Urban Outfitters announces plans to move into downtown Asheville; reaction is mixed


I have the story over at the Mountain Xpress. Snippet: 

National retail outlet Urban Outfitters announced plans on Friday to open a retail store at the corner of Haywood and College streets.

Ken Masri, Urban Outfitters’ director of store development, told a downtown development advisory board that it hoped to open in the former CVS drug store location by fall. Urban Outfitters plans to remove the plaster covering the exterior of the building to expose original brick, Masri said, and improve the “eyesore” of a building. The two-story, 8,000-square-foot store will feature a central staircase, large windows and merchandise tailored to the Asheville market, he said. It would bring life back to a large, two-story building that’s been vacant since the closing of the drug store earlier this year.

Downtown retailers offered mixed reactions. Betsy Bradfield, owner of the clothing store Frock on Haywood Street, said she didn’t automatically object to Urban Outfitters, but added that “I think if we had more than one national chain, it would be detrimental to downtown. I definitely don’t want this to be a trend.”



Rumor control: Anthropologie planning to open store in downtown Asheville November 4, 2013 - 11:59 am

[…] Outfitters held the grand opening of its Asheville store in January 2010. The opening set off a heated discussion about whether downtown Asheville, known for its eclectic mix of independently owned shops, should […]

TJ November 2, 2009 - 9:55 pm

I noticed they took off the plaster and are clearing the space for the big windows. Overall, that corner lookes alot nicer with the exposed brick. I also noticed a spirtex or whatever opening across the street, so UO kinda fits in with the neiboring clothing stores and yet doesn’t directly compete. I mean I am a student and if I wan’t upscale polos or some really nice jackets, I’ll go to Union, but most of the time it’s to expensive for me. If I wan’t really good cheap western shirts, I’ll go to Rag Time. If I want zouk crazy clothes, Hip Replacement it is. BUT if I want some basics and some cool furnishings, UO it is. This is alot better than scavaging for the left over UO stuff at Rugged, even though that place is amazing too.
Plus maybe when this opens, I’ll pop on a super deep crazy colored big text V-Neck grease my hair and go in for an interview.

Nate September 11, 2009 - 5:32 am

Isn’t CVS a chain? It was there. At least the Urban Outfitters store will fit in more than a big red neon "CVS" on the street. Plus, this will bring more people to downtown. There isn’t much shopping in the area and the shopping that is available is expensive and just as trendy for the for the most part. It will also open up jobs, bring revenue into the city and again, it will look better than a CVS or a vacant building.

... July 31, 2009 - 7:43 pm

why are people so down on hip and trendy? who moved to Asheville in the first place because they thought it was hip?
who goes to other cities and shops their UOs and store we don’t have?
I mean you can’t just move to a hip "city" like Asheville, which is in the top 10 for places to live in the u.s. and not expect it to grow and become more metroplotitan. I grew up here and I am really happy with some of the things happening and other things i am not, but Asheville living up to its hip city label is a good thing. maybe the yuppies will go away.

Oma Goldman July 28, 2009 - 6:38 pm

can’t wait for the store to open , it will bring more traffic to downtown,, and will have one different store than the rest out in downdwon i feel that they all carry the same merchandise!

Jane Author July 20, 2009 - 7:48 pm

I am very, very happy (did I mention happy?) about this. Things in downtown are pricey, at least with a store like this they’ll have a reason to be the way they’re price. It’s about time Asheville gets in the picture. I don’t think this will harm downtowns feel, or history at all.

