Asheville’s creative vibe is evident all around the city, from its museums and galleries to the people who live here. And that creativity spills over into the local business scene, which is rife with quirky entrepreneurs and unconventional small businesses.
Asheville enjoys a low unemployment rate and strong job growth, which are fueled by a stable population growth, a healthy housing market, robust small businesses, health-care industry growth and a steady tourism industry. Some of Asheville’s biggest employers include Buncombe County Public Schools, Ingles Markets Inc., Mission Health System and Hospital, the City of Asheville, The Biltmore Co. Museums, The Grove Park Inn Resort & Spa and Buncombe County Government.
One of the most popular bumper stickers you’ll see on Asheville cars pretty much sums up the local business scene: Keep Asheville Weird. The entire community, and especially the downtown business district, is known for artistry and originality. Take, for example, a downtown store called Jewels That Dance, which has been operating on Haywood Street since 1983. The shop custom designs jewelry with diamonds, platinum and precious stones, always incorporating some interesting twist. It’s a popular stop for people looking for a one-of-a-kind engagement ring or birthstone.
Lexington Avenue is another busy thoroughfare known for its stores and restaurants with unusual offerings. Mela Indian Restaurant is a dining hotspot there that features palak pakoras (a spicy spinach dish) and gosht roghan josh (a lamb dish). Grove Arcade, a public marketplace, also gets lots of foot traffic thanks to its off-the-wall shops such as The Jazzy Giraffe, a women’s boutique with designer and couture clothing.
Entrepreneurs are drawn to Asheville’s funky business climate, and it inspires them to create some interesting products. One local businessman makes and sells stuffed toy “sock monsters” out of his River Arts District studio and sells them via the Internet and in local shops. He operates his business under the name John Murphy’s Original Stupid Creatures, and it has garnered quite a following. Another Asheville entrepreneur makes and sells African djembes (drums) and teaches drumming out of his Skinny Beats Drum Shop & Gallery on Eagle Street.
Easy Come, Easy Go
Asheville’s convenient location is attractive to businesses, with easy access to Interstates 26, 40 and 240. The scenic 469-mile Blue Ridge Parkway also winds through Asheville and offers numerous overlooks, roadside exhibits and hiking trails. Asheville Regional Airport is Western North Carolina’s largest airport and is serviced by AirTran, American Airlines, Continental, United, US Airways, Delta and Vision. It offers non-stop service to Atlanta, Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas/Fort Worth, Detroit, Houston, Minneapolis, Orlando, Tampa, New York City and Newark.