Barry Olen, a downtown Asheville business owner and jewelry maker for decades who worked for the revitalization of the city center, died Jan. 4. He was 69. Here’s his online obituary.
Olen first opened a business in downtown Asheville in the late 1970s, when downtown was a desolate, boarded-up mess. He was perhaps best known for Wings, an accessories shop that he and his then wife, Jennifer Patterson, owned and operated on Wall Street for two decades.
Olen also owned Beads and Beyond store on Wall Street, where bead lovers could find a vast selection to meet their beading needs. (Patterson separately owned and operated another Wall Street shop, Future Visions, for about a decade before her death.)
A Mountain Xpress story noted that the couple had both designed and sold masks, hats and other accessories before coming to Asheville. Their success at a craft fair in its infancy known as Bele Chere convinced them they could make it in Asheville, according to the story.
Olen fought to revitalize a downtown Asheville he came to know and love after moving to the mountains from his native Detroit. In the late ’70s, the city of Asheville put together a revitalization plan that eventually birthed Bele Chere and halted a proposal to tear down several blocks of downtown buildings and build a mall. Olen was a significant part of all of that.
Olen’s obituary states, “He created jewelry, sculptures and leather goods. The president and organizer of the downtown rehabilitation of Asheville, North Carolina, he will be greatly missed.”