UnChain Asheville movement pushes back as Anthropologie opens for business

Spiritex owners Daniel Sanders and Marylou Marsh protest chain stores moving to downtown Asheville in front of Urban Outfitters. Photo by Able Allen

“We don’t want to emerge into a post-apocalyptic chain store scenario,” says Daniel Sanders, co-owner of Spiritex, as he holds up his end of a banner and stands in front of Urban Outfitters, across the street from his own clothing shop. He says he never wants to walk down a street in Asheville and feel like he could be somewhere else: homogeneous reiterations of the store fronts in hundreds of other towns.

At the other end of the banner is Marylou Marsh, his partner at Spiritex. In response to Anthropologie opening Friday, they and other self-proclaimed “localists” of the  Asheville Grown Business Alliance, mostly downtown small business owners, came out to tread the boards in an UnChain Asheville rally during the Holiday Parade Saturday.

Although they were competing with Santa Claus and marching bands for the attention of the throngs downtown, the 50 or so UnChain Asheville activists were able to attract attention to their cause, handing out fliers with information about buying local. And according to Perry Martino, co-owner of Perfect Gifts, the response from passers by, as he stood in front of Anthropologie, was “99 percent favorable.” Although, he said, one person did try to punch him and threatened to call the police when Martino approached the man. “But that was it, only one person. Most people are very receptive and they’re listening and understand. They want to keep Asheville unique and local.”

UnChain Asheville protesters watched the holiday parade from in front of Asheville Music Hall. Photo by Able Allen
UnChain Asheville protesters watched the holiday parade from the front of Asheville Music Hall. Photo by Able Allen

Asheville Grown founder and rally organizer Franzi Charen (owner of Hip Replacements) says the presence on the street, in front of the two stores and on the parade route in front of Asheville Music Hall, is important because they get to make the case for buying from local businesses to the important deciders in this matter: those who shop downtown. “We are telling them why we’re opposed to more chain stores coming into downtown Asheville. The chain store corporations send money back up to Wall Street and don’t [put] the money back into our community. Locally owned businesses circulate three times more money in our community than chain stores. They’re also responsible for the secondary jobs. We want to keep our downtown healthy, and we also want to keep our downtown unique.” Sanders adds, “We’re here because we want to make sure people are aware that buying and creating local, and supporting that, is the heart of Asheville.”

Franzi Charen encourages  folks to "Go Local" in front of Anthropologie. Photo by Able Allen
Franzi Charen encourages folks to “Go Local” in front of Anthropologie. Photo by Able Allen

The issues that Marsh has with competing on price with a chain clothing store are multifaceted, she explains: “There’s many levels you have to consider really, from carbon footprint to wages to just how business is conducted in community.”

Her business uses fiber from Texas and all of the dying and knitting is done in North Carolina. Being as local as possible has a cost. “My stuff is all made local,” she says. “It’s fair wage labor, so think about my costs on labor. You’re talking about an average of 10 dollars an hour on up. … Every single part of our business is here, so more than just the jobs we have in that store, it’s jobs that tentacle out in all directions. That’s not happening [at chains].”

One main concern with chain stores is that although local business owners say they can generally compete with high-end chains on quality and value, if rent prices rise too much, too quickly many of them wouldn’t be able to absorb the costs the way a  chain company would. There is talk among store owners of leases being up and of seeing rent increases as high as 40 percent. Marsh’s take on it is that rising rent won’t just hurt current business owners, but also the future downtown shopkeepers.

“If [we’re] priced out with really high rents, it will price people out of the ball game for all the entrepreneurs that are coming up.” Sanders says, though clarifying that not all landlords are the same. “I think it’s important … that the landlords who are keeping and holding the line are praised for their commitment. We have many wonderful landlords here who have a vested interest in this town and want to see it remain vibrant with a lot of local flavor. I think the problem is when we get outside investors coming in and buying the real estate and they’re the ones who are creating a higher rent model that will price out a lot of the locals. It’s already happening with the residential component of the city. It’s almost impossible to find an affordable place for people of middle class means to live downtown. So we’re just concerned that the same thing’s going to happen to the … businesses.”

