One of my favorite things about Asheville is its diversity, and nowhere is this diversity more apparent than in the shops and restaurants of the town. In the late 1980′ and early ’90s the town center was almost empty as developers built Walmarts and Targets and Sears and Malls and Home Improvement stores by the dozens just on the outer east side of town. For a while it looked like it might kill off the town entirely but instead it proved to be the making of Asheville. I have heard many theories about what caused the regeneration of the city center and while no one seems to know exactly why the town came back to life, there is no question that it did revived itself and in its revival was its redemption.
You can walk to the city center of Asheville from the Carolina Bed & Breakfast. It’s a pleasant walk along, quiet, tree-lined streets past old homes which have been restored with love and originality. The Historic Association may make us rebuild our homes using materials similar to the original and in the appropriate style but they can’t tell us what color to paint them or how to landscape our gardens (if you could call them that)!
The same is true of the shops and boutiques of downtown Asheville: the store fronts may remain the same but the interiors are unique. Somehow Asheville has managed to keep the chain-stores, which have made cookie cutters out of so many small cities, out of the business center. These shops are still present, but they are either down in the Biltmore Village Area or out on Tunnel Road.
So, Christmas Shopping in Asheville: forget the lists of this years “hottest” gifts. Instead be prepared to explore the streets and find unusual gifts in unusual places. This morning I braved the icy cold (and they keep telling me this place has “mild” winters) and explored Lexington Avenue and some the streets around it. My first stop was Mountain Lights which shares its space with the Funky Mutt. I had actually been in Mountain Lights just recently as we found Sarah’s birthday present there.The shop specializes in innovative lighting and local arts and crafts. In the picture above you can see an example of the artwork in the right-hand corner. The artist uses window frames for his art which includes stained glass panels creating a piece which can be hung on the wall or in a window. The Honeypot Luminaries are made from pure beeswax and have a beautiful glow when lit.
Right next door is Write On, a stationary store. Asheville has a number of stationary stores: how cool is that? Here people still buy writing paper, journals, wonderful pens and desk accessories.
Continuing on down the street you come to a number of fashion boutiques. Tucked in among the consignment shops and “Hippie” stores (specializing in clothes from India, tie-dye and cotton,are designer-owned shops as well as boutiques which serve as outlets for a larger group of local talent. Virtue, a “casual dress boutique” is one of my favorites.
Around the corner and up a block on Broadway is L.O.F.T. which stands for “Lost Object Found treasures”. The outside of this store is a colorful display of metal art, wind chimes and garden sculptures. Inside is a melange of children’s games, toys and tee shirts; toys and gadgets for your pets; plants and gardening books; jewelery and other gifts.