lexington_avenue_next_to_lab_asheville_2015Anthropologie is most likely coming to downtown Asheville. The rumor is all the talk among downtown shop owners. And just a couple of days ago, Ashvegas loyal reader Ron confirmed it with building permit info.

The location is space being renovated now right next door to Lexington Avenue Brewery. It is smack dab in the middle of eclectic, independently owned retail shops, craft breweries and restaurants.

Anthropologie, a national chain based in Philadelphia, is owned by Urban Outfitters. That retail chain opened in downtown Asheville five years ago at the corner of Haywood and College streets, in a building that was home to a chain drug store.

When Urban Outfitters opened, it spawned an outcry among some local shop owners, who responded by creating the Asheville Grown Business Alliance, a successful “buy local” program in Asheville. The “Go Local” program has pushed for living wages and raised thousands of dollars for local schools, in addition to all the weight it has put behind urging consumers to spend their dollars with locally owned businesses.

Two years ago, Anthropologie was working hard on another downtown Asheville location near Pritchard Park, so it’s clear that the store has identified Asheville as a hot market. The downtown is exploding with vibrant small business activity and is ground zero for a new wave of hotel building.

That all adds up to thousands more visitors/shoppers to downtown Asheville. It also marks the decline of downtown Asheville as a haven for independents, a rein of some 40 years. Before the oft-talked about decline of downtown, the heart of the city was home to big corporate chains like J.C. Penny and Bon-Worth.

So now the pendulum is beginning its inevitable swing back. Business owners and renters in search of affordable rents will be forced out. A new era will be ushered in. Like it or not, it’s happening.

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49 Comments

  1. City Slicker says:

    Keep it all coming i say….its all going tits up anyway. We need a Wagamama’s here next by the way, and a good funky bar that has SBTRT Tuesdays

  2. Downtown is a tourist center for non locals with money. As a local I go dancing and work downtown but I avoid it like the plague. As someone who grew up here I hate 2015 Asheville and it’s getting more unbearable. The chains are so minor in the big picture of whats wrong with this place.

  3. This is rediculious.. Bemoaning a couple chains.. So stupid.

    Meanwhile Urban Outfitters opened.. Go downtown on a BUSY PACKED evening.. Tourist everywhere, people looking to shop… All the shops & boutiques that fought UOutfitters are all closed at 6-7pm and Urban is doubt business hand over fist. Maybe you are struggling, not because the big evil chain is stealing your business; but because you want to only open your little store from 10-5 just 5 days a week. You can’t shut the doors during peak times and then whine that a chain is ‘stealing’ your business.

    Go look at Downtown after 5… Thousands of people in the street, city & downtown commish investing all this effort in bringing peoe downtown and every shop on Lexington is closed.

    That spot next to LAB has sat vacant for how many years?? What local biz is being displaced?? If it such a prime spot, why hasn’t a local biz taken advantage of it?? It’s been sitting there vacant at least 10 years.

    Downtown is the CENTRAL BUSINESS DISTRICT i do not understand how having more business & commerce in downtown is a bad thing. At least they are not setting up out at the outlets or a mall, contributing to sprawl, traffic, & pollution. Viva Urban Outfitters & welcome Anthropolige !!

  4. I hear some chains have there eyes on West Asheville off Haywood. it seems the residents want reliable businesses within walking distances that have decent hours of operation.

  5. Lately it seems impossible to stop chains from infiltrating American cities BUT we can make decisions to support locally owned and independent businesses even if it means spending a little bit more money. If we do this we can help these businesses pay the $$ rent in downtown Asheville and keep them there. We are so fortunate that so far we are not “Any Town USA.” Let’s keep Asheville that way by frequenting local places- and y’all know there’s an app for that. We created it! http://www.diglocal.com

  6. This happens. I like Anthropologie, although I don’t like the politics of its owner. But all business is local, and I hope it will employ local people with a living wage. Urban Outfitters is doing well for a certain clientele, & I am sure that Anthropologie will do the same.

  7. Cassandra childs says:

    If you don’t want Anthropoligie or whatever the hell its called, don’t shop there. If people don’t shop there, it will go away. But this won’t work, will it, because the tourists want to buy something in Asheville that’s exactly the same as what they can buy at home, but they bought it in Asheville. I’ve given up trying to figure it out. How many people remember how “weird” Asheville was in 1986 when I moved here? Quit bitchin.

  8. Tommi Crow says:

    Asheville is one-of-a-kind and unique, only because there are no chains. I hear tourists brag about that all the time. Every other city in this country…and other countries look exactly the same. Walk down the street…there’s Abercrombie…oh yeah, there’s Gap….Hard Rock Café…blah blah.

