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.
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.