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You don’t change the world with the ideas in your head, but with the conviction in your heart. -Bryan Stevenson www.cfwnc.org Photo credits, above: Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity, middle: Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity, below: Asheville GreenWorks.
| March 2020
film I’ve viewed multiple times over the past year, to the point of obsession, is the Jakob Dylan-powered music documentary Echo in the Canyon, which is about the vaunted Laurel Canyon music scene of the ‘60s that brought together such disparate personalities as the Byrds, the Beach Boys, the Mamas & the Papas, and the Association; and which would “echo” down the years to influence scores of contemporary musicians (including, yes, Bob Dylan’s kid). The first music one hears on the film’s soundtrack are the plangent opening chords of the Byrds’ timeless “Turn! Turn! Turn!,” which shortly give way to a fascinating scene of Jakob and Tom Petty, surrounded by guitars and talking about how true art and inspired creativity inevitably get passed along and elaborated/improved upon. As this will be my final issue as editor of Capital at Play, that scene somehow resonates deeply with me. I’m passing my editorial duties along now, with the hope that I’ve elaborated and improved upon the publication’s extant strengths since my arrival in November of 2015, and with the expectation that the staff here will continue to elaborate and improve upon all we have accomplished together. A heartfelt thank-you, then, to everyone who has supported and encouraged us along the way. Worth adding: Among the final songs one hears in the aforementioned Echo… film is the elegiac “Expecting to Fly,” penned by Neil Young during his mid Buffalo Springfield days. In it, he sings, “There you stood, on the edge of your feather/ Expecting to fly…” and for some reason that seems emblematic here. A little under a decade ago, Oby Morgan stood on the edge of his own feather—his burst of inspiration—and subsequently did fly. (Track down an image of the cover of the debut issue of this magazine, from September 2011, for a literal depiction of the preceding sentence.) For my part, a little under five years ago, I came on board to be part of Oby’s flight crew, and together, this crew has soared to some beautiful heights. I’ve been on the staff of scores of magazines and newspapers during my four-decade career in journalism, and the one I’m proudest of is Capital at Play. Folks around the office have heard me say many times that with each issue we’ve completed, I’ve come away smarter and armed with knowledge and information I didn’t previously have. I hope all you readers, contributors, advertisers, friends, and family members have come away from, and will continue to come away from, each issue feeling similarly.
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Capital at Play has partnered with Bclip Productions to bring the pages of each edition to life, just for you. Featured at Capitalatplay.com and our Facebook page, we give you exclusive interviews and insider info on the people, places, and faces of Capital at Play has partnered with Bclip Productions to bring the pages of each edition to life, just for you. Featuring a new enterprise throughout Western North Carolina. Visit us on social media or at our website to see the latest 60 Seconds at Play.
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At Bclip we do more than tell your story. Our business-ﬁrst mentality and c creativity set us apart from other video production companies. It’s our mis help our customers sell their products, train their staﬀ, and entertain custo video. We strive to eat, sleep, and think like the wonderful companies we w
thi s page : STRINGS OF GEMSTONES ready for jewelr y production at Soulku. photo by Anthony Harden
w 60 prise y.
combustible ssion to omers with work with.
F E AT U R E D vol. x
14 THE INFINITE POSSIBILITIES OF A SOULFUL SISTERHOOD ELISA VAN ARNAM & ALLISON BLAKE
RAISING THE BAR
March 2020 | capitalatplay.com
C ON T E N T S m a r c h 2020
FALLING CREEK Camp, photo by Kevin Meechan, courtesy of PLATT
Architects of Western North Carolina
The Axe Throwing Craze Hits Western North Carolina
colu m ns
12 To Be an Alchemist
60 Axe Marks the Spot l e i s u r e & l i b at i o n
lo c a l i n d u s t r y
Nick Moen of The Bright Angle
26 Business Succession Planning 102
p e o p l e at p l ay
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Written by Michael Palermo
72 The Wine Column: Ship
30 Carolina in the West 54 The Old North State on th e cover :
Wine or Shop Local? Written by John Kerr
Sovereign Remedies Bar - photo cour tesy Charlie Hodge photo by Chelsea Lane Photography
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90 Spring is almost sprungâ&#x20AC;Ś who is venturing outside this month?
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To Be an Alchemist L
With The Bright Angle, Asheville’s Nick Moen aims to combine art, activism, and a commitment to producing quality porcelain goods.
ocated in The Refinery on downtown Asheville’s vaunted South Slope section of creatives and mavericks, The Bright Angle sstands out with the artist/entrepreneur Nick Moen’s distinctive approach to his popular porcelain tableware, vases, planters, and, most notably, unique lighting sources. We recently talked with Moen about his influences, his subsequent trajectory as an artist, and his plans for the business going forward. CAPITAL AT PLAY: TELL OUR READERS A LITTLE ABOUT YOUR BACKGROUND. Nick Moen: I grew up in Minnesota. I’ll never forget receiving my first piece of handmade pottery. I visited legendary potter Warren Mackenzie when I was 14. I watched him sit on his potter’s wheel, kicking his leg to make it spin, and gracefully transforming a ball of clay into a large vessel. He seemed like a magician, transforming earth into an object with intention. He shared stories of other makers that gave raw materials life. When he was done, he got up and handed me two small tea bowls. I wasn’t a tea drinker, but I grabbed the two pots, thanked him, and held them tight. Before long I was sipping tea and dreaming of a life learning to give meaning to balls of clay, boards of wood, sheets of leather—to be an alchemist. I wanted to hear more stories from masters of craft, and I wanted to feel the same way about all my belongings as I did with those tea bowls. 12
| March 2020
Years later, I picked up one of the tea bowls when it was too hot and burned my fingers and dropped it on the floor. My heart sank—that teabowl had brought me so much joy! I realized I wanted to design meaningful things that people would fall in love with and add to their story. CA P: W H AT BROUGHT YOU TO W ESTER N NORTH CAROLINA? WHAT LED YOU TO START THE COMPANY? Nick Moen: In 2012 I was living a nomadic lifestyle on the road, driving around America. I ended up in Asheville after months of traveling. My car broke down during my first visit to the Wedge, where I drank beer surrounded by artists. I stayed in the area and spent time at Penland School of Craft. I [subsequently started] my own pottery business working at Odyssey Clayworks and in my basement in West Asheville. For five years, I spent many months on the road in my Prius, selling pots, but I stayed in Asheville because of the amazing creative community—and the ability to hop in my canoe and float down the French Broad whenever I wanted! I started The Bright Angle in 2016, and my intention was to create a business that bridged the gap between design and craft using technology and a firm understanding of ceramic materials. Using 3D printed models and plaster molds for casting porcelain, we have designed efficient systems of production. As a porcelain studio with a focus on design, [I feel this] places us
photos cour tesy The Bright Angle
SUSPENDED PL ANTER , photo by Olive and West
outside the realm of studio pottery. Our unique capabilities to take dimensional sketches and digitally fabricate models that produce porcelain vessels is something that sets us apart. Using this process, we are able to make shapes other than circles because we don’t have to rely on the potter’s wheel. By utilizing computer aided design software to design, we are also able to incorporate other materials such as wood, leather, metal, and glass that are fabricated by other local makers. CAP: SO, TELL US A LITTLE MOR E ABOUT TH AT PRODUCTION PROCESS. Nick Moen: We mix all of our porcelain and glazes from scratch. Most of the materials we use for the porcelain are sourced from Western North Carolina. Another exciting part is our focus on collaborative design, and we also have a design residency program where we have the opportunity for makers to work in the studio and design limited edition collections. We recently launched a collection of translucent porcelain lighting—The Bright Angle’s focus is on porcelain vessels and design. We are so excited to be able to make the translucent porcelain glow, and the lighting gives us an opportunity to join the international design market outside of tabletop and home
I am excited to have created a collaborative environment where many artists can work together. decor. We currently do a lot of custom production for various retailers and other potters, but we intend to place more of a focus on our lighting. The lighting also provides an opportunity to collaborate with local metal workers, woodworkers, and electrical engineers. I believe this is a great example of the marriage between technology and craft. CA P: M Y STA N DA R D QU E STIONS A R E A LWAYS: SIGN IFICA NT MILESTON ES TO DATE? GR EATEST HURDLES TO OVERCOME? Nick Moen: Well, the most notable milestone is actually just around the corner: In the summer of 2020, the PBS series Craft in America is doing an episode that will feature The Bright Angle and our project called The Democratic Cup. It is a slow activism project that uses handmade cups to encourage people to become active/engaged citizens in our democracy. As a country, we need conversations and connections to reinforce the dignity and inclusivity of all Americans, regardless of race, religion, gender, sexuality, and culture. The Democratic Cup believes that these cups will act as agents of social change by generating positive political discourse. It is a collaborative effort by 48 artists across the country. Icons, heroes, and
conversation-starters like Ruth Bader Ginsburg, bell hooks, Sojourner Truth, and Bernie Sanders adorn each cup. The greatest hurdle? Learning how to run and scale a business! Before 2016 I didn’t have employees. Since The Bright Angle’s inception, we have had dozens of local ceramic artists help produce thousands of ceramic vessels. Growing a business has forced me to learn how to manage employees, production schedules, develop marketing strategies, create financial projections, and everything in between. I feel fortunate that Asheville has such a supportive network for entrepreneurs with resources provided by Mountain BizWorks and The Chamber of Commerce. We currently employ five ceramic artists, and we will be expanding our sales and marketing team as we grow our lighting collection. CAP: I WOULD VENTURE, THEN, THAT THIS AREA HAS A KIND OF BUILT-IN SUPPORT SYSTEM FOR ARTISTENTREPRENEURS SUCH AS YOURSELF? Nick Moen: As a design studio without a storefront, we do not rely on the tourism industry to sell our work. Instead, we utilize the internet as a marketplace and have built an international customer base. Through my experience as a studio potter working alone and traveling to shows, I can empathize with other studio artists in the area. There are a lot of challenges making and marketing one’s work alone. While it has been incredibly challenging to build this business, I am excited to have created a collaborative environment where many artists can work together. I don’t think my personal studio practice was physically or financially sustainable. I have a deep respect for studio artists in the area who are able to juggle all the factors it takes to run a business. I do want to acknowledge the local craft schools such as Penland School of Craft that help studio artists develop skills in craftsmanship. I hope that there are future collaborations between these educational institutions and local resources for entrepreneurs. March 2020 | capitalatplay.com
A pair of Asheville entrepreneurs leverage their skills and smarts to make SoulKu one of Western North Carolinaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s most rapidly scaling small businesses.
Infinite Possibilities of a Soulful Sisterhood written by shawndr a russell
| March 2020
photos by anthony harden
ELISA VAN ARNAM & ALLISON BLAKE March 2020 | capitalatplay.com
ometimes, you come up with an
idea so great that it catapults a business. Other times, you form a connection so strong with someone that you just know you have to figure out how to go into business with them. That’s what happened when Elisa Van Arnam and Allison Blake met in 2006 at a local Asheville book club. “Right away, I knew there was something: ‘We’re gonna do something together!’” Elisa says, smiling at the memory. It took them a few years, but they decided to sign up for the Foundation business planning class at Mountain BizWorks with their first concept. “We were going to do visioning videos called Unfolding Films. You would take different graphics, images, and words—whatever you wanted to manifest, whatever that was. Then you’d have a video tailored to you, watch it a couple times a day, literally be focusing on that and seeing the final outcome. But we took that class and found out that because of licensing costs, we needed $100,000 and we only had $10,000, so it just wouldn’t work,” adds Allison, who grew up in Atlanta and attended the University of Georgia before moving to Breckenridge, where she worked as a property and casualty, life, and health insurance agent for about seven years before becoming a stay-at-home mom. Elisa also stayed home with her kids, but she had started out as an actor-slash-waitress in Los Angeles after attending 16
| March 2020
EACH PIECE of jewelry is handcrafted by mamas.
Santa Monica Community College to study theatre. She also made ends meet as a casting assistant, acting teacher, and coach, and worked as a director and producer’s assistant for commercial and video production. Yet, “Asheville’s really old, wise mountains and their amazing energy drew us here. We’ve embraced the wisdom that happens in these mountains,” she says, adding that she considers any hiking trail “her church.” For Allison’s part, she and her family wanted to move back to the South to be able to see family more (her husband grew up in Birmingham) while still having the outdoor lifestyle they’d enjoyed in Colorado. “Asheville was the perfect fit,” she says. So with their small stash of seed money, the women next tried to launch an inspirational card company where each card could be tracked via QR codes so people could pass them on and watch them travel all over the world. The problem? No one was passing the cards along because, as Elisa says, “They all wanted to keep them; they felt they were meant for them.” They pivoted again and tried to launch thank-you card packs meant to be given to groups of people. “We ended up making this huge purchase of 200,000 cards,” says Allison. “Then we thought, ‘Let’s put a simple piece of jewelry on it.’” This soon led them to launching their SoulKu jewelry company in 2013 with just four necklaces that focused on the property of the color. “We came up with the simplest design that didn’t require soldering,” says Allison, describing the fruits of brainstorming their nascent business plan. The necklaces are made with what they call a ‘miracle cord’ and last owners for years, even with nonstop wear. “We ended up designing the necklaces,” adds Elisa, “to look like they were ‘floating.’ We also wanted them to be ‘divine’ in the sense that you can shower and exercise with them on. And we used the cards to share the healing properties.” After a few months of working from their dining room tables, “A sales rep group out of California called Gifts of Nature ended up calling and saying, ‘We got your back’,” explains Allison. The group had discovered SoulKu products at a store called Soulscapes in Encinitas, California, owned by the duo’s friend, Lorraine Telnack. With about 14 reps who work in 17 states, Gifts of Nature secured retail accounts for SoulKu throughout Colorado and the Midwest. Now, in 2020, the SoulKu brand is in more than 1,000 retail stores across America, with some international accounts as well. So, how have they kept up with demand? Well, they’ve employed a Buncombe County stayat-home-mothers workforce that has grown to 32 March 2020 | capitalatplay.com
“mamas,” as SoulKu describes them, each featured on the company website and who sign each piece of jewelry they make with their name and a heart. To kickstart production, Allison and Elisa brought a few of their stay-at-home mama friends on board, who quickly shared the opportunity with their friends; innovation and creativity can be infectious. And to this day, they both prefer to bring new moms on board through a direct referral from one of their existing mamas. Now, each week, these employees come in and pick up their box of raw materials, and then they come back and drop them off a week later, filled with finished products, which now includes bracelets as well. “It’s a great business model for us,” observes Elisa. “[And they also have] advantages—their hours are incredibly flexible. It’s been such an incredible thing for us to be able to do it in a way where we’re not trying to do it a way a man would do business.” About five years ago, they promoted one of these mamas to become their first staff member to help put together the mama boxes and do some bookkeeping/accounting. Today, they also 18
| March 2020
employ eight women staffers who Elisa and Allison call their ‘goddesses.’ The excitement in the office is palpable. Twice during our interview, the pair cried tears of gratitude for the growth they’ve experienced both personally and professionally as they shared stories about their journey from startup to a wildly successful, profitable, and currently-scaling business.
For Elisa, part of that growth was completing a year-long priestess training: “It was very foundational for me as an adult woman, and a lot of the women were very into the healing properties of gemstones—I got really into that. We’ve always been connected spiritually in service. How can we be in service with humanity? When the cards didn’t work, this whole other picture started forming. The gemstones have become a focal point of what we do—the healing properties, the beauty.” She also stays centered with a steady diet of hot yoga and hanging out with her two teenagers, whom are just one year apart from Allison’s kids.
SoulKu’s owners have made a commitment to using local vendors, and Elisa says they source their gemstones from Cherry Tree Beads, a local company that travels overseas to source raw materials several times a year. “We love working with [Cherry Tree owner] Jenn Baynard; she personally goes over to China, she knows the factories, she has visited these families, and she knows the conditions. That means a great deal to us. She’s in Swannanoa; she’s right here. So that’s really important to us—giving back to our community.” They also work with a retired woodworker in Hendersonville and use Blue Ridge Printing out of West Asheville. Last year, this commitment to staying local was challenged when an advisor suggested they should start using a fulfillment center, and they looked hard at the possibility. Yet since there’s not one located in Asheville, it just didn’t seem like the right next step. “We had a good exercise as we were scaling and blowing up,” says Allison, remembering that time. “We spent a lot of time researching. There are some [fulfillment centers] outside of Nashville, Charlotte, Atlanta, and we just didn’t really want to
do that. I mean, we put a little heart on each card, we write notes, we read the notes customers write to us and cry.” She grows visibly animated as she reflects. “We thought, ‘How in the world are we going to pack that many?’ We went through the exercise, and we ran the numbers. Ultimately, though, we can hire more people here, we can support people in our community and create a place of work people love and want to be a part of it. So we’re going to keep hiring here. It’s a beautiful thing trying to support and employ people in our town. There’s such a need for it. We could grow to… whatever, right here!” That decision doesn’t come without some challenges. Their explosive growth has been, in part, with the support and guidance they’ve received from the local entrepreneurial mentors/ accelerators of Venture Asheville, which honored SoulKu along with 14 other area businesses, as among the “15 fastest growing Asheville area startups” at the Venture 15 Awards held this past December. (Ed. Note: Those awards were featured as our “People at Play” photo spread in the January 2020 issue. SoulKu joined a slew of other 2019 honorees who are also past March 2020 | capitalatplay.com 19
FINAL PRODUCTS line the wall of the SoulKu office above the jewelry cards.
profilees of this magazine, including Elite HRV, No Evil Foods, Poppy Handcrafted Popcorn, Security Camera Warehouse, Anthroware, Plum Print, RISC Networks, and Craftpeak.)
“It was a wink from the universe... these are our people; these weird, beautiful things keep happening.” In turn, this growth has led them to move offices five times in just six-and-a-half years. And they’re bursting at the seams yet again, leading them to start the hunt to buy a building and hire more employees. “We work really hard; it’s a mix of 20
| March 2020
planning and business. We’ve been a part of Venture Asheville for three years, it’s been a cool journey, but I really see us as graduating at some point. But we don’t want to graduate!” Elisa says, laughing. One of those ideals has been to give back from day one. “We lost money our first year,” she admits. “In the faith of trusting the universe, we wrote checks to three different organizations. We wanted to commit to this vision; it’s a big part of our company.” They actually went years without paying themselves and kept writing those checks to nonprofits, but they wanted to do more. Then in 2014—right around the time they realized they were going to be a viable business—they discovered OpenDoors, whose mission is to connect “local children living in multi-generational poverty with an active, individualized network of support and opportunities for education and enrichment” with the intent of teaching them to invest in themselves and to help break the cycle of poverty for themselves and for the community.
