unchain_asheville_november_2015Update Nov. 12: Rebecca Hecht, organizer of this action, clarifies for me:

Our event is not a protest. It is a shop local awareness action of localist passion- positive message. Not protest. I hope you contact me in the future when writing about my work.

Original post Nov. 10: Asheville residents opposed to chain stores opening up in downtown are planning a protest outside the new Anthropologie store on North Lexington Avenue, as well as the Urban Outfitters store on Nov. 21. The protest is being organized by Rebecca Hecht, the owner of Adorn Salon in downtown Asheville and an outspoken advocate of locally owned stores and an opponent of downtown chains.

The protest is planned to coincide with the opening of the new Anthropologie store, an opening that has reignited concern among some residents and business owners regarding the impact of downtown chains. The opening of an Urban Outfitters store five years ago on Haywood Street first fired concerns, and led to the organization of Asheville’s buy local movement called Asheville Grown.

Several new downtown hotels – all chains – are under construction and will be opening over the next couple of years. There’s also word that another chain retailer, Free People, is scouting a downtown Asheville location. Urban Outfitters owns both Anthropologie and Free People.

Here’s the note from Hecht:

We have heard that Anthropologie will be opening on the weekend of November 21. We are organizing an event to raise awareness surrounding the issues and threats small, local, independent businesses in Asheville are currently facing. Our goal is to raise awareness as well as educate the consumer on the street about the value of supporting local businesses.

Below is a link to sign up for volunteer shifts to stand in solidarity at the Urban Outfitters and Anthropologie locations downtown and engage the public.

We will be gathering for a volunteer headquarters and localist celebration at the Asheville Music Hall at 10:00 am on November 21. We will be sending our volunteers from there 2-4 people at a time as they check in for shifts. The event happens to co-incide with the Asheville Holiday Parade (11:00 am- 4:00 pm), and the location is along the route.

We will have a presence at Asheville Music Hall as well as the Urban Outfitters and Anthropologie through out the day. After the parade ends, we will have a “jazz funeral processional” style march around the block, passing by the chain locations. Our goal is to be good ambassadors of Asheville and small business. We want to keep our message clear, concise, friendly, and polite when we are addressing the public. We will keep all of our marching on the sidewalks to keep this a free-speech event, eliminating the need to make this a permitted event.

We will be having a couple of planning sessions between now and the event- we will keep you posted about the details. Please sign up for a shift here.

Please feel free to use the files provided to support the movement, and be clear about our message. Please don’t change them without permission, and if you sell anything, please make a donation to Asheville Grown Business Alliance, as they are involved with the movement.

We could still use help with printing t-shirts costs, and if someone wanted to donate some biscuits or other breakfast/brunch items to fee volunteers through out the day, that would be great. We could use some musicians to help with the processional.

Please stay tuned for more info in the next week.

Thank you again!
Rebecca

63 Comments

  1. Trying to drum up support for a future council seat after her failed application in 2008? Well, count me as one person who won’t be shopping at her new little grocery store. What a hypocrite. She can prey on tourist dollars, but no one else can. She vultured her way into Asheville’s business scene in 2002 as one of 14 downtown salons? How is that adding to downtown’s business diversity. I watched today as employees and customers alike at the new Anthropologie were harassed by her UnChain AVL goons. Having a peaceful protest is one thing. But getting in the faces of customers, backing employees into a corner (yes, this is very true, I saw it happen), throwing garbage and beverages on their stoop, recruiting homeless people from Pritchard Park to hold signs, having one gentlemen (you know who are, Mr. “blue sweatshirt”) that was obviously drunk, be the ringleader….all of this crosses the line. They should have called the cops on you, but they didn’t…because they’re nice people. And this was just in the 15 minutes I stood around and watched after the Holiday parade. If the movement’s economic arguments held water (they don’t) one might be receptive. But acting like a bunch of spoiled brats gets you nowhere. I’m an Asheville native and UNCA alum that’s been here much longer than Hecht (who arrived in ’95 from Michigan) and her staff of NYC transplants. I’ve been to shows at Be Here Now and loved the art at the Asheville Arts Council, but you didn’t hear me bitching when we got a world-class (Jose Andres invested), restaurant like Curate. I’m glad she’s hanging up these UnChain AVL signs; it shows me where to NOT shop. I love businesses that offer something other than bongs, trinkets, and dream catchers. All those involved today should be ashamed of themselves. The only pleasure that I take is knowing that you’re a vocal MINORITY. Hecht should stick to the pineapple business, because I know plenty of employees, their friends and families that will spread the word not to visit your salon or new, overpriced 7-11 concept. We’re polite to people here in the South, Rebecca. Your gang today wasn’t. Shame on Brian Haynes as well. You can be a card carrying downtown-er like I am, but pandering to these drunk jerks just cost you my vote and support.

