Emilio and Kate Blatt Ancaya Living Roofs, Inc. p.14
Wesley and Benjamin Eason Sunburst Trout Farms p.76
Western North Carolina's Free Spirit of Enterprise column
LOC A L I N DU S TRY
Bunker Wines p.28
Going the Distance
A Real-ty Valuable Resource p.52 The Most Powerful Force in the Universe p.74
Business during COVID-19 p. 38
LE I S U RE & LIBATION
Volume X - Edition V complimentary edition
Neighborhood Indoor Botanical Shops Deliver More Than Just Flowers. p.60 May 2020
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YEARS Webb Investment Services is thrilled to be celebrating 25 years of service to Asheville. From empowering women to protecting our natural resources to championing other entrepreneurs and business owners, we take great pride in the investment we have made in our community and are grateful for the trust you have put in us.
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I COVID-19 Pandemic Response
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n the summer of 1948, Asheville battened her hatches under an epidemic quarantine. In the face of a rising polio outbreak, public gatherings were cancelled, churches, theaters, and swimming pools were closed, and the community was advised to stay home to prevent the spread of the virus. Sound familiar? This whole experience might seem like uncharted territory, but there also seems to be a pervasive desire to find comfort in the fact of its commonality. Stories of the feats accomplished under quarantine have achieved viral status online: Shakespeare purportedly wrote King Lear while the theaters were closed during a plague; Alexander Pushkin wrote Eugene Onegin during a cholera outbreak; and Isaac Newton began developing his theories on motion and gravity during the Great Plague. These stories are popular right now not because of their extraordinariness, but for their normalcy; they prove a fact we all desperately need to hear: People have adapted to pandemics before. In 1948, as with our current epidemic and its quarantine, the local community quickly pivoted to accommodate its new reality. Tents were erected to serve patients outside hospitals, DDT was sprayed through the streets in an attempt to eliminate the virus (not our best moment), and during an earlier outbreak down the mountain, the community transformed a health camp into a hospital in just 55 hours in a triumph dubbed the Miracle of Hickory. What that polio outbreak, the plagues of yesteryear, and today’s coronavirus prove is the same: Adaptation, if not easy, comes naturally to us. This year we’ve taken work home and happy hours to Zoom; we’ve toured virtual museums, ordered groceries online, and turned into homeschool teachers; we’ve gotten the hang of washing our hands (really washing them); and for some reason, we’ve all learned to bake bread. We’ve adapted, faster and more creatively than I ever anticipated. It’s a fact I’m particularly aware of because of my work on this month’s Local Industry story, which itself is a testament to adaptation: As soon as businesses started closing in light of COVID-19, we scrapped our original assignment and started tracking the impact of the virus on ten of our alumni businesses. As the first few weeks of the pandemic unfolded, they pivoted, then pivoted again in an attempt to keep their businesses, and as a result, their employees and themselves, afloat. Masked and gloved, they delivered records and curry and groceries, distilled hand sanitizer for the masses, and helped other small businesses cater to an increasingly distant customer base. As Shawndra Russel points out in this month’s new feature, One Last Thing, adaptation is the hallmark of true entrepreneurs. For these small businesses, as with all of us, “adaptation” implies not just success against the odds, but a host of other constructive notions, as well: Resiliency. Innovation. Optimism. Tenacity. We don’t have to look to history to see how people have made the most of quarantine — you’ll find it right here in our pages.
Till next time,
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thi s page :
FRESH CATCH AT Sunburst Trout farms, photo by Anthony Harden
F E AT U R E D vol. x
UP ON THE ROOF
EMILIO AND KATE BLATT ANCAYA
WESLEY AND BENJAMIN EASON
May 2020 | capitalatplay.com
C ON T E N T S m ay 2020
INSIDE FLOR A , photo by Jennifer Callahan Photography
Going the Distance
Western North Carolina Businesses Adapt to COVID-19.
Hunter Barrow of MedX360
28 Bunker Wines
Written by John Kerr
52 A Real-ty Valuable Resource
32 Carolina in the West 54 The Old North State on the cover :
Flowers designed by Flora, photo by Jennifer Callahan Photography
Floral Boutiques in Western North Carolina Sell More Than Just Flowers.
colu m ns
12 Cooperating with
60 The Petal Pushers 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
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Written by Bill Fishburne
74 The Most Powerful Force in the Universe
Written by Brent Ford
o u r p e o p l e at w o r k
90 Working from home with
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92 Plenty to do from the
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one last thing
98 Entrepreneurship in the Time of Coronavirus
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Cooperating WITH THE
How MedX360 CEO Hunter Barrow applies the idea of coopetition to the employee recruitment process in the healthcare industry.
here’s a concept in the healthcare industry, “coopetition,” that, despite its Seussian sounds, is representative of the system at its best. Coopetition occurs when hospitals compete and cooperate simultaneously, sharing supplies during a shortage or splitting the costs of doing business. “We simply took this model and applied it to talent acquisition for the first time ever in the healthcare industry,” explains CEO Hunter Barrow of his business, MedX360. Barrow and his team have created a platform through which they can apply coopetition to the recruitment process, sharing the best candidates with a network of hospitals in order to reduce recruiter’s workloads and simplify the employment process for applicants. The idea occurred to Barrow, who has worked in the talent acquisition industry since 1995, when he noticed a talent shortage in North Carolina’s rural hospitals that was negatively impacting both the hospitals and their patients. “I knew that there had to be some way to give rural hospitals a more robust pipeline of candidates,” he remembers. “In any organization, many candidates are taken through the full recruiting process for any given job, but only one gets hired,” he points out. It’s a matter of fit: The best candidate for that particular position is chosen, but there are often still several great candidates in the running who just aren’t quite right. “In other words, just because a nurse or other clinical talent weren’t the best fit for one organization doesn’t mean they are an unqualified candidate. They may be a better fit at another hospital and vice versa,” he adds. “I thought, ‘Why don’t we share these silver medalists that are actively looking for new positions amongst a network of competing hospitals or within a large system with multiple locations?’” Barrow says, and that’s exactly what MedX360 is designed to do. “Now there is a way to share these active, quality candidates into a network with other top hospitals and healthcare organizations.” After interviews, quality candidates not chosen for a position are invited to the MedX360 network, through which they’re matched via AI (artificial intelligence) to similar positions 12
| May 2020
HUNTER BARROW photo courtesy MedX360
at competing hospitals. The benefits of this recruitment coopetition model, Barrow points out, are numerous: “It’s a modern recruitment approach that creates a new pipeline of candidates to supplement the inefficient traditional recruiting practices like job boards, job postings, job fairs, and open houses. And the beauty about the candidates in this new network is that they are all pre-vetted and pre-qualified, allowing hospitals to share in the front-end recruiting costs and to bring the best candidates to the top of the recruiting funnel. And, because the candidates have already been through the recruiting process at another hospital and were finalists, you can start at the interview stage versus the application stage, eliminating a large amount of time and preserving resources,” he explains. Barrow adds that, with candidate experience being at a premium in today’s marketplace, it’s also a way for hiring authorities to offer candidates a “soft rejection,” since it’s an introduction to additional opportunities. “We have also discovered a couple other problems where this platform can be applied,” Barrow continues. “Health systems with multiple locations are struggling to move their own candidates around one another following the interview process, and good candidates are falling through the cracks and landing with the competition. Our platform allows hospitals to move the candidates quickly after an interview to other hospitals with similar openings within the same system. Secondly, larger systems have blanketed the candidate marketplace within their local area and usually statewide, as well. As hospitals and health
systems in other parts of the country join the network, this brings a brand new talent pool into the mix where they haven’t recruited in the past.” It’s an innovative and empathetic approach that’s earning the startup its fair share of attention. Since Barrow founded the company with CTO Ryan Walker in 2017, MedX360 has
“We believe that it’s the collective responsibility for all healthcare organizations to serve a suffering patient in any population.” been a finalist in pitch competitions and was recently chosen as a Capstone project for Western Carolina University’s MBA program. While the company is already turning heads, Barrow points out that their greatest challenge is still integrating what he calls a “disruptive business model” into an established healthcare recruitment engine. “Most organizations haven’t ever shared talent with their competitors. Since the war for
talent is so competitive, organizations still have the mentality of stashing good candidates away for future openings and not giving them to their competition,” he says. “The problem with that is there is no way to keep a quality candidate on the hook for longer periods of time. We are having to educate the market on why it makes sense to cooperate and share talent with their competition and the benefits both financially and clinically.” Currently, MedX360’s focus is on the nursing field, largely because Barrow and his colleagues have plenty of experience in the healthcare industry, but also because it’s an opportunity for the platform to have a big impact. “Our philosophy and mission is to give healthcare organizations the ability to share candidates into other populations instead of only serving their own. We believe that it’s the collective responsibility for all healthcare organizations to serve a suffering patient in any population,” Barrow attests. But it’s a model that’s been intentionally designed to adapt to other industries, too. “We built the platform to be industry agnostic, so we can literally apply the technology to skill sets within any business sector. We are forming a parent company now that will include all the different industry specific versions of the platform,” he adds, noting plans to partner with other industries like high tech and hospitality in the future. Coopetition is just co-mmencing. Learn more about MedX360 at medx360.network. May 2020 | capitalatplay.com
Living Roofs, Inc., Is Making Rooftops See Green Across the Southeast.
written by jason gilmer photos courtesy living roofs , inc .
Roof | May 2020
A LIVING ROOF ON a home at Lake Toxaway. May 2020 | capitalatplay.com 15
EMILIO ANCAYA AND K ATE BL ATT ANCAYA , photo by Anthony Harden | May 2020
HE DR IFTERS ONCE SA NG ABOUT A place where one could relax as the stars put on a show for free and the air is fresh and sweet. “On the roof, it’s peaceful as can be/ And there the world below don’t bother me,” the New York City-based doo-wop group sing in the classic 1962 hit, “Up On The Roof.” Asheville’s Living Roofs, Inc., a small firm that specializes in the design and implementation of green roofs and living walls, takes this beloved lyric to a new, literal level. The peacefulness promised in the Drifters’ tune is felt in the grasses, flowering plants, sitting areas, and edibles that decorate the company’s rooftops. The work of the firm, founded by husband-and-wife team Emilio Ancaya and Kate Blatt Ancaya in 2006, can be found on hotel roofs in downtown Asheville, homes with ocean views on South Carolina’s Kiawah Island, and hospitals and libraries across the Southeast; their projects span the country as far west as Lake Tahoe, California, and as far north as Greenwich, Connecticut. The couple’s first project together was small: planting grasses on a shed’s roof in their own backyard. Transitioning from that small job to large-scale builds on businesses’ roofs in busy urban areas might be considered a big leap, but at the business’ core is the same dedicated work of Emilio and Kate and the small staff it employs. As with their own backyard project 14 years ago, the couple is still hands-on each day and with each project, whether that’s designing from their office or implementing the plan from the cabin of a large crane. The company has completed close to 100 projects across more than a decade, and 80% of those projects are commercial, hospitals, or government-type builds (such as the 3,000-sq.-ft.
roof of southeastern sedum and succulents on the Durham County Library), while the remaining 20% are personal homes (like the 600-sq.-ft. green roof of perennials and grasses atop a modern home in Burnsville). The Ancayas are dedicated to making the world a more colorful and sustainable place through their company’s green roofs. And while the roofs they build now are big, they remain a small company, and the Ancayas enjoy the flexibility such a position permits, allowing them to be more hands-on with their clients and stay up on the roof, where, as the Drifters sang, everything is alright.
