Also this week, downtown business owner Rebecca Hecht created a petition at Change.org calling for a moratorium on “chain and formula” stores. The petition on Friday had more than 1,900 signatures. Hecht, owner of Adorn Salon on College Street, just up from Anthropologie’s new location, is also a member of Asheville Downtown Commission, where she recently spoke out about the need to begin a conversation about how to handle the influx of chains, which includes several hotel chains building, or planning to building, in downtown Asheville.
Read my July 10 coverage of Hecht’s comments, and other downtown business owners’ comments, at that Downtown Commission meeting.
I get a real kick out of these threads when people in AVL get all riled up over a new “chain” coming to town. Stu Helms’ hissy-fit over Chick-Fil-A on N Merrimon sometime last year springs immediately to mind. So far as I know, Chick-FilA is currently doing just fine, and so is the rest of the restaurant community in Asheville.
Some good points have been made here. Yes, a HUGE part of Asheville’s appeal (particularly downtown) is its quirky eclectic vibe. But a few chain stores will not destroy that unless the market dictates so. If that happens, it is not some failing or conspiracy on the part of the chains…that actually would be a failing on the part of the small, local business to innovate and compete in a changing environment.
Also correct…a landlord has a right to choose who he/she allows to sign a lease for their property, as long as it fits into the local zoning ordinance and does not create a public nuisance (yes…I know…some folks will consider Anthropologie a public nuisance…get real).
I remember the uproar when Urban Outfitters planted roots downtown. “The sky is falling, the sky is falling”. Well…the sky is still up there and I have watched many new businesses open downtown since their arrival. Some have failed and some have thrived. But none of their successes or failures have had anything to do with UO’s presence.
Anecdotally…I primarily live out of town and we have a teenage daughter. We spend a good deal of time in Asheville. When we head downtown, my daughter and whatever friend happens to be along make a beeline for UO and her mom and I browse and occasionally buy something which we would not otherwise buy in some cool shop or funky gallery. Example…we’ve grabbed several cool things while browsing in the old Woolworth building while the kids are in UO. And we love to eat at their lunch counter. Many kids want to wear what all their friends are wearing and what they see online and on television. UO provides an attraction for them downtown which would not otherwise exist. The money which they spend helps to pay the employees, who then spend their money in AVL, and her mther and I drop money downtown which we would otherwise likely not spend there. Everyone wins.
If UO were not downtown, we would be driving our daughter and friend(s) out to Biltmore Town Square, or now to the new outlets. She would still do what she does downtown, and her mother and I would not spend a dime. Is the larger picture clear here?
To echo a sentiment above…while I love Asheville, the city has many residents and business owners who do not get out of town enough, and live in an isolated bubble in which they feel tremendously entitled to their quirkiness and “Keep Asheville Weird” at all costs attitude.
And what are they entitled to? To their feelings. Absolutely. They may feel that way. But wailing and gnashing teeth about Anthropologie coming to town is a complete waste of energy which could be better spent elsewhere, and in the larger picture, success in this regard would do more harm than good over time.
No city needs to hang a “Do Not Enter” sign of any type at the edge of their downtown district. What that essentially creates is a “Separate But Equal” policy. Ashevillians are progressive and intelligent enough to know that that policy does not fly in a social sense. They should also recognize that it does not apply to the ability of businesses to operate in downtown, or anywhere else for that matter.
Has anyone read Anthropologie’s statement of corporate responsibility? It might appeal to Asheville. Do our local stores have similar statements?
As an AVL native, that lives in Charlotte (chain store heaven) my biggest selling point for AVL are the independent stores downtown. It’s a breath of fresh air to see different. Keep Asheville Weird!
So, on the fence about this.
I sat on those disgusting couches back in the day at Vincent’s Ear too.
Does an Anthropologie inherently alter the fabric of our quirky downtown? With it’s frilly bohemian dresses and relatively small footprint, it definitely does not. A Wal-Mart express, Starbucks, or a CVS, you bet they do…but, not an Anthropologie.
Unfortunately, we don’t really (and shouldn’t) get to pick and choose which retailers get to lease from our downtown landlords.
I know there’s link after link out there supporting the “buy local” argument, but they are very poor studies that are extremely biased and confuse causation with correlation and lack a basic grasp of macro v micro economics.