    I thought it was Asheville’s economic plan to remain unique? Local business, restaurants, night clubs, breweries…so people who like what we have to offer have to come back…they can only get it here.

    This makes no sense, especially with the growth we have. Stay weird, Asheville. It has made us what we are.

    • Where do people get this myth about there being no chains in downtown Asheville? There are LOTS of chains in downtown Asheville:

      Mellow Mushroom
      Doc Chey’s
      Marble Slab
      Subway
      Jimmy John’s
      Mast General Store
      Urban Outfiters
      Tupelo Honey

      Expand the boundaries just a mite and you have Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods — two chains that chain hating Asheville begged for. Trader Joe’s even displaced THREE locally owned businesses and we got crickets from the chain police.

      Outrage over this issue might have more foundation if it wasn’t so selective.

      And, as has been pointed out, the history of downtown Asheville is one of chain stores:

      Belk’s
      Bon Marche
      Woolworth’s
      Sear’s
      JC Penny
      S&W

      • I think that most folks would recognize a difference between Mast General Store or Tupelo Honey and Subway.

        • Perhaps, but then what is the definition of a “chain?”

          Even if one eliminates MGS and TH my overall point remains.

          • I’m just stating that there’s a “straight face” difference between a restaurant that opened in Asheville and has been successful in multiple locations and a store like Anthroplogie that is owned by a conglomerate with hundreds of stores and locations.

            Why do we have to define the difference?

          • “Why do we have to define the difference?”

            Because doing so helps establish what we are talking about and what criteria should be used. Whenever an Urban Outfitters and a Anthropologie arrives in downtown we get seemingly endless rants about how chains are going to destroy downtown.

            Yet there are never any complaints about Mellow Mushroom or any of the “cool” chains that are downtown. The outrage about chains is very selective even though, when an “uncool” chain opens in downtown the vitriol is supposedly about the presence of chains in general downtown.

            And that’s not unique to Asheville. For year people campaigned for a Trader Joe’s in Asheville and when it finally arrived (just a stone throw from downtown) it displaced THREE locally owned business yet that fact was met with silence because AHSEVILLE IS GETTING A TRADER JOE’S!!!!!!!

            Look, I understand some of the resistance to chains downtown and the desire many have to prefer locally owned businesses. I even share some of that. But it is the selective nature of that concern and outrage to gets me annoyed. Simply because Mellow Mushroom has a hipster vibe does not give it a moral pass out of chaindom.

          • luther blissett says:

            “a restaurant that opened in Asheville and has been successful in multiple locations”

            FWIW, Tupelo Honey has been in decline ever since it decided to build out a regional culinary empire.

            Anthropologie has under 200 retail outlets worldwide. The nearest one is in Greenville.

            What I don’t buy wholesale is Jason’s declaration that “business owners and renters in search of affordable rents will be forced out.” At least, I don’t see what’s changed massively since Urban Outfitters replaced the CVS. If anything, the South Slope development creates an opportunity for new retail that isn’t merely decorative.

            Most of the quirky indie non-food retail downtown is priced for tourists, new arrivals, trust-funders or very rare gift purchases. How the rents get paid, I do not really know. When was the last time you actually stepped inside one of those galleries or gift shops?

          • So, NFB, you would like us to better articulate the difference between local chains born in the area and national chains that intrude here to better understand it yourself? I don’t quite get it.

            For the record, you’ll never catch me defending Mellow Mushroom. Not particularly because of the chain aspect, but because they seem to confuse “mellow” with “lazy” when it comes to service. I like a relaxed atmosphere, but I do like my server not to have to come back three times to remember what my beer order was. Mellow Mushroom tries to create a vibe that the Asheville Pizza Company comes by naturally.

            At any rate, I’m disinclined to defend my decision to not like chains that aren’t local success stories to someone who trots out the same criticisms over and over.

            As to why some people (not myself) are over the moon about Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s – I’d guess that it’s about a company that has a reputation for quality coming into a market that people feel has a gaping hole in it (natural foods). But, as I said, it’s not my jam, so don’t take my word for it.

      • Thank you, I agree with you completely. Don’t forget: Farm Burger
        Spice & Tea Company
        Kilwin’
        Thirsty Monk if you consider that it’s franchised into South Carolina,
        that weird 10000 Villages place
        Travelling Chic Boutique

      • Don’t forget the beloved Farm Burger.

        • You mean Well Done burger. Roman’s is better farm to table burgers using Hickory Nut Gap meat. Oh, hipsters it ain’t a chain so you should be happy.

          • Farm Burger is a complicated one – I applaud them for using locally sourced beef. On the other hand, not sure why people queue up in a long line for wildly overpriced burgers when there are lots of other great options in town. I feel you ought to be able to get a burger and a beer for two people and not have to drop $40.