Just Being Outside The couple’s love of the outdoors, evident today in their company’s dedication to preserving and cultivating the natural world, was nurtured in different parts of the country, amongst totally different types of fauna, as they grew up. Kate was raised in Southeastern Pennsylvania on an old dairy farm, where she enjoyed an idyllic childhood living in a a historic farmhouse. Her parents were public educators, and while it wasn’t a professional farm, the family had an expansive garden, a flock of chickens, and a pig. Emilio, on the other hand, was raised in central Florida, south of Disney World, where he spent a lot of time outside. His mother was an ardent gardener, and he remembers helping her – not always by choice – by moving wheelbarrows of brush to the curb for pickup. Maturing near Florida’s abundant network of lakes gave Emilio the chance to often spend time near or on the water. College brought both Ancayas to North Carolina, Kate to Wake Forest University, where she earned her bachelor of arts May 2020 | capitalatplay.com
in anthropology and then a Master of Landscape Architecture from the College of Design at North Carolina State University. Emilio earned his biology degree from Lees-McRae College in Banner Elk and a Master of Science in biology at Wake Forest, which is where he and Kate met. After college, Emilio worked as a field biologist performing stream and wetland mitigation, and Kate deployed her master’s as a landscape architect. While they were both working in fields that were invested in their passion — the outdoors — they felt a push to explore other options. “It was 2006, and we were in our late twenties and early thirties and searching for something different than the jobs we had at the time,” Emilio remembers. The idea for the business was born through a bit of high-altitude happenstance and DIY ingenuity. “I happened to read an article about a green roof in a magazine on an airplane back in
“The climate is more tolerable here in Western North Carolina. That can sometimes afford more design flexibility than might be possible in hotter cities and towns in the region.” 2004,” Emilio says. “Kate also came across green roofs during her graduate studies for landscape architecture. On a whim, we decided to build a garden shed in our backyard and install a green roof on it. We built similar projects for a few neighbors and decided to take the leap and start a green roof business.” “Honestly, at first, we were most intrigued by the plants. We both grew up surrounded by plants and [developed] a deep 18
| May 2020
love for the outdoors,” Kate says. “The idea of incorporating vegetation into cities was exciting. Aside from the excitement of a ‘new idea,’ we learned from green roof experts in Europe and the U.S., like Ed Snodgrass of Green Roof Plants in Maryland, about how green roofs can address numerous environmental challenges and provide a range of economic and social benefits. For me, my graduate work focused on restoring the connection between people and nature, and this was an opportunity to do just that. “So, in some ways, it hit all of the right notes for us at that time,” she continues. “It was a challenge. It was a path to make positive change. And there wasn’t a lot known about green roofs in the Southeast at that time. So there was knowledge to gain and contribute.” “The Southeast” has always been an important qualifier in the Ancayas’ story. Since moving to Asheville from Raleigh in 2007, Living Roofs has become a part of the community. Even when the proprietors were given an opportunity to move the business to Oregon, they chose to stay in North Carolina. “We decided if we really cared about making an impact, we should stay in the Southeast. Although it would be more difficult, it felt like the right choice,” Kate says.
PL ANTING IS THE L AST in many steps taken to create green roofs.
“The climate is more tolerable here in Western North Carolina,” Emilio adds. “That can sometimes afford more design flexibility than might be possible in hotter cities and towns in the region. For example, it may not be necessary to have an irrigation system in Asheville as opposed to Raleigh, due to a milder climate in the mountains.” The challenge in the beginning wasn’t passion (the Ancayas had plenty of that), it was the hurdle they faced in making ends meet financially. Emilio remembers doing side projects, such as building a stone wall, for neighbors and clients in order to fund their work for Living Roofs. No investors were brought in, and no loan was taken; instead, the couple built their company from a simple idea and a lot of hard work.
How it Works “A green roof is a little more complex than just soil and plants on a roof,” Emilio explains. “There are a number of necessary components that make up a green roof, and these components vary depending on the green roof system.” Living Roofs’ work begins near the end of a construction project, after the waterproofing or roof membrane (a watertight May 2020 | capitalatplay.com 19
EMILIO ANCAYA on a project on the University of South Carolina Darla Moore School of Business green roof (2014).
| May 2020
roof covering) is installed. “The roofing system needs to be designed to be in contact with water for longer periods,” Emilio continues. “The next component is a roof protection layer, or a root barrier. This is where our scope of work begins, after a roofing or waterproofing company makes the roof watertight. We use either rolls of thick fleece fabric made from recycled plastics or thick plastic. These materials add a layer of protection for the roofing material.” Next, Living Roofs installs a drainage layer, like pea gravel material or a three-dimensional plastic sheet, depending on the project’s water retention goals. “The drainage layer is typically one inch thick and allows a green roof to drain during heavy rain events,” Emilio says. “Once a layer of filter fabric is added over the drainage layer, we are ready for the fun part.” The fun part for this company of nature lovers is, of course, the planting. “Green roof growing media is made up of a blend of inorganic and organic materials. The inorganic material, which makes up the majority of the blend, is a thermally expanded slate, clay, or shale,” he explains; the remaining materials are compost and fines. “The growing media performs multiple roles: provides adequate drainage, retains moisture, and provides an optimal growing environment for plants. The growing media depth varies depending on the structural capacity of the roof, and the desired plant palette.” A rooftop meadow with grasses and perennials, for example, requires at least five to six inches of growing media in our region, while shrubs and trees require two to three feet. The plantings on a living roof vary, including grasses, perennials, and shrubs. Grasses like Sporobolus heterolepis, also called prairie dropseed, and Deschampsia flexuosa, commonly known as wavy hairgrass, are grasses that are used locally, while Petrorhagia saxifrage, commonly called tunic flower, is a tough perennial that helps to shade the soil and provides groundcover. Taller perennials, like Asclepias, or milkweeds, and Rudbeckias, or coneflowers, are also used in many local projects and bring color to the rooftops. Each project varies vastly. “The logistics of getting truckloads of materials to a job site, then getting the materials to the roof, vary for every project. Every project provides a new challenge. We often use heavy equipment, including cranes or large forklifts, to get the materials to the roof. Once the materials are on the roof, installation includes a mix of typical gardening techniques, like shoveling, raking, planting, and irrigation system installation.” The icing on the cake for many projects is an amenity space, like a patio or greenspace, for hands-on enjoyment of the roof. In those cases, Living Roofs also builds the patio areas with pavers or wood decking. When work is complete, Emilio doesn’t simply leave residents or businesses with a single sheet of paper with care instructions. In fact, part of Living Roofs’ business model is maintenance. The first growing season of the roofs requires more maintenance to ensure the plants establish properly, so Living Roofs tends to deploy six or seven maintenance visits per year for the first two years. Those maintenance visits include weeding,
How Green Roofs Work
There’s a lot more to green roofs than meets the eye. While the ratios of components range from project to project, here’s what’s underneath it all: PLANTS: Vary, including grasses, perennials, and shrubs.
GROWING MEDIA: Blended inorganic (thermally expanded slate, clay, or shale) and organic (compost and fines) materials, the depth of which is determined by the roof and plant palette. FILTER FABIC: A fabric that lets water through but not soil. DRAINAGE LAYER: Something like pea gravel or a three dimensional plastic sheet. This is usually one inch thick and allows the roof to drain. ROOF PROTECTION OR ROOT BARRIER: Living Roofs uses either thick fleece fabric made from recycled plastics or thick plastic.
plant replacement, and seasonal adjustments to the irrigation system. After that, visits continue, dependent on the type of roof, at five to seven times a year during the growing season. “It is rare that a client maintains their own green roof. We are typically hired to provide ongoing long-term maintenance,” Emilio says. “However, if a client does want to maintain their roof, we share information with them about the necessary maintenance steps and frequency, and [tell them] to be particularly vigilant about the health of a green roof during droughts.” “Green roofs, if maintained properly, become their own ecosystem. Plants will flower, seed, and regenerate,” he adds. “Some will disappear and others will fill in the gaps. Every green roof has its own microclimate and tends to find its rhythm within three to five years. This is where plant ecology ties into our work, while seeing how plants interact with their environment.” A look through the “projects” section on the business’ website showcases a wide variety of businesses that have been clients – from a car wash in Charlotte that improved its neighbors’ view with sedums, to an international company in the drive engineering industry in Lyman, South Carolina, where employees have access to the roof, which is topped with tables and chairs. It’s evidence that a range of different types of businesses can benefit from the addition of a green roof.
ROOF MEMBRANE: Protects the roof from plants, roots, and moisture.
K ATE BL AT T ANCAYA’S relationship with the outdoors began on her childhood hobby farm. May 2020 | capitalatplay.com
LIVING ROOFS EMPLOYEES install the various green roof components at Duke Health in Durham, NC (2019).
“For a restaurant, the roof could serve as a rooftop garden to grow vegetables and herbs or even provide outdoor dining and lounge space. There are many possibilities, depending on the business and building,” Kate says.
A Staff To Get Dirty With Unlike many small business owners, the cliché of “getting their hands dirty” to get a job done rings true for Emilio and Kate. At the company’s outset, the two often handled all aspects of a project, overseeing everything from design to installation. Now they have a crew of five workers who travel to project sites from a home base in Asheville. This isn’t a normal day in the office; a love of the outdoors and a problem-solving mindset are a must for Living Roofs’ employees. Project manager Dustin Brackney has worked for the company for four years, starting the job after he assisted Living Roofs on a project in Houston, Texas, where he lived at the time. “I’ve always had a passion for green roofs because of their many benefits,” says Brackney, who has worked in the 22
| May 2020
landscape industry since 2000 and was formerly co-owner of Apex Green Roofs in Boston. “The industry is small, and Living Roofs has always had a great reputation, so I reached out to Emilio and Kate. I’d be lying if I said that the fact that they are located in Asheville didn’t motivate my decision, as well.” It proved to be the right decision for Brackney, who continues, “Emilio and Kate have been amazing bosses. For a small business, they really take care of their employees. They are fair-wage employers and pay above the industry standard. They try to work with our schedules so that people can take time off to enjoy themselves and the beauty surrounding us in Asheville. Most importantly, they frequently ask us what they — or Living Roofs — could do to be better.” The staff, Emilio and Kate say, are a primary reason for the company’s success. Staffers are often on large construction sites that require meticulous organization and coordination. Employees must also manage the stress of hoisting large amounts of soil and plants into the air and onto a roof, plus they have to bring some plant knowledge to the table — or rather, roof.
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“Our crew is required to problem solve on the spot, maintain stringent safety standards, and protect our project schedule and scope of work. It is a lot,” Kate says. “They always anticipate and respond to the ever-changing work
The firm supports its local staff, of course, but also other local businesses. The plants they use are always regionally sourced, so when they undertake local jobs, plants are purchased from Western North Carolina-based nurseries. Living Roofs also maintains a working relationship with regional architects. Ten years ago, Emilio and Kate were brought in to incorporate a living roof on a home in Lake Toxaway that was designed by PLATT, a full-service architecture, construction, and interior design firm based in Brevard (PLATT was profiled in the February 2020 edition of Capital at Play.). That first project began a decade-long relationship of collaboration, and that initial design, which was atop a contemporary house overlooking the water, is still considered one of PLATT’s most recognizable homes. “We work with them early within our designs to develop the details, not as an afterthought, so that the living roof is a fully integrated and essential piece of the overall aesthetic,” says Parker Platt, one of the firms’ partners and architects. “With the guidance and leadership of Living Roofs, we all work closely with the clients to craft a
“With the guidance and leadership of Living Roofs, we all work closely with the clients to craft a palette of vegetation that maintains a year-round interest and variation that the homeowners identify with.” with integrity and professionalism, and they continually inspire me with the steps they take to keep one another safe and go above and beyond what is necessary. Also, remember that this is all happening outside, sometimes in sweltering or freezing temperatures.”
May 2020 | capitalatplay.com 23
palette of vegetation that maintains a year-round interest and variation that the homeowners identify with.” “Emilio is extremely knowledgeable, responsible, and totally professional. Unlike many sub-contractors who only provide a one-time service and then leave a project, Living Roofs maintains the roofs they create, and thus there’s an ongoing relationship between them and our client,” Platt adds.