Brian Haynes, a long time supporter local entrepreneurship, stands with his fellow protesters. Photo by Able Allen
Brian Haynes, a long time supporter local entrepreneurship, stands with his fellow protesters. Photo by Able Allen

So far, there are only a handful of stores in downtown Asheville that are considered chains, and as far as many locals are concerned, that’s a good thing. As of Saturday, the UnChain Asheville Save Downtown Asheville petition had collected nearly 5,000 signatures. And City Council member-elect Brian Haynes, who was hoisting an “UNChain AVL” sign Saturday and whose campaign signs read “vote local,” certainly has that point of view. “I supported this cause from the beginning, even back before [Urban Outfitters] existed, when we had a business here. I just believe that the chains are not good for Asheville, and I’d like to see them stay out if possible, for downtown, not everywhere just downtown, and West Asheville.”

A shopper exits Urban Outfitters. Photo by Able Allen
A shopper exits Urban Outfitters. Photo by Able Allen

On the other hand, there seemed to be nearly as many folks walking around toting Urban Outfitters bags as there were carrying UnChain Asheville signs. And some say they are excited by Anthropologie opening, perhaps none more than the new location’s senior store manager, Faymi Winters. “We’re just excited to be here,” she said when asked about the protesters in front of her store. “My husband’s a local here and we were so excited to move back to the community. … But our whole team is just great and excited to be here.”

She says the new Anthropologie has already seen a lot of foot traffic in its opening weekend. “Too many people to count really. We saw so many friends, family, supporters. I mean so many people are so excited to have Anthropologie here, so it was really fun.”

As for any concern about local response to chain stores, she maintains that the company is not worried.

Fayme Winters, senior store manager of Anthropologie welcomes people to the newest store on Lexington Avenue. Photo by Able Allen
Faymi Winters, senior store manager of Anthropologie welcomes customers to the newest store on Lexington Avenue. Photo by Able Allen

“We feel really good about being in the community,” Winters explained. “We’ve done some really great community outreach and we’ve been partnering quite a bit with Open Heart Arts Center, … and it was really inspiring for all of us to learn about their nonprofit organization and get involved and be able to be in a position to give back.”

She added that they are “really excited to have jobs available to people here in the community and to be able to represent this really inspiring environment that I think Anthropologie provides to the people of Asheville.”  According to Winters the store opened with about 50 employees and the wages are competitive for the area.

As for the protesters’ view of the stores, although they aren’t happy about the new chain’s presence and they would like to prevent more from coming, Martino says of the people working inside: “They’ve been very nice. We get it: They need a job, [and] they probably live local, so it’s not against them. It’s more about educating people what happens when national chains open, start taking over people’s leases when they come due and they can’t afford it. … The next thing you know, you have national chain malls and Any Mall USA.”

UnChain Asheville protesters join on the tail end of the holiday parade. Photo by Able Allen
UnChain Asheville protesters join on the tail end of the holiday parade. Photo by Able Allen

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About Able Allen
Able studied political science and history at Warren Wilson College. He enjoys travel, dance, games, theater, blacksmithing and the great outdoors. Follow me @AbleLAllen

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25 thoughts on “UnChain Asheville movement pushes back as Anthropologie opens for business

  1. Big Al

    I hope Anthropologie is rewarded with great success for all the crap they are taking from these foolish hipsters. I doubt that EVERY new chain store that opens will get this kind of harassment, so Anthropologie is taking the arrows for all of the chain stores that come after it.

    • NFB

      Few chains downtown do get this kind of harassment. Has Mellow Mushroom ever been picketed? Of course not. It has the hipster panache so it gets a pass from the chain police. Likewise Marble Slab, Doc Chey’s, Tupelo Honey, etc. These protesters would have a lot more credibility if they either included ALL chains in their manufactured outrage or were honest and gave specific criteria as to why they are upset by some chains but perfectly happy with others.

    • cynb

      If you lose what makes you unique, and just become another ‘mall’, you lose the very thing that brings tourists to Asheville. Then watch the implosion begin.
      Tupelo Honey, as comparison, has 12 Southern locations as opposed to how many 100s of Urban Outfitters or Anthropologies nationwide? There is ‘regional’ and there are big, corporate boxes. There is a difference. And no, I don’t work for TH. Just picked them out of your list as an example.
      The day I walk downtown and all I see are boring chain stores, eg JCP or Macy’s, I won’t waste my time coming back. And it does hurt local business. For example, I make soy candles. My product is handmade, high quality, in small quantities. I cannot compete, price-wise, with stores buying ‘dime a dozen’ candles from some large, faceless corporation & likely made in China (and then sticking an Asheville sticker on them). So I totally sympathize with small businesses fighting to keep Asheville what it is. Once big chains become critical mass, it is all downhill.