          • I like their food, but the music is too loud. It’s a restaurant, not a dance club.

      • Itsbeenagoodrun says:

        The difference is in the way the city portrays itself and attracts visitors. Asheville is and always has been a tourist town. This most recent wave has been attracted to the unique independent spirit that downtown Asheville had. It was a town built on supporting each other and being a little different from mainstream America. Out of that were born independent businesses that worked together and against corporate America. The unintended consequence was that people from elsewhere were attracted to that lifestyle and Asheville’s popularity grew. If Anthropologie moves in it will not break downtown. However it will let landlords know that they can rent their spaces to bigger fish. Why would I let Minx continue to rent their spot on Lexington for $3000 a month (I don’t have real numbers, forgive me Minx) when I can rent the same space to Baby GAP for $6000 and they’ll sign a ten year lease? The inevitable result is exactly what has happened in so many revitalized downtowns in that the malls move back in. Independent businesses are pushed to the outskirts and scattered and in so doing lose their collective draw. They become an I trusted oddity the way they were 30 years ago when the chain was king. For Asheville the problem becomes that our draw of uniqueness disappears. Why travel from Charlotte when Asheville only has what Charlotte does? Your answer might be “the mountains” or something else along those lines. Those mountains have been here for 250,000,000 years. The tourists just came back 20 years ago. That is why Anthropologie is bad for Asheville and why a “chain” isn’t the problem, it’s what affect that chain has long term.

      • Foghatjoe says:

        I’m pretty sure all three businesses that were displaced reopened later. By the way, how often did you use liberty tax service, shop at New York fashions, or eat at the Mexican restaurant?

        • They may have reopened later, but such a move is hard on smaller businesses.

          I ate at that restaurant a time or two but that’s pretty irrelevant to the issue of many of the very same people who bemoan what chains do to locally owned businesses being so happy about getting a Trader Joe’s and being dead silent about the displacement of those local businesses.

    • Chains are inevitable. Every few years, there’s an interloper and everyone loses their minds.

      I think that’s fine. There will always be chains in a city the size of Asheville, but if we keep them concentrated on Tunnel Rd, out on I-26, or out on Patton Avenue the core of Asheville remains dynamic and different.

      • luther blissett says:

        See, again you’re implying that “chains” means “Olive Garden” and “Office Depot”, which doesn’t make any sense.

        There are chains that use economies of scale to distort local markets when they arrive, like Starbucks saturating locations to drive out the competition. Asheville’s largely been immune to that. It also helps that Asheville has Biltmore Village as a place that’s attractive to mid/upscale chains, serving both tourists and the Biltmore Forest moneybags crowd.

        There are retail chains with a sufficiently distinctive offering that people will travel long distances to the nearest store, and if that store is in Greenville or Knoxville or Charlotte, then that’s a day trip and money spent outside the city and possibly the state. Anthropologie is arguably one of those chains.

  9. Who goes downtown anymore?

    • Trustifarians and uber wealthy tourists.

    • I never buy anything downtown. I used to go to locally owned clothing stores but now buy online to avoid all the tourists and people gawking at each other for attention.

    • Averageordinaryinavl says:

      Are you serious? I’ve lived here 16 years and I still love downtown and thankfully live very close to it. While I do generally prefer to eat and shop at local businesses, it’s unrealistic to expect that no new chain stores will ever come to downtown. Anthropologist won’t be the end of the world or spark a decline in downtown

      • You’re in the minority. I live downtown and my neighbors, friends, and family all avoid downtown. Glad you enjoy it but it’s predominately geared to tourists in every way.

        • Agreed. Local here, and I feel like the outsider when I go down there these days.

          None of my friends or family visit downtown, either. It might as well be in a different state.

        • Why would anyone live downtown to pay higher rents, city taxes and then “avoid” downtown? Oh, and all their neighbors do to. Doesn’t pass a basic sniff test.

          • Because this is my home, I grew up in the downtown area. And I don’t want to live in Leicester or Swannanoa.

    • I am a new local and I love going downtown, especially on weekends. It is getting a little bit crowded, so I guess I should be thankful for all of the haters who stay away.

  10. Tommi Crow says:

    Asheville is uniq

  11. Ditto Murphy’s question. I thought LAB was expanding into that space.

  12. Drewby Drew says:

    do you guys even attempt to be unbiased?

    • This is happening. There’s nothing biased about that.

      • *whoosh*

        His point is that Ashvegas never seems to post a news item like this without adding in some extra hand-wringing and editorializing about how lamentable and tragic the news is. No one really expects a blog to be “unbiased,” but don’t claim that you’re just printing the facts when that is clearly not the case.

  13. Jason, what happened to the LAB expansion into that space…

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