“Last year, there was a horrible domestic situation; one of the girls’ whole family was killed,” Elisa explains. “We brought in several of the girls in OpenDoors to design our Harmony bracelet, based on their characteristics and personalities. We now sell and donate 100% of the proceeds to help break the cycle of multigenerational poverty. Now these kids aren’t just graduating high school—the program has its first college graduate!” This Harmony bracelet idea brought in $30,000 in 2019 alone, which is about 10% of the operating budget of OpenDoors. “For sure, our forward goals are to continue and grow that partnership,” says Elisa. “We want to do everything we can to help with their goals, feel connected with these kids... we spend time with them, too.” And since these soul-minded entrepreneurs are always looking for little nudges and reassurances from the cosmos, they were delighted to hear about OpenDoors’ executive director, March 2020 | capitalatplay.com
EACH GODDESS gets their own box for production.
Jenn Ramming, receiving a SoulKu gift from her family in Puerto Rico over the 2019 holidays. “They had no idea that she was working with us; it was a wink from the universe... these are our people; these weird, beautiful things keep happening,” Elisa says. In fact, OpenDoors was slated to award SoulKu its Laureate Award on February 29 at the Annual OpenDoors Art Affair in downtown Asheville—for both their work with the nonprofit directly, and for the company, its mission, and its values as a whole. Staying true to their vision and values has paid off in all kinds of kismet ways, like when a woman called SoulKu in March 2019 and, as Elisa recalls, told her, “‘My husband is a consultant for the fashion industry, and he’s awesome. I love your stuff so much, would you talk to him?’ Allison will talk to anyone, so we get on the phone with him, and [we think], ‘Who does this guy think he is? He sits on the board of TommyJohn; he helped Sofia blow up and Nasty Gal. Why are you talking to us? What does he want with us?’ He led us to an amazing digital marketing team. They found our audience overnight. We had worked with four, five other companies, the growth [had been] so slow.” That little miracle introduction jumped their newsletter list from 5,000 subscribers to over 147,000 in less than a year and ten to 15 inquiries from “mamas” ready to join the team every week. “Hence why we’re ready to buy a building!” says Allison proudly.
However, getting to the next level is more than just finding the right piece of real estate. They want to grow in the right ways and keep building the company culture that makes their eight staff members so passionate about SoulKu. “I’m ultra-conservative,” muses Allison. “If we don’t have the money to buy it, we’re not going to buy it. We want our girls to be comfortable. Both of us have committed to running our business in a fiscally responsible way. We want to be at a point to offer childcare, health insurance, retirement benefits—taking those steps to be that whole offering beyond flexibility.” Elisa praises Allison’s business savvy—in part derived from her degree in risk management from the University of Georgia—for keeping their business afloat and now thriving. So thriving, in fact, that they have had to take out zero loans or woo any investors. “We own it 50/50,” says Allison, who quickly sings Elisa’s praises, too. “I think one of the biggest parts of our success is that we honor each other—we have so much respect for one another and what each brings to 22
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FINAL ORDERS being organized for shipping.
BOX OF raw materials each mama picks up to assemble. March 2020 | capitalatplay.com 23
our business. I don’t know how other partners do it; I can’t even imagine. We are sisters. We are able to work together; we aren’t offended. She can draw up something on the creative [side]… no ego there. It’s all about working together and putting forward what I love. ‘No, this needs to be here,’ she’ll say. There’s that honor and respect so deeply and what we each bring to each other.” The bond she is describing shows up in numerous ways during our time together doing the interview, from showering compliments throughout, to hearty laughter at each other’s reflections, to throaty approval of their dreams for SoulKu’s future. This mutual respect and “sisterhood,” as they describe it, has led to only two disagreements in nearly seven years of doing business—“And we’re not holding back!” Allison says, laughing and adding, “In all the time we’ve been doing this together, the level of respect and just the love we feel for each other and the bigger picture of all this... I don’t know where the business is going to be in ten years; I don’t know what is going to be birthed in ten years. There’s this bigger thing that’s unfolding, this huge mystery to it.” Elisa agrees, adding, “It’s been divine in that sense. We really love being together.”
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So, what’s in a name? The two SoulKu ladies got an affirmation one week after landing on the company name that the universe really was on their side: “We knew we wanted the word soul or spirit, then all of a sudden Allison goes, ‘Ku! Ku!’—like, haiku,” recalls Alisa. “A week later,
Minnesota, Chicago, Northeast regional stores, and Florida. And according to Elisa, their customer loyalty is intense: “We have customers who say if they don’t wear a piece of SoulKu, ‘I don’t feel like I have my protection on.’ We’re so touched by the reciprocal energy, with what we’re trying to do, and these customers are feeling it. They’re taking the time to share.”
“We’d love to talk to other women about entrepreneurship and how to build it around family and our same sort of ideals.” our kids were taking a martial arts class and learned that ‘ku’ means ‘the void from which everything comes, like infinite possibility.’” They hadn’t even looked the term up. But it hasn’t all been divine intervention. They’ve grown their sales strategy to include attending 14 national trade shows, including Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Atlanta,
Call it a combination of divine intervention, work ethic, or faith, but whatever the secret sauce at SoulKu is, it has led these two dynamic women to prepare for the next stage of their lives as co-owners of a fast-scaling business. “I think, given our journey as founders, we will have a lot to offer as mentors,” Elisa summarizes. “We’d love to talk to other women about entrepreneurship and how to build it around family and our same sort of ideals.” She adds that perhaps their future building will house an incubator, too— because anything seems possible for these heart-forward co-founders.
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Business Succession Planning 102
Maximize the value received for the sale of your business by planning ahead how the transaction will be financed.
OU ARE 100% GUAR ANTEED TO LEAVE your business at some point. A well-planned sale of your ownership will maximize the value transferred to you or your heirs and minimize the impact on your family, co-owners, employees, and customers.
M michael palermo
is an Asheville business lawyer with over 25 years’ experience.
However, a buyer showing up at the right time and with ready cash for that transition rarely happens. An integral part of any succession plan should therefore include the means to finance the transfer of ownership. As I wrote in last month’s Capital at Play column, “Business Succession Planning 101,” identifying the type of transition you may make lets you plan how to fund the sale. This article discusses the second part of your succession plan: how to get paid for selling your ownership in your business.
*** In the best instance, you’ll find a buyer ready to pay cash for your business when you’re ready to
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sell. That’s unlikely to happen, though. While the immediacy of your situation may require a quick sale on your end, a buyer won’t just fork over the asking price without going through a time-consuming due diligence and negotiation process. Especially as the sale price of the business increases, finding a buyer willing to hand over a half-million or more dollars takes months. Meanwhile, your business is under whatever immediate stress is causing you to sell—death, disability, divorce, etc.—making its value quickly decrease. In a cash- or buyer-financed sale, the simplest form of transition of ownership, the seller gets a big pile of money in the bank. If the sale is financed, the buyer has the benefit of having a professional appraise the soundness of the transaction. Banks and private
M equity will check every nook and cranny of the new business to see if it’s a good risk. If not, they won’t finance the deal, which indicates that maybe this purchase is better left alone. Another common method is seller financing, especially for smaller businesses. The selling owner transfers ownership for the agreed-upon price to the buyer; in exchange, the buyer promises to make monthly or quarterly payments from revenue, usually for three to five years. This works better with smaller businesses because should the buyer not make payments, the seller isn’t out a lot of promised money. Also, enforcement may be difficult because of the expense to collect small sums of money or to collect from a defunct business that the buyer ran into the ground. For example, I had a client who sold a food service business for about $30,000, with the buyer to make payments from revenue; this was before he called me. When the buyer stopped making payments and absconded with the equipment,
IN THE BEST INSTANCE, YOU’LL FIND A BUYER READY TO PAY CASH FOR YOUR BUSINESS WHEN YOU’RE READY TO SELL. the seller called me to consult on the situation. It turned out he didn’t know even simple facts about the buyer, like where she lived, or did she have assets from which to pay a judgment. At that point, I recommended he walk away; the cost of trying to find the buyer, get the lawsuit on file, and then take a judgment were outweighed by the likelihood of him ever collecting money. In what is called a “buy-sell agreement,” co-owners will agree with each other (or the company itself) that if one wants to quit the business or engages in conduct deemed by the other co-owners to be detrimental to the business (such as getting divorced or filing for personal bankruptcy), the others will have to buy the departing owner’s share of the business. The co-owners can find independent financing or use personal assets for the buyout; or the business can lend the buyout money to the co-owners. Alternatively, if the company is the purchaser of the ownership interest, the company can use earnings retained for the purpose of funding the buyout; use its goodwill and assets to get bank financing; or even take a loan from a remaining owner. I’ve seen all of these used successfully. When entering into this kind of agreement, be sure the co-owners can afford the buy-back; or, in an entity buy-back, the company has a plan to have enough retained earnings on hand to make the purchase. March 2020 | capitalatplay.com 27
This method of forced sale has the benefit of solving both for each owner instead of all co-owners purchasing policies parts of a successful transition: The co-owners are the “ready for all the other co-owners. It also ensures that the life and buyers” who get to increase their share of ownership; and, if disability policies are being maintained properly by having them planned well, the financing is already in place to fund the administered by the business instead of the individual owners. purchase. That said, don’t be surprised In case you haven’t run the numbers on if there are some negotiations when this that, this financing method benefits all provision is triggered in the event that the parties. The deceased owner’s heirs get a IN CASE YOU buyers don’t have the money on hand—the full-price cash payment for the deceased’s selling owner may need to let them pay share of the business. Too, the money is HAVEN’ T RUN THE over time, wait until they obtain financing, NUMBERS ON THAT, guaranteed to be available. Whereas in or re-negotiate the buyout price. a non-insurance buy-back, the surviving THIS FINANCING A variation of the buy-sell agreement owner may not have the buyout funds METHOD BENEFITS involves using insurance proceeds paid at the time they are needed most, thus out on the death or disability of an owner leaving the heirs to either sell the share ALL PARTIES. to fund the sale to, most commonly, at a big discount to co-owners or find a co-owners. The co-owners enter into an buyer on the open market. agreement whereby if one owner dies or There’s the value lost in a poorly becomes disabled, insurance proceeds from a policy maintained planned transition, which I discussed in last month’s article. by the other owners, as beneficiaries, fund the purchase of the On the other side of the transaction, the purchasing owners departing owner’s share. The purchaser of the insurance policy get a full share of the business for the cost of annual insurance can also be the company in an entity buy-back agreement. The premiums instead of paying full price. entity buy-back agreement is best used to save transaction costs One last interesting method of succession financing that I’m in a multiple owner situation—the entity purchases one policy seeing a lot lately is the structured transition sale to a key
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employee or minority co-owner. When selling to a buyer who may not have the wherewithal for a cash purchase, planning ahead for this kind of transfer can really benefit both seller and buyer. I’ve set up succession plans where, over three to five years, the key employee is allowed to purchase more and more equity in the firm using salary, bonuses paid over to the seller, or private funds. Then, at the end of the term, there is usually a final buyout payment as the buyer takes full ownership. This allows the employee to build equity, and thus have an interest in the continued success of the business—and then learn how to be an owner and not simply an employee from the person who made the business successful. The ownership credentials will prove valuable if the key employee seeks bank financing for the remainder of the purchase. It also provides certainty to the departing owner by having a ready buyer, and a known, predictable cash stream for paying the buyout fee. And, lastly it assures customers and vendors that a familiar person will continue with the successful legacy built by the founder. A final note on succession plans: These are not “one size fits all” or “fill in the blank” documents. A document you sign today may bind your heirs ten years or more from now on or,
unintentionally tie your hands against freely selling your share of your business. These are some of the most complex transactions I work on as a business lawyer. A succession plan takes time to develop, often months, as the issues I discuss in these articles and more complex problems are hashed out with business partners, CPAs, and valuation professionals. You probably don’t like the idea that one day you’ll no longer be around to reap the benefits of a lifetime of hard work. But with good, thoughtful planning, your heirs, co-owners, and customers will all continue to enjoy your legacy. Michael Palermo has worked with global corporations and small, two-person shops. He often presents seminars on succession planning, risk management, and nonprofit fiduciary topics.
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CAROLINA in the
Survey Uncovers Ironies haywood county
The results of the 16th Annual Survey of Prescription Drug Management in Workers’ Compensation are now available. The study is produced by CompPharma, a national research and consulting firm based in Maggie Valley that specializes in pharmacy management for workers’ compensation cases. Respondents included decision-makers, clinical personnel, and operations staff working in the workers’ compensation industry for a range of insurance carriers, third-party administrators, self-insured employers, and state agencies. Their organizations reported spending from $400,000 a year to over $200 million on pharmaceuticals. Highlighted takeaways included 83% of respondents defining transparency as the top problem with
workers’ compensation prescriptions, but CompPharma’s president, Joe Paduda, said respondents had conflicting concepts about what that meant or what they would do with more transparent data. Respondents also indicated pharmacy benefit managers were effectively controlling costs, which, unfortunately, defunds proactive early interventions in health management.
Department of Agriculture. The class meets for three hours one night a week, giving participants hands-on experience with access to subject-matter experts. Instructional topics include developing a business plan, evaluating assets and setting goals, setting prices and marketing, taking stock of financial responsibilities, and accessing government grants. The eight-week course is free and made available to residents of Jackson, Macon, and Swain counties and the Qualla Boundary interested in running an agricultural business. The area was targeted to address a historic lack of educational and training opportunities for its farmers. Last year’s farm school was cancelled.
Hate to Hear That haywood county
School of Agribusiness jackson county
The Sma l l Business Center of Southwestern Community College in Sylva is now training its sixth cohort in the Appalachian Farm School. The school was launched in partnership with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension and the North Carolina
Mountain Audiology closed its Clyde and Franklin offices in what appeared to customers to be an abrupt move. The current owner, Emma Maxwell, cited financial reasons. She said that, following her purchase of the business in 2017, income declined below operating expenses, and she was unable to negotiate workable terms with her lender. Maxwell indicated she hoped
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the business would reopen under new ownership in the near term, but before it can, she must appear before the North Carolina Board of Examiners for Speech and Language Pathologists and Audiologists. The disciplinary hearing, designed to ensure all patients are made whole, could be avoided with a settlement conference, provided Maxwell continues making restitution to affected clientele. Maxwell has entered into an agreement with Mountain Ear Hearing Associates in Waynesville for the provision of free routine services, and all hearing aids in the repair pipeline have shipped.
and Education; and James Wilkes, Ph.D., professor in ASU’s Department of Computer Science (profiled in the April 2019 issue of this magazine). In 2017 they were awarded $240,000 by the program to develop a standardized system of data collection for beekeepers. Their presentations were titled, “How Commercial Beekeepers Use Smart Hive Technology” and “Keeping Track of Hive Health Smartly.” Project Apis m. is a 510(c)5 organization that funds research, provides scholarships for graduate students, equips apiary research labs, and plants forage for pollinators.
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When the December 29 brawl broke out, an on-duty officer called for backup, and several youth were detained until a parent or guardian could pick them up. The mall had to close half an hour early, and one store remained closed two days to “clean up.” No injuries requiring medical attention were sustained. The incident was just the latest in a string at the mall. Police calls for service originating at the mall have increased in recent years, with 1,397 in 2018, compared to 1,037 in 2016.
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T wo computer professors from Appalachian State University (ASU) presented at this year’s conference of the American Beekeeping Federation in Chicago. They were part of a symposium spotlighting Healthy Hives 2020 projects. Healthy Hives, a collaboration of Bayer Crop Science’s Bayer Bee Care Program and Project Apis m., set aside $1.3 million for multi-year projects working toward improving bee wellness. The presenters were Joseph Cazier, Ph.D., who is director of ASU’s Center for Analytics Research
The Asheville Mall, following what media outlets are calling a, “violent brawl,” has put in place a Youth Escort Policy. Until further notice, persons under the age of 18 visiting after 5PM Friday or Saturday will have to be accompanied by somebody 21 or older. Mall management further reserves the right to impose the policy any other time at its sole discretion. Exception will be made for youth under 18 who are employed by the mall or any of its tenants; they will be issued a special ID.
With the authorization of the North Carolina General Assembly and the signature of Governor Roy Cooper, the NC Division of Parks and Recreation will be adding three trails to what will become a nine-trail portfolio. The one receiving the most attention is the 100mile Wilderness Gateway State Trail that will connect Chimney Rock State Park to Hickory. It will have a lot of access points for short hikes and include two paddle trails. The feasibility study for the trail is now complete, and the state is in the process of collecting public input. The other new trails will be the Northern Peaks State Trail, running through
March 2020 | capitalatplay.com
carolina in the west
Watauga and Ashe counties; and the Overmountain Victory State Trail, passing through parts of nine counties up in the Highlands. State trails run through multiple jurisdictions, often running as easements over private property. They are cared for by section sponsors and subject to the rules set by the governing body of each section.
Sell Me a Sign haywood county
New to the retail scene in downtown Waynesville is The Station on Main. The first thing a visitor will likely see is many, many signs. The store stocks vintage Americana in the form of old store signs, like the advertisements for Coke or Delco behind the clerk’s counter. Other items for sale include clocks, model ships and cars, and Christian items. The store began as a hobby in Ken Todtenhagen’s garage. He and his wife, Kelli, used to vacation in Waynesville and had a longterm goal of living and working in the quaint little town. When they made the move, they opened Yellow House Bed and Breakfast. Interest expressed by guests emboldened Ken to open a roadside stand, and that led to managing an online business. Two years after opening the inn, the Todtenhagens are now doing retail full-time. Like other successful retailers in the antique and vintage markets, the Todtenhagens encourage patrons to keep coming back because the inventory is always in flux.
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Buncombe County released a statement about anticipated environmental impacts from the closing of Duke Energy’s coal-fired plant on Lake Julian. The lake was constructed in the early 1960s by Carolina Power & Light as a standard feature of power plants in the era. Coal-fired plants burn coal to create steam to turn a turbine and power a generator. So the 32
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steam doesn’t get too hot, a condenser circulates water coming in cool from a lake or cooling tower and returning to its source heated by the steam. In this case, the heated water went back into Lake Julian, raising the lake’s temperature enough to alter the ecosystem. While no noticeable threats are foreseen for humans using Lake Julian Park, representatives with the county have been working with Duke and the state’s Department of Environmental Quality and Wildlife Resources Commission to monitor the fish the lake supports. As the lake cools, it will become more amenable to native species like bass, catfish, brim, and crappie. As new equilibria are established, water and fish tissue samples will continue to be evaluated. Stocking operations will be attenuated for the near term, so only a state license will be required for fishing. Duke is prepared to arrange for species relocation if that becomes necessary.