      • Lulz

        LOL, what’s unique about a towm who’s economy is based on consumerism, gluttony, and ignorance lulz? Must be all those owners of 120,000 Tesla’s concerned about affordable housing.

      • NFB

        “The day I walk downtown and all I see are boring chain stores, eg JCP or Macy’s, I won’t waste my time coming back.”

        And there is much irony in this as there once was a time when downtown was full of chains including JCP. There was also Woolworth’s, Belk’s, S&W, etc. The existed alongside locally owned businesses just fine.

        Tupelo Honey may only have 12 locations but where do you draw the line? Mellow Mushroom has over 150 locations all across the country, Marble Slab has 400 locations all over the world. This is roughly the same number of locations that Urban Outfiters and about double the number of locations Anthropologie has. Why are protesters ignoring these places?

        Mellow Mushroom has its hipster vibe so it gets a pass by the chain police. Why won’t they just admit that it isn’t chains they are upset about but only certain chains?

      • Midaliarentas@gmail.com

        Ya know….all this outrage from the “locals” really gets my goat. What exactly does it take to be a “local” anyway? Seems to me most people claiming this status have arrived in the last five years or less. Referred to as the”moved here’s” by the native population. They rear their ugly heads with outrage anytime there is a perceived threat to their version of what Asheville represents. But this comment really shows ignorance considering long before there were boutique stores on every corner…. downtown Asheville had several chain stores including a JCPenney and a Woolworth’s… There was also a Rite Aid beside the Woolworth’s. These chain stores didn’t take away from the charm or scare away tourists. They simply made life easier for downtown residents such as my elderly grandmother who resided at the Battery Park apartments. Not everyone who lives or ventures downtown wants or needs to buy some artsy farty hippie crap. Some people need practical things that chain stores provide. What downtown Asheville doesn’t need are more stores with nothing but bongs and hemp bracelets.

  2. Nope.

    Um. No. They weren’t peaceful. They were threatening, drunk, and intimidating. Get your facts straight, Able. And maybe do some quick analysis on their terrible flyers using half-assed economic claims about what a local business does for the community. An 8th grade math class could refute that pitiful set of statistics.

    But, first, Hecht. Trying to drum up support for a future council seat after her failed application in 2008? Well, count me as one person who won’t be shopping at her new little grocery store. What a hypocrite. She can prey on tourist dollars, but no one else can. She vultured her way into Asheville’s business scene in 2002 as one of 14 downtown salons? How is that adding to downtown’s business diversity. I watched Saturday as employees and customers alike at the new Anthropologie were harassed by her UnChain AVL goons. Having a peaceful protest is one thing. But getting in the faces of customers, backing employees into a corner (yes, this is very true, I saw it happen at 3:30) throwing garbage and beverages on their stoop, recruiting homeless people from Pritchard Park to hold signs, having one gentlemen (you know who are, Mr. “blue sweatshirt”) that was obviously drunk, be the ringleader….all of this crosses the line. They should have called the cops on you, but they didn’t…because they’re nice people. And this was just in the 15 minutes I stood around and watched. If the movement’s economic arguments held water (they don’t) one might be receptive. But acting like a bunch of spoiled brats gets you nowhere. I’m an Asheville native and UNCA alum that’s been here much longer than Hecht (who arrived in ’95 from Michigan) and her staff of NYC transplants. I’ve been to shows at Be Here Now and loved the art at the Asheville Arts Council, but you didn’t hear me bitching when we got a world-class (Jose Andres-invested), restaurant like Curate. I’m glad she’s hanging up these UnChain AVL signs; it shows me where to NOT shop. I love businesses that offer something other than bongs, trinkets, and dream catchers. This is not YOUR downtown because you opened up a shoddy little business 20 years ago. You know who’s downtown it is? The customers. It’s a business district, and you just got outclassed today by a real business. All those involved today should be ashamed of themselves. The only pleasure that I take is knowing that you’re a vocal MINORITY. Hecht should stick to the pineapple business, because I know plenty of employees, their friends and families that will spread the word not to visit your salon or new, overpriced 7-11 concept. We’re polite to people here in the South, Rebecca. Your gang on Saturday wasn’t. Shame on Brian Haynes as well. You can be a card carrying downtown-er like I am, but pandering to these drunk jerks just cost you my vote and support.