Asheville Dweller July 15, 2009 - 12:19 am

The only reason the MM is being defended is because its considered trendy and hip. ITS A CHAIN . . . . If one is bad they are ALL BAD. One word discribes this Hypocrisy.

appgrl July 14, 2009 - 8:13 pm

Every time I read a comment from someone who talks about keeping national retail chains out of downtown Asheville I have to wonder where they are from originally because the majority of native Western North Carolinians realize that a store with proven sales and that will be creating jobs is not always a bad thing. Yes, the pros and cons must be weighed. Normally, however, I taken income for the area in the form of employment (as the large influx of people relocating here has helped to make jobs scarce) and taxes. Also, I have to wonder why so many individuals seem to want to take away choices such as choices in where people have to shop. These individuals seem to want to force people to conform to their ideas on where money should be spent and the heck with other’s personal thoughts and opinions. What about the novel concept of a balance between supporting local shops when you can afford their merchandise and the option of a national chain should you choose that route? Hmm, options. I was born and raised in WNC and I can’t afford most of the local clothing boutiques downtown. Nor do I need to shop weekly at art galleries. Sorry, but that does not fit my needs or budget. Maybe instead of trying to force WNC to conform to the ideas of the shops that are downtown, maybe downtown should start thinking about what the actual residents and buyers that live here need and want on a daily basis. Cities across our nation mesh local and national chains on a daily basis, why the narrow mindedness here?

Biff Smeed July 14, 2009 - 2:17 pm

"Chains like Mellow Mushroom put money & support back into the communities where they set up shop." – JBo

JBo: Please explain how MM puts more back into a community than any other chain? I suspect that Lowe’s, for example, puts more back into Asheville via jobs, property taxes, payroll taxes, sponsorships, corporate contributions, employee charitable giving than a MM would in a hundred years. Yet, Lowe’s is branded the evil "Big Box" store. That’s utter and complete elitist and ignorant bullshit.

greenashevilleblogspot.com July 14, 2009 - 2:16 pm

JBo – perhaps you can organize a protest. You can get the bums in Pritchard park to sit in front of the store and hold signs in one hand, and the bottle of malt liquor you bought them in the other. It’s not like they have anything else to do…

Your MaMa July 14, 2009 - 12:17 pm

JBo, you worry to much and probably don’t shop in Asheville.

Just wondering, how much money do you spend at local businesses?

Answer, probably zero.

Asheville Dweller July 14, 2009 - 4:28 am

If it was yes another Coffee Shop, another wretched art gallery full of b/w photos or water colors or some lame trinket store not a word, but its a big evil chain oooooooooooooo. Chains like Doc Chey’s and Mellow Mushroom . . .. hypocrites one and all.

The City is changing for the better, its growing and will continue to grow. Bring on the growth.

JBo July 13, 2009 - 9:37 pm

I question how many people will actually come into downtown just for UO. I doubt foot traffic in downtown is really the issue here.

I’m all for balance of commerce in downtown between chains & local independent business, although I’ll always shop local if given the choice. Money spent in locally owned businesses have 3x the impact on your community as dollars that are spent at national chains.

Regardless, after a lot of thought on the subject this weekend, my conclusion is that ethical consumerism is really the topic at hand. Chains like Mellow Mushroom put money & support back into the communities where they set up shop. A closer look at UO and one can see that there is little that is ethical in their practices or their consumerism.

One of my main contentions with UO is not only the practicality that it will bring serious undercutting competition to the indie fashion market downtown, also bringing with it the danger of actually closing more shops & thus costing indie retail jobs; but the greater conflict with UO is in their general business practices.

If one does a little wiki research on the company, you can see that this business makes it profits from exploiting workers in foreign countries (i.e. sweatshop standards, mostly from China or India) and from what I’ve read of UO consumer’s in cities similar to Asheville, the majority of the products are over-rated, under-quality and over-priced. From what I can tell, the only reason folks really like shopping there is for exceptional sales. If a business can have such high mark-downs doesn’t that say something about how much original mark-up is in reality?

UO has been deemed highly controversial concerning racism, stereotyping, and exploiting localisms to their worst potentials. (If the desire is to get a few more local activists to take up a cause we’ll find one in the development of a UO downtown.)

Going up the UO chain of command, we find the cofounder and President Richard Hayne’s is anything but hip or cool – including donating large sums of money to anti-homosexual senators & causes, including the controversial task of pulling a pro-gay marriage shirt from the UO line.
( http://la.racked.com/tags/richard-hayne )
Urban Outfitters is just one example of a company that projects an image completely different from what its executives are really all about. As consumer’s wake up to their values, we have to ask ourselves what our hard-earned money is really going to support?