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Tribal leadership of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians approved, but not unanimously, giving Balsam West a 10-year, $8 million loan at 5% interest. The local provider of telecommunications services wished to borrow money to refresh its equipment and infrastructure and continue support for expansion to new areas. Tribal Secretary of Finance Cory Blankenship said Balsam West could have gotten a loan from their equipment vendor, but they would have had to pay 12%-13% interest. But since the tribe owns a 50% stake in Balsam West, representatives learned about the plans at a board meeting and suggested the tribe make the loan at a lower rate and collect the interest. Blankenship said funds would come out of a diversified portfolio that currently draws 8% interest, but will continue to lose value as fixed-income investment interest is falling. The decision to move forward was made pending agreement by Drake
Enterprises, which holds the other 50% interest in the company, to provide an equivalent loan on equivalent terms. Blankenship deemed Balsam West to be a safe credit risk.
Students Get Clean Start henderson county
When students enrolled at Edneyville Elementary returned from their holiday break, they attended a brand new school. Ground broke for the new building, located behind the old school, in 2017, and construction by Barnhill Contracting was completed on time. The $25 million, two-story, 87,000-sq.-ft. structure was designed by Clark Nexsen. A postmodern, sustainable architecture, it follows a long arc designed around an inner atrium. Classrooms are clustered by grade and located in the front; and the gymnasium, media center, cafeteria, and offices are in the back. Classrooms have large windows for natural lighting, as well as views of the lake and mountains. The school is designed to remain relevant for the near future, with 21st-century learning environment features like collaboration space and a tech lab, and it has room for 150 more students. Outside, a new playground was included with the new construction, and the old school will be razed for a new parking lot and a more finished entrance.
Persistent Patel buncombe county
After three years, hotelier Shaunak Patel, president of PHG, is still trying to build an Embassy Suites in downtown Asheville. Patel envisioned a 185-room, classy and glassy gateway to downtown at the site of the former Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office. The project passed all preliminary stages of the city’s design review process, only to be unanimously rejected by city council. The developer sued, and the courts have sided with him all the way to North Carolina Superior
Court. Prior to arguments being heard for the cityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s latest appeal, Patel and his colleagues attempted to cut their losses from litigation and construction delays, which are now approximately $6 million. They assembled a $4.15 million settlement package Patel said would provide all that members of council had demanded in 2017, when he had not been prepared to deliver it. Those community benefits include a $2 million donation to the cityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Housing Trust Fund, another $1 million for the Community Foundation of Western North Carolina, construction of 40 public-access parking spaces, improvements to sidewalks and utility infrastructure, and a living wage for all hotel employees. The city rejected the settlement, and a final ruling from the court is expected in four to six months.
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Realtor Realities haywood county
The Haywood Realtor Association (HRA) has merged with the Charlotte Regional Realtor Association (CRRA). Running independently, the HRA had only about 300 members, many of whom were not Realtors but lawyers, lenders, and others that benefitted from the network and data. The HRA, like most Realtor groups, used to have its own Multiple Listing Service (MLS), which is a compilation of data on properties listed with agents that is made available to subscribers. Then, a few years ago, the HRA agreed to merge its MLS with those of Asheville, Hendersonv i l le, a nd Bu ncombe, Henderson, and Transylvania counties. The joint effort was named the North Carolina Mountains MLS. Then the HRA decided to subscribe to the CRRA MLS. The arrangement turned out to be unnecessarily complex, so the two trade associations agreed on the merger resulting in the Canopy Realtor Association and Canopy MLS. Representatives of the former HR A intend the merger, to amplify their
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members’ voice and avail them to more educational opportunities. In addition, all assets of the former HRA, including their offices, listed at $325,000, are being sold with proceeds going toward organizations charged with creating more affordable housing.
expansion. Founded in 1964 in Spindale, ICC opened its Columbus campus in 1989, and it now offers college courses at four area high schools and online.
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Picking up Steam at ICC polk county
The Polk County Commissioners agreed to give Isothermal Community College (ICC) $15,000 in seed money for an analysis of options for expanding its Columbus campus. The funds would help pay for a $25,000 design phase for what is expected to be a $1 million project. ICC president Walter Dalton explained demand for the campus’ classes is exceeding available classroom space. So school leadership is considering adding about 4,000 square feet to the 12,000-sq.-ft. building that currently serves the entire campus. The Columbus campus offers vocational training in fields of local interest, like allied health, massage therapy, equestrian studies, hospitality, emergency services, and high school equivalency. A high-demand dental assistant program has been cited as the key driver for the
The 40th annual Mountain Research Station bull test sale was held at the Western Regional Livestock Center in Canton. In a bull test, bulls graze on a particular diet for almost a year, during which time records are kept of their growth. This particular test is part of the North Carolina Beef Cattle Improvement Program at North Carolina State University. In cooperation with the North Carolina Cattlemen’s Association and the North Carolina Cooperative Extension’s Beef Cattle Genetics program, the university hosts on-farm cattle performance testing and bull testing at four locations throughout the state. In the test held in Canton this year, 32 bulls qualified for sale; 26 were Angus, and the remainder were Simmental and SimAngus. Potential buyers had an opportunity to preview the animals the night before at the Area Beef Conference, and livestock had to be picked up the day of sale. Bids started at $1,500.
Mass Marketing/ Media Mashup buncombe county
Darby Communications of Asheville has partnered with Durham-based Status Forward for this year’s Stand Up Initiative. Begun by Darby in 2016, the program provides pro bono marketing services to select environmental nonprofits. Recipients in former years have included, among others, Friends of the Smokies and Bee City USA. This year’s winners were the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation (BRPF) and the San Juan Mountains Association (SJMA) in Colorado. Beginning immediately, the media groups will get to work helping the BRPF match the $300,000 all-or-nothing challenge grant it received with a June 30 deadline. Funds would go toward maintaining improved areas of the parkway, like overlooks, campgrounds, picnic areas, and trails. Darby and Status Forward will help with mass and social media outreach and email marketing. In the second half of the year, the partners will help the SJMA with its Weminuche Wilderness Stewardship Fund campaign. They’ll provide mass and social media outreach, branding, and search engine optimization to fundraise for extended ranger hours, improved access to trails, Largest selection and environmental repair.
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buncombe county What started as a presentation of the design for a single new school grew Occupational therapist Dr. Amy M. into something much larger at the last Siegler has gone into business filling meeting of the Cherokee County Board of a void created when HCA closed Education. Proposed was a new building CarePartners’ Wheelchair and Seating to house the alternative school for middleClinic, which had run under the umbrella and high-school students, the career and of Mission Health. The clinic used to technical education school, and the Triserve thousands of people in need of County Early College High School. Since assistive mobility equipment each year. it is likely that, when it is time to demolish Now Siegler, doing business as LimbTech, the existing high school, a new building provides the evaluations, fittings, and will be built on the same parcel as the follow-ups required for authorization by new alternative school, board members Medicare, Medicaid, and most insurance began talking about economies of scale. companies. Serving all of Western North In addition, addressing septic issues at Carolina, Siegler’s business dispatches a the Martins Creek Elementary/Middle licensed occupational therapist to each School is expected to cost $250,000. client’s home. Once the home evaluation Rather than pouring good money after is complete, the therapist will work the bad $90,000 previously sunk to fix with an interdisciplinary team to pull that problem, coming up with a master together the documentation required plan for repairing or constructing anew for authorization. When Siegler decided the district’s 13 schools seemed wiser. to launch the business, waiting times The superintendent was tasked with for authorizations stretched from nine gathering data, some of which was already months to a year, largely for want of available. For example, the board could evaluations. Siegler notes she is expeaddress priority maintenance issues in runchto equipment people need end baccess ekditing e all schools for $29 million, perform all w g in v not only for scooting about town, but for sermillion, w $79 Nofor major renovations needed improving respiration, blood pressure, or build two new K-12 schools for $156 ch integrity, and even psyintegumentary nd brun e k e e million or three K-12 schools for rjust $23 w ving chological well-being. Now se million more.
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A recent dispute in Mills R iver betrayed an ongoing lack of awareness about who has rights to waterways in North Carolina. The latest spat began when the owner of North River Farms hung a rope with “No Trespassing” signs across a portion of the river adjacent to his property. Persons who have been frequenting the river for years, floating or fishing, took their grievance to the Mills River Town Council, several saying they had been bullied and/or forbidden access. Generally speaking, navigable waterways are a commons, public property for everybody’s use under everybody’s care. In North Carolina a navigable waterway is defined as any river or stream down which somebody can float on something as small as a kayak. A property owner might have rights to the ground under a river, but not the water running over it. He does, however, have the right to limit access to a river through his land—and to report illegal activity. The Mills River dispute ended amicably once the law was made clear. The problem also arises frequently around trout fishing holes.
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photo by Todd Crawford, courtesy of PLATT
| March 2020
With construction booming across Western North Carolina, the architectural firms of the region find their services in demand more than ever.
written by bill kopp
March 2020 | capitalatplay.com 37
MEET OUR ARCHITECTURAL RESPONDENTS SCOTT HUEBNER started Brickstack Architects in 2011; he earned his licenses to practice architecture in North Carolina and Pennsylvania in 2007. He employs a draftsperson and an architecture intern in his Oakley office. Brickstack focuses solely on residential work; three-fourths of those projects are new construction, with the remainder renovations/remodels. JESSICA LARSEN, with an office in downtown Asheville, is the sole proprietor of the one-woman cJem Designs. After earning her license in 2009, she founded her company in 2015. Nearly all of her work – 95% – is residential, with the occasional commercial project. JOHN LEGERTON earned his architect’s license in 1982; he launched Legerton Architecture, P.A. in 1995. Today the downtown Asheville firm employs nine people, seven of whom are licensed architects. About 40% of Legerton’s work is residential, with the rest split among educational, commercial, and public/ institutional projects. DUNCAN MCPHERSON is principal and owner of Samsel Architects; he earned his license in 2008, but already had extensive experience working in architecture firms for more than a decade. Founded in 1985 by Jim Samsel, the firm employs 14 people, half of whom are licensed architects. The firm’s work is 60% residential, with the remaining 40% in commercial projects. Jim Samsel and his firm were profiled in the November 2015 issue of this magazine. AL PLATT established PLATT (formerly Platt Architecture) in 1982; he earned his license in 1978. PARKER PLATT joined his father’s firm in 1994 and became a licensed architect in 2005. Based in Brevard, PLATT employs 20 persons, six of whom are licensed architects. Four-fifths of PLATT architectural projects are residential.
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At its best, architecture can be both inspired and inspiring. Playwright and poet Christopher Marlowe wrote of “the wondrous Architecture of the world” in 1587. Architecture is one of the earliest human endeavors to bridge the gaps between creativity and practicality, combining form and function. Not only is it a worthy and noble path, it is also a profession with skills that are in demand through lean and robust economic periods. People always need somewhere to live and places in which to engage in education, worship, commerce, and other pursuits. At present, North Carolina’s Buncombe County is home to more than two dozen architects and/or architectural firms; an additional 40 are found throughout the rest of Western North Carolina. In this feature, six architects from five leading firms in the region share their accumulated experience and observations about architecture and its place in our community.
DUNCAN MCPHERSON of Samsel Architects discussing design plans, photo by Todd Crawford
Training, Apprenticeship, Certification, Licensing: The Odyssey of a New Architect As the mini-biographies suggest, one doesn’t simply hang out a shingle that reads “Architect.” “To be a licensed architect,” explains Duncan McPherson, “the American Institute of Architects sums up the order of operations nicely: education, experience, examination, and then licensure.” There are many paths to that goal, Jessica Larsen concedes, “but the most direct” is to earn a Bachelor of Architecture degree. John Legerton says that there are some other common education tracks for those pursuing a career in the field. He mentions “a four-year undergraduate degree—like a Bachelor of Science with a major in architecture – plus a two-year Master of Architecture degree,” and another approach: a four-year undergrad degree in a course of study not related to architecture, followed by a three-year Master of Architecture program. “After school, the next step is to complete the intern development program,” Larsen says. That step requires training as an apprentice with a licensed architecture practice or firm. “Throughout this program, you’re typically working under a mentor,” she says, noting that the entire track—education and apprenticeship—can last eight years or more. The experience
helps prepare one for the Architect Registration Exam (ARE). “The ARE is an extensive test that covers everything from practice management to construction techniques,” explains McPherson. “It’s similar to the bar exam that lawyers take in order to practice law,” adds Scott Huebner. “The registration exam has evolved over the years in various forms since the mid ’60s.” Candidates must pass each of the six divisions of the national ARE with the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) and obtain certification from that body. After passing the ARE, one can register with a state to be a licensed architect. “All states require architects to obtain a license to practice,” Larsen says. There’s no national licensing program for architects. “You apply in the state where you wish to practice,” Legerton says. “In North Carolina it’s the North Carolina Board of Architecture.” But McPherson believes that—even after all that study, testing, and licensure—an additional step is essential: more education. “An architecture license has to be renewed every year,” he points out. And like select other professions, renewal requirements include the earning of continuing education credits. “One of the reasons I love architecture is that it’s a profession of infinite learning,” McPherson says. “No two projects, or clients, are ever the same. The industry is always evolving and advancing, and it’s our responsibility to stay on top of the latest developments.” March 2020 | capitalatplay.com 39
JOHN LEGERTON discussing building materials with his team, photo by Blake Madden
Of course, not everyone who embarks upon this challenging journey makes it to the level of licensure. While allowing that “there are current and historical examples of self-taught or non-licensed people who have had successful careers designing buildings,” Huebner says, adding that “if you have not passed the exam, you may only legally call yourself a designer, an intern, or similar.” Parker Platt notes: “In the State of North Carolina, you can design a home without a license. That said, we feel strongly that people should hire an architect versus an unlicensed individual.” Among the reasons for choosing a licensed architect, Platt says, “you’re benefiting from the professional education, internships, and certifications that architects must obtain to become licensed.” He also notes another factor that can provide peace of mind for clients: Licensed architects carry professional liability insurance. Huebner makes the observation that many who don’t achieve licensure cite “the significant time commitment and overall difficulty as the reason. The profession holds licensure as a significant milestone and an important building block of an architect’s education and development.” He believes that earning an architect’s license “shows commitment and a dedication to the profession’s highest standard.”
The Wild World of Regulations It also helps if an architect has great facility—or absent that, at least a deep well of patience regarding—at compliance with regulatory bodies and statutes. Many professions entail dealing with governmental red tape, and architects contend with their fair share. It stands to reason that a large commercial project or a residential development would face a bewildering assortment 40
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of rules and approval processes, but the same is true even for a comparatively small project. John Legerton gives a taste of what’s involved. “To have a single family residential project approved for construction,” he says, “one has to design and prepare detailed site and building plans for review and approval by either county or local municipal zoning boards and building safety departments.” Depending on the particulars of a given residential project, he notes that additional review and approval may be required by water and sewer departments (or health departments if a septic system is required); architectural design review boards (for homes located in certain developments); the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (if the home is located near significant streams or other waterways); and county or municipal stormwater review departments (if a large enough area of the site is being disturbed by the construction). And if the home is to be built in a historic district, local and sometimes state historic resource commissions may weigh in. That’s only a partial list, Legerton says. A complete list might include “other regulatory agencies, depending on the project location and complexity.”
photo by Justin Mitchell, courtesy of cJem Designs
AL + PARKER PL ATT courtesy of PLATT
Of course, the list of regulatory bodies with a stake in larger multifamily, commercial, institutional, educational, and other projects is considerably longer. Start with review by all of the aforementioned agencies and then add a dozen or more. Some of those will be familiar to the average citizen; others may not. Legerton ticks off a list: “Neighborhood organizations, Fire Marshals, Development Services Departments, Street Departments, Planning and Zoning Commissions, Downtown Commissions, Tree Commissions, Riverfront Commissions, City and Town Councils, the State Construction Office, the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, and the North Carolina State Department of Transportation.” Again, Legerton notes that his quick list is by no means exhaustive. He emphasizes that “other local, state, and/or federal regulatory and funding agencies” may require their own review of the architect’s plans, depending on the project location, type, environmental issues, and complexity. And while it is true that at least the occasional review is a cursory affair, any project that has even the slightest whiff of being “different” raises a number of red flags. Parker Platt cites a real-world example. “While designing a contemporary home, we faced regulations imposed by a property owners’ association that didn’t allow flat roofs.” Platt worked closely with the board of the relevant property owners’ association, eventually convincing them to allow flat roofs. “Provided,” he adds, “that they were living, vegetated roofs.” The entire negotiation took a full year. A flat roof isn’t terribly exotic, after all. But Platt recalls another project that really was unusual, and the solution to the challenge definitely qualifies as unique. “Years ago we had a client who wanted to build their house over a regulated trout stream. To get the required permits, we had to meet with various regulatory agencies and citizens’ boards over several months.” In the end, Platt convinced the regulators to grant a permit to build the house, but it would be classified as a bridge. Historic renovation projects present yet another set of regulatory and review challenges. McPherson says that plans must “balance the original charm and character of a historic structure with current safety standards and functions of the modern day. And when these [considerations] are combined with historic preservation requirements, tax credits, and local zoning regulations, the design process can be a tangled web.” Problem-solving skills serve the architect—and the client—well in such complex situations. Combine a project involving a historic property, add the wrinkle of it being designed for education purposes, and still more complexity is the result for the architect. Hueber says that education is a particularly difficult type of building category, thanks in part to fire safety and egress considerations. A 2014 Brickstack project centered around conversion and renovation of a circa-1920 building in Oakley. The building, which had been structurally modified and expanded multiple times since its original construction, would become the creative campus March 2020 | capitalatplay.com 41
for Roots + Wings School of Art and Design, founded and owned by the architect’s wife, Ginger Huebner. The project itself was complex, says Scott Huebner. “We were able to consolidate the spaces, give each classroom direct exterior access, provide each classroom with two single-use bathrooms, and make the spaces brighter and more dynamic.” In addition, the finished project provided the neighborhood with a playground, fenced play field, new pedestrian-friendly sidewalks, and more than 50 new trees and 100 shrubs. “It was a colossal effort with a number of very difficult code challenges,” but the efforts paid off in the end. “We’re very proud of the work for what it has given to the school and its students, but also as an amenity to the surrounding neighborhood,” he says. The renovated building is now home to several other businesses as well, including Brickstack Architects.