    • Able Allen

      Nope, I appreciate your perspective, but please remember that, it is just that, your perspective. To the best of my knowledge everything I reported is fact- They said the things they said. There is no news organization in the world that fact checks every statement made to them. If we did, you wouldn’t get the news until it was out of date anyway. What we do is offer the statements of the best sources we can find, and our own observations in as measured a way as we can. As for the recirculation of funds to the community, there is some research on this and I reported on it in this article: http://mountainx.com/news/one-of-a-kind-venture-local-fair-celebrates-ashevilles-unique-character/

      I also offered the perspective of the very friendly staff of Anthropologie. I’m certain they feel represented in this piece.

      I didn’t stay until the end of the rally, but I will say, I did not see any evidence of drunkenness. I did see a video on Facebook this morning of a much larger number of protesters crowding the sidewalk in front of Anthropologie than I had seen earlier. They had a brass band playing and they did seem more energetic, perhaps even rowdy.

      • Nope.

        well, Able. There’s my perspective and then there’s what actually happened. It’s like the difference between actual journalism and the lazy piece you wrote above. Since when did some random dude on the street saying something become a “fact?” Is there a source? Since basic facts escaped you in the hurried approach to write this article, let’s see just where your bias is:
        – Did you ask the landlord of the location (or any other landlords on Lexington Avenue) how much rents have actually increased? Their biggest claim is that it increases rent, could you have put some pressure on these evil landlords with a few basic questions?
        -Did you point out that this location sat vacant for three years?
        – Did you ask Perry Martino how long his Perfect Gifts has been in town (less than a year) or why he chose to open up shop from one tourist hot spot to another (South Beach, Miami)? Or perhaps why he has claim to downtown with his knick knacks, but a thriving business does not? Did you ask him about who tried to punch him? Seems extreme, and I’ll go out on a limb here and call him a bold-faced liar. I watched it from across the street. Some guy told him to get a life and Perry then followed him to the door of the store (while he was pushing a stroller). You know you’re wrong on this one, Perry. Hearing someone say “keep Asheville unique and local” is pretty hilarious when they’ve been in business less than a year, from Florida, and sell the same crap as 10 other spots downtown.
        -Everyone seems to love local-Champions, Spiritex. Did anyone care to point out that they’re veterans of Wild Oats (a Whole Foods acquisition) that moved from Boulder and have another shop in Greenville? Not exactly natives of the area or hypocrisy-free advocates.
        -Your link showing recirculation of funds quotes the Civic Economics Survey of Independent Businesses. Not exactly an un-biased source there. I’ve seen these facts tossed around again and again, and I’ve seen them discredited just as much as anti-vaxxers or climate change deniers.
        -Did you maybe try to email any professor of economics at UNCA to ask their opinion? Maybe pick up a textbook on macro and micro economics 101?
        – Did you ask ANY other retailer on Lexington Avenue what they pay (it’s not a lot at all) or if they offer any benefits at all?
        – Did you take UnChain AVL’s flyer and examine the flimsy claims against parking and traffic?
        – Did you ask Rebecca Hecht where she sources her products from, where her staff is from, how her new business venture fits in to the market?
        -If you’d stayed at the Anthro location for more than the 30 minutes you probably hung around, and actually came to the bulk of the protest, you’d have seen the harassment and intimidation of employees and customers. We’re talking borderline assault. (I work very close by, am unaffiliated, and this pissed me off).
        – Did you ask any customers walking into Anthropologie what they thought? You probably wouldn’t have liked hearing how glad they were the shop was in town.
        -A facebook post showing the rowdiness of the crowd? Well that’s a great source. If only we had a journalist there to see what actually happened.
        – Did you contact the APD to see if there had been any complaints against the protestors? All of this could have taken you an extra few hours, and would have made for a compelling piece. But instead, you knew already which story you wanted to tell and the weeks of advanced notice of the event probably didn’t give you enough time.

        I bet you just hated it when the nice people at Anthropologie didn’t give you a headline to make them look bad.

        Did you not want to run a headline of “UnChain AVL protestors give nasty welcome to local Anthropologie employees and customers?”

        Plain and simple, these UnChain AVL crybabies just don’t want anyone else playing in their backyard. I’m tired of the vocal minority getting to make claims like this and hide behind a localist movement.

        Welcome to Asheville, Anthropologie. I’ll be shopping there for sure. As will all of my friends, family, and co-workers (and we will NOT be visiting Adorn salon any time soon).