  2. Can someone explain the distinction between a protest and an “awareness action of localist passion”? When your “awareness action” involves stationing people outside a store to tell people why they should shop elsewhere instead, and a “jazz funeral” processional that clearly depicts the Anthropologie opening as some sort of existential tragedy, it’s indistinguishable from a protest no matter how carefully you avoid using the actual word “protest.”

    • luther blissett says:

      It’s quacking like a protest duck…

      I note that the concept of ‘spending money in locally-owned stores’ is still not part of the passionate localist awareness action of passion, though perhaps they’ll be telling other people to do that.

  3. This issue effects many cities. Commercial rent control is a hot topic right now in New York, Seattle and San Francisco. Google “Proposition J” or “The Small Businesses act” and you’ll get a lot of familiar sentiments on both sides, such as the following quotes, from articles around the country:

    “Small businesses are at the heart of our funky cool city!”

    “Bigger businesses capture the lions share of profit and use their capital to have disproportionate influence on our city”

    “We need to support our small businesses if we’re serious about preserving the character and soul of our city,”

    “The disappearance of mom and pop stores has been degrading our city for decades.”

    • You’re right, this is not just an Asheville problem and no one will argue the impact of small business, but the manner in which they (unchain AVL folks) choose to approach this issue is distasteful. Chains are not going away nor does the city have the power to regulate them within downtown. A constructive dialogue on coexistence would be the appropriate manner to address concerns not protesting their arrival. These pathetic antics and circus shows need to stop.

  4. I’m so sick of hearing about this.
    If you are established and been open for years what do you have to fear?
    Go to Charleston. Downtown is thriving with locally owned businesses next to The Gap and other chain stores.

  5. Who are you people who consider stores like anthropologie, urban outfitters, and free people to be affordable? $70 for a flannel with 0 quality is not affordable, especially when you can walk to mast general and pay the same for something that is actually meant to keep you warm. $80 for sundress is not affordable, $30 for some small chain necklace… This place will just be another shop for tourists because the people who work and live in this town sure as hell aren’t making enough to be a regular patron of such a store.

  6. Hey Hecht! Isn’t half of your staff transplanted from big cities or elsewhere? Didn’t you move here in ’95 and open Adorn in 2002? I’ve been here my entire life, so how about you let the community that’s been here MUCH longer than you decide what’s welcome here and what isn’t? You know, since I’m local, and….well, you’re not.

    Welcome Anthropologie! We’re glad you’re here and have hired 50+ employees from THIS CITY. We know you’ll pay them more than a hair salon (of which there are already 14) or a trinket shop (which are only a step above those “Wings” stores in Myrtle Beach that sell tiedye and Big Johnson shirts).

    Counter protest anyone? No more hair salons! No more hair salons!

    I’ll take my money to a hypocrisy-free salon like Ananda and then buy gifts for my friends and family from a world-class retailer that is more focused on running a great business than bitching about one.

    • Great response‼️ Town and people of the town should be more than thrilled to have that many people employed with benefits and not jobless with not better to do than protest??

