As national retailer Anthropologie gets closer to opening a store on Lexington Avenue in downtown Asheville, some downtown business owners are bracing for the changes it might bring – namely, more chains.
Jay Lurie of The Real Estate Center in Asheville, who represents the landlord in a potential lease agreement for Anthropologie, confirmed Friday afternoon that Anthropologie is considering leasing 8,400 square feet of ground-level space on Lexington Avenue next door to the Lexington Avenue Brewery. The space is currently under renovation by Falcon Construction. There’s currently no signed lease agreement, buy Lurie said he’s confident one will be in place soon.
Some 3,500 square feet of space on the second floor above Anthropologie is being designed for office space and will come on the market before the end of the year, Lurie said.
Anthropologie, a Philadelphia-based store owned by Urban Outfitters, sells women’s clothes and accessories and has been steadily expanding. From a July 7 story about Urban Outfitters at Forbes.com:
At the end of 2014, Urban Outfitters had 234 stores operational for its namesake brand, 196 stores for Anthropologie and 98 for Free People and other brands combined. Currently, we project these figures to increase to 339, 265, and 217, respectively over the next five-six years. However, for the scenario under discussion, we lower Urban Outfitters’ store count at the end of our forecast horizon to 300, and Anthropologie’s store count to 242. We keep Free People’s store count forecast unchanged because the brand is in its growth phase and its expansion is unlikely to slow down.
Urban Outfitters opened in downtown Asheville five years ago at the corner of Haywood and College streets. The company turned an aging CVS drug store into a two-level retail outlet selling clothes and accessories. Two years ago, Anthropologie negotiated on leasing space in the old S&W building on Patton Avenue in downtown, but that deal fell apart.
Urban’s opening in downtown triggered an outcry among some local shop owners, who responded by creating the Asheville Grown Business Alliance, a successful “buy local” program in Asheville. The “Go Local” program has pushed for living wages and raised thousands of dollars for local schools, in addition throwing its weight behind the buy local campaign.
In a separate but related event, the Asheville Downtown Commission heard from a handful of downtown business owners who urged the city advisory board to act to stop the flow of chains into downtown, which is currently ground zero for a new hotel building boom.
Bob Carr, owner of Tops for Shoes on Lexington Avenue, said the “rumor of a national chain” opening in the neighborhood had him worried about protecting the eclectic avenue filled with independent restaurants and shops. He urged the board to start a conversation about managing future growth. “If the conversation hasn’t started, it needs to,” he said.
Dean Peterson, a 30-year employee of Carr’s at Tops, told the board that “we want to keep the vibe of downtown that we have.”
Franzi Charen, owner of Hip Replacements on Lexington and the founder of Asheville Grown, said chains drive up rental rates and other costs, which in turn forces out small business owners. She asked the commission to consider capping store sizing and backing programs that offer incentives to local independents.
Evar Hecht, the owner of Paul Taylor Sandals on nearby Wall Street and the husband of commission member Rebecca Hecht (she owns Adorn Salon on College Street), echoed the earlier sentiments. “We’re getting to the point where the independent small business model won’t work in downtown,” he said.
Rebecca Hecht said the Downtown Commission should create a subcommittee to begin studying what actions it might recommend. Board members agreed and quickly offered up ideas such as helping business owners offset the cost of downtown parking, defining just what a “chain” is and looking at what communities around the country have done.
Board member Adrian Vassallo, who is head of the Asheville Downtown Association, said the association is eager to help lead the discussion, adding that one idea the association discussed was helping downtown land owners put their property in land conservancies, which could limit development.
posted comment: “Franzi Charen, owner of Hip Replacements on Lexington and the founder of Asheville Grown, said chains drive up rental rates and other costs, which in turn forces out small business owners. She asked the commission to consider capping store sizing and backing programs that offer incentives to local independents.”
— what really drove up rental rates over the years was AVL City Council with its social engineering, especially via the UDO. the story of my house exhibits this perhaps better than any other.
posted comment: “Rebecca Hecht said the Downtown Commission should create a subcommittee to begin studying what actions it might recommend. Board members agreed and quickly offered up ideas such as helping business owners offset the cost of downtown parking, defining just what a “chain” is and looking at what communities around the country have done.”