I see that Adorn salon started the petition? What if another petition went around limiting the amount of salons allowed in a sq mile radius? Don’t we have enough salons downtown already? Or Japanese/sushi restaurants on Biltmore. Dare I say breweries? Gasp! Downtown isn’t your own personal playground for business. I’m sure the adult theater where the Fine Arts theater now stands hated you “downtown reinventers” running out their “business”. I’m sure you all HATE the James Beard Nominated Curate and Jimmy Johns for replacing a pretty great music venue and Art Gallery (Be Here Now and Arts Council).
A major chain, Lululemon came to Biltmore Ave and they didn’t survive in downtown. How about that? A national chain couldn’t thrive in that location and didn’t put anyone out of business. Do they have a claim that local business ran them over to Biltmore Village? Was their rent too high?
This isn’t about free market or regulation, but about “basic retail 101”. These petition signers are doing so based on fear and the ONLY argument they have that’s remotely valid is that landlords may increase rents for their or other locations. Well, that’s between landlords and tenants. But, don’t get pissed at a successful company that is looking to expand their market share. This selective anger directed straight at “chains” and their locations in Asheville is where the petition signers’ argument falls flat. Blame the landlords.
But again, will an Anthropologie drastically change the quirkiness of Lexington Ave? No. But an empty lot for 2 years wasn’t that quirky either. Anthropologie can be a hub in the community.
Minx, Nest, Spiritex, Tops etc. Anthropologie won’t hurt your business. In fact, it’ll drive more traffic to you. Don’t believe this? Then run some year-over-year comp analysis of your transactions and sales before and after Anthropologie comes into town. You’ll assuredly have more people walking through your door. Now, it’s up to you to convert this traffic into more sales, and more $$ to pay those higher rents you think you’ll be getting. But please, stop basing your argument on anecdotes or data from very biased sources. And stop talking out of both sides of your mouths. Unless you’re spinning your own cotton or producing your own fabrics from wool from Buncombe County sheep, you aren’t 100% that local either. And “being there first” doesn’t give you “dibs” on the entire street.
You put more money back in the local economy? Um, no, you don’t (and the links people want to post about this “fact”…. I’ve read them…they’re terrible). Fine, send your graphics and accounting business to a local firm…that keeps it local, sure. But don’t pretend you pay all that well (or as well as an Anthropologie) or that you will have 50+ employees on your payroll that have great benefits.
You “alone” didn’t make downtown Asheville what it is. Tourists and chains have been coming to downtown for centuries. Some survive and some don’t, but you don’t get to alter the rules because they open up shop on your street.
Step up your game and strap up your entrepreneur boots, because this is how capitalism works.
I agree with most of this. There’s a large chunk of local retail that stays around because vacations have a way of making people buy things they wouldn’t normally buy. This why I think both the petition-signers and Harry with his cranky free-market absolutism are off base. Downtown Asheville is anything but a demonstration of the free market at work: crappy places stick around to mock us, decent places go under.
A lot of this boils down to the mentality of landlords, especially for property that was bought before the revival of downtown. If a landlord passes away or sells up or hands over management and is replaced by someone fixated on spreadsheets and aggressive short-term returns, then things can change rapidly, and even successful retail operations can be driven out.
Not coincidentally, John Lantzius died last year, and I’m sure there’s some trepidation among his tenants about what happens next. Along similar lines, the building that will house Anthropologie is owned by Cleo River LLC, an opaque corporate entity:
“the new owners of the neighboring property — who would like to remain anonymous, he says — plan to renovate the building to include retail space and apartments. Cleo River, LLC is registered to Asheville attorney Jason Peltz, according to N.C. Secretary of State filings. No other parties are listed in the company registration.” (Jake Frankel, MX, September 2010)
Perhaps it might be worth sniffing out who actually owns the property?
(FWIW, Jimmy John’s is terrible and the next time one of its bike delivery people buzzes past me on the sidewalk downtown, they’re going to get shoved into the road.)
(luther blissett) That sounds like a threat,
Quote: (FWIW, Jimmy John’s is terrible and the next time one of its bike delivery people buzzes past me on the sidewalk downtown, they’re going to get shoved into the road.)
You do know that could kill someone or leave them paralyzed.
Peebs, you are 100% correct.
“You do know that could kill someone or leave them paralyzed.”
I do know that a speeding bicycle on the sidewalk could kill someone or leave them paralyzed, especially when there’s no warning that they’re coming. I’m saying that I’ll make sure I don’t come out worst from any collision. So, hush.
pretty sure the people that own LAB own the adjacent property.
“pretty sure the people that own LAB own the adjacent property.”
The LAB parcel is officially owned by “TSM Land Holding LLC” (TSM for T.S. Morrison) while the parcel next door is officially owned by Cleo River, LLC. It includes the Rankin Press Lots property, and is relabeled in the county records as 19 Rankin Ave.