A Desire For More Localness One aspect of the business the couple wants to grow is having more projects in Western North Carolina. Right now, one in five of their projects are locally based, while the bigger markets for the business are Raleigh-Durham; Greenville, South Carolina; and Columbia, South Carolina. Installations have also been completed in nearby states like Georgia, Tennessee, and Virginia. The company has added living roofs to residential homes in Burnsville, Leicester, Waynesville, Mars Hill, Asheville, Brevard, and other towns around the region. “Most of our projects in Western North Carolina started out as residential, but we have started to install more green roofs for larger commercial and public projects in the area, such as the new North Tower at Mission Hospital and an upcoming project at Western Carolina University,” says Kate. Want to see one of their installations up close? You’ll find several Living Roofs’ projects in downtown Asheville. The Garage Apartments, which are situated behind the public parking deck near Aloft Hotel on Biltmore Avenue (see photo), offer a spectacular expanse of greenery. The 7,400-sq.-ft. space is filled with perennials and grasses and is a happy place for birds, who immediately gravitated to the space, even as Emilio and his crew were working on the project. In Cúrate, Katie Button’s award-winning authentic Spanish tapas restaurant, there is a living wall of tropical plants in its main dining space curated by Living Roofs. While it’s not hard to find their work in Asheville, they’d still like to do more. “We would like to see greater growth of green roof projects, particularly in WNC. We believe they can be more resilient in the face of growing climate challenges,” Kate says. The Ancayas envision broadening their impact not only in Asheville, but nationwide — but the market for green roofs stateside just isn’t what it is in Europe, which has traditionally been the market leader for green roof and wall technology. “We are trying to create more awareness that green roofs are not only beneficial to the environment, but that they make economic sense,” Emilio says. “This is especially true in urban areas with infill developments where meeting stormwater management requirements can be a challenge. This includes engaging city officials in planning and storm water departments [and] talking to architects and developers and sharing information with them about how green roofs can afford more overall design flexibility and cost-effective developments.” 24
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THE GAR AGE APARTMENTS in Asheville feature a green roof by Living Roofs, Inc..
May 2020 | capitalatplay.com 25
INSTALL ATION AT the Durham Library
Environmental Aspects Beauty isn’t the only byproduct of Living Roofs’ hard work; the environment also benefits from the plants, trees, and gardens planted on these rooftops. Those benefits are immediately impactful on the tenants and their surroundings: Green roofs are known to improve indoor comfort by reducing
“There are several environmental benefits, including retaining and detaining stormwater, which improves the quality of our waterways, [and] reducing urban temperatures and Urban Heat Island Effect,” Kate says. (Urban Heat Island Effect occurs when human activities increase the temperature of urban areas versus their rural surroundings, which can have longterm negative health effects on residents.) “They also promote
“We are inspired by a vision of cities with green rooftops serving as biological corridors for invertebrates and birds, cities with cooler temperatures, less stormwater runoff and flooding, and improved air quality and water quality of our local rivers and watersheds.” heat transfer; they act as an insulator for the building, which reduces heating and cooling costs; and they can provide additional habitats for animals even as the expansion of cities shrinks their natural spaces. 26
| May 2020
biodiversity and support our pollinator communities and filter particulate matter and pollutants out of the air.” The positive environmental impact is usually a motivator for Living Roofs’ clients. “Some restaurants use the green roof as a demonstration of their commitment to environmental issues,” she adds.
DR. WESLEY GR ANT, SR. Southside Center in Asheville
While the environmental and even financial impacts are beneficial, the market for green roofs in the United States has been slow to rise; that, though, could be changing. According to a report by Grand View Research in July 2019, the “global green roof market size was valued at $7.2 billion (USD) in 2018 and is expected to register a compound annual growth rate of 17.1% from 2019 to 2025. The growth of the market is attributed to increasing demand for green roofs due to benefits, such as it reduced noise pollution, maintenance and energy costs, and CO2 emissions, extended lifespan of roofs, regulated building temperature, improved employee productivity and health, and increased building value.” The report also found that North America is projected to witness the fastest-growing compound annual growth rate of green roofs during that period. “Yes, the industry is growing. I think this is due to the recognition by municipalities and developers of the economic benefits, such as extended roof life (at least two to three times longer), reductions in energy costs, and increased property values,” Emilio says. “We also see cities and states embracing green roofs as a means to better manage stormwater, particularly in urban areas. This reduces the impact on and costs for infrastructure and improves water quality.”
Continuing Their Love for Plants One aspect of the job that both Emilio and Kate enjoy is the variety each project brings. Some projects are small, others are large; some are one story off the ground, others are 50 feet in the air; some use modular trays for the plants, others have granular drainage, and still others have drainage plates. “After 14 years, we still love and are challenged by what we do. And we still love working together,” Kate says. The couple takes the long forgotten and underutilized architectural element of a roof and gives it new life — literally. Their designs and installations allow employees a space to relax with a bagged lunch, a hospital patient a needed respite from their room, and native birds new spaces to live. And this, they hope, is just the beginning. “We are inspired by a vision of cities with green rooftops serving as biological corridors for invertebrates and birds, cities with cooler temperatures, less stormwater runoff and flooding, and improved air quality and water quality of our local rivers and watersheds,” Kate says. Up on these rooftops, everything really will be alright.
May 2020 | capitalatplay.com 27
What to Drink While Waiting Out the Virus
OU’ VE WASHED YOUR HA NDS UNTIL
they’re chapped. You’re well past the awkward stage in the elbow-bump greeting. You’ve dutifully, if sadly, stood by as plays and concerts were canceled. And you’ve bingewatched every show on your list (might I recommend BBC’s Silk on Hulu?).
is the co-owner of Metro Wines located on Charlotte Street in downtown Asheville.
You’re doing your part to beat the coronavirus, but all this adds up to more time at home — not that there isn’t an upside. For many of us, it’s proven to be an opportunity to catch up on all those longdeferred home projects; so far, I’ve cleaned out the garage and reorganized the kitchen. It’s great to get caught up on procrastinated projects, but you’ve still got to live a little. Many folks I know are using the time to return to the kitchen. Spending a leisurely evening over the stove is a pleasure that is often lost in the daily grind, but without that grind, they’ve reclaimed their aprons and cookbooks and reinvested in the joy of cooking. There are few things more gratifying than making a gourmet dinner, even if it means that you’ll have to wash the dishes yourself. Nothing complements a fine meal better than the right wine. Wine is the predominant beverage
| May 2020
made primarily to accompany food, and since you’ll be eating a lot more home-cooked meals (as well as delivered restaurant fare), I’m recommending a number of wines to accompany the kinds of dishes you’re likely to serve while hunkered down. We’ll start with value wines. It’s not just the price, but the versatility of these wines that make them essential in your bunker kitchen.
Ananto Bobal and Macabeo Box Wines, $19 When screw tops were first released years ago, they were primarily used on low-quality wines, but now you can find them on $50 bottles. The same is true of box wines. My favorite is a luxury quality Chianti in a box at $50. Although not cheap, it’s half the price you’d pay if you bought it in bottles.
J A good balance of quality and price are the two box wines from Ananto. With four bottles in each box, that’s just $4.75 a bottle, and the wine stays good for up to five weeks after you open the box. This means you won’t have to leave the house for a while to stock up. Never heard of Bobal and Macabeo? Bobal is nearly unknown in the United States, but it’s Spain’s second most popular red, right behind Tempranillo. Bobal is chewy yet velvety with dark berry flavor and a hint of cocoa. A versatile wine, it pairs best with roasted chicken, grilled vegetables, smoked meats, and hard cheeses. Macabeo is one of the three grapes used to make Cava, and it’s the main component of white Rioja, where it’s known as Viura. Expect to find hints of grapefruit and citrus wrapped in a rounder texture and medium acidity. Its neutral character helps it pair with many dishes; consider grilled shrimp, mango salad, or tempura dishes.
El Libre Malbec, $9 Malbec is among the world’s most popular wines, unseated only by Cabernet Sauvignon for the number one spot. Its rich, juicy, fruity, and rustic character makes it a go-to for just about any red wine lover. The only question is, how inexpensive can you go and still get something truly enjoyable? El Libre is that choice. It’s better than its price and easily pairable with grilled red meats, burgers, chili, and other rustic fare.
Black’s Station Red Blend, $10 Zinfandel and its blends are rich and smooth, making them a great pairing for comfort foods like mac and cheese, pizza, and burgers – the kinds of food that will keep you going during these taxing times. Black’s Station Red is a Zinfandelstyle wine, but without any Zinfandel. It’s a blend of Petite Sirah and Petit
Verdot. You may not know these grapes, but they can taste like Zinfandel when made a certain way; for that reason, they’re two of the grapes added to many Zinfandel blends. Black’s Station Red shows a smooth, opulent style with just enough fine tannins to provide some foundation. Petite Sirah’s deep, dark fruit is a good counterpoint to Petit Verdot’s spicy and brambly flavors.
Mannara Pinot Grigio, $9 Pinot Grigio is one of the few grapes that is both serious and frivolous simultaneously. You can enjoy it on its own, as well as with a light, fresh meal. Pinot Grigio is normally grown in the cool region where Northeast Italy meets the Alps, but this Grigio comes from Sicily, at the far southern extreme of Italy. Sicily’s warmer climate produces a richer, rounder wine with ample texture. You’ll taste apple and gooseberry with notes of minerals in its refreshing finish. Pinot Grigio is best on the porch and served with appetizers, other lighter fare, and Asian cuisine. My favorite pairing is with fish and chips or other lighter but battered crispy dishes.
Mont Gravet Cotes de Gascogne Blanc, $9 Wines from famous regions cost more; a portion of that higher cost can be attributed to the fact that folks are willing to pay more for things they know and love. If you can find a wine you like from an unknown region, you’re ahead of the game. All you’re paying for is the quality of the juice in the bottle. The Gascogne region in Southwest France is one of those lost regions hiding in plain sight. With Bordeaux to the north and Languedoc and Provence to the east, it’s hard to understand why it’s still undiscovered. Until it catches on, you can enjoy remarkable value in the region’s wines at several quality levels. Among the very best values is the Colombard grape, an offspring of Chenin Blanc. The region’s May 2020 | capitalatplay.com 29
combination of oceanic and Mediterranean influences produces rich, concentrated, and ripe grapes. Pair this round and crisp wine with your usual Tuesday night fare like poultry, mashed potatoes, and sauteed vegetables.
*** The next category I’m recommending are splurge wines. Since you’re not dining out, you should have plenty of wiggle room in your entertainment budget for a nicer bottle or two. Wines at restaurants are two and a half to three times the prices you’ll see at retail wine shops, so you can enjoy a much better bottle at home and still save money. Here are a few remarkable wines at several different price points. Whether you’re bingewatching on the couch or planning a special dinner with loved ones, these wines will make that moment a little more special.
Clos des Fous Grillos Cantores Cabernet Sauvignon, $18 Chile’s Cabs have a smooth, fruity style like those from California, but they’ve never really taken off stateside. It might
| May 2020
be because many of their Cabs have a note of green bell pepper, which is nice in small doses, but too much and it can dominate a Cab’s other flavors. It’s common because Chile has a short growing season, and Cabernet needs a long hang time to avoid tasting green at harvest. One notable exception is Clos des Fous Cabernet. If it were from California, this Cab’s fresh, vibrant taste would command a much higher price. Clos des Fous shows rich berry along with hints of mocha, cool earth, and mossy plum. Give it an hour of air to let it really open up, and serve with the usual fare of steak and mushrooms.
Ochoa Reserva 2011, $29 Ochoa was founded in 1370 and was the personal wine for the King of Navarra and the subsequent royal courts for nearly 500 years. The blend is Tempranillo dominant with Merlot and Cabernet adding richness and power. Ripe cherry, red currant, spice, and vanilla are wrapped in a smooth texture. Tempranillo is Spain’s Cabernet, so it pairs like a Cab with red meat and mushrooms, but it also does well with the corn-based fare that’s commonly found in Mexican and Spanish cuisine.
Tyrrell’s Wines Semillon, $19
DeMorgenzon Maestro White, $24
Semillon is a grape traditionally blended with Sauvignon Blanc because their flavors complement each other so well. Semillon is a bit rounder and softer than Sauvignon Blanc,
Although well-known in the wine industry, this beautifully crafted white blend flies under the radar for most imbibers. It’s a harmonious, well-balanced kitchen sink blend of Roussanne, Grenache Blanc, Viognier, Chenin Blanc, and Chardonnay. Grenache Blanc provides the vibrant crispness, Viognier contributes the floral notes, and the other grapes add complexity as well as a round, medium weight texture. Pair with lighter to medium fare like rotisserie chicken or heavier fish such as salmon.
SPLURGE WINES: SINCE YOU’RE NOT DINING OUT, YOU SHOULD HAVE PLENTY OF WIGGLE ROOM IN YOUR ENTERTAINMENT BUDGET FOR A NICER BOTTLE OR TWO. bringing the combo to a harmonious balance. For Sauvignon Blanc lovers, this is an opportunity to try a fun twist of your favorite grape. Tyrrell’s provides good tension between a crisp backbone and rounder texture that supports notes of peach, vanilla, and a bit of toast. Pair as you would Sauvignon Blanc with goat cheese dishes and lighter fare made with fresh herbs.