        You can do better than this Able and Mountain X.

        • Able Allen

          The fact is- that the people quoted in this article said what they said. That is the nature of a quote. When a news organization chooses to quote someone, we do lend them some credibility and we don’t take that lightly. However, that doesn’t make it the position of the article nor does it make us biased or lazy. For some reason a lot of people expect news sources to only print a quote when it is verified to be 100% true. If that were how news reporting worked, it would be pretty difficult to write about politics. You are right that this is largely a he-said-she-said piece, and I submit that the form is appropriate for an article about a protest. That said, most of the legitimate concerns you slated are represented in some way in the article. There is an opinion that many landlords are part of what the UNChainers would see as the solution. There is the opinion stated that Anthropologie’s wages are competitive (although they wouldn’t give me a quote on their actual starting wage, they said it depends on several factors), and they give their estimate of 50 current employees. Marylou Marsh of Spiritex gives her estimate of their average wage (though she isn’t on Lexington Ave). I talk about the many shoppers carrying Urban Outfitters bags. Clearly they are pleased to have these stores in town. No one was purposely misrepresented and no one was purposely underrepresented.
          As for some of your other questions or concerns they aren’t all relevant, and they don’t all add up. I didn’t get the impression that the management at Anthropologie would characterize it as a “nasty” welcome- talk about a biased headline. I’d also like to see what you mean by discredited when you talk about the studies by Civic Economics. The Economist has used them as a source in the past. I have never seen an indication that they are not legitimate. Blown out of proportion? Maybe. The results do seem to vary from city to city, but while it has been attacked, and as far as I know it isn’t peer reviewed work, I have not seen it actually debunked or disproven in terms of methodology. I had no reason yesterday, based on what I saw, to ask about police complaints. Since you are curious I have contacted the A-PD but they would like me to ask someone who is so far unavailable. I will get back to you tomorrow on that.
          So look, while I feel that you calling my work lazy is unfair and unreasonable, there is certainly a bigger story here, and an important one. What is the future of Asheville’s downtown? What are the advantages and disadvantages of having chain retailers downtown? What about chain restaurants? What are the successes and failures of other communities who have experienced an influx of chains? These are all important questions? Lets all agree to go out and do our best to find some answers? We can only collaborate in that way through civil discourse- without accusing one another of not having the best interests of the community in mind. My mission as a reporter, as I see it, is sometimes to go to the highest authority on a subject and report back, but more often it is to attempt to ask good questions and try to relay the communication of the community. Facts are important. The raw numbers are important. The hopes and fears and ideology of the community are also important. That’s media.
          And if you want me to reveal my bias, I will. I am biased toward discussion and community discourse.

        • Mack Sweeney

          Martino’s store opened in May of this year. He sells many items made in China, a country with a poor human rights record, to say the least. Is this what qualifies as a local business?

  3. Gus

    I’m curious as to whether there is any truth to the rumor that Rebecca Hecht, owner of Adorn Salon, wanted the space for her own business but couldn’t afford the rent, and so now she’s just pissed off that it’s there. And now, we have her petition, protest, etc. That certainly seems plausible given the selective nature of her wrath. There are plenty of other chains downtown – Marble Slab, Jimmy Johns, Doc Cheys, to name a few.

    This isn’t a protest about chains in general. This is a very personal protest about one particular corporation that happens to own two chains downtown, one of which is now on Lexington Ave. What’s funny is that all of these comments about how much money is returned to the community by buying local, rents skyrocketing, chains buying buildings, etc…..all of this rhetoric is stolen from an article about King St. in Charleston, SC. These aren’t original thoughts by these people. It’s amazing what a Google string search will turn up.

    I’d love to know how many protesters stopped by Trader Joe’s on their way home. Trader Joe’s has 450+ stores and $10 Billion in annual revenue. Urban Outfitters, the parent company of Anthropologie and owner of five brands, has 401 stores and $3 Billion in annual revenue. Several local businesses were displaced to make room for TJs, and what did we hear about that? Nothing.

    These folks would be much better served by promoting their own businesses and offering a better product for a better value. It’s business. It’s not the soup kitchen. And for the record, downtown is called the central business district, not the Lexington Ave Chinese-made paper lantern district.

    • NFB

      “I’d love to know how many protesters stopped by Trader Joe’s on their way home. Trader Joe’s has 450+ stores and $10 Billion in annual revenue. ”

      Not only that, but when Trader Joe’s came to town it displaced THREE locally owned business and all we got was crickets from the buy local crowd.

