For a small city‚ Asheville sure has made a big name for itself.
One of America's Top 15 Dream Towns. A Top 10 Great Adventure Town. One of the 20 Best Places to Retire in the World. One of the Most Secure U.S. Places to Live. Or our personal favorite: America's Happiest City for Women. (Men's Journal quickly followed that up with its own high rating.)
Individually‚ the honors are impressive‚ but when you string them all together‚ the result is almost overwhelmingly conclusive. Perhaps MSN and Sperling's 2005 Best Places to Live survey sums it up best - Asheville ranks as one of its Top 10 Best Places to Live in America.
It's high praise echoed by Emoke B'Racz‚ owner of Malaprop's Books/Café. B'Racz grew up near Budapest‚ made a career for herself in New York‚ and purposefully chose Asheville when she decided to start her own bookstore in the early 1980s. Asheville back then bore little resemblance to today's vibrant and bustling downtown center‚ but B'Racz saw the potential.
“When I drove into Asheville‚ I knew I was home‚” she says. The diversity‚ the many small businesses‚ the architecture - it all appealed to her. But most importantly‚ “it was all on a human scale‚” she says.
“And the backdrop is these magical mountains. What more could you want in a lifetime?”
Creativity in the City
And if you do happen to want more - well‚ chances are Asheville will have that‚ too. Creativity reigns - a fact immediately noticeable to even the most casual visitor - and artistic types abound‚ from moviemakers to musicians‚ from poets to painters. AmericanStyle magazine's No. 8 ranking among America's Top 25 Small Town Arts Destinations is almost a given.
But on the flip side‚ Asheville also walked off with high honors from Forbes magazine‚ which named it one of the best small metropolitan areas for business and careers. The Small Business Administration gave it top grades for its high “entrepreneurial/innovation index.”
And AARP Magazine called it one of the best places to “reinvent your life.”
Oscar Wong‚ owner of Highland Brewery‚ did precisely that. Eleven years ago‚ he was an engineer specializing in nuclear waste processing. Like so many others‚ he came for the mountains‚ then found a reason to stay.
Standing amid his cases of Kashmir India Pale Ale and Black Mocha Stout‚ a broad smile on his face‚ Wong says his dramatic lifestyle change was definitely the right move. And Asheville‚ he adds‚ was exactly the right place to make it.