A PERSONAL TOUCH: Local businesses around Asheville, such as Dancing Bear Toys (above), play an indispensible role in driving the area’s economy and lending the city its unique ambiance. Through a combination of hands on ingenuity, creative approaches and a strong sense of community, Asheville’s specialty shops and boutiques are a testament to the viability of independent, locally-owned businesses in a world of big box chains and internet megastores. Photo by Max Hunt.

Local businesses drive Asheville vibe

Walk any downtown Asheville street and you’re likely to encounter some quirky storefronts offering unusual products. Together, these “specialty shops” or boutiques, most of them locally owned businesses, are a key component of the city’s distinctive flavor, attracting thousands of tourists each year and helping fuel the economy.

SHARED INSPIRATION: “As a white kid growing up playing guitar, I was as influenced by the music of Jimi Hendrix as Jimmy Page,” says author and musician David Gilbert. “I don’t think you can separate interesting cultural forms and innovation, which everybody can do. Everybody should have access to the music of Duke Ellington and the dance of Josephine Baker.”

Author David Gilbert challenges racial assumption­s in modern music

“The idea that black people and white people have distinct music and culture has its roots in racist thinking.”,” says author David Gilbert. It’s a concept he delves into in The Product of Our Souls: Ragtime, Race, and the Birth of the Manhattan Musical Marketplace. Gilbert holds a book launch and discussion at Malaprop’s Saturday, Nov. 14.