  7. Besides offering lower prices and ability to pay the rent on time, what sucks about chain stores?

    • Have you seen Anthropologie or Free People’s prices? Get real. Not to mention all the other negatives like putting local shops out of business because dumb tourists will shop at whatever is familiar to them.

    • Anthropologie and Urban Outfitters are extremely over-priced and unaffordable, they do not qualify as a chain that offers anything for cheap.

      • Maybe you’re not their targeted demographic price wise, but they still have right to operate their business in downtown like any other legitimate business.

      • luther blissett says:

        “Anthropologie and Urban Outfitters are extremely over-priced and unaffordable”

        Have you been in some of the local indie stores on Lexington and Broadway/Biltmore lately? Oh, no, of course not: you’re glad that they’re there being all local and indie, but you’re not going to buy $200 jeans or a $50 sketchbook or an $80 string of beads.

        Maybe some of those things aren’t “overpriced”: a pair of jeans made by someone in NC from Cone Mills denim may need to cost $200 for that person to pay the rent, but you probably can’t afford them if you’re being paid an Asheville service sector hourly wage.

  8. Marriott, Hyatt, Cambria Suites, Aloft, Hilton, Urban Outfitters, Marble Slab, Kilwins, 10 Thousand Villages, Farm Burger, Mellow Mushroom, Wild Wing Cafe, Doc Chey, Mast General, Tupelo Honey, US Cellular, BBT, Wells Fargo, recently CVS and Subway….regional and national chains about. It sucks but that ship has sailed.

  9. As a community we must ask ourselves how do we design a downtown that works for us? Design solves problems. How does a sense of place relate to the community as a whole? How does place enhance our culture and our livability?
    There are so many competing points of view.
    These are some of the problems we are trying to address by standing up in support of a diverse local economy in our downtown.

    Out of the1,448 businesses in the 28801 zip code 88% have less than 20 employees and 55% have 1-4 employees. The vast majority of these businesses are independent and locally owned. They are also interdependent on each other and the community they live in. They are responsible for secondary businesses like graphic designers, bookkeepers, accountants and printers. Every dollar that is spent in a local business travels 3x as far in the community than one spent at a chain. Many of the tourists come here not to go to the mall but to experience something unique, something they cannot get in their town. But more importantly, locally owned businesses create more managerial positions and are more likely to have shared ownership. For every $10 million in sales Amazon creates 14 jobs, a large retail chain 50 and independent record shops creates 110. In turn local record shops will create the space for local artists to thrive and send business to local recording studios.

    It is not a large corporation’s responsibility to create community, it is their responsibility to turn a profit for their Wall Street investors. These corporations are based on an extractive economy, extracting resources from our community. Because of their size they are able to drive rents up and buy out leases. By having a presence in a popular city they are often able to operate that location at a loss and use it for marketing purposes. They make it much harder for locally owned businesses to compete. They also create a more homogenous downtown and procure much less locally as everything is centralized at headquarters.

    How do we best serve the various interest and benefit downtown Asheville for years to come? How do we diversify and grow opportunities for our entrepreneurs? How do we build better businesses designed to serve our communities, not Wall St.? These are the questions we wish to raise.

    More here: http://ashevillegrown.com/a-downtown-worth-fighting-for/

    • luther blissett says:

      That comment is probably the best defense of independent retail in this thread. But I’ll take issue here:

      “These corporations are based on an extractive economy, extracting resources from our community.”

      Whether you like it or not, Asheville in a very broad sense is not an extractive economy. It is fueled by outside resources — tourist money, retiree money, property developer money (Julian Price, John Lantzius), “sell up from somewhere more expensive to set up a little loss-making shop” money and yes, trust fund money. Without that constant injection of money from elsewhere, Asheville would be a lot more like Hickory or Statesville.

