New downtown Asheville chain, Ben & Jerry’s, arrives to little of past outrage


Ben & Jerry’s, now open on Haywood Street in downtown Asheville./ photo by Jason Sandford

Ben & Jerry’s opened its new ice cream scoop shop on Haywood Street last week and has become the latest chain to move into downtown Asheville. That’s something that, in the past, has riled up defenders of local, independent businesses.

This time, though, public outrage has muted. That comes in stark contract to the arrival of two other big chains to downtown in recent years.

About three years ago, a group of residents took to the streets to protest the opening of Anthropologie on North Lexington Avenue. The Philadelphia-based store owned by Urban Outfitters sells women’s clothes and accessories in an 8,400-square-foot store next to the Lexington Avenue Brewery on one of Asheville’s most eclectic streets chock full of independently owned businesses.

Protesters outside the new Anthropologie store on North Lexington Avenue following its opening in 2015./ photo by Jason Sandford

The arrival of Anthropologie birthed an “UnChain Asheville” movement aimed at reminding consumers about the importance of supporting local businesses.

In 2010, the opening of Urban Outfitters (which is right next door to the new Ben & Jerry’s ice cream shop), triggered significant opposition and the formalization of Asheville’s buy local efforts, now known as Asheville Grown.

While a handful of activists and city officials have touched on formal ways to curb the location of chain stores in downtown Asheville from time to time, there’s currently nothing in the works beyond the ongoing buy local effort.

Of course, there are chain shops all over downtown. A number of new hotels – all chains – have opened in downtown in recent years. And downtown was once anchored by chains like Sears and JC Penny’s before the decline of the central business district in the 1970s and ‘80s.

Related: Starbucks really wants a downtown Asheville location.


Weavervilleman September 8, 2018 - 3:12 pm

Maybe because Ben and Jerrys believe3s in Green energy and being Environmentally responsible like what Asheville believes in?

EJ September 6, 2018 - 8:35 pm

Get a grip. The truth is everybody likes Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. Therefore no one protested. That’s it. Plain and simple.

Jack September 5, 2018 - 3:29 pm

Maybe it’s because protesting an ice cream shop with a history of being values-driven that is next to the 2-story Urban outfitters is akin to yelling at someone to pick up their banana peel when the garbage truck just overturned a dumpster across the street. Or because it just doesn’t matter. I, like, don’t even like go downtown anymore.

megan kirby September 5, 2018 - 8:52 am

That’s because downtown exists to serve tourists now. It’s like that boiling frog story. Put the frog in luke warm water and it won’t jump out. Then you slowly turn the heat up to boiling.

mike September 5, 2018 - 12:35 pm

Or it’s because the unchain movement was a boiling pit of hypocrisy. – I had a conversation, with a few of the unchain protesters saying chains raise the rents, upend the diversity, etc. then I asked them where they were from….. everyone I asked had moved to Asheville within the past year. So in reality, they should be protesting themselves, all these new transplants from out of town, raising rents, uprooting our diversity, gentrifying, etc. The movement had so much momentum against anthropology because neighboring stores feared the competition more than the ‘chain’.
All the growth, you have to look at what they are replacing… Anthropology was an empty shell of a space for years before they came in and upgraded it, 95% of the new hotels are replacing old pee stained parking garages, empty lots, or dilapidated buildings. And as mentioned above, the loudest voices of anti growth are recent transplants themselves. So I get a bit over this argument, to say the least…

luther blissett September 10, 2018 - 12:26 am

It’s a good analogy but actual frogs do jump out.

It’s a tiny frontage and there was no retail space there before. Do you really think that Malaprops is a tourist bookstore now? That the Med is a tourist restaurant? That kind of thinking will make it so. There are obvious problems with downtown that could be resolved — especially if the TDA spent its money appropriately — but there’s an equal problem in the conveyed belief that Downtown Is Bad Now. Summer’s over. The leaves aren’t really turning, so there aren’t many leaf-peepers. Beer bro season is ending. Go downtown. Maybe you have to pay a couple of dollars for parking. Is that so terrible?

(Where Urban Outiftters now is, there used to be a mediocre CVS, which I believe is a drugstore chain.)

John Tripp September 16, 2018 - 4:11 am

Good points.

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