*** At the time of this writing, some restaurants just closed and many local businesses are on the rocks. I’m hoping that by the time you read this I’ll wish I had recommended instead a list of celebratory wines to toast our futures.
With most of life’s little daily worries like home and yard maintenance and housekeeping taken care of, you’re free to focus on your total health – body, mind and spirit. The beautiful setting, wonderful new friends, and newly discovered interests keep you engaged, active and happy! Call to schedule a visit and discover a holistic approach to a joy-filled retirement at Deerfield. Asheville, North Carolina 800-284-1531 deerfieldwnc.org May 2020 | capitalatplay.com
CAROLINA in the
Less Drama, More Pragmatism henderson county
The Fr iend s of Dow ntow n Hendersonville, Henderson County Chamber of Commerce, and a group of concerned volunteers put their heads together and launched the Love Hendo campaign to help the employees and owners of businesses affected by mandated closures. They set up a website, LoveHendo.com, where customers and other empathetic individuals could go to buy, or even sponsor, gift cards now for when the shops reopen in the future. The site also posted a checklist for small businesses trying to figure out how to stay afloat. Steps were: (1) talk to your landlord to negotiate rent deferrals or forgiveness; (2) contact your insurer to find out what kinds of losses might be
insured; (3) call the bank to see what changes can be made to terms of loan repayment; (4) set up online sales and sell only gift cards if freight is formidable; (5) keep information â€“ including changed hours or availability of curbside pickup â€“ current on social media; and (6) stay informed with updates on government policies and programs. The group continues to brainstorm other ideas, like facilitating curbside pickups, providing links to aid agencies, and encouraging neighbors to write five-star reviews for local businesses to encourage patronage.
Sweet Peonies haywood county
Ricardo and Suzanne Fernandez of Wildcat Ridge Farm have opened their grounds for what they are calling the
2020 Festival of Peonies in Bloom during the month of May. Boasting the largest planting of peonies in the state, the couple invites members of the public to bring their own bucket, walk the grounds, and select fresh-cut peonies. The couple promises an eyeful of color from their plants, trees, and Itohs blooming along the banks of the Pigeon River. After May, peony shopping will only be allowed by appointment. Event planners needing mass quantities of a particular color should call in advance. Anybody interested in purchasing an entire plant can make a selection, and the couple will tag it and care for it over the summer. In late October, Ricardo will divide, pot, and prepare reserved plants for pickup.
Reclaimed What? watauga county
Blowing Rock Art & History Museum recently ran an exhibition, Sound Machines: Stringed Instruments by the Capozzoli Guitar Company, to celebrate the craftsmanship of a local luthier. The museum displayed string instruments built by Chris Capozzoli, as well as photography by Ashley Warren of the artist at work, through mid-March. Originally from Charlotte,
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54 the old north state
Capozzoli has spent the last 20 years in Sugar Grove. For him, making boutique guitars is a natural confluence of his passions as a musician and woodworker. Capozzoli’s skilled creations stand apart as he works to achieve styled elegance through simplicity in form and function. He integrates the new and the old, with particular interest in reclaiming natural materials. He describes these materials,, much of which he salvages from old barns, as having weathered 100 years in service to man or animals and now being given a chance to sing in eternity. Capozzoli views music as a tool in the important work of bringing people together, and he derives fulfillment from, “designing and building engines for this circumstance.” By making each guitar a unique work of art, he hopes to help musicians “find their voice.”
Growing Grove Arcade
& Champagne Bar; Burgerworx; the upscale Carmel’s Kitchen & Bar; Hector Diaz’s wood-fired kitchen, Modesto; Nutz about Fudge; and Santé Wine Bar & Tap Room, serving light fare and sips. Three new restaurants have been announced for Restaurant Row. The first, Asheville Proper, will be a steakhouse combining a traditional menu with a modern, open, live-fire kitchen, owned and operated by Owen McGlynn, former head chef of Storm Rhum Bar, and his wife, Mindi. The second is slated to be a rebranded Bebette’s New Orleans Coffee House, with plans to immerse brunch parties in a European ambience while enjoying French/Creole offerings like beignets. Thirdly, Meherwan Irani of the Chai Pani Restaurant Group (profiled in the April 2020 edition of Capital at Play) is tightlipped about a new project in the Arcade, announcing only his plans to open a fast-casual restaurant serving regional dishes inspired by a recent visit to India.
In recent years, dining in the Grove Arcade has expanded into what they’ve dubbed “Restaurant Row.” Though closed at press time due to COVID-19, specialty servers hoping to make a comeback include Middle Eastern eatery Baba Nahm; Battery Park Book Exchange
The Henderson County Commissioners approved spending $59,156,818 on a new
help Feed displaced hospitality workers today Learn more at
and your friends and family when we reopen !!
high school. Commissioner Bill Lapsley marked their decision as: “The largest single borrowing that Henderson County has made in its history.” Staff explained the numbers they presented came with a higher-than-usual contingency that should address known problems with underground water and sewer lines and deliver a school so functional that Director of Business and Community Development John Mitchell said it would even include putting toilet paper in the dispensers. The amount did not, however, cover a new track, bleachers, or artificial turf, for which the commissioners have already committed themselves in concept without allocation. The commissioners were earlier leaning toward totally demolishing the existing school, Henderson High, but the latest design calls for demolishing a portion of it and renovating the historic Stillwell Building.
A Leap for Frog Level haywood county
As Students Learn from Home
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carolina in the west
Frog Level Brewing Company has been sold. The original owners, Clark and Jenny Williams, explained they received an offer they couldn’t refuse from Seven Clans Brewing in Cherokee. Everything will stay the same from the customers’
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May 2020 | capitalatplay.com
carolina in the west
point of view, except Seven Clans will add its signature brews to offerings at Frog Level’s taproom. Frog Level began as a hobby in the Williams’ garage. Clark brewed for personal use and shared with family and friends, but when a carboy exploded, Jenny essentially told him to quit or go pro. Choosing the latter, Clark started test-marketing some of the flavors he and Jenny developed Wednesday nights at the Waynesville Gateway Club. To help with advertising, he wore camouflage kilts. The couple then turned to the Haywood Community College Small Business Center and benefitted from the North Carolina Rural Center’s Microenterprise Loan Program. Several friends and family members, especially the Williams’ daughter, pieced together enough investment capital for the couple to quit their day jobs, get licensed, and deliver their first keg to Bourbon Barrel Beef and Ale. Frog Level was then the first microbrewery in Haywood County in 18 years, ahead of the brewing bubble, and its taproom has become a popular, laidback, family-friendly spot for hanging out.
S.O.S. transylvania county
The problem affects the 22 counties administered by Vaya Health, but it first hit the news beat through a meeting of the Transylvania County Board of Commissioners. Commissioner Page Lemel, who serves on Vaya’s board of directors and is also chair of the N.C. Association of County Commissioners’ Health & Human Services Steering Committee, informed her peers at a recent meeting that Vaya is experiencing “severe financial stress.” She added that very few state legislators are taking the call for help seriously because they don’t know the rules governing Vaya’s budget. The organization, which oversees public funding for over one million suffering behavioral or intellectual challenges, including substance abuse, has $93.2 million in assets, including $47.8 million in a Medicaid Risk Reserve Fund. 34
| May 2020
Contrary to opinion and belief, however, the reserve is not liquid, but may only be used in times of insolvency to make providers whole. Lemel added that the problems are exacerbated by the legislature’s failure to set a budget. The existing shortage of resources was illustrated with a story of having to make 400 calls to find a bed for a single client. Already, cuts have been made to services for the under- and uninsured, and, without intervention, will continue.
Slide, No Slip avery county
As ski season winds down, construction is now finished on Eric and Tara Bechard’s Wilderness Run A lpine Coaster. They had hoped to open in the fall, but unforeseen difficulties with the topography kept pushing the date back. Now all they need is for the state and county to sign off on the structure. An Army family, the Bechards used to ride alpine coasters while stationed in Germany. The coasters are described as bobsleds on a rail or gravity-fed roller coasters built into mountainsides. The Bechards’ coaster, located at the Sugar Mountain Resort, is one of about 30 in the United States and the first in Western North Carolina. Thrill-seekers can ride solo or with a friend in the cars that drop 770 feet along 2,100 feet of winding path with three near-360o turns. The carts travel up to 27 mph, but they are equipped with brakes for users who want to enjoy the scenery. A three-story, chalet-style station with layered decking was also completed as part of the project. Anticipation for the ride’s opening has run high, with its Facebook page collecting 5,000 followers.
Financial Aid Navigators haywood county
Using $200,000 in interest from its healthy endowment fund, Haywood County Community College (HCCC)
launched a Tuition Free Guarantee program last year. The program was made available primarily to high school students in Haywood County. The college had a lot of inquiries, and while about 150 people were eligible, it only awarded scholarships to 30. That’s because the program first attempts to connect students with state and federal aid, and then only funds any balance students remain unable to pay. To be eligible, students must also meet a list of criteria that includes graduation from high school with at least a 2.8 grade point average, continued enrollment in at least 12 credit hours per semester at HCCC, and attendance at meetings with a qualified career coach. Each scholarship must also be approved by the school’s scholarship committee. The scholarships only pay for tuition, but the program also helps applicants look for other sources of sponsorship for books and program-specific fees and materials. Since only $63,000 was used from the fund last year, HCCC offered another round of funding this year. College spokespersons say the program has already paid off, as enrollment increased the last two semesters following years of stagnation.
Haunted House henderson county
Sources from the historic Woodfield Inn indicate it’s business-as-usual following the passing of former owner, Hasan Mansouri, of cardiac arrest back in February. Mansouri had served in the United States Air Force and worked for General Motors Bahrain before he started investing in Henderson County real estate. His investments began in 1995 with the purchase of a family home, now valued at $1.7 million, which sits on another near-$1 million worth of acreage. It wasn’t until 2009, however, that he formed a limited liability corporation and purchased the Woodfield Inn and, later, a nearby apartment complex. The hotel was built in 1850 as the Farmer Hotel with funding of $1,000 each from ten South Carolinians who summered in the area.
With failing health, Mansouri had been unable to keep up with plans to reopen the restaurant and turn the inn into a wedding and event destination. The inn, in fact, was listed as one of the area’s most haunted joints for Halloween thrills.
Controlling the Supply swain county
Kituwah, an economic development arm of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, has purchased Cardinal Homes. The manufacturer of modular homes, located in Wyliesburg, Virginia, recently declared bankruptcy. As terms of the deal, Kituwah purchased the business for $5.8 million, and the tribe committed to do $5 million a year in business with the company over the next three years. An estimated $11 million a year is needed to keep the business running, which includes payrolling the 40 workers now employed. The jobs will remain in Virginia, but with control over the supply, the tribe expects to save its members $20,000 per home. The housing is expected to address, in part, tribal members’ widespread demand for affordable housing. Cardinal Homes come in many sizes, rooms may be added without much effort, and the modules can even be stacked to form affordable, three-story buildings. While modular construction is typically associated with starter homes, advocates of the deal noted Cardinal recently put together an $800,000 home in Asheville, and some of the company’s beach houses are even more expensive. Tribal leadership expects the investment will pay for itself within 18 months.
Outside the Box haywood county
The storefront in Waynesville left vacant since the departure of Belk over ten years ago may soon find new life. The property off Russ Avenue is owned by Ingles, which continues to operate a grocery store on the premises but has been
unable to find a new renter for the former department store. The latest plan is to divide the big box-style store in two and create a village of multiple small storefronts on outparcels along a landscaped promenade, a venture called Waynesville Village. The developers say the idea has been in the works for a long time, but they lacked enough confidence in the markets to move forward until recently. They further indicated they planned to build in phases and not book tenants in advance of construction. Refurbishing the new project will require a lot of grading for new parking spaces, and some of the structures will be built into what is now a wooded hillside. Ingles purchased additional, adjacent land for the project for $1 million back in 2017.