But the major issue I take with UO, as an artist, is that they have been shown to rip off & steal independent designs, modify them minimally, and them market them as their own. It’s all blatantly abundant with painfully obvious examples on this blog – Urban Counterfeiters: http://urbncounterfeiters.blogspot.com/

In Asheville, we tend to pride ourselves in being a community where we are able to shop our values; UO is the exact opposite of what a creative community should support.

I suppose the free-market will decide, and if our local retailers and artists combine forces it wouldn’t be too difficult to get the word out about how un-hip this exploitive chain is in reality. Other cities with communities that have a strong arts & design scene have picketed outside of stores when first opened, handing out flyers with the above information. In the meantime at least they will make that building space more usable.

joe blow July 13, 2009 - 9:07 pm

how is it a bad thing this store is coming here? the ones I’ve been to are in great spots, Santa Monica….Atlanta….Seattle. This is good. Don’t be dumb. Besides…all these "funky" locally owned boutiques are expensive as hell. Anybody here actually bought anything from union or hunk? We need new blood in this town to survive. More stuff here : good.

greenashevilleblogspot.com July 13, 2009 - 8:12 pm

more stupid clothes for the Tattooed Twitheads!

wc July 13, 2009 - 4:27 pm

You really should get out more, Asheville is not all that.

There are many examples around the world of modern cities that have local business flavor mixed with retail chains. (Copenhagen, Paris, Munich, Stockholm…) The location and design of the building I saw will give the old CVS building downtown across from Pritchard Park a much needed breath of fresh air. I even believe the employees will be required to bathe before working.

The key is balance.

Kathy July 13, 2009 - 5:18 am

read this from the http://www.thisismoney.co.uk from May 21, 2008…….The store may try to be hip and edgy, but the owner is very conservative…….not necessarily a good match for Asheville, look it up for yourself and decide!

Square who got hip to urban chic
Urban Outfitters is a triumph of marketing – a hugely successful business that has disguised the gap between what it is and what its customers suppose it to be.

Walk into the store on Kensington High Street and be convinced you have entered a world run by a new breed of hippies – cooler and more sarcastic than the originals, and with better dress sense.

The staff look like students because many of them are, and everything in the shop blares detachment – a major attraction to twentysomethings who just can’t resist an ironic T-shirt and thirtysomethings still trying to pull off the old look. The stores have already conquered New York and London. Ireland is next.

Quiet man: To expand, Richard Hayne needs to stay in the backgroundIt seems unlikely that many of the staff or the customers know much about the owner and boss of Urban – a brilliant retailer called Richard Hayne whose views would be a serious risk to sales were his profile to rise.

Hayne started the business in the 1970s, taking it public in 1993 and bringing it to Britain in 1998. He is still the biggest shareholder and a seriously rich man – a billionaire by some estimates. You only have to look to see that there is nothing remotely hip about him. There is surely a bigger gulf between Hayne and his customer base than any other High Street retailer.

Shopping in Urban makes you feel like you are somewhere radically Left-wing, an antidote to the corporate blandness of The Gap. But Hayne is a stanch conservative who donates money to Republican politicians, not least Rick Santorum, a now failed Senator whose views on homosexuality are both bizarre and old-fashioned.

Hayne doesn’t give many interviews precisely because he’s afraid that college slackers who get to know him will suddenly realise that buying his clothes is like giving cash to George Bush.

Once described as projecting a "Dick Cheney-esque aura of no-nonsense grayflannel gravitas", Hayne must be the only retailer whose expansion plans depend on no one finding out who he really is.

Despite the strife in the sector, Urban just beat Wall Street profit expectations yet again. So far, the illusion is holding up perfectly.


