Creative Shops in Downtown Asheville, NC

By Kevin Litwin on April 26, 2011 at 10:11 am EST
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PHOTO CREDIT: Brian McCord

Byron Greiner says that one of the most popular local bumper stickers in this city states: Keep Asheville Weird.

Keeping it Weird

The president of the Asheville Downtown Association points out that the entire community – especially its downtown district – is known for artistry and eccentricities throughout its retail stores and restaurants.

“Downtown Asheville is not chain-driven. Instead, it has a variety of businesses that are independent and unusual in their own separate ways,” Greiner says. “The district is lively every day, which is interesting for a mountain community. There is real energy here.”

Greiner says that 20 years ago, downtown Asheville would roll up its streets at 5 o’clock each afternoon. And as recently as five years ago, the city was pretty much a seasonal destination only.

“It’s not that way anymore. We are a 12-month attraction,” he says. “We now have tourists in January, February and March when we traditionally haven’t had that before. A big reason is eclectic Asheville businesses.”

One of those businesses is Jewels That Dance, a store that been downtown on Haywood Street since 1983.

“I am a custom-design goldsmith who sells fine jewelry of diamonds, platinum and precious stones,” says Paula Dawkins, owner of Jewels That Dance. “I make the jewelry with an interesting twist, and have my studio right on the premises.”

Dawkins’ product line includes wedding rings, engagement rings, birthstones, necklaces and silver.

“I enjoy doing business in downtown Asheville because it’s kind of a little community in itself,” she says. “There are storeowners who have moved here from Minnesota, New Mexico, California and all over, and they all understand what downtown Asheville is all about. It’s a great atmosphere.”

Interesting Businesses

One of the most visited downtown thoroughfares is Lexington Avenue, known for its stores and restaurants purveying quirky and unusual offerings. One popular dining hotspot is Mela Indian Restaurant, which features mouthwatering dishes like palak pakoras (a spicy spinach dish) and entrees such as gosht roghan josh (a lamb dish).

Another interesting destination for shopping and dining in the downtown district is Grove Arcade, a public marketplace that opened in 1929 and is widely admired for its architectural design. One of the stores at Grove Arcade is The Jazzy Giraffe, a women’s boutique with designer and couture clothing.

“My target audience is women who are 40 and older, because I am over 40,” says Donna Wright, owner of The Jazzy Giraffe. “My husband, Thomas, and I are preservationists from eastern North Carolina, so when we stumbled upon Grove Arcade to locate my business, I just had to become a tenant.”

In fact, the Wrights like the district so much that Thomas has opened his own business – Battery Park Book Exchange & Champagne Bar – situated right behind Grove Arcade.

“We both love the architectural diversity of downtown Asheville and appreciate that urban flight hasn’t occurred here like it has in other downtowns throughout the United States,” Donna Wright says. “Store and restaurant owners work well together to promote the entire district, which also isn’t the case in many other cities. Downtown Asheville is vibrant and fresh, and I can’t see it ever changing.”

Find out more on quirky Asheville, NC businesses.

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