    • Big Al

      Yes, very selective HYPOCRISY on the part of No Brain AVL… I mean UnChain AVL.

      How would they feel if any significant number of people STOPPED SHOPPING at the store with UnChainAVL signs in their windows. Maybe lets get THAT campaign rolling and see how they feel?

  4. James

    Dear UnChain Asheville court jesters – oops, I meant protesters. We live in a free market society where anyone can make it if they try to offer a product or service that others want. That’s what has fueled American economic prosperity through the ages and has made life very comfortable for American men, women and children. The same can’t be said for today’s North Korea or yesterday’s Soviet Union. Anthropologie grew out of Urban Outfitters which began as a small business that catered to an edgy, alternative, hip element of people. They found their market, were successful and they grew. Why? Because there was and obviously still is a demand for their product. It’s time you all grew up and learned how to COEXIST with these chain stores. If you don’t like them, don’t shop there but don’t you dare tell the rest of us we can’t shop there either!

  5. Franzi

    Asheville is home to a thriving downtown that is nationally recognized for its success on many fronts. More and more it is becoming a desirable destination for businesses headquartered elsewhere as are many downtowns that boast an eclectic dining and entertainment scene.
    Twenty-five years ago our economic story was much different. Many buildings in downtown were boarded up and tourists were warned not to walk down Lexington Ave. Little by little entrepreneurs emerged and took a chance on a failing downtown. With the help from a few visionaries our downtown gave birth to a cooperative grocery, a local bookstore and cafe, an independent weekly newspaper, a radio station and a myriad of small restaurants. It probably took just as many entrepreneurs to fail as it did to succeed but with help from organizations like Public Interest Projects, the Self Help Credit Union and Mountain Micro Enterprise as well as those willing to live in and explore downtown, a unique cultural niche was created. The Lexington Avenue Arts and Fun Festival as well as the murals by Arts 2 People celebrated this renaissance and gave homage to our history.
    Arguably, in the 90’s downtown Asheville drew people from all over our region because of its unique shops, the quality and emerging diversity of the food, the opportunity for artists and a myriad of mixed use vintage buildings with relatively affordable rents. It also became a place where the next generation considered staying or eventually returning to. Many have dedicated their energy to creating and building a community here because, like me they have fallen in love with this Asheville.
    Loving a place also means we have become engaged in the inner workings of this city. Rebecca Hecht has spent years voluntarily serving on the Asheville Downtown Association and the Downtown Commission and has learned the intricacies of city government. A group of us formed Asheville Grown an alliance of 425 local businesses that collaborate and through which we’ve helped raised over $55,000 for our public schools. We see the major flaws in our city, the increasing scarcity of affordable housing, rising poverty and for too many and lack of access to healthy food. We also have observed what happens to other cities whose downtowns have been taken over by corporations whose interests are in Wall Street. A city works like an ecosystem, when you eliminate a healthy part of it other working parts begin to fail. This cancerous free market is not based on a level playing field and is destroying culture and creativity and becoming increasingly expensive for too many of us. As a community working together we want to see this conversation evolve. We hope to see solutions emerge that serve to increase the diversity of locally owned businesses, democratize ownership and increase prosperity for all. For research on the economic impact of local businesses you can find more information here: https://ilsr.org/initiatives/independent-business/ and more on our thoughts regarding downtown: http://ashevillegrown.com/a-downtown-worth-fighting-for/

    • Dude

      Franzi – Your conclusions are way off and based in anecdotes and not actual facts. It’s true. When the sources you quote are simply from other localists, you dilute your message. “Streets overtaken by corporations?” Come on now. Two businesses from urban outfitters doesn’t equal a takeover, unless you’re selectively not picking on other multi-unit businesses like Tupelo Honey, Marble Slab, Doc Chey’s, Mellow Mushroom, Barley’s, 10 hotels, 15 breweries, Kilwin’s, Trader Joe’s, and on and on and on. I was one of the residents, and WNC locals, 25 years ago that risked walking down Lexington Ave just to go to Vincent’s ear (and I smoked by fair share of hookah there and even saw Jack White). But, you know what, I like today’s Lexington Avenue better and you and the Hechts of the world can’t take sole credit for that. Gentrification just like the kind you hate selectively moved out shops that were simply squatting and offering nothing of value. And that’s key…offer something of value that CUSTOMERS want, and they’ll shop you. If you don’t, then they’ll go elsewhere. Your shops and others CAN co-exist with a like-minded business like Anthropologie. Franzi, you’ve built your business on quirky and fun. I’ve shopped there often, and I still will. And so will everyone else. And, you know what, when customers visit Lex Ave to go to Anthro, they’ll see you and swing by too (and vice versa). My entire problem with protesting Anthro is that they shouldn’t be the target of your angst. It’s the landlords. Any word from them?