Let’s make tax

ThePhan July 12, 2009 - 5:29 pm

Don’t locally owned Ox & Rabbit, Union, Hunk, Honeypot, etc. all compete with each other already? Why does "Asheville leadership" need to protect them? Will the same leadership be asked at some point in the future to curtail any additional businesses–locally owned or not–so those businesses don’t have to compete?

Personally, I think this will be good for those businesses. It is unlikely that anyone will go downtown to shop only at UO (unlike a chain restaurant), and their customers’ demographics probably line up quite nicely with those of the other stores.

jc July 12, 2009 - 4:42 pm


It’s the Wal-Mart effect. They have such buying power that local stores can’t afford to match their prices.

Sign of the times July 12, 2009 - 1:05 pm


If Urban Outfitters brings more people to downtown then everyone will prosper, especially Union.

Lena July 11, 2009 - 7:21 pm

Their stuff is a bit overpriced but I looooooooooooove their markdowns. I’m pumped!!!

jc July 11, 2009 - 4:02 pm

tell the owners of locally owned Ox & Rabbit, Union, Hunk, Honeypot, etc. what a great idea this is. Another example of Asheville leadership paying lip service to local small businesses.

WNC Observer July 11, 2009 - 2:38 pm

yeah, a reasonable fit for edgy, eclectic Asheville. wouldn’t want to see too many chains though, risk becomng just another homogeneous downtown, and lose as they said on Good Morning America, "the vibe".

Asheville Dweller July 11, 2009 - 5:39 am

Chains like the Mellow mushroom and Doc Cheys, but those are considered cool and hip. Bring on the urban outfitters!!!!

been there 'n' loved it July 11, 2009 - 2:48 am

Sure, Urban Outfitters is a chain but in this case it is a good fit for downtown Asheville. It’s a funky, witty, gritty kind of store with the whole indie feel. I think it will actually help the other indie stores downtown in the same way that having a ‘restaurant row’ helps bring more people downtown to eat. If you don’t find what you want in one place, you go to the next. There’s a kind of synergy, if you will, having these kinds of stores downtown together.

I hope it works out. BTW, it is definitely NOT an REI kind of place. I wouldn’t call it a Pottery Barn meets Old Navy either. It’s way cooler and funkier than either of those stores would ever hope to be.

Sign of the times July 11, 2009 - 12:21 am

Regarding the comments I have read so far an the ACT and on Ashevegas I came to this conclusion.

1. Asheville is business unfriendly, so don’t complain when there are no jobs to be found.

2. Competition is good for everyone. If Urban Outfitters moves into that location it will draw people from surrounding areas that would not normally come to Asheville to shop. Therefore bringing more business and free advertising for area businesses the UO customers pass as they walk to the new store.

3. Urban Outfitters is a great fit for Asheville and carries a wide range of household goods as well as clothing and shoes for all ages. Kind of like a Pottery Barn meets Old Navy, only hipper.

4. All you idiots that complain about chains. What about the banks, gas stations etc. Do you want them to go as well. Of course you don’t because that would be a hassle for you. People that complain about chains are selfish and obviously employed. You would never hear an unemployed person complain about a new employer coming to town, regardless of wether they are a chain or not.

Jeff July 10, 2009 - 11:31 pm

On one hand I’m STOKED to see something new and different in that space. Is not that one of the CORNERSTONE locations in downtown Asheville? Great idea for a great spot.

On the other hand this will compete with local boutique businesses all around. Founded by some fabulous people that make Asheville unique and wonderful. All around this chain store are small, artsy operations trying to sprout. Aside from location in the heart of the southern Appalachains these little funky arty subsistence folk are what make this town what is is.

Yeah, I’m torn on this one. I’ve never been to an "Urban Outfitter" store. If it’s anything like REI count me out. I really hate to see the locals get squeezed by a big fish that doesn’t cater to local interests.

carrie proctor July 10, 2009 - 10:59 pm

This is very good news and people here should be thrilled that a great store like Urban Outfitters would open in Asheville. I’ve been to there stores in other cities and they are very cool places, with great merchandise. This will be a plus for downtown.

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