— perhaps one method of offsetting the cost of downtown parking is not charging .25¢ for 15 minutes.
posted comment: “Board member Adrian Vassallo, who is head of the Asheville Downtown Association, said the association is eager to help lead the discussion, adding that one idea the association discussed was helping downtown land owners put their property in land conservancies, *which could limit development*.”
— and hasn’t the AVL City Council’s primary goal all along been to limit development? … well, for anyone they & their cronies don’t approve of, anyway.
but of course, collectivists don’t really consider solutions that really work, like the free market. they prefer control to freedom, and this will always be the case.
if the AVL City Council prefers more locally owned business in the downtown area, why then do they create legislation which causes rent and other expenses a business owner must cover to increase to the point where only larger chains can afford?
the answer is obvious — they are not really interested in helping locally owned businesses at all. they are merely interested in controlling other individuals, as does every collectivist in power.
I believe the real concern is not a few chain stores. It’s when there are so many vying to be downtown that local businesses get pushed out due to not being able to compete with what a chain store can pay for rent. Chains don’t have to sock away income to survive slow seasons because they have a store in every climate, while one shop is off season another’s is booming. Local owned Shops can’t compete with the balanced income that chains have. I’m concerned that all the hard work and many years of struggle all the business owners have put in to make Downtown the thriving tourist and local attraction it is will be lost to an anywhere USA feel. It’s up to property owners to save what makes our town unique. All we can do is pray that greed doesn’t win.
How absolutely dreadful for downtown. The culture may change, and you all will be forced to adapt to a culture that is being forced on you.
You do realize that the current culture of downtown did EXACTLY that to the previous culture?
Whenever I bring up the fact that the current culture was forced on the locals, I always get the same response. “Downtown is much livelier and thriving than it was before, it bring jobs and money to the area. Life is about change, nothing stays the same.”
That will end up being the exact same argument the new culture will give when the old culture complains.
Perhaps this has been covered before, but who owns the property/building that will house the Anthroplogie? What is the owner’s view on why he/she/they decided to rent to a chain instead of a local business?
Where does the Lantzius family stand on this issue of local versus chain? Aren’t they the major Lexington property owners?
Are chains which open smallish, boutique-style stores, with individualized designs, being lumped with “big-box” chains as bad actors for downtown?
Didn’t Asheville’s downtown once thrive with chains, such as Belk, Bon Marche, Sears, S&W Cafeteria,and J.C. Penney? Would they no longer be welcome?
Steve Wilmans, the guy who owns the Lab next door. Stop in for the worst beer in town.
Get ready for the angry progressive etchings.
My problem with chains is not only that they’re chains and “change the character” (I think Anthropologie is a pretty good fit in that dept) but that they’re not locally owned. All of the revenue from sales goes to owners elsewhere, and in return the building owners get rental income (that someone else would pay in downtown) and we get a few minimum-wage jobs. All their purchasing is non-local, too. With locally owned shops, even if they only provide those same minimum-wage jobs, the owners are far more likely to reinvest some of their profits here — buying clothes and groceries, eating out, employing local construction workers, getting haircuts, buying art, going to shows, etc., etc. Just generally participating in our local economy.
People love Asheville for what it is, but not all people. Tourists with big $$ come here and see a somewhat run-down town with a large population of people who look like they don’t work for a living. I had a couple come into my office one day and ask, “Is there some part of Asheville we’re missing?” – not too impressed.
One could say, well, we don’t need them anyw., But I bet a smaller merchant wouldn’t complain if someone wanting to spend money stopped in their store or restaurant on the way to a chain store. I can’t see it being harmful, as long as the locals aren’t run out of business. It just needs to be managed. And while we’re at it, how about using some of the revenue they bring for more frequent street cleaning and repairing the sidewalks? Dirty and crumbling is not the same as eclectic.
Why not put the store in the mall where it belongs?
Keep all the chain stores outside of the downtown hub, like out on Tunnel Road (east), Merrimon (north), Hendersonville (south) and Patton (west).Every time we get mentioned in a Top 10 list, it is NEVER because of chain stores, and is ALWAYS because of the eclectic, locally owned downtown businesses and restaurants. You folks are stepping in something you’ll never be able to scrape off your shoe.