Analyzing Uber watauga county
Dr. Pia Albinsson of the Department of Marketing and Supply Chain Management of Appalachian State University’s Walker College of Business has published Uber, part of the Corporations That Changed the World series published by ABC-CLIO, LLC. The book is an analysis of the company’s exponential success that positioned it as a flagship for entrepreneurs in the sharing economy. It provides an overview of the mechanics of a successful sharing economy, discussion of some of the technical innovations that gave Uber an edge, a layout of the company’s business model, and analysis of how it handled expansion and attacks. Uber disrupted the ride-hailing business by making the effort and investment more accessible for both users and drivers. It then introduced a rating system to build trust and allow users and drivers to self-manage their needs. For 65 years, ABC-CLIO has been a go-to publisher of reference materials and professional development resources. Uber is co-authored by Dr. B. Yasanthi Perera of Brock University in Canada. The two professors also collaborated to write The Rise of the Sharing Economy: Exploring the Challenges and Opportunities of
Collaborative Consumption, published in 2018.
Fab Fore! henderson county
Broadmoor Golf Links is for sale. Although cash flow is positive and business is good, the owners filed for bankruptcy to restructure. The property is listed for $3 million, and General Manager Hollie Storrier said there have been inquiries but no offers to date. So, Storrier said, business will continue as usual with events, tournaments, camps, and league play. The 18-hole golf course was designed by Karl Litten, who, with Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, and Tom Fazio, was one of the Pro Golf Association’s (PGA) Fab Four designers. Unlike the others, Litten avoided signature features to make each course wholly unique. This course is designed to challenge all skill levels. As a golf course, the property is in a good location near the airport, and it is already in a PGA Pro program. The clubhouse remains upscale, so the golf business could transition to new ownership seamlessly. The course has 20 acres of buildable land; the rest sits in a floodplain. Due to the bankruptcy, the courts would have to approve any sale.
Cereal Entrepreneur buncombe county
The Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce hosted a ribbon-cutting party for Elijah Cox and his business partner, Patricia Waters. The event was held at the Asheville Visitor Center but catered by Cox. A year ago, Cox, now in the seventh grade, launched Chill Cereal Bar and Café, with help from Waters, his mother. Cox, who prefers cereal over a home-cooked dinner, wanted to own and operate a cereal bar. His mother, in turn, wanted to show him he could realize his dreams with enough will and effort. With help from Mountain Bizworks Waters developed a business plan. Chill now
May 2020 | capitalatplay.com
carolina in the west
caters parties and events with cereal, milk, and toppings. The chamber granted him free membership and discounted healthcare benefits as a reward. The perks were made available through the Chamber’s Equity Fund, the administrators of which pursue economic development by creating opportunity for less-privileged populations.
Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) waivers are available for qualified applicants. Walker consistently makes lists of top colleges published by outlets like The Princeton Review, US News & World Report, and CEO Magazine.
Under Morrison, the office stayed current with state-of-the-art dentistry, moving to digital formats and using 3D printing for prosthetics. Morrison planned to continue working three mornings a week before departing for a cross-country bike trip from San Diego to St. Augustine. He also plans to run in the Boston Marathon later this year – for starters.
Learn From a Distance watauga county
Appa lach ia n St ate Un iversit y ’s esteemed Walker College of Business will soon launch an online Master of Business Administration degree program. The 36-credit-hour curriculum will teach, among other things, functional business knowledge, communication skills, leadership and teamwork, analysis and critical thinking, cultural sensitivity, and ethics and legal responsibilities. Established in response to student and industry demand for such, the online program will cultivate a learning environment with small class sizes and a lot of opportunity for students to interact with faculty. Also consistent with the college’s priorities, the program will provide both theoretical and practical training. Classes will begin in the fall, and Graduate Record Exam (GRE) and
Not even 60 years old, Dr. Eric Morrison, DDS, is quitting his practice to knock some things off his bucket list. Having graduated from the University of Texas’s dental school in 1989, he provided dental care to Native Americans through the U.S. Public Health Service before taking over the Medford family practice in Waynesville in 1993. Dr. Nick Medford launched the business in 1918, making house calls when dental drills, novocaine, and dental hygiene were new concepts. His son, Phil, was retiring when Morrison stepped in. Morrison’s successor will be Dr. Heather Lee, whose family provided lab work for Morrison’s office and who considers Morrison a mentor. Lee practiced dentistry in Asheville and Hendersonville for eight years before assuming responsibility for Morrison’s 15,000 patients. Lee and Morrison had discussed the move for about five years.
Zinc Tank rutherford county
After a fire almost a year ago, American Zinc Recycling (AZR) has resumed production at its upgraded Mooresboro plant. At other facilities around the world, AZR collects dust from electric arc furnaces in steel plants. The byproduct contains lead, chromium, and cadmium, which are considered hazardous; but it also contains zinc, nickel, and iron. AZF operates four plants that combust the dust, leaving behind a slag that contains 40% iron containing no materials classified as hazardous, which can be sold back to industries. The vaporized metal oxides are condensed and shipped to AZR’s Mooresboro plant, where the mix is subject to a proprietary process involving chemical and electrochemical separation techniques that were adapted from the
A Unique and Independent Real Estate Company since 1979 36
23 Arlington Street Asheville, NC 28801 | 828. 255.7530 | www.appalachianrealty.com | May 2020
copper industry. The resulting zinc metal is 99.995% pure. The facility is expected to produce 155 kilotons of the high-grade zinc each year for buyers that include producers of galvanized steel, auto parts, and health and beauty products.
is a skilled coach for people experiencing cognitive-perceptual impairment and helps them build skills with equipment and environmental modification.
Have Empowerment, Will Travel
Occupational therapist Jeff Parlier has started a business, Pisgah Therapy, that provides mobile therapy. He makes house calls for persons who are disabled or may be at risk of falls. A practicing occupational therapist for 13 years, Parlier says he was motivated to start the business because he saw too many people hospitalized for falling in their homes. When Parlier visits a home, he looks at stairs, floorboards, showers, and more in the context of a person’s disabilities and routines, helping to reduce fall risks. Alleviating the fear of falling is important in helping the elderly stay functional in their own homes. Parlier also helps determine what kinds of adaptive equipment are needed for various disabilities, including Parkinson’s disease, arthritis, diabetes, and more, and helps fit people with wheelchair seating. In addition, he
Once and Future Eatery The Bluffs Restaurant is slated to reopen this summer. The restaurant, located at Milepost 241, was one of four ever to open along the Blue Ridge Parkway. It will now be operated by the owners of Muddy Creek Café & Music Hall under a lease agreement with the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation. The announcement followed the matching by private parties of a $25,000 challenge grant put forward by Julie Hettiger and her husband, Ken Nelson. The project has also benefited from $350,000 awarded by the North Carolina General Assembly for renovations and $300,000 presented by the Appalachian Regional Commission for the purchase of furniture and equipment. Hettiger described the Bluffs as a go-to for family outings in former years, but it has been closed for almost a decade. To reopen, the building needed a new roof and mold remediation, plus upgrades to its kitchen equipment. The furnishings and installations had barely changed
during the restaurant’s 61-year run, and restoration artists are working with the National Park Service and the North Carolina Historic Preservation Office to select fixtures and design elements to replicate originals.
No Big watuaga county
Large land purchases, like a recent $14,190,000 deal in Boone, are always fun to investigate. The 147,900-sq.-ft. Walmart of Boone was sold by WM Land Boone, LLLP, of Winter Park, Florida, to Agree Boone NC WM, LLC, a company based in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, whose registered agent was operating out of Raleigh. As it turns out, the deal will likely not mean much for Walmart shoppers or persons hoping for Amazon jobs to take over the big box. Agree also purchased a 151,525-sq.-ft. Walmart in the Triad for $13.5 million. While Agree Boone was registered immediately before the transactions, its parent company, Agree Realty, was founded in 1971. The company has since grown to own and operate a portfolio of 864 properties in 46 states. Total year-to-date acquisitions totaled $192.4 million and included four Walmart Supercenters.
223 Boyd Cove Road Leicester 28748
MLS #3461827 Private 93 Acre Mountain Cove with Cabin, Bath House and several springs. Southern exposure.
May 2020 | capitalatplay.com 37
photo courtesy French Broad Chocolate | May 2020
Going THE Distance written by emily gl aser
Ten businesses, four weeks, one community.
How ten Capital at Play alumni pivoted in the face of pandemic in order to support their businesses, staff, and community.
n a gloomy Monday morning in mid-March, one in a series of sunless, leaden days, Emily Copus walked into her business and announced, “We’re starting a grocery store!” It was not an inherently unreasonable proposition — after all, grocery delivery, Copus’ concept, is an increasingly popular industry that’s trickling down from megaapps and superstores into small towns’ small businesses — but Copus is a flower farmer, not a grocer, and she proposed launching her new business concept not in a matter of months, but days. It’s a narrative that would have seemed absurd in February, but by the third week of
March, it was just one in an endless series of unpredictable pivots as, all around the region, the state, the country, and the world, small business owners and entrepreneurs made similarly surprising announcements to their staff and customers. On that same day, March 23rd, Harvest Records’ co-owner Mark Capon buckled up in his black sedan to deliver records across Western North Carolina; East Fork Pottery was less than 24 hours into its first ever pre-sale; and Cultivated Cocktails turned out some 500 gallons of hand sanitizer. None of these were purportedly “normal” operations, but “normal” is an adjective whose connotation was entirely forfeited by COVID-19. May 2020 | capitalatplay.com 39
photo courtesy Carolina Flowers
photo courtesy Harvest Records
The first four weeks of spring became a month marked by innovative adaptation as small businesses and large reshaped their operations to fit within the form of an economy molded by pandemic, quarantine, and social distancing. We followed along as ten of our Capital at Play alumni across a spectrum of industries — agriculture, manufacturing, retail, hospitality, and tech — agilely shifted operations in order to keep their doors open, their margins black, and their employees supported for as long as possible. Pivots like Copus’ were implemented as Sisyphean measures to prevent the tumble of businesses down the steep slope of COVID-19. But what was most surprising wasn’t the success of these ventures in unprecedented times, but their applicability to so-called normal times, too. “I said when I started this grocery business that we weren’t going to keep it. I probably shouldn’t say too much right now, but I think that has changed,” Copus said in early April. By then, the weather had turned balmy and warm, the grass and trees breaking out into a fluorescent shade of sunbaked green. “It’s not every day that you accidentally stumble upon something that is a huge complement to what you were, and it’s not every day that you’re actually able to carry out that idea.” The small businesses impacted by COVID-19 will never be the same, but, as Copus attests, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. 40
| May 2020
photo courtesy Cultivated Cocktails
Innovative Adaptations Asheville’s businesses are no strangers to plight or economic famine; after all, the last depression clung to our economy for decades longer than our metropolitan neighbors, a silver-lined circumstance that preserved our architecture and bred a spirit of pluck in our entrepreneurs that persists today. Perhaps that’s why many Western North Carolina businesses were able to adapt so quickly to the mercurial circumstances of a pandemic; tenacity is a trait as native to our local businesses as laurels to our mountains. In the first weeks of the pandemic, local ventures closed their doors, first as a precaution, then as a mandate, but their “Open” signs flickered on. Inside, entrepreneurs pulled on thick rubber gloves, maintained social distance, and continued business as unusual, pivoting to provide their customers and community with products and services that served an ever-changing spectrum of needs. For many entrepreneurs, that meant maintaining their core business model but redistributing their revenue streams or amending their methods. French Broad Chocolate’s business model, for example, flipped. “Our sales are usually almost all retail (Chocolate Lounge & Boutique, Factory Cafe), but for now we are principally an online business,” Jael Rattigan, co-founder and CEO, said
at the end of March. The chocolatier added tonguein-cheek packages to its lineup, like the Eat Your Feelings Collection, and sold these and their staples to customers online or at downtown Asheville’s Chocolate Lounge, which remained open for takeout. The service industry side of French Broad is indicative of the broader picture for restaurants, many of which expanded their delivery capabilities and orbits in addition to curbside pick-up stations. Although the restaurant industry was the focus of a slew of foreboding headlines throughout the onset of the crisis, beginning with Governor Cooper’s March 17th order to close dine-in operations, it also proved to be an industry particularly adaptable to the constraints of the pandemic. Chai Pani, downtown Asheville’s award-winning chaat house, and sister restaurant Buxton Hall Barbecue quickly adapted to to-go. Their pick-up model was streamlined to be as safe — and sensible — as possible: the pick-up area was moved outside, and the menus were changed to be more carry-out
Like the aforementioned enterprises, delivery was already an element of her flower business, but, with weddings cancelled and farmers markets closed, COVID-19 flipped the business model so that delivery — which formerly represented a small portion of the business’ earnings — was the predominant revenue stream. “Subscriptions and deliveries are the bright spot of our business,” she explained in March. “I’m glad some of the business infrastructure we need to make home deliveries is already in place. Since this crisis began, we have sold more orders for delivery via our website than any previous web business combined.” It was those existing delivery logistics that inspired Copus to expand into grocery, using vans and routes already in place to get foodstuffs to rural communities that other delivery services skipped. Within a week, the auxiliary business was up and running at ashevillegrocery.com, with local produce from farms like Whaley Farmstead and Mighty Gnome Market Garden, gourmet items like Benton’s
“We had to adapt quickly to the simple fact that our customers can no longer walk in and browse through our collection, so we’ve got to do it for them.” friendly and featured the comfort food and familystyle meals customers craved. The River Arts District’s Vivian shifted quickly to take-out and delivery options, as well, and they also expanded their offerings to include a more diverse selection of make-at-home options, a venture they dubbed “JoJo’s Meat & Grocer.” With the chaotic and potentially unsafe state of grocery stores in the age of COVID-19, the Vivian team wanted to offer customers an alternative: charcuterie-style items by the pound, dinner kits, and heat-and-eat options like pot pies and soups. Yet, while the service industry was able to adapt quickly to the pandemic, the measures they put in place weren’t designed to last. With public safety in mind and meager profits in pocket, many eateries made the tough decision to close even these modified operations a few weeks in — Chai Pani and Buxton Hall on April 1st; Vivian shifting to a limited pop-up schedule (a hearkening back to the founders’ origins) on March 28th. Delivery proved to be the pivot du jour for many businesses, including Emily Copus’ Carolina Flowers.