Designing and Building Relationships Architects interface with a wide array of people in a variety of professions. Depending on the scope and demands of a particular project, they often find themselves working closely with builders, developers, and bankers, and sometimes with review boards. “Developers will hire an architect when they’re developing larger projects and mixed-use developments,” Legerton says. Bankers are involved in reviewing architectural plans and project costs, and they project economic viability documents prior to approval of financing, says Legerton. “They’re also involved in reviewing the projects under construction and at completion to approve progress and final payments for the construction work.” Architects work closely with builders and contractors throughout the entire construction phase. Legerton says that for some projects, builders are also involved in the initial planning, schematic design, and design development phases. “I want every builder that I work with to say that we worked in unison toward a common goal of providing our clients with the highest quality construction and design,” says Huebner. Huebner’s architectural design projects often bring him in contact with the Architectural Review Boards of communities in and around Asheville. He says that there are two overarching and lasting sentiments he wishes to impart to the members of those boards. “My homes will be well designed with a great emphasis on quality,” he says, “and they will fit well into the landscape.” All of those working relationships are cultivated; that’s especially important in Western North Carolina, where professionals all seem to know one another, and where reputations—good and bad—are lasting. “Asheville is a small town,” says Huebner. Mixing metaphors to make an important point, he adds, “One burnt bridge can have a very long tail.” 42
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SCOTT HUEBNER , photo by Morgan Ford
JESSICA L ARSEN photo by Katie Shaw, Kate Suzanne Photography
LEGERTON ARCHITECTURE worked on The Funkatorium, photo by J Weiland
Earning New Business Most of the architects interviewed for this story say that the majority of their new clients come via referral, but that’s not the only way. “We [also] get a lot of our work through repeat work with ongoing clients, and through competing for
“We always assume that when we’re meeting with a prospect that they’re talking with other architects as well.” work on projects by responding to requests for qualifications and competitive interviews,” says John Legerton. “Getting work is not an exact science,” says Scott Huebner. “It’s a combination of marketing past works via your website, Instagram, or print ads. And I sometimes get work from folks who ride past one of my projects under construction.” McPherson says that Samsel’s experience in
that regard is similar. “A good amount of work is referral or even repeat clients, but most are new clients who have found us online, in advertisements, or [through] a combination of exposure to our work,” he says. Whether it’s a residential or commercial project, the client generally interviews multiple architects before selecting one. “We always assume that when we’re meeting with a prospect that they’re talking with other architects as well,” says Platt. In fact, he encourages that kind of fact-finding. “It’s a serious and important decision,” he says. “We know that we’re not the right fit for everyone.” Brickstack’s Huebner says that he has a general rule of not pitching his services to prospective homeowners. “Not because I don’t think it’s worth my time,” he explains. “But because it’s a ‘race to the bottom’ mentality… that places a skewed priority on things that, in the end, will not likely yield either good architecture, a good experience, or a less expensive project.” He says that a better approach—and one that suits his style—is for prospective homeowners to tour one of his recent projects and speak with those homeowners. “There’s simply no substitute for getting personal and honest feedback from homeowners and seeing the project ‘in the flesh,’” he emphasizes. March 2020 | capitalatplay.com 43
photo by David Dietrich courtesy of Brickstack Architects
photo by Justin Mitchell courtesy of cJem Designs
“We try to educate all prospective clients—public or private—about the value of a fair and quality based selection process for choosing their architects,” says Legerton. In his experience, when this type of selection process occurs, the price tag is merely one of several measures used. And the clients end up happier in the end. He points out that the value of local sourcing extends to the selection of an architect as well. A professional based in the region where the project takes place offers many advantages. Those include “expertise in building in the local climate and topography, and knowledge of our local regulatory processes and requirements.” McPherson agrees, saying, “Building in the mountains and on steep slopes requires different expertise than building on flat land.” Further, “architects who have experience designing in a place bring a deeper knowledge and respect for the land, its history, and its community.” And he says that there’s a people factor, too. “Good relationships with local code officials, contractors, and craftspeople are hard to create in an instant.” “There’s always a benefit to hiring a local architect with a proven track record,” says Parker Platt. “They come with local knowledge about the environment, materials, lifestyle, and intricacies of a place.” 44
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Out With the Old? Asheville’s unusual relationship with architecture is well known. As the Great Depression ended, many buildings were left unoccupied. And because the city remained in a significant financial downturn ruin for many years to come, derelict buildings remained standing. Unlike cities such as Atlanta, where old edifices would regularly be torn down and replaced with newer and more modern structures, many of Asheville’s buildings still stood. And when economic conditions finally improved at the tail end of the 20th century, renovations meant that Asheville entered the 21st century with a remarkably large share of historic buildings, many with impressive architectural designs. “It’s a positive thing that Asheville has remained relatively untouched, like Prague in the Second World War,” says Al Platt. The work of Douglas Ellington, an architect acclaimed for his designs in the Art Deco Style, is a prominent and enduring fixture of Asheville. Three of the city’s most wellknown landmarks—Asheville High School, the S&W Cafeteria downtown, and the First Baptist Church—are all Ellington designs. The Sylvan Theatre in nearby Sylva is another notable structure designed by Ellington, and his 1926 cottage still stands in Chunns Cove, just east of Asheville.
Today, Buncombe County is home to more than 110 buildings listed in the National Register of Historic Places; many of those structures are noted for their architectural design, incorporating styles in and outside of the Art Deco idiom. In all of Western North Carolina, there are more than 300 such designated buildings. Preservation is important, and architects often have a heightened sense of it. “Asheville is extremely fortunate that so many of the older downtown buildings were not demolished and have been preserved in the past 30-plus years,” says Legerton. “We’re greatly indebted to the citizens who organized and fought some of the larger proposed projects that would have demolished many of the older buildings and the downtown street layouts.” He’s been a part of those preservation initiatives, too: “I have worked with other individuals and organizations to save significant local structures from being demolished.” And in both cases—when buildings are restored as well as when they’re razed to make space for new projects—architects are involved. “For better or worse, architects are often at the center of these kinds of discussions,” Huebner says. “Progress is not always pretty, especially if it comes at the expense of tearing down a beloved structure.”
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“This gets at the heart of our profession and the nature of a society,” McPherson says. “We will be forever rebuilding our cities and towns. Our historic structures are often what define a town’s character the most. These old buildings are impractical to recreate, so preserving and reusing them is vital to maintaining a sense of place and telling the story of a town.” Al Platt admits a twinge of disappointment when old buildings are destroyed. He quotes songwriter Joni Mitchell: “You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.” McPherson concedes, though, that sometimes preservation is impractical, and “the opportunity to create something new outweighs the past.” Legerton adds, “It depends on the particular building, its level of prominence, and how significant the structure is to our community.”
“This gets at the heart of our profession and the nature of a society... We will be forever rebuilding our cities and towns.” Admitting that there’s no simple formula for making those judgments, McPherson suggests applying this question to each situation: “What building will serve its community best, today and in the future?” For his part, working on renovations as well as new structures, Huebner says that his approach has always been that “whatever we design [must] work in harmony with its surroundings.”
Form, Function, and… Fashion?
photo by David Dietrich courtesy of Brickstack Architects
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Even with all of the formal training that architects receive, at its heart architecture remains a creative endeavor. But unlike some other forms of creative expression, architecture must—in all but the most unusual instances—conform to some agreed-upon ideas concerning functionality and design concepts. Because the work is being done for a client (residential, commercial, industrial, and so forth), the wants and needs of the client are taken into consideration. So, do the practical constraints placed upon architects leave room for them to express their own unique creativity? Every one of the architects
LEGERTON ARCHITECTURE, P. A . team reviewing blueprints, photo by Blake Madden
interviewed for this story answers in the affirmative. “While putting our clients’ needs and desires first, we almost always feel free to be creative within the constraints of a project,” says Parker Platt. “The extent varies somewhat depending on our client’s preferences, and sometimes on budgetary or other constraints,” says Legerton. “Generally, there’s opportunity for creative design – at some level – on every project.” He notes that some projects allow for significant freedom where creative design is concerned. Larsen approaches design from a problem-solving perspective. Against that backdrop, “every project allows me the freedom to show my creativity, as each project and client brings a new problem to solve,” she says. McPherson finds great value in the collaborative nature of architectural projects. “Collaboration is one of the most rewarding and challenging aspects of our profession,” he says. “Part of our process is finding the right balance [between] our clients’ vision and our own expertise and creativity.” He explains that one hallmark of a successful project is that the collaboration extends even farther to include “contractors and craftspeople who actually make our creativity a reality.”
Established trends in the industry also exert influence on architectural designs. Both Huebner and McPherson emphasize the growing popularity of modern and contemporary design values. “All of our work has its roots or fingerprints of the past,” admits Huebner, “but we strive to create work that feels of the time in which we live. And I love that modernism frees me from the boundaries of a style from the past.” He cites the influence of Italian architect Renzo Piano, designer of the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris and New York City’s Whitney Museum of American Art. “While his work—mostly commercial—is very different from one project to the next, the common thread is that it feels fresh and modern and exquisitely crafted,” Huebner says. “And that is what I strive for in my own work.” “There has been more of an appetite and market for modern and contemporary work in our region than there has in the past,” observes McPherson. He says that Samsel Architects embraces the new: “We have evolved our design to a modern aesthetic that’s still inspired by local materials and regional vernacular.” And he believes that modern designs must be rooted in a sense of place and the character of the site. March 2020 | capitalatplay.com 47
photo by David Dietrich courtesy of Samsel Architects
Parker Platt espouses a more measured approach. “We don’t like to think of our work as trendy or fashionable,” he says. “We’d much rather it be timeless.” He acknowledges that tastes do change through the years, saying, “And we work to remain in touch with the current state of affairs. In the past five years, we’ve seen a remarkable increase in clients who are interested in a more contemporary aesthetic.” Legerton’s firm places a high value on “creating contextually sensitive, sustainable designs for our clients and the communities where our projects are located,” he says. As a result, he generally makes a point of avoiding particular architectural trends. For her part, Larsen focuses on the clients’ demands. “Trends and fashions are dictated by my client’s interests,” she says. To turn an old adage on its head, the client is always the customer, but the client isn’t always right. “Occasionally we are asked to create what we call a ‘Frankenstein Design,’” says McPherson, “sticking random images, ideas, and styles together into a single project.” He says that Samsel avoids creating that kind of architectural monster by guiding clients toward a more cohesive concept that meets their goals, even though it might look different from their preconceived ideas. Huebner takes a similar approach in his residential projects. “If a homeowner asks me to design something that is outside of the bounds of my comfort level, then I might suggest that we’re not a good fit.” He likens the architect-client relationship to a marriage, built on honesty, good communication, and trust. “Trust also comes from letting go a little,” he says, “allowing the creative process to reveal something that’s unexpected and delightful.” Problems of that nature are not commonplace if everyone involved has taken the time to consider if the architect is right for a given project. According to Legerton, clear communication of the client’s goals is a key to success. “Some of our clients want their projects designed with strong historical references and details; others want for their projects to fit in well with the context of their site, neighborhood, and community.” Details and materials might be modern, or they might lean toward 48
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the traditional. “All are valid approaches if designed well and contextually appropriate,” he says. And while tradition has its place, Huebner says he has noticed a trend. “I’m a small test sample, but I find that clients’ tastes are starting to shift and become more open to modernism, including larger windows, open floor plans, simplified roofs, less decoration.” He quotes the pioneering 20th century architect Charles-Édouard Jeanneret, better known as Le Corbusier: “Trash is always abundantly decorated; the luxury object is well made, neat and clean, pure and healthy, and its bareness reveals the quality of its manufacture.”
Architects and Architecture for Today and Tomorrow All of the architects interviewed for this story acknowledge global and regional environmental factors, as well as the need to consider those factors in their architectural design work. Sustainability is more than a catchy buzzword: It’s a foundational concept in today’s design. “Houses need to become much more energy-efficient,” says Al Platt. “Projects should be sustainably designed to have as minimal of an impact on our environment as possible,” Legerton says. He notes that the trend toward that kind of design “should gain even more prominence going forward.” Huebner says that he’s particularly interested in technology trends as they relate to building science and building materials. Recent Brickstack projects have featured solar photovoltaic panels and hot water panels that integrate subtly into home design. “They’re practically invisible,” he says, noting that one recent project is “98% net zero,” meaning that the total energy consumption of the home is almost completely offset by renewable energy generated onsite. “That’s a very exciting trend,” he says. “Our buildings need to withstand increasingly harsher climates,” Huebner says. “And that means that the materials we build them out of need to respond.” He also expresses
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: PL ATT property, photo by Jerry Markatos Antidote Bar, photo courtesy Legerton Architecture Home designed by cJem designs photo by Jonathan Saunders Brickstack Architects work, photo by Kevin Meechan Samsel Architects principals Nathan Bryant and Duncan McPherson, photo by Todd Crawford
March 2020 | capitalatplay.com 49
strong interest in using building materials that have a lower impact on the environment. Legerton has observed a trend toward “better environmental and climatic sensitive building designs, materials, technologies, and systems for all building types.” “Designing for climate change and climate resiliency is where we must be focused,” says McPherson, noting that the energy efficiency movement has been around for more than a half century. His firm is committed to designing “buildings that don’t contribute to climate change and buildings that can adapt and be resilient to climate change.” He believes that building designs must be responsive to the air quality, wind, rain, and sun of a particular place. “We’re in unprecedented times,” he asserts. “These factors and our larger ecosystems are changing in unpredictable ways.” With a goal of designing buildings with (at least) a 100-year functional lifespan, he asks himself this question when working on a new design: “How will our designs today perform in the year 2120?” Speaking of the future, there’s a guarded optimism about the market for new architects in Western North Carolina. “It’s saturated,” admits Larsen, “but if you are a good, honest, trustworthy, and communicative person, there’s plenty of work and opportunity.”
Legerton notes that there are already quite a few architectural firms in Western North Carolina, and that some local projects enlist architects from outside the area. Even so, he says, “it seems that most local firms have ample work and opportunities.” But he cautions that “when another economic downtown occurs, that situation will change and there will be fewer opportunities and fewer projects.” Al Platt takes a sunnier view. “There’s always room for more good design,” he says. Newcomer architects who have completed their study, apprenticeship, and licensure and manage to land a job with a firm in the region can expect to make $50-60k annually starting out, says Legerton. According to the latest data available from the North Carolina Department of Commerce (the 2019 “Star Jobs” employment projections table), the category “Architects, Except Landscape and Naval” receives four stars—the second-highest rating—was estimated to add The about 220 annual positions to its current 2,800 jobs. The table arage pegs architects’ median annual wage statewide at $78,200. The category “Architectural and Engineering Managers” is another four-star job; the state’s Department of Commerce uthority estimates more than 4,000 jobs in that field statewide by 2026; ces Into Except ing Spa ion al Pwage laces that translates to 300 new jobs eachTryear. ansform Median annual TM
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Waxing Architectural Asked to sum up their philosophies of architecture, these creative professionals provide wildly divergent answers, yet
conducting all business [recognizing that] people and place matter.” Duncan McPherson has clearly given the subject some thought as well. “Our creative process blends art and function to create an individualized project for each client,” he says. “Ultimately, we strive for our work to inspire joy in those who use, work, and live in the spaces we create.” He finds inspiration from “the urban fabric, the people we work with, and the beauty of the natural world. I hope the experience of our work and the values of our firm inspire others in our community to make our world a beautiful and better place. I believe that architecture has the power to enhance the quality of our lives,” he says. Scott Huebner draws wisdom from Marcus Vitruvius Pollio, a Roman civil engineer of the 1st century B.C.E..“Vitruvius was famous for saying that architecture must have these three essential qualities: firmitas, utilitas, and venustas, he says. “Strength, utility, and beauty. That sounds about right.”
I hope the values of our firm inspire others in our community to make our world a beautiful and better place. I believe that architecture has the power to enhance the quality of our lives. they share some common themes. Parker Platt is succinct. “Listen first,” he says. “Design and build second.” John Legerton shares that sentiment but expands upon it. “Our core values are listening carefully, improving communities, contributing to our local and regional quality of life, and
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> davis & > bruce
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> mathews architecture
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> raymond parker howell , aia , architect (828) 264-5583
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March 2020 | capitalatplay.com
Military Electronics davidson
Curtiss-Wright has completed the $132 million cash acquisition of 901D Holdings. 901D designs, tests, analyzes, and integrates electronic subsystems and ruggedized enclosures; the company supports every shipbuilding program of the United States Navy. Their equipment protects servers, weapons systems, and other networks on Navy ships, submarines, and aircraft carriers from mechanical, thermal, and electromagnetic shock. It is also used by the aerospace and security industries. Curtiss-Wright develops proprietary electronics and software with commercial, industrial, military, and energy applications. The acquisition will expand Curtiss-Wright’s portfolio of instrumentation and controls, positioning it for a broader share of defense contracts
as the United States expands its military fleet. 901D employs about 85, and it will now operate under Curtiss-Wright’s Defense segment. Curtiss-Wright employs about 9,000 worldwide.
Maybe They’re Amazed
the needs of today’s travelers. Changes include lightening the décor with off-white, stitched-leather wallpaper, headboards in blue hues, and less window dressing to admit more natural light. The 60 guest rooms will be made more spacious with new comfortable desks and chairs. Lighting will be updated and charging ports added. A lot of the antique wood furniture will be retained, and each guest room will be fitted with reframed art by Philip Moose, who reportedly used to pay for his stays at the manor with art. Renovations are expected to cost $2 to $2.5 million, or the amount for which the hotel, then bankrupt, was purchased in 1991. The Dunhill will stay open with minimal disruption during the upfits.