Maybe they’re the same owners behind the opaque LLCs, but I don’t think anything’s been established either way.
Please excuse all of the phone induced errors. I really should move to the keyboard for this.
No worries. I’m surprised how hot people get about this. First, I doubt that chains are going to take over downtown. For most of them, a conventional mall or strip mall is their preferred location. Second, I can see some advantage to having some popular chains downtown. As it stands now, I never shop downtown unless we’re showing visitors downtown. I’m sure most of my local friends would admit the same. If there were a chain store downtown that I liked (Anthropologie is not one of them), I would probably go downtown and shop more.
I like that Asheville has several major shopping nodes and boutique districts. It’s not all in one development. And with more areas in town opening up to economic viability, I’m sure some of the downtown boutiques that get displaced could move to RAD or West Asheville and do just fine. That’s just my gut impression.
Then why the anger at people who want Asheville to stay independent? In your 40 years as a business owner did you ever feel threatened by your competition? Did you ever have a company with far greater economies of scale try to move in on your clientele or make your physical place of business unaffordable? That’s what these businesses are facing long term. Of course extending business hours and hiring friendly staff will make a difference in sales, but if you look across the country at ‘revitalized’ hot spots there is often a tipping point where the individuals and businesses responsible for creating the ‘hot’ neighborhood can no longer afford to operate. That is what we are talking about here, and calling crazy lazy or assuming he’s unsuccessful because he wants to see the little guy make it is just plain wrong. And no, free market isn’t always the answer. In fact our country’s greatest era of prosperity was our highest regulated. Once we got rid of child labor, added a minimum wage, required businesses to not outright destroy the environment, etc, we created the environment you likely grew up in and were able to use to your advantage to create the life you have now. Free market capitalism wouldn’t approve of your generation Harry. If anything it is your generation that feels entitled because your fathers had a good union jobs and were able to provide for thier families on one income. They could show up, do a good job and know that their job would be there for them the next day, year, etc. Unfortunately your generation grew up and gave all that away.
I had a lot of competition during my 40 years, some of which was unfair. I didn’t win every battle, but I won the war. That’s life, and that’s business. The cat’s out of the bag with respect to chains in downtown. The Lexington Ave merchants are not entitled to protection by the government. If they are the reason Asheville is so popular, the tourists will keep them going if they’re good enough to survive. What is your business? Art gallery?
The only thing my generation was entitled to was a ticket to Viet Nam. A place where you would have died from dehydration from peeing your pants. And for the record, my old man didn’t have a nice Union job. He was a bum who let my mother raise the family alone.
Now we’re getting somewhere! You’re angry at your dad and vowed to not be anything like him. So you worked hard, made some money and feel it is your place to ridicule the idea of ‘fairness’ because you had a tough run of it as a kid. As an adult you now lash out at people like Chris who have differing viewpoints because you see them as ‘bums’ who could potentially hurt you the way your father did. Also, not an art gallery… Never understood how they make money. Also also, you guys had tariffs, standards for pay and benefits, affordable college, etc., etc. Those are guarantees that are gone or disappearing thanks to the free market.
I will say it again, chains bring more foot traffic to downtown Asheville thus benefitting everyone. Property owners can do what they want when it comes to raising rent because they own the building, don’t like it, don’t rent from them. My suggestion for the independents is to pool all your money together and buy a building. Then rent space to the independent chains at a loss to help them out. After that you will realize a lot of these folks that complain don’t stay open long hours or even Sunday. If the tourist are walking around after dinner on a Tuesday night around 8pm then you should be open or not in business for yourself. NOTE: This has been my experience when I bring guest to town for shopping and all the stores are closed.
If we ban chains, to be fair, should Asheville origin chains have to give up their locations in other towns?
Yes they should, but this town is full of hypocrites and will come up with some half assed reason as to why it’s different in Asheville.
Let’s progressively outlaw private property in the City of Asheville like they did in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). Who’s with me? Don’t worry, we would never come after yours.
Seriously, you numbnut petition-signers don’t understand freedom. If a property owner has the gall to locate a store here that you say does not meet with your approval and all of the petition-signers and their neighbors shop there, then they make a profit (a sign of approval), and are obviously meeting a demand in the marketplace, and find themselves engaged in a worthwhile enterprise. You tried the same thing with Walmart, even used violence to serve your ends. And yet, years later, I never pass that parking lot when it is not full. You sanctimonious armchair developers can sign petitions in your pajamas using the products of capitalism while the real achievers are improving the lives of millions around the world.