Bacon and Big Spoon Roasters nut butters, pantry staples, and a curated selection of meal kits. The delivery model was also applied to other, less obvious ventures like Harvest Records. The West Asheville brick-and-mortar record store has a business model that, like the wares it sells, is vested in the nostalgically traditional: walk-in customers. “We had to adapt quickly to the simple fact that our customers can no longer walk in and browse through our collection, so we’ve got to do it for them,” said co-owner Mark Capon. That meant a rapid shift to digital, sharing the store’s catalogue of new merch online and redoubling their already vibrant social media presence. “And once orders started coming in, we’ve had to get creative on how to actually get the product in people’s hands — creating a sanitary and safe curbside pickup, plus we’ve been delivering records to homes all over Asheville!” Though the record store closed even these operations with Buncombe County’s Stay Home, Stay Safe mandate on March 26th, it was an adaptation that sustained the business for a week. May 2020 | capitalatplay.com 41
COVID-19 Small Business Loan Guide ECONOMIC INJURY DISASTER LOANS (EIDLS) EIDLs are distributed by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), a federal organization. Small businesses & private nonprofits that qualify under SBA size guidelines, sole proprietors, and independent contractors
PAYCHECK PROTECTION PROGRAM
These loans are backed by the SBA but financed by local lenders.
Who Can Apply
Small businesses & nonprofits that qualify under SBA size guidelines, sole proprietors, self-employed & freelance workers, and 501(c)(6) orgs Maximum loan: The lesser of 2.5X monthly payroll (looking at last 12 months or 2019 calendar year) or $10 million
Maximum loan: $2 million Interest rate: 3.75% (2.75% for nonprofits) Duration: Up to 30 years Deferment: Options available; no prepayment penalty; forgivable $10,000 advances available
How Financing Works
Interest rate: 1.0% Duration: The unforgiven portion must be paid back within two years. Borrowers can apply for total or partial loan forgiveness at the end of the 8-week loan period. Deferment Available for 6–12 months on any of the loan that is not forgiven; no prepayment penalty
Loans are available now. Apply directly through the SBA at sba.gov/disaster.
How to Apply
In the case of craft beer techies CraftPeak, their deliverythemed pivot was in helping their brewery clients make pick-up and delivery feasible via new e-commerce portals. “We are currently scrambling to get online stores launched to sell beer with local delivery and pickup options for all of our breweries. We are trying to do everything we can to help get some revenue flowing in for these local businesses as their taprooms remain closed,” said John Kelley, co-founder and CEO, in mid-March. The coronavirus also provided fortuitous opportunities for undertaking long-deferred projects; just as we layfolk finally took up our hammers and our honey-do lists, so did local entrepreneurs — pressured by necessity — finally implement strategies they’d been considering, sometimes for years. Asheville Yoga Center (AYC), for example, had long envisioned an online catalogue of classes, and the shuttering of the studio was the impetus they needed to transition online. AYC’s schedule of live-streaming classes started small just three days after they closed the studio on March 15th, but 42
| May 2020
Loans are suspended as of press, due to depleted funds , but may become available with increased funding in the future.
by the first week of April, they were offering half of their 100 weekly classes virtually and attendance had bounced back to two-thirds their average. “We’re in a very fortunate position where we have people coming to visit us, for our trainings in particular, from all over the world, so our email list is quite expansive,” General Manager Melissa Driver explained. Once they included an announcement in their newsletter, people began joining the classes from around the world, including from lockdown in Spain and Italy. For Insta-popular pottery manufacturer East Fork Pottery, the pandemic also provided the company with the catalyst to try something new: a seasonal pre-order. They company was among the first to close both their factory and fulfillment center, but they quickly found ways to sell pots without having to make them. Through their first ever pre-order, the brand’s recognizable forms in the seasonal, beachy colors of Malibu and Tequila Sunrise quickly sold out online, even with no timeline for their creation. East Fork also made the decision to turn a
Financial resources abound for small businesses navigating COVID-19. The only problem? Figuring out which loan (or loans) are best for your biz. Here’s a guide to help you navigate the new programs: NC COVID-19 RAPID RECOVERY LOAN The Details: Financed by Mountain BizWorks and other public, private, and nonprofit partners, these are designed to be bridge loan financing until businesses can access SBA Disaster or other federal disaster funding.
Who Can Apply: North Carolina small businesses affected by COVID19 with at least one employee (who could be the self-employed owner); Startup businesses that began operations before March 23, 2020
How Financing Works: Maximum loan: $50,000 (capped at approximately two months of 2019 average monthly revenue) Rate: 0% for 6 months; 5.5% for 48 months thereafter
Who Can Apply: For-profit and nonprofit businesses principally based in Buncombe County; 1–49 employees; or in business for at least 12 months
How Financing Works: Maximum loan: $10,000 Rate: Six months of no payments required at 4% (interest accruing), followed by 36 months of principal and interest payments at 5.5% interest
Who Can Apply: For-profit businesses principally based in Haywood County; 1–25 employees, in business for at least 12 months, or has demonstrated loss of revenue of 25% or more due to COVID-19
How Financing Works: Maximum loan: $10,000 Rate: Six months of no payments required at 4% (interest accruing), followed by 36 months of principal and interest payments at 5.5% interest
ONE BUNCOMBE FUND The Details: Mountain BizWorks is the administrator for these loans, a collaboration between government and nonprofit organizations and individuals.
HAYWOOD RECOVERY FUND The Details: These loans, a collaboration between government and nonprofit organizations, are designed to be bridge loan financing until Haywood County businesses can access SBA Disaster or other federal disaster funding.
You can apply for any of the above local loans at mountainbizworks.org/coronavirus/covid-19-loans/
quick, sizable profit through online sales of a large collection of their seconds originally intended for a West Coast “tour” of events and pop-ups. Like so many others, East Fork also took on portage, hand-delivering what seconds pots they could to customers around the region. (Those outside of Western North Carolina will have to wait until the end of quarantine for the products they purchased in March.) A slew of local businesses actually adapted their model to not just withstand COVID, but to combat it, producing PPE instead of outdoor gear or hand sanitizer instead of liquor. “It seemed the obvious answer to how we could help during this time, with sanitizer being mostly alcohol,” explained Leah Howard, brand manager at Cultivated Cocktails, of the company’s decision to begin producing sanitizing products in their distillery. They dilute alcohol to a 70% solution, which ensures its effectiveness against the virus. “Making sanitizer is by far easier than production of a craft spirit, so with the knowledge and willingness from our team, we have the ability to help combat this virus.”
While they continued to sell their spirits through a cocktail subscription program, online orders, and curbside pickup, demand boomed for the company’s most pivot-bred product. “We never realized just how far this need would grow with the pandemic. We are now producing thousands of gallons of sanitizer to cope with the lack of supply available in the community,” Howard added.
Financial Impact COVID-19 is scary; the economic ramifications it poses are arguably even scarier. Perhaps no one can attest to this quite like the small business entrepreneur. Like many of their employees, these entities often exist paycheck to paycheck, and the prospect of a sudden slump or utter negation of income spells disaster in bold letters for the entrepreneur, their venture, and their staff. In the first week of the pandemic, the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce conducted a study with 168 regional businesses; May 2020 | capitalatplay.com 43
the early results showed that 66% of respondents cited cash flow as an immediate resource they needed. Cash flow is the lifeblood of a business; without it, most of them close. That’s why, at the time of the study — again, at the very outset of the economic crisis — 31% of the responding businesses had already shuttered. For some businesses — namely, those that could not adapt to COVID-19, like bars and taverns — profit loss was immediate and unrelenting. Charlie Hodge of Sovereign Remedies, Asheville Beauty Academy, and Ole Shakey’s Getaway, shuttered all three businesses in mid-March: “Loss weekly is 100% and growing debt,” he said at the time. Even restaurants that could adapt their menus to take-out and delivery operated at a fraction of their usual projected profits. “Our businesses were scaled and built to serve our guests inside the restaurants, and they were high volume, busy places. Business is down 70-80%, depending on the restaurant, and many people are out of work,” Molly Irani, hospitality director and co-founder, said of Chai Pani Restaurant Group in March, when they were still operating takeout and pick-up.
“We want to be here for the community. We want to provide a respite, a treat, something to brighten a shitty situation. It’s not profitable, but we want to be a steady presence for Asheville. ”
ASHEVILLE YOGA CENTER is streaming classes for do-anywhere yoga. photo by Evan Anderson
Similarly, Vivian initially experienced a drop, but not flatline, of profits at the hands of COVID-19. “We’re seeing more than 50% of profit loss, have had to let go of two employees, cut salaries and turn them into hourly employees, and reduce everyone’s number of shifts by half, if not more,” Owner/GM Shannon McGaughey said on March 20th. By early April, those numbers had shifted again, as the restaurant released all of its employees except the two co-founders. “Before the stay home mandate, we were operating at a 60% loss, but after we let the staff go and had to roll with two of us, we were at 80% loss. Not only can we not produce as much, but people are going out less and feeling more paranoid; there was a big difference on how people received food from us in just two weeks time,” McGaughey added. Harvest Records’ “delivery and takeout” approach was also far from a financial boon for the retailer (Capon estimated gross sales were at about 30-35% normal during this phase), and even these earnings evaporated before the month was out. While operating a delivery or takeout option, almost unanimously, was not a particularly profitable adaptation, as French Broad Chocolate’s Rattigan pointed out, that wasn’t exactly the point: “We had a couple reasons for trying to stay open,” she said of maintaining takeout at the Chocolate Lounge. “One, we want to 44
| May 2020
photo courtesy French Broad Chocolate
Impact of COVID-19 to Real Estate Showings in North Carolina change from first week of the ye ar
Weekly showings normalized to the first calendar week of January, 7-day moving average.