Charlotte’s only historic hotel, the Dunhill, is being remodeled. When it first opened as Mayfield Manor 90 years ago, it was one of 15 hotels in Charlotte. It has since been the host of presidents and rock stars, including Elvis and Sir Paul McCartney. Representatives of Summit Hospitality Group, which manages the property, want to preserve the historic ambience of the 10-story boutique hotel while accommodating
Anchors Away winston-salem
The Macy’s at Hanes Mall is closing. The store is one of 28 that the department store chain is closing this year, as well as the second departure of an anchor store from Hanes Mall within the same timeframe. Macy’s first announced intentions to close 100 stores in 2016, and the upscale retailer has since been closing
A Unique and Independent Real Estate Company since 1979 54
23 Arlington Street Asheville, NC 28801 | 828. 255.7530 | www.appalachianrealty.com | March 2020
30 carolina in the west
locations as leases expire. Following already announced closings, Macy’s and Bloomingdales will continue to operate about 680 department stores and 190 specialty stores. Hanes Mall used to have five anchor stores, all of which owned their own stores and parking areas. Sears was the first of the five to leave, and it is uncertain how long another anchor, JC Penney, will stay open. The property in WinstonSalem is owned, not rented, by Macy’s. The 151,415-sq.-ft. store occupying three levels is valued at $2.57 million. Adding the parking lot, which Macy’s also owns, the holding comes to 9.68 acres with a tax valuation of $6.6 million. Industry analysts are predicting the vacant space will not be used for retail.
his hand by blocking the product’s purchase and then, after five months, having neither assessed it nor provided teachers with another tool. Those challenging Johnson’s decision include Amplify, the company who formerly held the contract, as well as the State Board of Education. They charge there was no emergency that justified bypassing consultation and pre-approval by the board. The DIT generally agrees, and North Carolina’s Chief Information Officer, Eric Boyette, has the power to cancel the contract. Administrative hearings are underway.
Connecting the D.O.T.s sunset beach
Late Night Emergency raleigh
State Superintendent Mark Johnson came under fire for a unilateral, emergency, after-hours signing of a $928,570 contract. Johnson claims he had to close the deal with Istation, the vendor of a K-3 reading diagnostic, so students using their product could be evaluated during the mandatory mid-year assessments. Johnson further charges the Department of Information Technology (DIT) forced
The Sunset Beach Town Council elected to submit what would be a tenth alternative for the design of the Carolina Bays Parkway extension. The project is a joint venture of the North Carolina and South Carolina departments of transportation to create a limited-access, multilane expressway extending from SC-9 in Horry County, South Carolina, into Brunswick County, North Carolina. The nine other plans merge the parkway into US-17 for about 6.3 miles between NC-904 and NC-130, an area the town council described as a developing
the old north state
residential and commercial corridor. Whereas building in existing rights of way might be expected to reduce the number of citizen objections, the council objected to the added congestion anticipated from using that particular corridor. So they proposed constructing a new road parallel to US-17 further inland that would eventually tie into the I-140 bypass. It would improve traffic circulation, wouldn’t interfere with homes and businesses, and would provide an additional emergency egress.
Environmental Smarts stokesdale
ICE Recycling awarded its landfill-free designation to the Culp Home Fashions plant in Stokesdale. Culp is a manufacturer and distributor of fashion-forward upholstery textiles for home and commercial settings. In addition to recycling all plastic, cardboard, and other items generally put in the blue bins, the factory is recycling all scrap yarn, fabric, and other forms of operational waste. ICE, headquartered in Lake City, South Carolina, bails, grinds, and packages materials for reuse. The feat was accomplished through extensive training in stringent guidelines and procedures.
223 Boyd Cove Road Leicester 28748
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the old north state
HEALTHY STARTS HERE The tech entrepreneurs at Anthroware are helping the Y improve food security by connecting people in need with fresh, healthy, and specially prescribed food. This boxed nutrition program is just one example of how community partnerships can lead to innovative solutions that improve health and well-being for all. The Y.™ For a better us. » ymcawnc.org « YMCA OF WESTERN NORTH CAROLINA
When it comes to your to-do list, put your future first. To find out how to get your financial goals on track, contact your Edward Jones financial advisor today.
Another Culp facility in High Point is on-target to achieve landfill-free status in four to seven months. CEO Robert Culp said the company is mindful of the communities where it has production facilities, so it is continuing to strive to reduce its environmental impact. For example, Culp’s facility in Quebec derives 99.8% of its power from hydroelectric and wind sources. The company is also working with the local authorities to locate recycling facilities closer to its operations.
Pulling the Trigger raleigh
North Carolina’s Josh Stein is among the attorneys general from twenty states, plus the District of Columbia, to join a lawsuit to prevent a renewed attempt to allow blueprints for the 3D printing of guns online. Those challenging a new federal ruling to relax regulations on the blueprints by transferring oversight from the United States Department of State to the Department of Commerce argue the move would put unregistered, untraceable assault-style weapons in the hands of persons banned by state and federal law from owning guns. (Even the NRA has gone on record as opposing “illegal undetectable plastic guns.”) A lawsuit filed by the coalition of state attorneys general last year to stop the printing of what are called “ghost guns” resulted in the striking down of the enabling administrative decisions on procedural grounds, and the change of oversight is viewed as a workaround. The legal battles began in 2015 when Cody Wilson, doing business as Defense Distributed, was instructed by the federal government to remove blueprints he had posted online, as they contained technical data banned from export. Wilson sued, citing infringement of free speech, and was able to strike a deal with the federal government to exempt his data from export law, and that spurred the first reaction from the coalition.
Definitely Taking a Toll cornelius
Katherine C Morosani
1185 Charlotte Highway Suite I Fairview, NC 28730 828-628-1546 Katherine C Morosani Financial Advisor
| March 2020
1185 Charlotte Highway Suite I Fairview, NC 28730 828-628-1546
edwardjones.com Member SIPC
Commuters traveling through Charlotte’s northern suburbs are complaining about the new express toll lanes on I-77. What turned out to be a $647 million project was unpopular from the start, and many politicians who supported—or refused to prevent—the construction have since been voted out of office. What was touted as a public-private partnership that would collect revenue for infrastructure improvements is, in the eyes of supporters, working through the final, uncomfortable, in-between stages common to over 50 express toll lane projects now operating in the country. Following the construction maelstrom, which was blamed by one analysis for increasing crashes 50%, they note traffic now moves 15% faster during rush hours. Detractors, however, say toll collections will be
profiting the private companies that financed the project for the next 50 years. They complain about confusing merging patterns and lane markers, uneven pavement, and dynamic tolling. Whereas traveling the full 26-mile toll zone used to cost $7, now it costs $3-$10 “depending.” While the state has fined the contractor, I-77 Mobility, $6.4 million for work not completed following contract extensions, the company continues in good faith to complete the installation of sound barriers, lane markers, and reflectors.
Paving the Way Pt.1 concord
GM announced its intentions to open its newest technology center in North Carolina. The 75,000-sq.-ft. Charlotte Technical Center will conduct research and development for improving Chevrolet and Cadillac race cars, with the intention of transferring technology to vehicles sold to the public. Toyota and Ford, which are the other manufacturers of NASCAR vehicles, already have technology centers in the Charlotte area. The center will be equipped with state-of-theart testing technologies, such as Driver-in-the-Loop simulators that assess a real person’s interaction with the actual software and hardware intended to go into a vehicle. Representatives of GM note other vehicle testing technologies developed for the racing industry that are now standard in the design process for on-road vehicles include scale model testing, rolling wind tunnel testing, and computational fluid dynamics. The center will be similar to GM Powertrain, now GM Global Propulsion Systems, an engineering group of about 8,000 that designs, engineers, and tests the company’s propulsion components. The new center is located near several NASCAR teams and suppliers and ten miles from the Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Who’s a Good Boy! greenville
Vidant Hospital now employs Harley, a dog, to help with cleaning. Keith Pittman with Pinelog Kennels spent eight months training the beagle to sniff out Clostridioides difficile (C. diff) bacteria and signal. The bacterium causes diarrhea, colitis, and other complications. It is potentially lethal but common in healthcare settings. Harley works with Dr. Paul Cook of East Carolina University in Vidant’s cancer ward twice a week. When she sits, staff follows up by bleaching the room. Photographs of Harley at work show her bringing joy to patients in their sickbeds as she stops to say hello. So far, Harley is proving reliable; Pittman reported Harley has never signaled for a negative specimen in all her trials. Spokespersons with the hospital are saying the dog was not hired to address a specific problem so much as to make a
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SHOP. DONATE. March 2020 | capitalatplay.com 57 ColorMeGoodwill.org MAKE A DIFFERENCE.
the old north state
good situation better. Another dog in the Netherlands has the same talent, but Harley is the only one known to be working in the United States. Competition is on its way, though, as her success has Pittman training other dogs.
Otter Side of the Story kure beach
Construction has begun on the habitat for Asian small-clawed otters at the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher. The rare otter is designated vulnerable by the International Union of Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species, and content writers for the aquarium deem the animal impossibly cute. Named “Otters on the Edge,” the exhibit will include interactive water elements for members of the public and behind-thescenes care for the otters. Aquarium leadership had plans to receive the otters early last year, but Hurricane Florence introduced delays. The otters will stay in the conservatory building, while the rescued bald eagle who had been living in that space will be well enough for release to the aquarium’s gardens by the time the new habitat opens in a few months. Creation of the habitat is expected to cost $1.8 million, and the project is funded by the North Carolina Aquarium Society, private donations, and museum sales. Admission to the aquarium has been reduced $3 per ticket while the conservatory is closed for renovations.
Finally 3-Ply Sheets raleigh
Researchers on a team led by North Carolina State University Assistant Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Jie Yin recently demonstrated what they are calling kirigami robots. Kirigami, like the more well-known origami, is a Japanese art-form of folding paper. Kiragimi, however, allows cuts. In the materials science breakthrough,
| March 2020
researchers made 3-ply sheets consisting of two heat-resistant outer layers with a heat-sensitive polymer in the middle. The outer layers are strategically etched to expose the polymer on one side or the other. The location, length, orientation, and depth of the etchings define where the material should fold and how much. The etchings then serve as deformable nodes that direct the manner in which other cuts made completely through the material will be stretched and shaped. The researchers demonstrated how the technique can be used to make self-folding boxes, a gripping device, and even a soft robot with a kirigami body and pneumatic legs. Yin indicates this is only the beginning for a wide field of research. The technique, for example, has not been tried with materials sensitive to other non-mechanical stimuli, like light.
Ring My Bell cary
The North Carolina Courage is partnering with Charles & Colvard to give fans an opportunity to select their 2019 National Women’s Soccer League Championship ring design. The e-commerce luxury jeweler, noted for its work in pioneering manmade moissanite, has designed two rings, both valued at $1,850. To vote, fans must register at WinTheRing.com. Their registration information will then be automatically entered into a sweepstakes with a single grand prize that includes one of the championship rings, four on-field tickets to the Courage’s home opener, and a $300 Charles & Colvard gift certificate. The Courage has now won back-to-back championships in the highest professional women’s soccer league in the United States. The team was created in 2017 when entrepreneur Steve Malik purchased the four-time league champion Western New York Flash and moved the team to Cary. The Courage is part of the North Carolina Football Club, the largest youth-to-pro club in the country. The parent organization is
owned by Malik and managed by veteran soccer executive, Curt Johnson.
Not Your Mom’s Woolite knightdale
BB Cleaning is now certified to clean Oriental and Afghan rugs and Persian carpets. Asian rugs can be very expensive. As such, the slightest damage by moisture, mold, or cigarette smoke can ruin their value and aesthetic appeal. Cleaning requires a combination of careful inspection and special techniques spelled out in the Comprehensive Guide to Oriental and Specialty Rug Cleaning. Published in 2006, the book has 394 pages of instruction and costs about as many dollars. BB Cleaning’s specialists now know the book and are not only certified, they’re bonded and insured to clean specialty rugs, antique or modern, handwoven or machineloomed, in residential or commercial settings. This represents an expansion of services offered by the company, which has been in business over 20 years. The company markets itself as being able to steam-clean on short notice with the latest technologies and “natural cleaners that work.”
Paving the Way Pt.2 raleigh
The North Carolina Department of Transportation will award a total of $1 million to three schools to launch what will be called the University Transportation Centres of Excellence. Funded research will develop predictive modeling to help design infrastructure adequate for foreseeable technology shifts. The North Carolina Agricultural and Technology State University will be the home of the NC-CAV (Connected and Autonomous Vehicle) Centre. In collaboration with Greensboro’s transportation department, researchers will, among other things, operate a test track
For Those Who Seek The Exceptional Life. to collect data to help the state prepare for CAV technology. UNC-Chapel Hill will be the home of the Highway Safety Research Centre, where impact analyses will try to quantify the effects CAVs and other emerging technologies will have on the economy, public safety, policy, and traffic circulation in general. Lastly, North Carolina State University will run the Institute for Transportation Research and Education to analyze issues like fleet management and equal access with CAV technology. The programs will be supported by professional research by subject-matter experts at Appalachian State University, NC Central University, UNC-Charlotte, Duke University, and Fayetteville State University. photos by Marilynn Kay Photography
Who Loves the Sun charlotte
BB&T had a reputation as one of the safest places to put one’s money and navigated the financial crisis without sustaining a single quarterly loss. Then CEO John Allison testified before Congress against impending bailouts, and the bank was among the few that, upon receiving a mandatory bailout, paid it back as quickly as the law allowed. Now that BB&T has merged with SunTrust, which, while reputable, serious customers have a lot of questions, and the mass media has one answer. All over, one can see the new logo, the monogram, the slogan. The logo color, purple, was selected with input from human behavior experts, and is described as a fusion of SunTrust’s blue and BB&T’s burgundy. A master typographer was contracted to form each letter of the logo, and the monogram is a combination of two T’s that stand for “Touch + Technology.” In developing the new brand, workshops, interviews, focus groups, and other strategies for gathering information were convened among employees and clientele by consultancy firm Interbrand.
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A xe Marks Axe throwing has carved out a notable chunk of business
| March 2020
leisure & libation
The Spot in Western North Carolina.
written by jennifer fitzger ald photos by anthony harden March 2020 | capitalatplay.com 61
leisure & libation
hen this magazine’s editor, Fred Mills, asked, “You wanna take a stab (ha, ha)” at doing this axe throwing story, I was both intrigued and a bit nervous. I knew axe throwing was a “thing” that arrived in Western North Carolina in the last year or so, but the thought of controlling the destiny of a sharp object seemed a bit scary. The invitation to visit the new Axeville at Catawba Brewing Co. in Biltmore Village was in my inbox—all I needed to do was select a time and book my axecellent adventure. So—pardon the mixed metaphor—I took the plunge. The Axeville Throwing Club’s flagship location is located at 99 New Leicester Highway, out in West Asheville. They had been looking to open up a second location for a few months, but hadn’t found the right location yet. Catawba approached them, and it seemed like a good fit for both businesses. Visitors at Catawba’s Charlotte tasting room and sister brewery in Charleston were already big fans of axe throwing, described as “darts, but extreme.” “So it was a natural fit to bring the same action-packed axe-throwing experience to Catawba Asheville,” says Billy Pyatt, co-owner of Catawba Brewing Co.. “Biltmore Village offers the company’s first permanent in-house axe-throwing lanes in a tasting room. Axeville has outdone itself with the transformation of their new space within the Biltmore location.” Looking at the website, I saw the directive: Be sure to wear closed toe shoes. I cringed. Perhaps I should purchase steeltoed boots to wear? No, I was being extreme and decided that the sturdiest shoes I owned—my hiking boots—would protect my toes sufficiently. My invitation promised that “patrons can expect a cozy hunting-lodge vibe with four throwing lanes in a carpeted area, replete with comfortable chairs and couches.” 62
| March 2020
Hit Me With Your Best Shot And that’s exactly what I found upon my arrival. I was greeted by my Axe Coach, Mike Gerckens (like the pickle), and was immediately put at ease. This was going to be fun. I signed the waiver form, then focused on my coach. “I’m one of the axeperts—no pun intended,” he said, as he began to cover the safety rules. NUMBER 1: When you are not throwing, kindly stay on the other side of the bar (not the bar serving beer, but the bar built as a separation point for the axe throwers). NUMBER 2: When you are throwing, be aware of your opponent next to you so basically you are not above a yellow dividing line when they are throwing. NUMBER 3: When you are done throwing, keep the axes away from the bar and put them in the designated bucket. Ryan McClenny, co-owner and director of facility operations at Axeville Throwing Club, was also on-site to offer guidance. “The sharp end goes in the wood,” he told me, in what may or may not have been a deadpan. Good to know, as I was taking to heart every bit of advice they gave me.
FENCING BETWEEN lanes helps to ensure fun without injury.
“The big take-away for the day is not to flick your wrists,” instructed Gerckens. “In most sports activities—darts, Frisbee, baseball—you rely on your wrists. Today with hatchets, it’s the opposite. If you flick the wrists, it’s not going to give the axe the right spin. The axe is not going to stick, and it is going to make a loud noise when it hits the wall. The axe does not have to travel fast, hard, and furious to stick. It’s all going to come down to technique.” I started with the one-hand throw—wrapping my hand and my wrist around the hatchet as hard as I could. This should have prevented my wrist from moving. Elbow pointing forward at the target with the back of the axe looking like it was scratching my back. Arm tucked in close. A chalk line was drawn for me, and as a “righty,” I was instructed to take a step forward and lunge with my left leg. “Don’t release the axe until your arm is down and you are looking at the bullseye,” added Gerckens. I looked at the large, stationary wooden target straight in front of me and had no expectations of hitting the wall, much less the target. But I was ready to give it my best shot. “Ready to throw?” “Yes!” I was answering truthfully, both nervous and excited to see what I could do. The target loomed in front of me and seemed to be a great distance away. March 2020 | capitalatplay.com 63
leisure & libation
SHARP AXES are more likely to hit the spot.
My first throws were not great, but not embarrassing, either. My axe coach encouraged me to not overthink it. The lunge provided the momentum that the axe needed. Turns out, I am a wrist flicker, so Coach shifted me to the two-handed throw for additional wrist support. After quite a few attempts, I hit the target. My confidence took a huge leap as spectators cheered for me and I thanked them for the support. However, I might have experienced beginner’s luck. I missed the target many times. I hit the target. I missed the target many times. I hit the target. You get the idea. A bad throw brought a loud clank as the axe bounced off the wall and onto the floor. A good throw brought a satisfying thud as the axe stuck in the wood. I was having fun and working hard. Persevere, have an open mind. No one is born with an axe under their pillow. It’s ridiculously addictive. You’ll never be perfect at it; it’s like golf or bowling. Some nights you are fantastic, some nights you are like—what’s wrong? These were all encouragements I received from my coaches. “The biggest thing the coaches do is train people—get them to do what they are supposed to do—it’s very self-regulating,” says McClenny. “The coaches are like lifeguards. Once they get you going and you are having a good time, if you want them to 64
| March 2020
be involved, they will be right there with you. If not, they step back and let you play, just making sure you are safe.” My session came to an end, and I was still standing and quite proud of myself. Glancing down at my boot-clad feet, I was relieved to see that all toes were intact. It was a great feeling of success and accomplishment. An item to mark off my bucket—hatchet—list. I asked McClenny how he would grade me. “Easily a 10.” “No way,” I replied. I was far from an axepert, but yet, not an embarrassment. This had been a fun experience.