Chain stores don’t bring people from all over, Asheville does. The reason people are coming here because it is unique Independant stores and not chains. If Asheville was all chains then no one would need to come here. Thats the reason why I moved here because of Independant businesses and not chains. Thats the real meaning of LOCAL. Keep Asheville Local in food, music, artists and stores. Put the chains in the Asheville Outlets not in town!
Chain stores bring people from all over. As they walk to the chain stores past several independents they often wonder why they are closed and not open to take my money. Oh well I’ll keep walking to the chain store that is open and spend it all there. It doesn’t have to be this way.
“[Democrat Hecht]recently spoke out about the need to begin a conversation about how to handle the influx of chains”
Fascism would be a good start.
Just plain dumb. You can’t tell property owners who they can lease to. Wake up Lexington Ave. if you’re better, you win.
Well said. My thoughts exactly.
Excellent point. Why should Asheville residents be concerned about the health of their local economy, the vibrancy of the downtown, or the well-being of small businesses?
Let the market decide. And then, when the lowest priced, lowest quality, lowest wage jobs have taken over downtown, and tourists decide that they can get exactly the same shopping experience or dining experience in any town in America… THEN we can all get together and wonder why there’s no jobs.
They should be concerned about the health of their local economy and vibrancy of downtown. The strong merchants will thrive. If you have a store selling silly trinkets and choose to only open between the hours of 10-5 and not acknowledge potential customers when they walk into your store, you’re probably on your way out. This has been my experience many times on Lexington ave.
I weep for your personal experience
Don’t cry for me pal, and don’t cry when the weak merchants who provide lousy service and/or products are forced to close in the face of formidable competition.
“I weep for your personal experience”
You’re going to be busy doing a lot of weeping because Harry’s experience is the reality in Asheville. They (local shops) need to raise their game, spend a little less time attempting to gain a competitive advantage by exclusion of national competitors and focus on competing with a better product and reasonable hours. If you can’t then make way for those who can. Government has no role in subsidizing bad business plans or playing referee when it comes to who can compete. Downtown Asheville is not just the private playground of the local shops either.
Woodlenz, et al.:
Let’s just cut to the chase, then, and tear it all down and put up a parking lot for a strip mall, then board up the stores and let the parking lot go to seed.
You guys seem to think that the best answer to every questions is “no regulation, no controls”. And according to Tim Feckless, anything other than that is fascism. Put that answer to work in your own body, and let’s see how far that gets you! You guys pretend that “free market” is somehow a natural state of being, that it’s just the way the world works, but it’s fair to say that NO PART of the natural world works that way. (Except, perhaps, the misfirings of Donald Trump’s synapses.)
Your “free market” is just absolutist nonsense, “free” in that it’s free of all but the meager-est crumb of truth, spooned out to you by people who just want a playing field that’s easier for them to dominate.
The reason Asheville is having the boom it is having is not because of Anthropologie and Urban Outfitters. It is because of all those small shops, restaurants and clubs with their odd hours and quirky product lines, trying new ideas, building up a downtown that attracts people specifically because of their quirkiness and localness.
Now you have national chains wanting to come in and leech off of that success driven by those small business people, and your answer is “those small businesses need to learn how to compete” against large chains that benefit greatly from the economies of scale of an international franchise (and from cheap-as-hell labor) that are not available to the small business owner.
So, to summarize your argument: I’m all for big chains siphoning money out of the state to their corporate headquarters, on the backs of slave labor in other countries, because I don’t like these small businesses and their odd hours and quirky products.
Your absolutist free market dribble, applied to your body or to the world, just ends up with a broken heap of garbage, with carrion birds picking over the corpse of what was.
BTW, please enlighten me. Tell me one product by Anthropologie or Urban Outfitters that in any way qualifies as a “better product”. Unless by better you mean “cheaper, flimsier garbage fashion that you have to throw away because it melts in the wash”.
Chris, yours is nothing more than progressive emotional drivel, which is what is to be expected of someone who has not been successful under our economic system.
Free market capitalism is absolutely the best economic system the world has ever seen…when allowed to work. It is one of the major factors in our success as a country. As government has become more involved, our economy has become less free. And if we don’t weed morons like yourself out, the U.S. will be nothing more than just another seat at the world’s table.
The city government has NO right, authority, or responsibility to tell property owners who they can lease space to. Competition is coming, and that’s a good thing. Go make something of yourself and quit whining.
“As government has become more involved, our economy has become less free.”