      Hecht serving the downtown community? No. She’s been serving herself. From her failed application to City Council in 2008 to her sour grapes on the Anthropologie location, we know what she’s up to. I’m sure that when she starts selling $6.99 a bottle cold pressed juices at her wannabe-Dean & Deluca her true hypocrisy will shine through.

      Since no one seems to be able to fact check any of UnChain AVL’s claims, here’s a basic rundown:

      – “More money stays in the community from a local business.” – While a locally owned business may pay a local graphic designer, accountant, or marketer, that’s about it in terms of the money they spend locally that a business like Anthro doesn’t. Do you think Anthro just puts all of their profits in a big envelope and mail it to Philadelphia? They still pay their local staff, local taxes, benefits, and drive traffic. True, Anthro likely has their accounting, marketing, and graphic design at their headquarters, but guess what? They spend A LOT MORE locally (in both raw dollars and proportionally) than a business like, say, Adorn Salon. How? Because they hire 10 times the staff (fact checked). They pay more than other Lex Ave. businesses and actually offer benefits (fact checked on their website and through applications at locations downtown). They have a much larger tax base that the city profits from (fact checked). They keep their facilities in pristine shape, and use local contractors and skilled labor much more often (pretty obvious and fact checked from building permits). AND, they drive more traffic to Lex Avenue as a whole than does a bong shop (as indicated by the line out the door on Thursday)…never seen a line at the Octopus Garden.

      • Gary W

        Finally someone with common sense that can see through the UNCHAIN AVL hype. Great response Dude, that was on point and factual. Thank you and to everyone else who did not and will not buy into their nonsense. I shopped at both stores Urban Outfitters and Anthro in protest of their so called local “activism”.

    • Dumbfounded

      The thing that strikes me the most about your post, is your boast… “A group of us formed Asheville Grown an alliance of 425 local businesses that collaborate and through which we’ve helped raised over $55,000 for our public schools.”

      That’s a whopping $129.41 per business! Boy, you guys sure no how to put your money where your mouth is!

      Personally, I would have been too ashamed of such pitiful results to admit to them let alone brag about them. That’s all the insight I need into your psyche. Naive and delusional – a deadly combination…

  6. Most of downtown’s businesses cater to locals. Very few are affordable for anyone living on local wages. So the idea of local first business is a off the mark. I prefer indie businesses over chains and avoid most of them, but do shop U.O. for its sales. Because I can’t afford it any other way. The other shops selling clothing are way too expensive and most cater to female shoppers anyway. Beyond that, some of the older shops have seemingly never changed, carrying the same imported goods for years. Most of my “local”money goes to thrift shops, coffee shops and breweries. I can afford a $2 cup of coffee or a $4 beer. I cannot afford at $30 t-shirt, or $200 pair of shoes. In the end, local’s will not play a role in shaping downtown, tourists will. And they really don’t care about some protesters. They will go to those shops that are familiar or have great presentation. If the local business community wants to compete with chains, they should have workshops on things like branding, retail display, merchandising, etc. that creates excitement and interest in local businesses. A positive message would do far more good than a “Unchain” poster. The intentions might be good, the strategy is wrong.

    • Totally agree. What local can afford or even wants to shop at these “local” shops peddling over priced clothes I don’t have time to wear (because I’m working my ass off to afford living in the area)? Thrifts all the way. Don’t even get me started on the asinine over priced handcrafted organic whatever consumables. Puh-lease! See me at the rinky dink outlet food stores for the most part.

      This sacred cow of a downtown is complete bull***t minus the breweries/bars, bookstores and a handful of other places. It’s a “seen it one time, seen it enough” black hole of pomp, Joneses and tourists. It’s not “Asheville”, the locals are “Asheville” and the locals I know don’t give a damn about this overpriced “local” shop or that one.

      All this being said, I’d rather see the current BS downtown than a downtown filled with major chains.

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