Why do people want to come here just to shop at a store they could shop at anywhere? And at the cost of our community?
No one is coming to Asheville because of Anthropologie or Urban Outfitters, and no one is refusing to come to Asheville because of Anthropologie or Urban Outfitters. It’s ridiculous to think that opening a chain store that might actually encourage more locals, as well as tourists, to spend money downtown is somehow destructive to the community.
If all that mattered were more people spending more money, I’d be welcoming chain stores with open arms. They can pay more rent and attract larger numbers of people.
However, a store like Anthropologie or UO is arguably potentially destructive and antithetical to the locally controlled, unique culture and identity of downtown, both in its presence and it’s effect on rent prices. Many of us live here to get away from standard mainstream attractions and business practices, and so it is hard to see our downtown town piece by piece turn into one.
Concerning the make up of the clientele, I suppose you’re right. Just as many locals would be in the store as tourists.
“is arguably potentially destructive and antithetical to the locally controlled, unique culture”
Dude, Vincent’s Ear closed over 10 years ago.
N Lex has somehow survived that decade of crushing gentrification with its overpriced boutiques, bead shop, used bookshop, kombucha bar, tattoo parlor, etc. intact.
Why do people want to come here just to shop at a store they could shop at anywhere?
Where by “anywhere”, you mean “not anywhere”, since the nearest Anthropologie branches are Greenville, Knoxville and Charlotte, all of which are a substantial drive away. We’re not talking about Applebee’s here.
I know that Jason wants to treat this like a moment of doom for downtown, and he’s assembling quotes from people who agree with his personal opinion, but it’s not necessarily an awful terrible thing to have higher-end chains in town.
Hey Luther. I think the issue is not about stopping Anthropologie from opening up in Asheville. It’s about an appropriate location. Why not on tunnel road near the mall and target and other similar establishments? Why in the middle of the street known for its small eclectic unique local businesses and unique old architecture? Doesn’t that come across as slightly unneccessary?
Your right, they are not ‘anywhere’. But there 180 of them in America, and their style is a rather homogenous one.
How many of the people upset about chains downtown frequent:
It isn’t chains downtown that upset them, because they like some of them, it is specific chains downtown that upset them. That’s OK, but they need to be honest about their selectivity.
Oh good, are we having this argument here now? Did the other thread dry up?
Why is it so difficult for you to grasp that yes, some chains are different than others? I do see that you’ve dropped Tupelo Honey from your list. Does it no longer fit your argument anymore?
Just because people aren’t protesting and marching in front of Mellow Mushroom (I don’t go there – the service is terrible) doesn’t mean that citizens of Asheville can’t be upset about the intrusion of more chains downtown.
I agree with the above comment – there’s a place for big chains, and that place is somewhere outside of downtown. But, I also see that the tide is turning.
There’s tons of “vibrant” downtown districts that feel like you are in an airport. I just hope Asheville can keep some of its flavor.
It’s about an appropriate location. Why not on tunnel road near the mall and target and other similar establishments?
That’s stretching the definition of ‘similar’. The ones in Greenville and Knoxville aren’t in mall / big box locations. The new location planned for Charlotte’s South End this year won’t be in or near a mall, either.
Why in the middle of the street known for its small eclectic unique local businesses
The South Slope might have been an interesting location if the right space existed. But that’s beside the point: the way some people are acting, it’s as if Vincent’s Ear was still on Lexington and was being replaced with a Cinnabon.
I believe the one on Greenville is downtown.
This is very interesting.
Perhaps …..Just Perhaps… there is a silver lining to this. Downtown Greenville, SC has corporate sponsors assist in the beautification of it’s downtown. Asheville does not. What if enough chains come into downtown Asheville and assist us, using their own money to fix our crumbling sidewalks, streets with pot holes, and general sweeping of the streets. These things don’t appear to be coming from our city government.
I LOVE Anthropologie but, please, not in downtown Asheville. Will drive to Atlanta or Charlotte.
Trendy mall chain store. Lexington Avenue. What?