Innsbruck Mall: Take an Xpress tour and give us your thoughts

Here’s an interesting fact your newest Xpress reporter recently discovered about himself: I find old malls fascinating. It’s not an important fact, not the sort of thing you put on a resume or even a Facebook profile, but for the particular story I’m currently working on, it’s particularly apt. I’m doing a story on Asheville’s own Innsbruck Mall.

The story idea comes on the heels of the recent news that 34-year Innsbruck tenant World Magazine has moved from the sparsely populated mall to a new location in Biltmore Village, prompting questions around Xpress about the fate of the mall itself.

Though I’m not from Asheville, and my most recent trip inside Innsbruck also qualifies as my first, walking around the mall was not an entirely unfamiliar experience. In my hometown of Spartanburg, we had a similar mall still in operation when I was a teenager (Did you notice I said “had”?).

Innsbruck, for those of you who haven’t been there anytime recently, has been renovated, but more than half the inside spaces are not occupied. And apart from the line out the door at the DMV (an odd place for a government office if ever there has been one), the inside didn’t appear to be a bustling hub of activity. There were overgrown plantings, and the lighting was poor. It was uncomfortably hot inside, and one set of escalators appeared to be permanently out of service.

Overall, the experience was eerie. If it hadn’t been for the aforementioned DMV line and the stores on the outside of Innsbruck, the whole scene could have passed for something from The Stand after all the people were killed off by the superflu. Still, what I’m lacking here is context. I know the basics of the Innsbruck Mall, but I don’t have any personal history with it, only the wide-eyed looks I’ve gotten from people every time I mention the place.

That’s where you, the Xpress readers, come in. Obviously, I’ll be doing plenty of traditional reporting for this story, but one of the things I’ve learned in my short time here is that we have some great, knowledgeable folks who frequent this site, people with the sort of experience that can really spur a story like this one forward.

Below you’ll find a quirky video I shot during my recent trip to Innsbruck. Give it a look. Let it stimulate those informational muscles, and let’s hear some stories about Innsbruck. Nothing is too trivial: interesting factoids, anecdotes, rumors. They all have their place, and all have the potential to add context to a story like this one.

So how about it Asheville?

Music: “Jug band trio covers Blind Boy Fuller” via Busk Break


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26 thoughts on “Innsbruck Mall: Take an Xpress tour and give us your thoughts

  1. ashevillain7

    – The best restaurant Asheville has ever known used to be in the basement (The Windmill). I guess this is an opinion rather than factoid but I challenge anyone to name a better one.

    – There used to be an aquarium/fish store (where the Nationwide office is now) called Everything Fishy which was pretty nice.

    – The alterations shop gets rave reviews from everyone I’ve talked to.

    – They remodeled the exterior about 2002-2003 (the occupancy hasn’t changed much, if at all, since then). I was working at Office Depot at the time and was perplexed why they would spend money to nice up the exterior when the interior was really the part that needed help.

    – A Brendle’s department store used to be where Big Lots is now.

    – I think the decor was supposed to be modeled after a Swiss ski lodge or something?

    – Office Depot used to be half the size it is now (expanded into part of Brendle’s after that company filed bankruptcy).

    – The movie theater behind Office Depot was recently razed although it hadn’t been used in probably at least 10 years.

  2. Ricky Party

    The most interesting story about that whole area that hasn’t be told/solved is whatever happened to the time capsule buried underneath the ticket window of the now-demolished neighboring Terrace Theater.

  3. Turnabout is fair play.

    Malls made ghost towns out of vibrant downtown districts all those years ago and are now themselves dying out because of big box stores.

    And some downtown revitalization.

  4. Bill Miller

    Christopher, you must be all of maybe 25 years old? if so, this mall is older than you. Yes, since Ingle’s moved out and a few other a couple years back, it’s a bit slow in the main portion. But on the Dollar General//Big Lot’s side, it is busy. You suppose the mall isn’t as busy since the big Asheville mall is just 2 blocks down Tunnel Road? Not a badly written piece, especially for a new reporter. But please find something a little more interesting for your next writing assignment.

  5. Haters gonna hate, Chris. It’s a good idea. I’ve got something similar I’ve been trying to start for almost two years now and haven’t found any real focus for it, so good on you.

  6. Jeff Fobes

    Innsbruck Mall is at 85 Tunnel Road, very near the tunnel. Here’s the link to google map:,Asheville,+NC&ei=l2crTsyKDIm20AG02vTmCg&sa=X&oi=local_result&ct=image&ved=0CAQQtgM&cid=0,0,14722112745989802641

    Also, there’s a 2008 post from Eric Williams about Innsbruck on the site
    “the mall has new aspects (such as what seem to be a brand-new parking lot and recently-renovated exterior), indicating that its owners think it’s worth the investment; dying aspects (a 2-story ’70s interior that is locked on Sundays and that has only a few odd stores in it); and dead aspects (a boarded-up movie theater hidden away from view behind the mall).”

