful in our actions, to see clearly our goal and to also release or let go of the barriers to meeting our goals.” (continue reading)


Opinion

Vanished Asheville nightclubs
By Jerry Sternberg

In a small house on the edge of town, up on the Weaverville Highway, there was a place called Margaret’s Steakhouse that operated from the 1940s until sometime in the ’70s. Margaret and her husband, Fleming, had converted their living room and dining room into an unbelievable little restaurant/club complete with a jukebox.

Now, Margaret knew how to cook a steak, and the world lusted for her complete recipe, which she never gave away. What I do know is that she first pan-seared the steak and then baked it in the oven. One of her key spices was nutmeg, and the final product made Ruth’s Chris steaks taste like they came from McDonald’s.

If you were a regular, you could also get a cocktail from the back room. The most exciting beverage sold there was Flem’s Cherry Bounce, made from pure corn whiskey and some combination of cherries. Oh, it went down so smooth, but the bounce came when you tried to walk down the steps on the way out.

Margaret’s was considered a great trysting place for those who wished to hide their little clandestine affairs. Margaret was very discreet, but one always took the chance that someone they knew was doing the same thing they were doing — or, worse, that their married friends would suddenly decide to go slumming that night. (continue reading)

 

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About Hayley Benton
Current freelance journalist and artist. Former culture/entertainment reporter at the Asheville Citizen-Times and former news reporter at Mountain Xpress. Also a coffee drinker, bad photographer, teller of stupid jokes and maker-upper of words. I can be reached at hayleyebenton [at] gmail.com. Follow me @HayleyTweeet

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