You do know that’s ahistorical BS, right, Harry? There was never some pre-lapsarian pure-capitalist free-market idyll that dirty filthy government ruined. Although there were plenty of places in America where snake-oil salesmen, shysters, grifters, con merchants and mountebanks got away with defrauding people for personal profit, which probably explains why Donald Trump stirs the loins of many Republicans.
Now tell us all that we’re failures for not worshipping at the bullshit church of the free market, because you’re nothing if not predictably dull.
(FWIW, I don’t care about Anthropologie arriving on Lexington, but let’s not kid ourselves that this is some kind of free market parable. And I stumped across an Anthro / UO outlet store this weekend, and without the fancy interiors, the inventory looks like it belongs in a Goodwill.)
Right On, Chris!
Well said. Unfortunately, not well-heard by the free market numbskulls.
I assume by your post that you’ve never achieved much financial success in your life. Probably punch the clock for 40 hours if you’re lucky enough to find a full time job. The rest of the time you sit around angry because success hasn’t fallen into your lap. Because if you work hard, you’re ENTITLED to it by God! Right? Pretty certain I am.
I have been flat broke twice in my life. I retired very comfortably because of the free market system and decades of breaking my azz trying to improve my life. Sorry if the system hasn’t worked as well for you as it has for tens of millions. Hey, here’s a novel concept. Maybe YOU are the problem??
I love how Harry always states that his opponents are “unsuccessful” (he pulls out that card a lot, pretending he knows jack about jack), yet he has no success even countering the simple argument that well-placed, well-conceived regulation is not only warranted, but mandated by the overreach of those who would seek to game the system for their own gain.
Instead he (and dimwits like Tim P) trot out the old familiar tropes of “fascism!” and “communism!” every time they smell a whiff of regulation.
Dudes, you should really learn what those mean.
But until you do, please, keep running at the mouth.
Chris, it’s really easy to determine that you’re unsuccessful. Successful people don’t rail against the free market.
Regulations banning chains from downtown would neither be well placed nor well conceived.
Now, go wash and cut your hair, trim your beard, put on some deodorant and clean clothes, and get out there and do something with your life. Tough love from Uncle Harry.
“Chris, it’s really easy to determine that you’re unsuccessful. Successful people don’t rail against the free market.”
Oh Holy Mother of Jeebus, but you’re ridiculous! Keep it coming!
Guys like Harry are the problem with the direction Asheville is headed. He had a nice job somewhere else, collected a pension (those don’t really exist in the private sector anymore btw) and came down here for some inexplicable reason. His contempt for Asheville keeps him going and so he has decided to troll the comments section of Ashvegas poo-pooing on anyone who appreciates that Asheville pulled itself out of the gutter by supporting independent business and local entrepreneurs. I am a successful business owner here in Asheville whose business won’t be affected by Anthropologie or Urban Outfitters or the next store or the next store. However, my business, like many in Asheville, does rely on visitors. Once the downtown looks like a suburban mall those visitors who helped guys like Harry earn some money on their real estate investments here in town will start heading elsewhere. It won’t happen the day this store opens, but if it continues it will happen eventually. To ignore that and to yell ‘fascist’ at those who wish to protect the cultural identity of the downtown business district is ignorant and short sighted. But Harry doesn’t care about all that. He doesn’t have to. He simply gets on here to yell, heads down to Wal-Mart for his groceries and prescriptions, drives home with his blinker on the whole way and yells at the neighbor kids to get off his lawn. The effort that we all waste, myself included, in letting his inane comments bother us should be better spent working to protect the city we love and guys like Harry hate.
Actually Itsbeenagoodrun, you couldn’t have gotten it more wrong if you tried. First, I owned a small business for 40 years. That was the source of my retirement resources. Second, I love the independent spirit and nature of Asheville and its local merchants. I probably spend more in downtown restaurants in six months than Chris makes in two years. And the only real estate investment we’ve made here has been in our personal home.
What I dislike is the attitude of entitlement that exists here. My point was, and still is, that the merchants on Lex need to tighten up if they want to survive. Some of them just downright suck.
I think local store owners just don’t want to lose business, that is the main concern. People will shop there and at the local stores. If the local stores do not have items people want to purchase or the prices are too high they will not shop there. Plain and simple.
People are already here and not leaving so that isn’t changing regardless of what chain moves in.
Haha, a petition to stop chains. You will not stop the march of chains that will ultimately take over downtown. Thank you for your hard work, hope you own stock in mega fuck corporation!
Internet petitions: the way for people to show they care the absolute minimum amount about something.
Ha ha, that’s so true.