      Downtown’s bars and restaurants serve the local community much less ambiguously than downtown (non-food) retail. Forgive me getting personal, but a store that sells (very nice) dresses and shoes for $100 in a city where the median hourly wage is around $15 and median apartment rent is creeping towards $1000 is a store that has chosen a clientele unrepresentative of the broader local community.

  10. I’m more concerned about the chained dogs in Buncombe County than the chain stores in downtown Asheville.

    http://www.chainfreeasheville.org/

  11. Perhaps Rebecca Hecht can school us all on how a “locally owned” business (such as hers) that doesn’t sell (or use) any “locally made” products is any different than a “chain” which sells “imported merch”….

    my guess is none of the lotions, potions, dyes and accouterments she uses/sells at her salon are locally (or even regionally) made.

  12. …”balance and vitality” – exactly. Not too sore on the eyes either, these two corporate storefronts, are they? Hey…the minute I hear about a Dollar Store opening up downtown, I’ll grab a torch and lead the protest, otherwise, these fit the character of downtown. Pedestrian traffic…happy shoppers who might just open the door of your local business and walk in…that’s winning. In the meantime, forget the protest and make your local downtown retail experience great…quality sells.

  13. Just on a whim go through Adorn and see how many local products she sells. I agree with everyone above and this protest is way off base.

    Go after the 14 hotels, thats what is ruining our City and they are multi million dollar corporations btw.

  14. luther blissett says:

    “Our goal is to be good ambassadors of Asheville and small business.”

    How about instead of protesting the chains, they pledge to spend money at every one of the independent stores on Haywood and Lexington on that Saturday? I’m not sure how much cash those ‘local advocates’ regularly direct towards the high-priced boutiques or the bead and trinket shops.

    The problem some people have with UO and Anthropologie is that it’s hipster style in a cheaper package.

  15. Tupelo Honey has 12-13 locations. That Urban Outfitters in downtown replaced a CVS. Ironic, isn’t it?
    Most of those protesters are most likely NOT from AVL or been here for less than 5 years.
    Cherry picking retail stores for downtown is bad business.

  16. If I’m a local, and get a job there, am I a bad person for getting that job?

  17. not to mention – if you want to protest a store opening to invoke change perhaps it would be better to do it – you know, before the store is actually open?

  18. dumb and classless

  19. Hecht needs to let it go. In fact, any shop with an UnChain AVL sign is basically saying, “I’m an idiot business person.” Thanks for hanging these signs up….it shows me which shops to avoid.

    (and I’m sure this comment won’t get posted since it speaks negatively of Hecht and doesn’t fit Sanford’s agenda).

  20. MusicLover 28801 says:

    A total waste of time!! The store is ready to open and you want to protest now?? What about when it was first being proposed?? What about electing Council members that listen to the people?? The door is closed and protest or not, nothing will change unless people act before the door is even built.

  21. Thumbs up. Keep up the good work!

    I can tell by the comments that a lot of you guys havent been paying attention to whats going on…

  22. I have yet to see and article that reads,”If only Asheville had larger chain stores in the downtown area, it would be a good and more balanced place to live.”

    Asheville is begin recognized for what it is today. Now. It is being recognized for the interesting and diverse restaurant scene. It is recognized for the people and the lifestyle currently in the Asheville area. It is being recognized for the revitalization and the well managed growth of the RAD.

    Why change that ? This seems like a short term / short sighted money grab ….

    • “I have yet to see and article that reads,”If only Asheville had larger chain stores in the downtown area, it would be a good and more balanced place to live.”

      Well I have yet to read an article where people traveled to see or residents advocated for boarded up buildings downtown. Such was the case before Anthro moved into their previously boarded up space.

      Also just maybe people enjoy variety and shopping after 5pm. If you don’t like the chains then don’t patronize them, but don’t ask me or the tax payers to subsidize your business by creating an uneven playing field by restricting legitimate businesses.