A Sharp Idea While the first axe throwing bar in North America is believed to have started in Toronto in 2011, throwing axes have been used since prehistoric times, as both a tool and a weapon. You will see axe throwing as an event in most lumberjack competitions. The popularity of axe throwing in Western North Carolina is definitely mirroring a national trend. When McClenny and his cousin, co-owner, and director of finance and administration of Axeville Throwing Club, Glen Merchant, came up with the idea of an axe throwing
venue a couple of years ago, the trend was just starting to explode. “It started in Canada and slowly made its way to the U.S.,” says Merchant, reflecting upon the initial inspiration behind Axeville. “There were axe places in Charlotte and Greenville already, and we figured Asheville was the perfect location. We wanted to make ours a little more unique with our décor resembling more of a man-cave vibe than a typical lumberjack theme.” He sees the popularity as more of a reflection of northern lumberjack culture than a remaining vestige of our mountain culture: “But what kid living in or near the woods didn’t grow up throwing knives, axes, or hatchets at trees or homebuilt targets? We get quite a few folks coming in that share stories of growing up in the area and throwing various items, chopping wood, etcetera.”
A League of Its Own If you and your friends are avid axe throwers, you may like to throw a bit of competition into the mix. One similarity to darts is the nature of various competitive games that you might play—cricket, blackjack, and tic-tac-toe, to name a few.
If you really want to elevate your game, Axeville Throwing Club offers league play—comparable to a bowling league, but with an axe rather than a ball. How do those leagues at Axeville work? How many people and teams participate? “Leagues have been working very well,” shares Merchant. “We are in the midst of our second season. We had 15 throwers in the first season and currently have 21 this season. With the building excitement we’ve had, we fully expect to have two separate leagues for the spring season. There are no teams—it’s all individual versus individual, although there is a possibility we may have team leagues coming soon. Basic league gameplay has each player throwing four matches per night for seven weeks, followed by a double elimination tournament on the eighth week.” Axeville’s next project is to get a mobile unit up and running so they can offer temporary options for people and places that may not want a full-time setup. Once that’s done, they will see what the future holds for another expansion. Speaking of mobile units… “From our backyard to yours” is the motto of Carolina Axe Throwing, based out of Asheville and the brainchild of David Donoghue, who decided to establish a bring-it-directly-to-you service in 2018. According to the March 2020 | capitalatplay.com 65
leisure & libation
Carolina Axe website, Donoghue, “as a patron and participant of backyard parties, good times, and festivals in and around Asheville, came up with an idea one day while fishing with his friends.”
“The mental and physical components combine to allow it to be a great form of stress therapy.” No word if that fishing expedition also involved spearing fish with hatchets and axes, but the venture apparently proved popular. The company’s Facebook page, for example, has a number of sharp videos that go a long way towards highlighting the appeal of axe throwing.
On the Cutting Edge Husband and wife team Jeff and Hope Grier opened Timber Axe Throwing in Hendersonville in July of 2019. They already owned the property and were trying to decide what to do with it. “My husband, Jeff, saw how axe throwing was becoming more and more popular in the United States and thought, ‘Why not here?’” says Hope. “We are locals, raised here in Hendersonville, and there really has never been that much to do as far as activity/ recreation. We thought this would be a fun, new thing to bring to our small town.” The Griers have seen some apprehension regarding axe throwing. For some viewing the sport from the outside, there are probably fears about the overall safety factor. It has taken time for people to warm up to it and come try it. But watching someone go from being apprehensive and unsure about it to falling in love with 66
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Throw (and Talk…) Like a Pro The International National Axe Throwing Federation (nationalaxe.com) provides an extensive list of helpful terms for novices and veterans alike to be able to, er, toss that terminology around at will. Visit the site to view the complete list. Among the standouts:
equipment terminology 1. Axe: technically a hatchet used in all standard competition. 2. Big Axe: the full size felling axe used for tie-breakers. Big axes are 2.5 pounds with a 27-28 inch wooden handle. 3. Head: the metal blade portion of the axe. 4. Device: a set of vernier calipers used in measuring the point score, for instances [when] axe sticks between two ring values on a target.
venue throwing terminology 1. Arena: one set of four axe throwing targets.
where players must position themselves for competitive throwing. This also doubles as the Big Axe foot fault line. 8. Blue Line (Big Axe Line): the standard throwing line where players must position themselves for competitive throwing of the big axe. 9. Yellow Line (Perimeter Line): the yellow line represents the separation of the throwing arena and the viewing area. Spectators are not to cross this line.
competition terminology 1. Match: also sometimes referred to as a game, it is a set of three rounds totaling 15 throws.
2. Lane: one target setup from block to bullseye.
2. Round: one set of five throws; three of these make up a match.
3. Perimeter Wall: the four foot wall that separates throwers from spectators.
3. Clutch: green dots located in upper left and right sides of target worth seven points.
4. Target: five 2’x10’ boards screwed to a backboard comprising four point areas.
4. Drop: an axe that does not remain sticking in the target, and falls out before being retrieved, resulting in zero points.
5. Block: a small block that some throwers may place on the black line to position their lead foot while throwing. 6. Helmet: a lower and an upper helmet on each lane. The upper is made of high density rubber and the lower of wood mounted below the target. Helmets protect axe heads from damage on a missed throw. 7. Black Throwing Line (Standard Axe Throwing Line): the standard throwing line
5. Perfect Round: occurs in which all five throws are bullseyes, totaling 25 points. 6. Unnatural Perfect Round: occurs when round score is 25 points, but is achieved by throwing three bullseyes, a 3-point, and a clutch. 7. Supernatural Perfect Round: occurs when the total score of a round is 27 points. Achieved when the first four throws of a round are each a bullseye and the 5th throw is a clutch. March 2020 | capitalatplay.com 67
leisure & libation
JEFF AND HOPE GRIER
it, all in one visit, has been really rewarding for them to watch. There are lots of reasons people enjoy axe throwing. Hope shares that not only is it a new and exciting experience, but it’s a fun way to get out, laugh, and have fun with family and friends. “But,” she adds, “I think the number one reason people enjoy it is because it makes them feel good. In a time when most of us are over-stressed and overworked, we need a healthy way to release that stress. Also, science continues to prove that when we engage in something physical, it directly boosts our mood. The mental and physical components combine to allow it to be a great form of stress therapy. Throwing a hatchet seems to tap into everyone’s inner pioneer and strength, which makes them feel empowered. The result of that creates a natural joy that can be clearly seen in each of our guests when they leave.” Merchant thinks at its heart, axe throwing is a very simple kids’ game. You don’t need to be an athlete or have any special skills to play. As long as you can throw a 1.5 pound object and hit the target, your coach can fine-tune your style and have 68
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you sticking it in no time. And the resulting “thunk” when you finally stick the axe is really satisfying. Trust me, I know. It’s interesting to note that these venues are also responsibly serving beer, cider, and wine. And they allow people to play with axes. The Axeville Throwing Club website explains, “Axeville Throwing Club is a private sporting facility that happens to serve beer as well. It IS Asheville, after all... Our main function is to provide a fun, safe environment to throw axes. We sell beer, but it’s meant to be an additional benefit, not the main attraction.” McClenny says the axe throwing pulls you in and you can’t just crush beers—you are more interested in throwing than drinking.
Axe the Axepert What is the secret to becoming an axe throwing axepert? The Griers say the most difficult part for most people is actually just relaxing and letting go of their fear. Once they do that, they can really enjoy and improve their throwing. “Relax,” says Hope. “Most people come in extremely apprehensive, and that prevents them from enjoying and excelling at the activity. We have taken every safety precaution possible to ensure fun without injury. Our axe coaches
COACH AT TIMBER teaching visitors how to throw their axe.
and staff are phenomenal and are constantly helping and monitoring our throwers. It usually takes people about ten minutes to completely relax and realize that it is not scary and dangerous like they thought. Once they realize that, they are able to really enjoy themselves and improve their throwing.” “I think the best advice is the same when learning any new activity,” says Merchant. “Listen to your coach, follow instructions, and watch the axe when you let it go. It can seem more challenging than you might have expected, but once you understand the concept and why we are telling you to do something, it’s actually pretty straightforward.” McClenny adds this advice for beginners: “Throw a lot. Remember, it is fun—it is absolutely ridiculously fun. It will absolutely rock your world.”
Age is a State of Mind Axe throwing is a sport that does not limit by age—except for the young. Timber Axe Throwing has seen a widespread age range. Their youngest thrower has been 13 (ages 13 to 17 can throw with an accompanying parent or guardian), and their oldest thrower has been 87. But as far as the most popular age range, there is an even amount falling in the age range of 25-55 years old.
At the Axeville Throwing Club, there is a minimum age of 18 years old. One of their more endearing moments was when a young fellow came in to celebrate his 92nd birthday with them. “We were a little nervous at first, but he was great and was able to stick his throws a few times and seemed to have a great time,” says Merchant. One of Hope’s favorite stories to share from Timber Axe Throwing is about one of their regulars, Judy Bishop. “Judy came in a few months ago by herself on a Sunday afternoon. She is 73 years old and said, ‘I don’t know if I’ll be any good, but I want to try it anyway!’” Bishop says she enjoys the atmosphere and the core workout. She attends a camp each year for “grown-up girls” where you learn to play—and you must play as you age. In addition to axe throwing, she does archery, range time for shooting, zip lining, horseback riding, drumming classes, and sound healing. She has also recently taken up pickleball. Bishop is a natural at axe throwing and has become a regular at Timber Axe. When she went to the doctor for her checkup, they asked her to fill out the paperwork as usual. On the paperwork, it asked for her to list her activities/exercise, and she listed axe throwing. “She said the doctor couldn’t believe it, and she told them all about it,” says Hope. “That story makes me smile every time.
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leisure & libation
Have an Axcellent Adventure at These Regional Axe Throwing Locations
> axeville throwing club
> timber axe throwing
“Private sporting facility that offers beer, wine, cider, non-alcoholic beverages, and light snacks.” Age limit: 18 and older. Reservations recommended, as walk-ins may experience waits.
Private club that offers beer, wine, and snacks. Reservations suggested for Thursday through Sunday hours.
99 New Leicester Hwy, Asheville axevillethrowingclub.com Catawba Brewing Co. Location: Regularly scheduled Axeville events on Wednesday and Friday evenings. 63 Brook St, Asheville
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218 Duncan Hill Rd, Hendersonville timberaxethrowing.com
> mystery hill In addition to axe throwing, tomahawk throwing, knife throwing, archery, Cherokee blow guns, and other outdoor activities, this family-friendly destination of over 70 years has gift shops, eateries,
museums, an old-time photo parlor, and “the natural gravitational anomaly.” 129 Mystery Hill Ln, Blowing Rock mysteryhill.com
> carolina axe throwing
“We are Asheville’s first and only mobile axe throwing entertainment… We deliver, set-up the equipment, and break it down… A professional and experienced axe coach to help ensure a safe and fun time.” Carolinaaxe.com
She is such a joy and has such an adventurous spirit that everyone can be inspired by. “Getting to know the people in our community, that we otherwise might not have ever met, has by far been the greatest joy and gift of opening our new business. We want people to know that they are welcome to come by anytime and just check it out. Once people see our venue and watch others throwing, they quickly realize it’s different—in a good way—than what they pictured it would be.” Hope adds that they have had some great experiences the last six months, and they love seeing friends giving each other a hard time, the enthusiastic throwers who literally jump for joy, and men versus women competitions. It is worth noting that, from my own experience, my coaches disclosed that in most men versus women competitions, it is the female team that typically wins—the women follow the axe throwing instructions considerably better than their male counterparts.
“It really makes our job much less like work and a lot more fun when we can share in someone’s life celebrations.” Bullseye Both Axeville Throwing Club and Timber Axe Throwing are available for birthdays, bachelor and bachelorette parties, and corporate team-building events. There are several other options within the Western North Carolina region, and no doubt more venues here will be honing their entertainment options in the near future as well. “We have been very fortunate to be a part of so many birthdays, bachelor and bachelorette parties, and other celebrations,” says Merchant. “It really makes our job much less like work and a lot more fun when we can share in someone’s life celebrations. Our coaches often have humorous anecdotes from groups and are always looking forward to the next group outing. We have not had a gender reveal yet, but we are waiting for it to happen eventually. We have some fun ideas for when it finally does happen so we’re ready for it.” LEFTOVER PIECES of throwing targets, get the axe. March 2020 | capitalatplay.com
Ship Wine or Shop Local?
The true costs of big-boxes and not shopping at locally owned businesses.
is the co-owner of Metro Wines located on Charlotte Street in downtown Asheville.
FEW MONTHS AGO, I NOTICED AN unusually long string of emails in one of Asheville’s neighborhood forum-style email groups. Normally these posts cover topics that are perfunctory but essential for the neighborhood.
It’s rare to see much beyond an alert about whose trash cans were hit by bears last night or a plea for the name of a good handyman. But this email string covered an entirely different subject. So it was with some interest that I read the original emailer’s request, followed by the neighborhood’s reaction. The email string began with a request for neighbors to join an effort to bring Costco to Asheville. As a coalition, they would actively lobby Costco to build a store here. The authors said they missed living near a Costco and all the benefits it brought them. They liked Costco’s proprietary products and low prices, and a local store would eliminate their regular two-hour road trips to the Costco in Greenville, South Carolina. But beyond missing what they had back home, they also touted Costco’s contribution to the local community. They said Asheville would benefit because they felt Costco pays its employees well.
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Out of the string of 20 or so emails, only two disagreed whether Costco would improve Asheville. Asheville has the most aggressive “shop local” campaign I’ve ever seen, so I was a bit surprised to read the resounding support for an international corporate chain. I think the “shop local” ethos is firmly ensconced in people’s brains, but for many of us, it seems like shopping local applies primarily to restaurants and farmers markets; beyond that, it’s touch and go. What I love about living here is that we all have the freedom to do pretty much what we want. I fully support people shopping wherever they like—but are you really saving if you buy from big-box stores? If you look at the total picture, I think you’ll find the benefit is not as big as it seems. First, let’s look at the actual price of the item. Bigboxes have branded themselves as the lowest cost stores, but from my own experience, I know this is
not always true. As a wine shop operator, I compete with big wine stores that ship from New Jersey and California. Our walk-in prices are quite competitive and generally lower, once you take the cost of shipping into account. But many people just assume that those online prices are lower and don’t give us or other local businesses an opportunity to compete. Then there’s the convenience of bigbox shopping. You point and click, and in a day or two, your item arrives. At our shop we either have it in stock or can get it to you in a day or two. Perhaps it’s a bit less convenient to shop local, but so is having to hang around the house to sign for your shipped wine or take a two-hour road trip to a discount retailer.
I KNEW MORE OR LESS WHAT I WAS GETTING MYSELF INTO. Next, let’s look at the employee “high pay” structure at big-boxes. I googled the salary structure for Costco, and employment-related website Indeed. com states that most of Costco’s nonprofessional jobs range from $12.19 to $15.43 per hour. I think you’ll be pleased to know that Asheville has an organization that promotes living wages, Just Economics. Employers can join only if they pay their staff at least $13.65 an hour. Most of the employers I know in town pay more than this. If you’re concerned about wages at your local business, look for the Just Economics decal the next time you’re out shopping. It’s usually on the entrance door. But the real cost of big-box shopping is the one most hidden. And that is the money funneled out of Asheville, North Carolina, and/or the United States. Employee salary is spent in Asheville. But profits, the lion’s share of a large company’s take, is often transferred to countries with the lowest taxes. For this reason and our tax structure,
Amazon and many other corporations pay no federal taxes. But don’t they pay state taxes? Major companies put their building location up for bid. Cities and states compete for the business by offering deep discounts on property and other taxes. Small businesses in those same communities pay full freight. At least all the sales tax is collected, right? There is at least one community that won its bid for a large company through sales tax kickbacks. Unknown to shoppers, however, about a third of the sales tax collected was returned to that company. So even sales tax is up for negotiation. Lower taxes and kickbacks mean that large companies make higher profits than small ones, even when they charge the same or a lower price. This creates an uneven playing field between large and local companies, plus it creates a race to the revenue bottom for the communities that “win” the bid. For this reason, tax bids such as this are prohibited throughout much of Europe. It’s true that no one has to open a business—I knew more or less what I was getting myself into—but the results of all this affect you too. Every community needs a certain amount of funds to operate. If the largest few get a big tax break, that means the rest of us have to make up for it in one way or another. So, indirectly, you’ll eventually get less benefit for low-cost items once you combine it with higher taxes. But it really comes down to the type of community you want to live in. To preserve what we have and perhaps make it better, we need to keep the profits and taxes flowing within our own community. The more funds that leave, the fewer businesses and employment opportunities there are. And it will be harder for us to expand beyond our hospitality-based economy to something even more vibrant and diversified. Please spend your money where you wish—we all balance the many choices we make each day. Just keep in mind that our decisions are not benign. There is no such thing as a free (or low cost) lunch. March 2020 | capitalatplay.com 73
Raising THE Bar Ashevilleâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Charlie Hodge is
written by emily gl aser
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SOVEREIGN REMEDIES photo by Chelsea Lane Photography
March 2020 | capitalatplay.com 75
n a 2012 media report, apparently flushed with a beer buzz, a Fox News correspondent chided, “Stick to the beer. Cocktails do not seem to be one of Asheville’s strong suits.”
Things have changed.
Though national headlines about our town are still often of the “Beer City” variety or occasional nods to our growing contingency of James Beard nominees, there’s another story being written in the vinyl booths and barstools of Asheville’s watering holes. Its earliest authors were quiet innovators armed with spotted recipe cards and waxed aprons: Cynthia Turner, who brought the New Orleansian art of the cocktail to Asheville in the early aughts; ‘tenders behind the sister bars of some of our city’s buzzy restaurants like M.G. Road (Chai Pani’s recently retired basement bar) and Imperial Life (which sits atop Table); without a doubt, Mr. Charlie Hodge. But actually, “quiet” isn’t really the best adjective to describe the grin-prone multipreneur who’s been dubbed both the “Bar Midwife” and the “Mayor of Asheville.” Hodge has the Midas touch, as every venture he graces—from nightclubs to classy cocktail joints to riverside dive bars—turns to gold, almost instantly achieving notoriety among hip locals as “the spot” while simultaneously making the ranks of must-do travel listicles. Upon first glance, Hodge’s entrepreneurial dexterity might be surprising; decked in a well-worn Hamilton tee and an aura of unshakeable youthfulness, he’s a far cry from the stony food-and-bev magnates typically profiled in national media. But with startling genuineness, esprit de corps, and laughter that rings with the same melodic tumble of ice in a glass, it is easy to see why Hodge was an excellent bartender—and, therefore, an excellent bar owner. After all, as Hodge says, “Hospitality is the whole point.” It’s this approach that’s elevated Hodge to a permanent seat amongst Asheville’s culinary elite, and though he’s humble enough that such a proclamation might only warrant a smiling guffaw, it’s evident in his work: He has opened four utterly unique ventures in just five years, with more projects in the works; collaborated 76
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with all the who’s-who of the city’s gastronomic scene; and, contrary to that 2012 report, made cocktails one of Asheville’s strong suits.