2019 weekly average
2020 weekly average
+20% 0% -20% -40% -60%
Latest Change From: This Year’s Peak: -51.3% Same Time Last Year: -54.8%
Feb 12 Feb 19 Feb 26 Mar 4 Mar 11 Mar 18 Mar 25 Apr 1 Apr 8 Apr 15
The data points represent a rolling weekly average in ShowingTime’s 100 top markets, with each market recording tens of thousands of appointments in 2019 and 2020. Graph information Source: showingtime.com/impact-of-coronavirus/
What About Real Estate?
ntrepreneurs are adapting to the ordinances and ordeals set by COVID-19, but is our real estate industry — which was averaging 403 sales per month from March through October 2019 — able to pivot as deftly? The short answer: We don’t know yet. “A real estate transaction is typically a 30–60 day process, so we expect to see the ramifications of COVID-19 in our May-June-July reports,” said Terri King, owner and president of Coldwell Banker King. “Contracts aren’t written when buyers can’t view homes or even travel to the area, or buyers are no longer eligible for a loan due to sudden loss of income/employment. And when contracts aren’t written, homes aren’t sold.” King points out that while sales haven’t dropped significantly yet, showings have declined. It’s not all so bleak. “In most of our service areas, real estate ser vices are deemed essential, giving us the latitude to keep limited operations,” Michael Phelan of BeverlyHanks explained. While most agencies have
implemented work-from-home options for their staff, that doesn’t necessarily limit their abilities to sell. “To support our sales team and comply with local and state ordinances, we’ve shifted to a digital-first mentality,” Phelan continued. “Luckily, we were already well-positioned for the move to digital-first with our prior focus on 3D tours, having in-house video services, and a largely paperless contract process. At the moment, we see fewer online leads, but website traffic remains on par with last year.” King expressed a similar appreciation for the shift her agency had already under taken toward a more modern, digital approach: “The difference now is, rather than being a supplement to our face-to-face philosophy, online connection has become our primary means of serving our client-base.” Clients can still engage with the properties, whether via Zoom or FaceTime or, when absolutely necessary, in person. Though it’s certain COVID-19 will impact our real estate market, when this is all said
and done — or when restrictions are eased, at least — there’s a chance the market will rebound quickly. “We suspect the web traffic represents a forced hibernation of sorts, and when the ordinances are lifted, we’ll see a spike in activity,” Phelan said. “Already we are picking up on a bit more online interest from our urban feeder markets.” As with alumni entrepreneurs, those in the real estate industry have been forced to pivot. “We are rewriting 2020 now, and it’s a new game,” King attested. “The focus is on how we can serve our clients, hold deals together, keep up-to-date on almost daily changes in government orders and global financial positions, invest in the best professional development possible under the circumstances, while all the while keeping ourselves, our families, and our communities safe.” “Regarding doing hard things, a mentor once said to me, ‘You can do anything for a little while,’” said King, and it sounds like that adage applies to sustaining a booming real estate market through a pandemic quarantine. • May 2020 | capitalatplay.com 45
be here for the community. We want to provide a respite, a treat, something to brighten a shitty situation. It’s not profitable, but we want to be a steady presence for Asheville. Two, we want to be ready to turn the business back on when the world is ready. It’s like training, keeping our muscles from atrophying. Three, a little bit of cash flow is better than none.” While French Broad’s retail sales were down 94% compared to the same week in March and she’d reduced her staff from 90 to 12, Rattigan recognized that her business’ adaptations during COVID-19 were in response to more than just data; such was the case with Cultivated Cocktails, as well. While the distillery’s shift to sanitizer production was well-warranted, it was significantly less financially rewarding. “We have had about a 75% profit loss,” Howard said of the company at the end of March. The sanitizer program is donation-based (Cultivated Cocktails donates the sanitizer to local emergency responders, healthcare workers, and others on the frontlines), but luckily the company partnered with Dogwood Health Trust to offset the cost of the program (Dogwood Health Trust allocated $10 million to alleviate the impact of COVID-19 across the region through programs like this). “We have been able to partner with the Dogwood Alliance and are now producing more sanitizer than any other distillery in the area, or the state, that we know of,” Howard said in early April. While most of these businesses share a similar narrative — adaptations produced reduced profits that declined or flatlined in the following weeks — there were exceptions. Asheville Yoga Center saw an immediate plummet in profits when they closed their doors in mid-March, but through concerted efforts to build an online presence, those numbers trended steadily upwards. However, even when class attendance bounced back to two-thirds the average, that didn’t necessarily correspond to two-thirds profits. “We had to reduce the drop-in rate to get that number,” Driver said in early April, explaining that revenue for classes was currently about half the norm. When considering the entire business—which includes workshops, a boutique, and lodging—that percentage was reduced yet again, which meant the studio was experiencing an approximate 75% revenue loss, despite the increase in virtual class and workshop availability. Some small businesses, though admittedly few, were able to maintain financial projections or, in once case, exceed them. Carolina Flowers’ Copus anticipated 29.08% year-over-year growth for March 46
| May 2020
photo courtesy East Fork Pottery
and expected 45% of revenues to be wedding related. In the end, that growth was not realized and weddings only accounted for some 20% of her revenue, but Copus managed to hold steady and meet numbers from March 2019. At first, she assumed April — a month typically dominated by weddings — would hit profits hard, but by the middle of the month, thanks to her growing grocery business, she reported her financials with surprising optimism. “We are likely to grow year-over-year for the month of April, and we might nose up to our actual goal [of 99.35 percent year-over-year growth] for revenue for April 2020. I don’t think we will hit it, but I certainly didn’t think we would be doing this well right now,” she said. Similarly, East Fork Pottery was able to shift tactics fast enough to push profits in March, but the impact of those early efforts put the company in a precarious position in the coming months. “We are going to be closing out March as our highest grossing month of the company,” Connie Matisse, co-founder and CMO, said following the seconds sale and preorder; but she also recognized the unparalleled demand the sales placed on her business: They will need a plan in place to efficiently create and ship those pre-orders, and another plan to fill the hole that pre-order will leave in the future market, too. “After those big sales moments, as expected, sales came to a grinding halt. We’re still seeing a demand for our work, but with the website indicating that our fulfillment center is shut down, most people
CAROLINA FLOWERS DELIVERIES, photo by Jack Sorokin
School of Life Have you ever sustained a small business through a pandemic? We asked our alumni: “What’s the greatest lesson you’ve learned thus far?” Here’s what they had to say:
“Sometimes you just have to go for it, put yourself out there with trying something new, and then refine and tweak. Not everything can be as well planned out as it has been in the past, but we are all working together to make this experience as best as possible for our staff, instructors, and clients.” -Melissa Driver, general manager, Asheville Yoga Center
are opting to wait. We saw a lot of $25K days in March, and now we’re expecting to see $2.5K days in April,” Matisse said. “This pre-sale also means that when we’re back, we will only be building the Malibu and Tequlia Sunrise pieces that were sold in the pre-sale until that order list is fulfilled, and we won’t have the bandwidth to build stock back up in any of our other core colors. We expect there to be about an eight week period where we’re working, but we don’t have anything to sell, where revenue takes a massive downturn and potentially hits zero, unless we’re able to form a sales strategy exclusively around our non-manufactured objects (the things we don’t make!).” It’s also important to note that part of East Fork’s financial stability can be attributed not just to their quick thinking, but to their forward thinking. “John [Vigeland], our CFO, is incredibly conservative when it comes to writing our books. We operate with a lot more cash on hand than most businesses in Asheville,” Matisse explained. “It’s been really important for him since day one to have a minimum two months’ cash on hand to cover operating costs. And we’ve never, ever once in company history let that dwindle.” That, combined with those initial quick efforts to sell additional merch, gave the company the flexibility to both continue to provide their 80 employees with their salaries and give back to their community. The pottery company first hosted a mug fundraiser that benefitted both Mission Hospital nurses and the nonprofit Vecinos, then dedicated their April efforts not to turning a profit, but to making a difference: “Our strategy or mission in April, while our one person-at-a-time fulfillment crew chips away at a 5,000 order backlog, is to be a vessel through which wealth is redistributed throughout
“I think the greatest lesson I’ve learned so far is to trust my instincts but constantly ask for help and insight from others. Know who to ask for insight — don’t take everyone’s advice — but do your due diligence and ask. Ask for help, even when it hurts. My job is to do the best thing for the business always, even if it’s uncomfortable for me, and in a situation like this, there is nothing else to be done but to ask for help. And if people ask you for help, do it!” -Emily Copus, founder, Carolina Flowers & Mercantile “Life is short. Do your best and have fun along the way. Also, creating a strong foundation allows for greater agility; I will put more effort to stay focused on this.” -Charlie Hodge, owner, Sovereign Remedies, Ole Shakey’s Getaway, Asheville Beauty Academy, & Make Space “Urgency is a tool of white supremacy. Urgency is a tool of white supremacy. Urgency is a tool of white supremacy. The Nap Ministry has been so eye-opening for me. I hope that during this pandemic, all of us stressed-out, busy-all-the-time workaholics learn to distinguish between what actually has to be done immediately and what can be put on hold in exchange for a rest, a book, a walk, a long breath, or time spent with friends and family.” -Connie Matisse, co-founder and CMO, East Fork Pottery “We are learning new things every day. But the greatest thing I have learned so far is truly how much the community cares for our little business and how much we can do to give back to them.” -Shannon McGaughey, owner/GM, Vivian May 2020 | capitalatplay.com 47
Buncombe County to those most impacted.” The company launched a weekly raffle series in April with the intention of raising $100,000 for Haywood Street Congregation, Pisgah Legal, and the WNC Worker’s Center.
Effect On Employees When the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce released its COVID-19 Business Impact Survey near the end of March, 26% of responding businesses had already laid off or furloughed employees; that’s a shocking stat, but when we consider that number implicates hundreds of members of our local community, and that the number only rose exponentially in the following weeks, it’s calamitous. The good news is that, in addition to augmented unemployment resources being provided by state
Making Hay ASAP (Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project) surveyed the farmers and vendors in its network to chart the impact of COVID-19 on local agriculture. The results, gathered March 23rd, indicate the impact of the pandemic on regional farmers:
STATS FROM 85 RESPONDENTS
business model, Copus was able to retain Carolina Flowers’ employees, but she was considerate of the repercussions beyond the financial impact: “I have to be able to re-create stability for my employees and give them a sense of what to expect on a daily basis. That’s so hard to make time for right now, but I believe it’s so important for their happiness at work.” Sometimes financial suppor t came from unexpected sources, like when Chai Pani Restaurant Group held an online auction and peddled items and experiences like limited release merchandise and private cocktail classes and a backyard BBQ party with pitmaster-owner, Elliott Moss; the effort raised $23,000 for the group’s employees. East Fork Pottery closed operations on March 17th but continued to pay all 80 employees their salaries, regardless of whether their work was of the sort
80% 80% cited decreases in customers and sales and an overall loss of income
If the crisis continues through the summer;
25% of those respondents specifically mentioned the loss of farmers market sales
of respondents predicted financial hardship, including bankruptcy and/ or getting out of farming as likely outcomes.
Source: asapconnections.org PDF - COVID-19: Impact on Southern Appalachian Farmers and Vendors Selling to Direct Markets
and local governments, many small businesses also offered support to their employees, or now-former employees, to help them navigate this tunnel to the other side. The most straightforward and frankly practical support these entrepreneurs could offer was monetary. Harvest Records promised to meet payroll through the end of March, regardless of their operations or staff hours, while Cultivated Cocktails was able to continue to offer their staff employment, even if part-time, and even if their job making hand sanitizer looked a little different from normal (They even brought on a new employee to help with the demand for sanitizer.). By expanding her 48
| May 2020
they could take home. Matisse even indicated that, if the crisis continued indefinitely, they’d redistribute salaries within the company in order to keep everyone employed. “We feel very committed to this path, but, of course, there’s the worry that maybe we’re falling on our swords out of pride, and that our team might be better off collecting unemployment than clinging to the hope of our business bouncing back,” Matisse admitted the first week of April. “We’re choosing to keep payroll because it feels like the right thing to do for our company — for employee wellness, morale, and financial security, and for business continuity. With the Division of Employment Security being as overloaded as it is,
photo by Evan Anderson
it felt dangerous and against company values to toss our team into that system.” Money wa sn’t t he on ly re sou rc e t he se entrepreneurs offered their employees (in part because many of them couldn’t afford that resource). Many local restaurateurs buoyed the supply chain and provided for their employees by funneling food orders into their staff’s pantries. “We have used our wholesale accounts to support our employees with food; each week we have created grocery bags with local veggies, meats, and dry goods to help, even just a little bit, to keep our staff healthy,” Hodge said in early April, and Rattigan did the same for her French Broad staff. In the weeks that Chai Pani and Buxton Hall remained open for takeout, they also offered their employees free daily meals. “We’re doing that because we want to feed them through this, but also so that they can see each other’s faces when they pick up their meal,” Molly Irani said in late March. This idea of maintaining connection between employees marked the efforts of many of our alumni entrepreneurs, though not with the techdriven, Zoom and Slack-fueled efforts of most businesses, but with authentic dialogue. Irani started an internal “family” newsletter to keep the company’s more than 250 employees connected; East Fork’s Matisse sent out daily writing prompts; and Hodge started a Facebook group to share resources and laughs. “After years of building a team into a family, it’s important to care for that bond even in uncertain times with the hope that we will be a united team once again,” Chai Pani’s Kelsey Burrow said of the company’s efforts to keep everyone united, even if distanced. Regardless of the method of support, almost all of our entrepreneurs expressed gratitude for the adaptiveness not just of their business, but of their team. “It’s not what they signed up for at all, but they shrugged and went with it,” Copus said in late March.