  23. While I personally prefer to shop local, I’m afraid that this is going to backfire. It makes the protesters look insecure and intolerant. Sell cool stuff, at a fair price in a place I like to visit and I will. I hope they don’t feel empowered to speak for the entire downtown business community. Live and let live I say! (And I agree with NFB)

  24. Thumbs down. Foolish waste of time.

  25. I remember a lot of moaning and crying when the chain stores left downtown. Now the bitchfest is because a couple of retailers want to come back. I’m thinking a chain of whine and cheese bars would go over good here.

  26. Are there other “local” companies providing jobs in these spaces? Just wondering. I’m over the snob mob in this town.

  27. Will the be protesting at Mellow Mushroom? How about Doc Chey’s? Maybe at Marble Slab, or Tupelo Honey. Farm Burger?

    No, these chains come with the hipster seal of approval, which is fine, except for the fact that the result is selective outrage over chains.

    These people aren’t upset about chains in downtown Asheville, they are upset about certain chains. Why can’t they be up front about that?

    • I’m not sure that “chains” that have 4 or 5 locations are the same thing as National Big Box stores.

      • You might want to check how many Mellow Mushrooms there are in this country. And while Urban Outfitters is an international retailer with 400 locations, it’s no Big Box.

      • Timothy Burgin says:

        Mellow Mushroom has 150 locations. Anthropologie has 217 Stores. Pretty much the same thing.

        How long has the space that Anthropologie is moving into been vacant?

      • It does not matter if a location has 900 sales square floor footage or 100,000 sales square floor footage. Anything that shares a brand and central management would be considered a retail chain. This could be as many as two locations.

        So my point is this protest is silly!!!

  28. If the hipster stores etc. were open longer hours year around they would make a profit regardless of competition. BUT, they choose to be open from 11-5 or some other ridiculous bankers hours during the day. Good luck to that. HA!

    • They could also try not showing such open contempt for people who walk into their store.

      You know, the whole service with a smile thing?

    • Or you know, 10-6 or 11-7. 8 hour work days like the rest of the world. Many small business here pay a living wage so they can’t afford multiple employees to open the store 11am-9pm or to overwork their employees for over 8 hours a day. And when places like Urban Outfitters steal from artists all over the country and fail to give credit it’s pretty easy to make a profit off of other people’s awesome designs.

      • So your logic is because they allegedly pay a living wage, if person desires to shop at night, they’re out of luck out of luck? Is there was enough of a demand for their product, why wouldn’t they stay open later? Owning a business comes with a lot of sweat equity that may, you know, go beyond 8 hours on occasion. How about hiring someone part time? The problem is they want to change the rules to fit their choices and lifestyle. Sorry but it does not work that way.

  29. Where is all the uproar about the Hilton being built on Eagle Street?
    Could it be because white owned hipster businesses won’t be impacted by this? Double standard anyone?

    • Yes! Agreed, also what’s going on with the MHO affordable housing that was supposed to be built on Eagle street? It’s halted totally.

  30. This is ridiculous! Do people not have anything better to do with their time?! If you are so desperately looking for things to do, volunteer with the homeless population that is scattered all over downtown Asheville. Protesting this just makes me never want to go to that lady’s salon. I will proudly shop at the new Anthropologie! Thanks for coming to Asheville!

  31. Someone really needs something to do with all of their free time. Just sayin….

  32. Seriously? This is so silly and a waste of time. They help bring balance and vitality to the downtown area. Protesting them will not make anyone shop in your store. You will just call more attention to their shops. So as long as you do not block my entrance into their stores then we’re good.

    • ashevillelover/anthrolover says:

      AMEN!!! I’ll be right behind you, following through the door! AS a resident of an outlying city near Asheville, I rarely come downtown to spend money. Now you bet I will. Anthropologie will draw me there, and perhaps maybe I’ll stop at the local businesses too and spend some money there….money they would never see from me without Anthropologie. So perhaps instead of a “protest”, local small downtown business owners should be giving them a friendly Asheville drum circle welcome.

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