Who Is Charlie Hodge, Exactly? Charlie Hodge has been many things: a business owner, an advisor, a West and East Coaster, an acolyte of some of America’s most famed cocktailogists, a bartender. Before he was any of those things, though, Charlie Hodge was a dancer. Born in Chattanooga but reared in New England, Hodge attended the University of Massachusetts, where he received his BFA in dance. After graduating in 1997, he moved to San Francisco to work with a series of dance companies and, like so many 20-somethings chasing big dreams, he supplemented his income with shifts behind a bar. If you think bartending is a far cry from a stage, think again: Consider the agile sway of two busy bartenders on a Saturday night, their synchronous pirouettes across sticky tiles, and the high-handed, Salsa-like flourish of cocktail shakers, all executed with the breakneck speed of a tango refined by hours of rehearsal. Bartending, like dance, is a performance, and Hodge knew the moves. After four years of this song and dance, Hodge was ready for more. The answer, as well as the answer to San Francisco’s rising costs and declining dance scene (products of the arrival of the Dot-com industry), was a move to Portland, Oregon, where he opened his first business with two partners. Holocene, a nationally-known venue which still slings drinks and hosts quirky shows, opened in 2004, a 5,000-sq.-ft. nightclub that was re-envisioned daily, reshaped again and again by the angles of lights and shadows. “After a couple of years, I started to get people asking me for some advice on this place or that place,” Hodge remembers. Because he’d “nerded out” when opening Holocene, interviewing experts in order to hone his own skills, Hodge had accumulated a hearty wealth
CHARLIE HODGE photo by Evan Anderson March 2020 | capitalatplay.com 77
of knowledge that he was happy to share with other intrepid entrepreneurs. “Then I kind of got named ‘the Bar Midwife’ because I just opened about twelve different bars over the next several years,” he laughs again. Hodge’s capacity shifted from business to business, sometimes as an advisor, other times as a partner from its inception. Ventures in Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and, finally, the now Insta-famous Palm Springs Ace Hotel, were delivered by the deft hands of that Bar Midwife. Here is where Hodge’s narrative takes an almost stereotypically recognizable turn: he moved, sight unseen and seemingly on a whim, to Asheville. “I had always been very comfortable bouncing around, so it wasn’t a huge challenge for me,” Hodge pauses. “[But] I didn’t expect to fall in love and be here for almost ten years now.” When Hodge landed in Asheville in 2011, he nestled under the wings of the city’s prevenient tastemakers: Strada’s chef Anthony Cerrato, at sister bar Sazerac (now Social Lounge); at Chestnut, with co-owners Kevin Westmoreland and Joe Scully; and with Drew Wallace, at The Bull & Beggar. (Hodge: “At one point I told Drew, the owner, ‘I won’t leave this place until I open my own place.’”) With a twist of Midasian fate, that’s when a dilapidated downtown Asheville property at 29 North Market Street became available, and Sovereign Remedies was born. 78
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The Remedy Looking at Sovereign Remedies today, you’d be hard-pressed to imagine the dedicated renovation that took place under Hodge’s eye; its 14-foot arched windows, high ceilings, and flawless crown molding gleam with manicured preservation. But when Hodge first saw the space in January of 2014, the windows were boarded, a drop ceiling dwarfed the room, and
“I think what made Sovereign unique is that, up to that point, potentially there was no one who was just sheerly a bartender that broke through onto the other side...” the crown molding was mottled with decay. Rumors circulated that, as Hodge puts it, the space “was a very popular place to hire companionship” at some point between its genesis in the ‘20s and its 2013-era office, hence the stifling of light and
photos by Chelsea Lane Photography
architectural charm. “There was really no love for the room for what it was. It was just another room in the town,” Hodge remembers. But despite its state, he felt something: “We looked at it and we were just like, ‘Wow, this is wonderful.’” “Fortunately, the Brown family [David Brown and children Natalie Brown Dierkes and Nathan Brown] had purchased the building, and that’s why there was this renovation of the space,” he explains. “They are such fantastic supporters of business in this town and really did some above-and-beyond repair in bringing it back, to the point where they hired this special guy that could only repair the crown molding.” Returning the space to its early 20th century glory was an arduous task best represented by the metaphor-like tale of the vault that squatted insistently where the lily bathed bathroom sits today, the removal of which required dozens of chisels over the course of multiple weeks. Sovereign Remedies opened in the fall of 2014, and was, in some ways, the first of its kind. “There were vibrant, beautiful, crafted cocktails in this town with a dozen people. I think what made Sovereign unique is that, up to that point, potentially there was no one who was just sheerly a bartender that broke through onto the other side and opened a space that wasn’t a relation to a restaurant,” Hodge says, listing the likes of M.G. Road and restaurant cocktail programs as predecessors to his first Asheville business. At Sovereign, at
first at least, cocktails weren’t an accompaniment—they were the main event. “I didn’t want to come out the gate with such intense cocktails that were just so headspace because I really felt like that would be alienating,” Hodge explains of the early drink menus. Even today, when creative cocktailing has evolved into an art form well practiced in Asheville, the foundation of Sovereign’s drink menu remains classic cocktails done well. When Hodge first opened the venture, his food menu was similarly humble: a toaster oven behind the bar provided guests with light nibbles and the semi-famed meatball sub (Hodge hints that, due to popular demand, the sub may find a new place on the Asheville Beauty Academy menu). As Sovereign Remedies, and the city in which it sat, began to evolve, Hodge considered investing in a more refined menu. The impetus for this plan was varied. “The whole experience is really important to me,” Hodge explains, leaning forward. “You have these people making beautiful craft cocktails, and though I enjoyed what we did for food there, it was really a pub fare. So we were looking for something that was going to fill out the experience,” he continues. “As the business grew, I noticed what my friend Kevin Barrett described as the ‘donut hole effect’: We were busy leading up to 7PM and after 9PM, but had this big downshift in the middle of the night. This reinforced my desire to offer an experience that was more March 2020 | capitalatplay.com 79
GRAHAM HOUSE photo by Chelsea Lane Photography
immersive; I sought to make the food program pair with the care and detail to quality what was happening in our cocktail program.” Of Hodge’s many keys to success (more on that later), perhaps most exceptional is his patience. When he has an idea—and trust us, he has many—he allows it to manifest organically rather than rushing ahead. Such was his approach to expanding Sovereign Remedies’ food menu and finding the chef to do it. “I will say this to any business owner: Hiring someone that’s that important to the team, hopefully you can create time and space and the proper way to do it,” Hodge emphasizes. He first brought in Steven Goff (AUX Bar, King James Public House), who led Hodge through the first steps of the culinary expansion while the proprietor and his bar manager, Lukas Canan, narrowed their chef selections to three candidates. “When it got to Graham, I was like, ‘He’s too good to be true,’” Hodge remembers. “Graham” is Chef Graham House, who joined the team in 2016 and curated a menu that is both traditionally Appalachian and innovatively modern. The Asheville native brought with him experiences under world-renowned chefs and a dedication to locality—and therefore, seasonality— that surpassed even Hodge’s standards. “We overshot with Graham; he not only elevated the food program, but has established a new bar for the entire house. Amanda Phillips took over our bar program as our bar manager about a year after, and the two of them continue to blow my mind. Now, I am trying to keep up with them!” Hodge explains. The result is a commitment to a standard of culinary offerings photo by Chelsea Lane Photography
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OLE SHAKEY'S photos by Evan Anderson
that is, as Hodge says, “unyielding,” and, admittedly, “not a cheap thing to do.” It’s also earned House a place in the James Beard kitchen (he served dinner at the Beard House in NYC in 2018) and Sovereign Remedies nods from publications like Food & Wine and Forbes, where lip-smacking contentment is voiced through phrases like, “Asheville’s best meal.”
And Then There Were Four What Hodge hopes and intends for all of his ventures is that they evoke a certain experience—it’s what millennials might call a “vibe.” Not in the bohemian “good vibrations” sense (well, that too), but the more modern, shapeshifting gerund that describes a place or action that just feels right. Such was the sense Hodge felt when he stepped into the historic building that would become Sovereign Remedies, as was the feeling he had inside the riverside, ramshackle biker bar, Ole Shakey’s Getaway. To the casual observer, these two watering holes represent polar extremes of a defined spectrum. Where Sovereign Remedies is classy, Ole Shakey’s is insolently unpretentiou; Sovereign has tables with multi-course meals, Shakey’s has pool tables pockmarked by drink rings and cat dander; at Sovereign, cocktails cost upwards of $12, while at Shakey’s you can get a shot of George Dickel and a tall Bud, a special dubbed the Dolly Twins, for $8. There are thatch umbrellas that have shed their straw, machines humming with the whir of alcoholic slushies in tropical flavors, and, on warm summer evenings, a three-legged dog is tethered out back. Shakey’s is utterly, gloriously unrefined.
When we mention the paradox represented by Hodge’s two first Ashevillian ventures (our word was “opposite”), Hodge shakes his head. “They are, but they aren’t. Because I hope the feeling that people have when they walk in at Sovereign is really akin to the feeling that people have when they walk onto the property of Shakey’s. There is just this [sense of], “Oh, this is right.’” So when Hodge’s spidey-senses began to tingle in 2015, even though Sovereign was still finding its knock-kneed footing, he knew Shakey’s was his next project. He tapped his parents, Glenn and Linda Boudreau, who had just moved back East, to partner with him on the venture, purchasing Ole Shakey’s Getaway from Paul Martin (who had only taken over a year before) in 2015. March 2020 | capitalatplay.com
Unlike his other businesses, Hodge didn’t build Shakey’s from foundation to finale; instead, he doubled down on its dive bar charm while infusing its PBR veins with diversity and inclusion. He didn’t so much change Shakey’s as expand it: Closing time shifted from sundown to last call; the menu grew from bottled and canned beers to a full bar; and the Shakey’s Shuttle, a creaky, low-slung limo, would pick up and deliver patrons to the bar for free (the limo was retired last year). “Shakey’s has this history of being something that wasn’t [accessible] or seemed almost dangerous; I really believe it’s one of the nicest communities I’ve ever known,” Hodge says of the bar’s original dedicants, an older crowd that still congregates on its cracked vinyl stools until sunset. These Shakey’s forerunners live in symbiotic harmony with the bar’s younger crowd, who descend at sundown to attend hipster cool events like Booty Tuesdays, hosted by DJ Lil Meow Meow and 82
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enlivened by bi-weekly drag shows. “There were a couple of people that weren’t so excited about sharing this space with a diverse amount of people, but that has become the anchor of Shakey’s: You can be anyone, you can love anyone, you can look like anyone, and you can go there as long as you respect everyone,” Hodge says, attributing much of this vision and its enactment to his business partner Morgan Hickory. As Ole Shakey’s evolved from juke joint to juke joint with flamboyant panache, Sovereign Remedies was simultaneously experiencing its culinary awakening presaged above. Though Sovereign expanded into all of the building’s open corners, from the mezzanine above to the basement below, the business was reaching its culinary capacity. “At one point, the health inspector was like, ‘You can’t do any more out of this kitchen— you kind of maxed out here,’” Hodge laughs. “And so that was the seed that planted saying, ‘If we really want to grow as a company, then we kind of need an HQ. We need a place to
Asheville Beauty Academy now hosts Drag Brunch, photos by Evan Anderson
center everything around.’” And so, in 2017, Hodge hatched an idea for yet another business: Make Space. Part expanded galley for Sovereign Remedies, part commissary kitchen, and part collaborative incubator, Make Space provides Hodge, Chef House, and Asheville’s other gastronomes with the fancy gadgets and, as the name suggests, space to do more culinarily. “The commissary kitchen model is one that benefits incubating food businesses that are not ready to invest in a full-time kitchen and businesses that do not need a full-time kitchen, like food trucks, caterers, and makers. This allows the huge cost of building out and maintaining a commercial kitchen to be shared,” Hodge says of the commissary kitchen, adding that it also justifies his purchase of pricey equipment that might be used sparingly in his own biz, but can be shared broadly at Make Space. With much of OWL Bakery’s production established at Make Space, Hodge is now ready to take in more tenants. Meanwhile, like Sovereign Remedies and Ole Shakey’s before it, Hodge’s latest endeavor, Asheville Beauty Academy, also in downtown Asheville, was a product not of Hodge’s mind, but of his gut. “I walked into this space and had the same feeling, like this place is magic,” he says. In the same space where downtown
jazz and blues club Tressa’s poured stiff drinks and hot melodies for 23 years, Hodge’s team carries on the tradition with modernized interpretations of the same offerings. The historic building’s tenants in the 1950s operated the literal “Asheville Beauty Academy.” He describes the re-rechristened Asheville Beauty Academy, which opened last fall, as “Shakey’s and Sovereign’s lovechild,” but Beauty (his shorthand) is in fact the amalgamation of all of his projects, right down to the way he uses colored lights to shape the room, much like the light artist did at Holocene. Asheville Beauty Academy balances the gentility of the Jazz Age and the darkness of a cabaret to create a nightly landscape reminiscent of Jack Torrance’s revelrous reverie in The Shining. While opening yet another venture before the close of the decade might have seemed a bit barmy, Asheville Beauty Academy, like Make Space, functions largely as a solution to the measurable voids left by Sovereign and Shakey’s. And like Make Space, Beauty’s biggest commodity is space: A downstairs stage and upstairs parlor allow Hodge to book daily programming, like open mic nights and drag brunches, as well as private events, the former of which were unfeasible, the latter unaffordable at Sovereign or even Shakey’s. With a food menu in the works,
He describes the rerechristened Asheville Beauty Academy, which opened last fall, as “Shakey’s and Sovereign’s lovechild.”
March 2020 | capitalatplay.com 83
Asheville Beauty Academy will complete Hodge’s trifecta of the good, the little bit bad, and the charmingly ugly. Operating four such varied businesses might strike the reader as the very definition of being stretched thin, but for Hodge, it’s in this heterogeneity that he thrives: “I don’t think I’d be very good at opening a 4,000-sq.-ft. restaurant that has 150 employees,” the sprightly speculator poses. “But there’s something about the economy of scale. And so, what I got early in my head was that I would rather have several businesses that are connected with each other and sharing resources than trying to put all of my energy into one identity, and see where that ship kind of goes.”
Secrets to Success Restaurants and bars are notoriously unsuccessful; margins are low, employee retention is lower, and 60 percent of them don’t make it through their first year. So what makes Charlie Hodge and his projects different? A lot. Whereas an increasing contingency of new Asheville establishments are investing unimaginable figures into their openings—down-to-the-studs renos, flashy fixtures, six-figure interior designers—Hodge still starts small. “One of the core things that I’ve always tried to do is start with a very manageable capital investment that doesn’t put us so far out that it limits our choices,” he explains, noting that he’s willing and able to pick up a hammer and do the work himself. His strategy of conservative funding goes hand-in-hand with his perspective on long term vision: “And then building a really dynamic model that says, ‘OK, I know that I can run this with two people, but I see also the potential of getting to the point where the revenue can be this great.’” In other words, Hodge is a tortoise, not a hare. It’s this same sense of patience that marks each business’ evolution: “Instead of looking for a quick fix, giving the business time to breathe and to really have the identity that people feel like it’s their space instead of just a trendy thing that they’re part of,” Hodge says of his approach to each venture’s individual growth. “It’s a little more expensive, and it’s a little bit more challenging, but I think that that really creates longevity. And for that reason, when you start to build those foundations, then you can take those steps up a little bit easier. So it’s a little more methodical that way.” Ultimately, hospitality is the “people” business, and Hodge knows it. While many bar owners enter the industry because it looks fun, he says, they soon recognize where they’re lacking: “And then, if you’re smart, you ask for help.” Hodge has never hesitated to tap out, as evidenced by his long list of noteworthy mentors and partners. Each 84
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photo by Evan Anderson
of his businesses has a cast of colleagues that bring the vision to fruition: Chef Graham House, Dean Macfarlane, and Amanda Phillips at Sovereign Remedies; Morgan Hickory and Cole Steinman at Ole Shakey’s; Bert Sheffield at Make Space; and, at Asheville Beauty Academy, Erin Earhart. While his trusted team of advisors serve as the Hodge Round Table, the entrepreneur has a knack for developing synergistic teams, and it’s to his staff he points again and again when asked of his secrets to success. Many of Asheville’s restaurateurs have raised a common cry that bemoans a lack of workforce, but Hodge doesn’t chime in. “I feel like I’m really talented, more than anything, in finding great people that can show up and can do work that has a quality that exceeds maybe some other places,” he says, but it’s less of a proclamation than a humble aside that he justifies. “I think we lean really heavily on getting people that are excited to do what we’re doing, and the way that we do that is we invest a lot in education, employee enrichment, [and] ways to really connect everyone.” Hodge and now his teams have set a high standard of excellence, which means not everyone fits (“I like to use the analogy, ‘We’re in this band and you’re playing kind of a different song. So, find your band!’” Hodge laughs.), but those who do fit are gaining membership to something special: “If you’re going to step in behind [the bar] with those people, you better show up,” he says of Sovereign Remedies. “They’re very inspiring and they’re very supportive of each other, and there’s a really great sense of communication there. So I think [the key is] building the culture strong enough that when people come in, you can get the best out of them.” Hodge invests dedicatedly in retention and development, right up to offering employees the same opportunities he had: “I really believe in, as I was able to break through and [create] own my own business, to take some of the key employees and see if they want that opportunity—for the madness and the pain and the challenge,” he chuckles. photo by Chelsea Lane Photography March 2020 | capitalatplay.com 85
Hodge’s approach to excellence is perhaps best exemplified by his declaration that it’s not that he wants his businesses and employees to be better than anyone else, but just the best versions of themselves; it’s humble, but it’s ambitious, and it works.