  7. Inssbruck just has a very passe’ feel. Especially in light of what’s happened in downtown the past 10 to 15 years…and then there’s glitzy upscale looking developments like Biltmore Park happening.

    That whole area is ripe for something new, or be bulldozed and let nature take over.

  8. Malls made ghost towns out of vibrant downtown districts all those years ago and are now themselves dying out because of big box stores.

    You’re a step behind Mat. With Borders liquidation this week Amazon is killing the big box. Best Buy and Barnes & Noble are probably not too far behind.

    Me and some other store owners have joked over the years about filling those empty spaces. Head shop, record store, arcade, ice cream, etc. Let the kids hang out until closing time unlike the other malls.

  9. “Upscale” is not the first word that pops into my head when I think of that, um, “development”.

    [b]”You’re a step behind Mat.”[/b]

    I’m not so sure I’m that far behind. I think the creep effect takes a few years to really take hold. Downtown areas didn’t drop dead immediately after the malls opened and, let’s face it, lots of America still loves their Best Buy and Wal-Mart and all that. I’d say we’re still a decade out from seeing ghosted out strip malls and empty big boxes.

    Not sure what will happen to those spaces. Again, probably another project I won’t get to work on for five or ten years.

    [b]”Me and some other store owners have joked over the years about filling those empty spaces.”[/b]

    But will we drive a more powerful car?

    Sorry, easy reference there.

    Anyway, I used to actually imagine malls becoming a sort of bombed out enclave of counterculture. Sort of like tunnel dwellings, only with fountains. I do like the idea of a mall filled with downtown-esque shops, though. Could be interesting.

  10. I think the variety big box will continue to do well, the Walmarts and Targets, but anything more specialized is losing money fast. There’s a recent quote from the the CEO of Best saying that he’s tired of being the showroom for Amazon.

  11. [b]quote from the the CEO of Best saying that he’s tired of being the showroom for Amazon.[/b]

    Maybe he should change some of his store’s more ridiculous practices, then?

    I’d give examples, but the Xpress spam filter is blocking all links from the domain for some reason.

  12. @ Mat,
    Well possibly “upscale” is euphamistic. But in my opinion, it’s certainly an improvement over the tired looking strip mall appearance of Innsbruck and other 60-70 malls that brought about the demise of downtown.

  13. Christopher George

    “Christopher, you must be all of maybe 25 years old? if so, this mall is older than you.”

    This 33-year-old is flattered. Thanks!

    Still, considering that Innsbruck dates back to the 60s, yes it is older than me.

    Everyone else: Great discussion! This is exactly what I was hoping for with this post.

    A quick question: Does anyone happen to know who owns Innsbruck these days? Its history of ownership?

    All that’s public information and easy enough for me to get for myself I know, but I was curious if anyone knew some juicer stuff, like the details behind previous sales of the property, takeovers by a bank, etc. Anything relevant would be great.

    • Stephen culton

      Brenco Real Estate Management manages it. The owners are Douglas and Linda Brendle of Elkin NC

  14. LOKEL

    If this “newest” reporter was a true investigative journalist he would have checked all his facts before publishing this “story”.

    The tag office is not a “government office” …. the tag offices are independent contractors who choose the location they operate. Anyone can apply to be a contractor for the State assuming they meet all the requirements.

  15. Christopher George

    This post isn’t a “story,” and I’m far from finished with the “investigative” parts of the story. This is a staff opinion blog post previewing a story and asking for tips about Innsbruck. It’s about two-way information sharing, not old-style journalistic one-way information delivery. The goal here is to try to generate a conversation.

    With that cleared up, I’d like to welcome you to the conversation, and thank you for the tag office information.

  16. cosmic ballroom

    Innsbruck Mall was in decline in the late 70’s just a few years after the Asheville Mall opened up.

    The big killer was when I-240 opened up taking through traffic off of Tunnel Road.

    Brendles used to be there as well as Frank’s Pizza. Franks relocated to across from the Asheville mall a few years later.

    I haven’t paid attention, is Franks even in biz anymore?

  17. Ashevegasjoe

    “Every town has a mall the white people go to, and a mall the white people used to go to”–Chris Rock

  18. luther blissett

    Seriously, you can go inside?

    If you weren’t aware that there was an actual indoor mall, you’d assume that the escalator between Big Lots and Dollar General led to offices and other commercial but non-retail businesses. That’s probably the only way it can continue to exist.

  19. KeyWestReactor

    Count me among those who didn’t even know it exists. I’ve been in the area off and on since about 2003 and cruise Tunnel Road all the time, but I never knew there was a mall back behind the Big Lots. I remember the Ingles, thought that was all that was on the other side of that parking lot behind the McDonalds. I’d bet that few of the newbies like have a clue. And with so many newbies, that’s lots of lost customers….

  20. Miss the old days!

    Sure wish someone would finish the interior remodel and get some stores in there! Love that it’s closed on Sunday, but hate that they have let it get so run down!

    • Miss the old days!

      Was just in there yesterday at the Carolina College of Hair Design. Could be such a beautiful and thriving place with the right amount of money and attention!

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