She started with a mall kiosk; now she has a thriving downtown Asheville store

Mariko Walker, at right and her daughter, Celeste Edge, owners of MTN Merch

Mariko Walker needed to make a move. 

Her marriage was ending, and Walker needed to secure a solid income stream her herself and her daughter, Celeste. She remembered a kiosk in the Asheville Mall where she would occasionally get items embroidered.

“It was do or die, so I asked about who owned it, and it just so happened that the person was not renewing,” Walker remembers.

Walker took over the Monogram Asheville kiosk and she she and her daughter, a wizard on an embroidering machine, began building their business.

Walker opened in 2016 and “it got so busy, we couldn’t keep up.” Customers wanted items personalized. Businesses wanted logos on shirts and hats. “There was a huge need,” she says.

One of Walker’s clients was a pair of other creative entrepreneurs, Greg and Danielle Veath, who owned MTN Merch, a store they opened in Biltmore Village in 2015. The clothing and accessories store featured Asheville-themed logos and artwork on everything. When the Veaths decided they were ready to sell their business in the summer of 2017, Walker decided to go for it, and bought the business.

Fast forward another year, and the Biltmore Village store was doing great, Walker says, but she needed more room, so she secured a downtown location in the big Tyler Building at the corner of Walnut Street and North Lexington Avenue. Walker and her daughter will celebrate the grand opening of that spot Tuesday afternoon with festivities including a ribbon-cutting.

“We’re so excited,” Walker says.

“This is what Asheville is all about,” she adds, noting that MTN Merch helps support dozens of other entrepreneurs by selling their homemade honey, pottery, art, jewelry and more. 

“I can’t tell you how many single moms have merchandise in our store,” says Walker, an Asheville native who grew up in Leicester. “They have a full-time job and they’re making stuff on the side. We have all these families and their friends supporting us.”

Walker, who has a guiding religious faith, says most of all she’s grateful for everything that’s led her to this point.

“I feel more a part of Asheville than every by knowing all these people we work with,” Walker says. “We’re all in this together, whether they just moved here or grew up here.”