A Man About Town Hodge is an effervescent person by nature, but his enthusiasm is raised an octave when he discusses his adoptive hometown. “I love that it’s a small but very rich community,” he says of Asheville, rattling off reasons like amenities such as the new art museum, the accessibility of change makers and leadership, a communal commitment to strong values, and, of course, his industry: “I really love that the restaurant community here is profoundly supportive of each other.” In the near decade since Hodge sunk his heels in deep here, the landscape of his trade has changed immensely, but it’s a pattern he recognizes from his time in Portland: A beverage scene sprouts, feels the sunlight of developing academia on the subject and the watering can drip of new tastemakers, and it grows. The effect is snowball-like
| March 2020
in its evolution, gaining more and more industry pioneers and innovative upstarts into its brisk, dilating hold. Hodge describes Asheville’s current scene as one of “hyper-growth” that he expects will level out; in the meantime, he’s helping secure the city’s place of reverence in the eye of the country’s culinary arbiters by chairing
“As Asheville grows and changes and becomes richer in other ways, I want to be walking in stride with that.” organizations like the Asheville Independent Restaurant Association (AIR) and the food and drink festival Chow Chow, for which Hodge imagines himself as both the steward of the alcohol industry and local collaboration. “It’s really important to show what we’re doing to not only galvanize Asheville together, but also to show people outside of Asheville that we’re a little town, but we can show up,” Hodge grins as he describes the industry-led festival, which will return for its second year in 2020.
Hodge recognizes that these city-wide evolutions, while worthy of the national attention they’re beginning to glean, come at a price, as many of the city’s old mainstays shutter their doors in the face of Asheville’s sweeping change. While he mourns the loss of these institutions and pays homage to the impact they had on an Asheville of old, he also celebrates the opportunities their departures leave for new enterprise. Which brings us to Hodge’s upcoming projects (you didn’t think he was done, did you?). Hodge, along with Chef House, Shakey’s Hickory, and Susannah Gebhart of OWL Bakery (whom he lauds effusively and collaborated with on a pop-up brunch at Sovereign last spring), will open the music café as part of the vinyl pressing plant coming to the Asheville Citizen-Times building. (Music producer Gar Ragland, profiled in the October 2018 issue of this magazine, is also a key investor in the project, which itself was covered in our October 2019 issue.) Hodge’s fire burns brightest when he speaks of yet another undertaking, Collective Catering. While Sovereign Remedies frequently receives catering requests, the price point or restrictions of Chef House’s standards limit the viability of the model. But by using Make Space as a headquarters, Hodge can fulfill catering requests using members of his own team
and other Ashevillian vendors and specialists. He anticipates partners like the Chop Shop Butchery and local creameries who can contribute their expertise to catering menus while maintaining a dedication to regionality and creative collaboration. “Collective Catering, I think, is going to be one of my favorite things that we do, because we get to hang out with all the people we like and make stuff,” Hodge says, with a jovial shrug and grin. Hodge is capitalizing expansively on the maturation of Asheville’s cocktail and culinary scenes, but he’s also cognizant that this flourish of growth makes his job even harder. “As I go along,” he envisions, “one of my primary responsibilities is to not just keep Sovereign and all of my businesses from becoming stagnant, but as Asheville grows and changes and becomes richer in other ways, I want to be walking in stride with that.” As far as we can tell, Hodge isn’t merely meeting Asheville’s ever-increasing standards—he’s setting them.
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People Play at
1. Nathan Moran of Artisan Ice Sculptures (AL) 2. Rachel Moltz and pup, Rhett Butler (AL) 3. L-R: Diego Benitez, Shyheim Stafford, & James Lugenbell (AL) 4. Angus Lamond & Polar Bear Plunge emcee,
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John Carter of WBTV Charlotte (TB) 5. Ryan Stark & Jason Potter (TB) 6. PJ Wirchansky & Lori Overstreet (TB) 7. Tom & Melissa Bahleda with pups, Ophelia & Kitty (AL)
8. Cyndi Ziegler & Katherine Lile (AL) 9. Auctioneer Jenny Miller (AL) 10. L-R: Karen Marsh, Emily Nichols, & Anna Moody (AL)
Annual Blowing Rock WinterFest Downtown Blowing Rock, NC | January 29-31, 2020 Photos by Amanda Lugenbell (AL) and Tracy Brown (TB) 10
11. Donna Warrick & Cindy Crumbliss (AL) 12. Cindy Null & Donna Moore, photo by Lonnie Webster 13. Musician Ben Parker (TB) Â 14. Gaines, Riley, & Laurel Kiker (AL)
15. Rob Mendel, Melissa Pickett, & Charles Hardin (AL) 16. L-R: Jan Rienerth, Lindsay Miller, Faye Cooper, Billie Howell, Kathleen KennedyOlsen, Cynthia Dillon, Mary Bickers, Mary
Hutchens, Patti Jupiter, Josette Glover & Karen Marinelli (AL) 17. L-R: (seated) Charlie Sellers, Shelly Hoerner, & John Carter, (standing) Suzy Barker & Charles Hardin (AL) March 2020 | capitalatplay.com 89
Participants design their own box in Tinkercad and learn how they would print it. Free, but preregistration is required. This course repeats April 3.
> 828-262-2823 > library.appstate.edu/rooms-spaces/ inspire-maker-lab
Chamber Music Tuesdays Concert Series
12:30-1:30PM First United Methodist Church 204 Sixth Ave W, Hendersonville, NC The free series, brought to you by the Hendersonville Symphony Orchestra and the Brevard Music Center, resumes with the Michael Dease Trio.
> 828-862-2120 > brevardmusic.org/about/ccs/ march 3
3D Design and Printing Workshop Spring 2020 3-4PM Inspire Maker Lab 218 College St, Boone, NC
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march 6 - 8
Organic Growers School – Spring Conference
3-6PM The walking tour of the city takes in architecture, history, and “substantial bites” from local gourmets. Itinerary will be released with registration. Public tours recur Fridays and Sundays.
> Registration: $69.50 > 919-237-2254 > tastecarolina.net march 7
Mars Hill University 100 Athletic St, Mars Hill, NC
Asheville Doll Show
With over 150 classes, organizers strive to bring growers the ideas and training they need to take their game to the next level, regardless of niche and/or experience. Pre-registration is required for Saturday and Sunday workshops, but not for Friday activities.
WNC Agricultural Center 1301 Fanning Bridge Rd, Fletcher, NC
> Price Varies: ($5-$195). > 828-680-0661 > organicgrowersschool.org march 6
A Taste of Downtown Asheville
The show brings a broad collection, big and small, young and old, ancient and modern, cute and precocious, snazzy and frumpy…
> Admission: $8 > 828-552-4604 > ashevilledollshow.com march 7
Making Your Business Legal and Tax Compliant
27 N Lexington Ave. • Asheville, NC 28801 • 828-254-6721 • topsforshoes.com
9AM-12PM A-B Tech Small Business Center 1465 Sand Hill Road, Candler, NC Kerry Friedman and Richard Smith give a free bird’s-eye view of what entrepreneurs should know before making too much money. Topics include tax structure and insurance plan selection, record keeping, and proactive compliance.
> 828-271-4786 > asheville.score.org march 7
Downtown Dribble & Kids Fest 9:30 - 11:00AM Pack Square, Asheville, NC
To celebrate the Southern Conference Basketball Championship, there will be a pep rally and parade in Downtown Asheville for kids. The pep rally will have inflatables, obstacle courses, and more. Then at 11 AM the parade will start towards Harrah’s Cherokee Center Asheville, with kids dribbling their basketballs the whole way. This event is presented by Champion Credit Union.
Thai Cooking Class
4-7PM Asheville Mountain Kitchen 332 East Sondley Dr, Asheville, NC Attendees will learn the recipes and gourmet touches for making som tam, pad kra pao, and sticky coconut rice with mango. Courses in preparing gourmet dishes from around the world recur Saturdays.
> Admission: $65 > 917-566-5238 > ashevillemountainkitchen.com march 7
Funk for the Arts
Carolina Small Batch Festival
12-6PM Hi-Wire Brewing Big Top 2a Huntsman Place, Asheville, NC 20 North and South Carolina craft breweries have brewed small, one-off batches of beer just for this festival. Come taste beers you can’t find anywhere else on the market. Tickets include a commemorative tasting glass.
> Entry: $12 > hiwirebrewing.com march 10
7-9PM Black Mountain Center for the Arts 225 West State St, Black Mountain, NC This is the annual fundraiser for the Black Mountain Center for the Arts. For a good time, attendees are encouraged to dress funkily and be prepared to boogie with the Free Flow Band.
>Tickets $35 > 828-669-0930 > blackmountainarts.org
Hike the Smokies: Elkmont Loop Join Friends of the Smokies for this 5.1 miles hike that is labeled as easy. This hike is expected to see a historic community and wildflowers.
> Registration: $20 for Members and
$35 for New or Renewing Members (includes membership + 1 hike) > friendsofthesmokies.org/product/hikethe-smokies/
A downtown shopping desnaon for more than 50 years where the amazing selecon of footwear for men, women, and children is only outdone by the award-winning customer service.
March 2020 | capitalatplay.com 91
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Growing Color: Natural Dyes from Plants Symposium
North Carolina Arboretum 100 Frederick Law Olmsted Way, Asheville, NC
With interest in growing a local natural dye industry, event organizers will share issues and opportunities from their trade.
> 828-665-2492 > ncarboretum.org/education-programs/ lectures-symposia/
– april 22 Foundations Business Planning Class march 11
9AM-12PM (Wed) Mountain BizWorks Training Room 153 South Lexington Ave, Asheville, NC Instructor Aisha Adams covers basics in business planning, financial management, and marketing. This is the first session of a six-week course that meets Mondays. Scholarships are available.
> Registration: $375 > 828-253-2834 > mountainbizworks.org march 13 -15
Banff Center Mountain Film Festival World Tour
7-10PM Brevard College, Porter Center 1 Brevard College Dr, Brevard, NC
Enjoy the outdoors indoors. Brevard College has become a regular stop on the annual world tour that now brings documentaries showcasing the world’s mountains to over 40 countries. Proceeds benefit the Brevard College Outing Club and Cycling Team.
> Daily Admission: $15
> 828-862-2100 > banffcentre.ca/banffmountainfestival/ tour
Creating a Mountain Bald
10:00AM UNC-Asheville Manheimer Auditorium, Reuter Center One University Heights. Asheville, NC At this free event, Dr. Tom Ranney, JC Raulston Distinguished Professor of Horticultural Science at the Mountain Horticultural Crops Research and Extension Center, speaks on his inspiration to build a beautiful rocky, grassy mountain bald for his home landscape. sponsored by the French Broad River Garden Club Foundation.
> fbrgcf.org/events march 14
Sensory Exploration Hike
6:30-9:30PM Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy Incubator Farm 180 Mag Sluder Rd, Alexander, NC
Science teacher Alexandra Houle will take hikers back to nature, under the stars, as the ancients may have enjoyed it.
> Admission: $10 > appalachian.org/event/2020-sensoryexploration/
Town of Boone’s 3rd annual St. Patrick’s Parade 2PM Downtown Boone
A parade of green, shamrocks, and leprechauns will be a joy to see. Starting at Poplar Grove Extension and moving east down King Street, the parade is a celebration of Irish and mountain pride. There
will be a kid’s area in front of the Jones House with inflatables, balloon animals, face painting, and more. Local businesses will be in on the fun with discounts, food and drink specials, and deals.
> joneshouse.org/st-patricks-parade march 17-19
Vegetable Gardening Basics 3:30-5PM Bullington Gardens 95 Upper Red Oak Trail, Hendersonville, NC
In a three-day program, instructor John Murphy teaches about soil improvement, composting, when to plant what, pest control, etc..
> Registration: $50 > 828-698-6104 > bullingtongardens.org march 17 & 24
Project Management Workshop
9AM-12PM Western Carolina University Biltmore Park 28 Schenck Pwy, Asheville, NC WCU’s Professor Todd Creasy will share best practices for shepherding large projects to completion on-time and on-budget. This two-session class meets three hours each on March 17 and March 24.
> Registration: $279 > 828-654-6498 > wcu.edu march 18
Advanced Internet Marketing
6-9PM A-B Tech Small Business Center March 2020 | capitalatplay.com 93
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Local guru of internet marketing strategy Sarah Benoit loves to share her experience with entrepreneurs at this free workshop.
> 828-271-4786 > asheville.score.org march 18
Wortham Center for the Performing Arts 18 Biltmore Ave, Asheville, NC The group is known around the world for its bass-driven interpretations of Celtic melody.
>Tickets: Adult $35, Student $30, Member FDIC Member FDIC
Child $20 > 828-257-4530 > dwtheatre.com
CALL US TO DISCUSS YOUR CUSTOM PROJECT TODAY
Introduction to Printing with Spoonflower 9AM-3PM Congregation Beth HaTephila 43 North Liberty St, Asheville, NC
Attendees will learn how to upload and edit their own art for printing by Durham-based spoonflower.com. This event is sponsored by the Asheville Quilt Guild.
> Registration: $65 > 585-216-7442 > ashevillequiltguild.org march 19
The Moth: True Stories Told Live
www.bealandco.net 5678 Willow Road, Hendersonville, NC
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MORE THAN JUST CARS
7PM The Mothlight
701 Haywood Rd, Asheville, NC Story tellers line up to share true tales on a feat that tested their mettle, sanity or patience. Participants are allowed five minutes for their story. Seating is not guaranteed, so arrive at least 10 minutes early, unless you plan on standing.
>Tickets available March 12th - $15 > themothlight.com/e/
6th Color Me Goodwill
7PM The Orange Peel 101 Biltmore Ave, Asheville, NC
This is not your usual fashion show. Seven area designers will put together color themed outfits composed of items found at local Goodwill stores. Judges will select the winner, but attendees get to vote for the “Audience Choice” winner.
> Tickets: $20 advance $25 day of show > colormegoodwill.org
6th Annual Get In Gear Festival
12-5PM Salvage Station 468 Riverside Dr, Asheville, NC
To mark the beginning of spring, Outdoor Gear Builders gets 50 businesses together to show off their products, give away some free merch, and all around celebrate being outdoors!
Under the Influence
8PM Thomas Wolfe Auditorium 87 Haywood St, Asheville, NC The Asheville Symphony Orchestra, under Conductor Darko Butorac, celebrates 250 years of Beethoven, along with works by Miranda, Mozart, and Brahms.
THE INNOVATORS OF COMFORT™
IT’S BINGE-RELAXING TIME.
>Tickets: Adult $22.50 and up, Youth $12 and up > 828-259-5736 > harrahscherokeecenterasheville.com
march 24 & 25
Pilobolus in Shadowland: The New Adventure 8-10PM Wortham Center for the Performing Arts 18 Biltmore Ave, Asheville, NC
You’ve gotta love these guys. Twisting minds with illusion and the human form since 1971, the modern dance company is now going to tell a bizarre story in dance. The adventure is described as a mix of “science fiction, film noir, and romantic comedy.” Their visit includes a matinee and master classes.
>Tickets: Adult $55, Child $20 > 828-257-4530 > dwtheatre.com march 27-29
NRC Slalom US Open
Nantahala Outdoor Center 13077 West Hwy 19, Bryson City, NC
Stressless ® Sunrise shown in Paloma Sand
After going nonstop for a week, spend some time recharging in Stressless ® seating. The soft, soothing rocking motion of BalanceAdapt™ will relax and rejuvenate you for what lies ahead. January 24 - March 9
GET A FREE LEATHER UPGRADE OR $300 OFF STRESSLESS ® SUNRISE. * *See Store for complete details.
Expert paddlers compete with speed and precision. Spectators are invited to watch from the USFS trail at Nantahala Falls.
> Parking fees may apply. > 828-785-4850 > noc.com
(828) 669-5000 Mon. - Sat. 9am - 5:30pm TysonFurniture.com SPECIAL FINANCING See store for details.
March 2020 | capitalatplay.com 95
PAINTING Commercial & Residential Serving Western North Carolina since 1998
Southern Highland Mentoring Workshop
1-4PM Folk Art Center Milepost 382 of the Blue Ridge Parkway, Asheville, NC Artists and not-so-artists are all invited to learn what jurors are looking for in applications for membership in the guild.
> Registration required > 828-298-7928 > southernhighlandguild.org
Glass & Metal Day
10AM-4PM Folk Art Center Milepost 382 of the Blue Ridge Parkway, Asheville, NC Kicking off the 2020 series of free educational events, the Southern Highland Craft Guild has assembled a wealth of demonstrators in wood and glass. Art forms include welding, blowing, piercing, bezeling, etching, glass staining, knife making, etc.
> 828-298-7928 > southernhighlandguild.org
Once upon a Timeâ&#x20AC;Ś
7:30-10PM Blue Ridge Community College, Conference Hall 49 East Campus Dr, Flat Rock, NC Selections from Tchaikovsky, Menken, and Berlioz have in common an interpretation of good and evil in fairy tales.
COACHING YOUNG ADULT INDEPENDENCE
>Tickets: Adult $45, Student $12 > 828-697-5884 > hendersonvillesymphony.org
5-7PM Boys and Girls Club of Hendersonville 1304 Ashe St, Hendersonville, NC The 40 juried artists responsible for the banners hanging on light posts downtown will sell and show. Light refreshments will be provided.
> 828-693-9444 > bgchendersonco.org
â&#x20AC;&#x201C; may 21 Biltmore Blooms april 1
9:30AM-3:30PM The Biltmore Estate One Lodge Street, Asheville, NC And so it begins, again. Historic flower gardens designed by Frederick Law Olmsted will unfold with each step into spring. The estate will keep you posted, so you can be sure to see your favorites.
> Admission varies with time and date. > 800-411-3812 > biltmore.com
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If your organization has any local press releases for our briefs section, or events that you would like to see here, feel free to email us at email@example.com. Please submit your event at least six weeks in advance.
in style. Enjoy browsing cabinet after cabinet of yesterday’s treasures, diamonds and gemstone jewelry lovingly refurbished to reveal a fresh glow . For thirteen years, we have been the area’s leader in the buying and selling of high quality pre-owned diamonds and gemstone jewelry. We showcase a wide selection of hand-picked pieces including antique, vintage and modern, all priced well below current market. Our expertise has spanned generations, dating from the 1920’s in Boston to the Tampa Bay area. Now, we celebrate our 13th anniversary in Historic Biltmore Village.
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| March 2020
March 2020 | capitalatplay.com 99
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