“We’ve had to develop new systems on the fly, which makes everyone feel like a failure. There’s so much failure in figuring things out. But they’re handling it really well. We’re trying very hard to keep each other’s spirits up. I think it’s working so far.”
Community Projections Every week we slipped queries into the inboxes of these ten alumni businesses: “How are things going?” we asked, and “What does the future look like?” Almost without exception, answers to the latter were expressed with the same syllables, “We just don’t know.” But as operating in the age of COVID-19 began to develop an air of normalcy,
For these small businesses, many of these adaptations weren’t necessarily novel, but these were the kinds of projects that always got pushed to the back burner... many were able to reflect on their adaptations and envision a future, if hazy, for their businesses. Once the mad-dash, chaotic act of pivoting was complete, many of these entrepreneurs found value in their efforts that could be replicated outside of COVID-19. Asheville Yoga Center’s Driver fully anticipates maintaining some level of virtual integration in the future, especially as it fosters reconnection with former students the world over; Capon of Harvest Records attested to the value they found in moving their inventory online and expects it will be an ongoing effort once the store reopens; the McGaugheys are considering retaining the grocer side of the business when Vivian’s kitchen warms back up; May 2020 | capitalatplay.com 49
and East Fork Pottery’s Matisse predicts that pre-orders could become a key element of their production model: “We’ve worked out a system to allow for pre-orders. We will absolutely be using this in the future. I’m currently chewing on the possibility of only making pots that have already been sold for the remainder of the year, as a cost-saving method,” she said in mid-April. For these small businesses, many of these adaptations weren’t necessarily novel — Driver mentioned they’d been meaning to make classes available online for years, and Matisse had long considered the potential of a pre-order model — but these were the kinds of projects that always got pushed to the back burner, shelved until a time when the business had extra time, money, or attention to dedicate to such a project. But with COVID-19 as a catalyst, these projects were whipped from their back burner simmer into a boil and taken up with a fervent efficiency that was the product of necessity. The drudgery associated with launching such new ventures and projects was tackled quickly, leaving in its place an economical, replicable system. Copus, who officially incorporated her new grocery business as Zadie’s Market on April 15th, said it well: “Because of COVID, we had no choice but to expand into groceries; I really and truly believe that. So now that we’ve done the work to set up distribution accounts, create new inventory systems, build and document processes, and change our insurance policy, why
not keep the business? So much of what we’ve done has been the boring stuff of building a business — why not do the fun stuff now? The branding, the new digs, the rollout, all those things are fun.” While so much of our future after COVID-19 remains unknown, many of these entrepreneurs trust they’ll find support then where they find it today, which is where they built their foundations long before pandemic shook them: our community. “Asheville is a special place,” Harvest Records’ Capon said several weeks into the recession. “The way our customers have rallied around us and similar small businesses, and the ways that we’ve been able to troubleshoot and communicate ideas with our fellow business owners — everyone truly is in this together here. It’s been overwhelmingly positive, and we’re grateful to be here.” It’s a refrain echoed throughout our conversations. Whether it was leaning on other business owners, as Copus did when she sought the mentorship of locals like Rhubarb’s John Fleer and Round Earth Roasters’ Laura Telford in opening the grocery venture, or the unwavering support of their customers, for which all of our entrepreneurs expressed gratitude, it’s clear that the success of these business’ adaptations is integrally tied to the place they call home.
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| May 2020
Meet the Businesses Sovereign Remedies
ALCOHOL Cultivated Cocktails (formerly H&H) Classy distiller of rum, gin, whiskey, profiled Sept. 2017
Charlie Hodge, multi-bar owner, profiled March 2020
Award-winning Indian cuisine, profiled April 2020
AGRICULTURE Carolina Flowers
Marshall-based flower farm & retailer, profiled Aug. 2019
MANUFACTURING East Fork Pottery
Manufacturers of Insta-famous pottery, profiled Jan. 2019
River Arts Districts fancy-but-fun eatery, profiled May 2018
French Broad Chocolate
Makers & vendors of chocolate, profiled May 2018
RETAIL Harvest Records
West Asheville’s hippest (& only) record shop, profiled Oct. 2016
E-commerce for craft breweries, profiled Sept. 2019
WELLNESS Asheville Yoga Center
Epicenter of the Asheville yoga scene, profiled Feb. 2018
106 Sutton Ave Black Mountain, NC 828.669.0075 towncountryfurniture.net
SALE May Sales on Rowe/Robin Bruce Sylvie
S H O P LO C A L • FA M I LY O W N E D A N D O P E R AT E D B U S I N E S S May 2020 | capitalatplay.com
A Real-ty Valuable Resource
Why should you work with a Realtor when buying or selling your home? Lots of reasons — let me explain.
is a Realtor with Beverly-Hanks & Associates in Hendersonville, North Carolina.
T THE TIME OF THIS WRITING, WITH
COVID-19 dominating our headlines, you might not be thinking about real estate – and we agree. There are priorities in life, and your health and that of your family is certainly more important than figuring out how to maximize your income from the sale of a property or how to buy your next house at the best price.
But life goes on, and someday – whether that’s next month or in ten years – your attention may return to real estate. In fact, for some buyers, a recession could even provide an opportunity for investment, and you want to make sure you’re prepared if it does. Remember that the average Realtor handles 12 real estate transactions per year, while the average homeowner buys or sells a house only once every seven years. A Realtor is also extensively trained and has passed a state licensing exam that, by all counts, is a bear of a test that ensures licensees (brokers) in North Carolina really know their stuff before they are allowed to practice their profession. In other words, a Realtor is exactly what you need
| May 2020
to lead you through your transaction in these uncertain times. So, what is the difference between a real estate agent and a Realtor? Passing the state test qualifies someone to be an agent (agents and brokers are the same thing in North Carolina). Becoming a Realtor is a higher level of certification in that a Realtor is subject to a Code of Ethics. You can find it by googling Realtor Code of Ethics, or pick up a copy at your local Board of Realtors’ office or at the office of most real estate companies. The Code of Ethics is an impressive list of requirements that holds Realtors to a high, unquestionable standard. For example, if your house is listed and your Realtor receives an offer, when do
they have to present it to you? Can they wait a day or two to see what else might come in? Is that fair? Is it even in the seller’s best interests? Article 1-6 of the Standards of Practice says, “REALTORS® shall submit offers and counter-offers objectively and as quickly as possible.” Realtors, in so many words, have to treat everyone in the transaction fairly and equitably. Another advantage of working with a Realtor is the amount of information they have access to thanks to their training and access to the local Multiple Listing Service. In Western North Carolina, the individual Boards of Realtors (Asheville, Hendersonville, Haywood, etc.) subscribe to a centralized MLS service in Charlotte, the Canopy Realtor Association. Member Realtors can provide you with huge amounts of data, ranging from the average or median selling price for a house like yours
FSBOs where buyer knew seller All FSBOs Homes sold by an agent
Typical Sold Price
IT’S TRUST AND RELATIONSHIPS; PEOPLE DO BUSINESS WITH PEOPLE THEY KNOW AND TRUST.
in your county, to how many similar homes have sold in the past six months, to the sales trends, to the price difference for identical housing county-by-county and even block-by-block in your neighborhood. It is a truly amazing resource, and a Realtor can make the data work for you to put you in the best position to make the right decision. But what if, being somewhat independently minded, you think you should just sell your house yourself to save the commission. Good idea, right? Wrong. Way Wrong.
For Best Results, Don’t For Sale By Owner I compare FSBO (for sale by owner) sales to the guy who sticks a sign in his yard at the end of a cul-de-sac and is surprised when the only showings he gets are his two next-door neighbors. It just doesn’t work as well as dealing with a full-service Realtor who actively promotes your property no matter the location and no matter the price. FSBOs as a percentage of sales have dropped dramatically over the past 35 years. In 1987 nearly 21% of all residential real estate sales were done by buyer and seller without a Realtor; in 2019 that number was just 8%. I think the reason for the decline is twofold: First, it’s trust and relationships; people do business with people they know and trust. I can’t tell you how many times people have called me or struck up a conversation that led to us working together. Second, it makes good business sense to work with a Realtor. The National Association of Realtors has rock-solid data showing that in 2018, the typical sold price for a FSBO
(nationwide averages) was $180,000. The typical price where the transaction was initiated and handled by a Realtor was a stunning $282,000. You can make all kinds of rationalizations for this, but the facts are the facts: Realtors get higher prices for their listing clients and, on the buyer side, are able to negotiate and coordinate the process so nothing is overlooked. And remember, at all times the client is making the final decisions. Finally, working with a Realtor gives you the opportunity to ask about the details of your contract that could make a big difference. Your Realtor will be able to expound on your contract and answer some really important questions like these: First, do you know about the due diligence period? Do you understand the purpose of the due diligence fee, and how that is different from earnest money? Second, do you understand that the offer to purchase and contract specifically states that the property is being purchased “in its current condition?” In that regard, what is an inspection all about? (Trust me, you need an inspection!) Third, where in the contract does it give a date and then say “time is of the essence”? Your Realtor will know and can explain it to you. Buying and selling real estate — your home — is a big life event, and just as with any such event, it’s invaluable to have the guidance and advice of an expert. Whether you’re buying or selling, a Realtor can help you navigate the transaction to help you make the most of it. May 2020 | capitalatplay.com
Testing, Testing morrisville
BioMedomics, based in Research Triangle Park, developed a point-of-care immunoassay for diagnosing coronavirus infection that returns results within 15 minutes. The company’s test kits have been used widely in China, and at the time of this writing, the kits have not been reviewed by the FDA, but because of public health emergency guidance issued by the FDA on March 16th, distribution stateside is permitted. The device uses proprietary technology to detect two proteins, immunoglobin M and immunoglobin G, which the body’s immune system produces in response to the virus. Since many carriers of the disease show no symptoms, Wang expects authorities to see more value in a system that detects biomarkers from
the body’s immune response rather than the virus itself. The biomarker data could help map how the virus spreads through populations and hasten the development and deployment of effective preventive measures.
trim, gutters, shutters, fencing, and masonry for residences. It also renders design and engineering services as well as certification training. Most recently, the company, headquartered in Cary, purchased Kleary Masonry of Northern California. Kleary is an installer and manufacturer of stone veneer. In business for three generations, Kleary cleared $40 million in sales last year. The acquisition was funded with cash and credit instruments already available to Cornerstone. James Metcalf, chairman and CEO of Cornerstone, explained the merger would, “strengthen our position in the fast-growing segment of the residential cladding market.”
Building the Building Supplier
Dormie Network has begun overhauling Dormie Club, a golf course it acquired in 2017. The club was originally developed by MHK Ventures. The only Coore & Crenshaw design in North Carolina, it was built on 309 acres around pine trees, hardwoods, and the 55-acre, manmade Coles Mill Lake. When the course was completed in 2009, it was ranked third in Golfweek’s list of best new courses, but it,
In 2018 Ply Gem Building Products and NCI Building Systems merged to become, by many counts, the largest manufacturer of exterior building supplies in North America. Now operating as Cornerstone Building Brands, the company provides doors and metal exterior finishing for commercial buildings and windows, doors, siding,
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“strayed from its original concept.” Two years after the Dormie Network acquired the Pinehurst property, it was back in the lists, with Golf Digest rating it the 12th best course in the state. To make it even better, renovations will include a new 16,600-sq.-ft. clubhouse and a standalone pro shop. Accommodations will offer 60 beds among three tiers of cottages, and six dining areas will include indoor and outdoor, formal and informal, and private and public options. With construction continuing through June 2021, the club will remain open and play should not be interrupted. Dormie Network was founded by the Peed family of Lincoln, Nebraska, who invest their earnings from the livestock and publishing trades into, among other things, refurbishing once-great golf courses. Dormie Club will be the sixth private destination golf club they have renovated, and all are paid-for.
able to franchise several other locations and add two trucks for old-fashioned peddling. Business remains great, but Scott wants to pursue another dream: developing the WOW Factor Party Pavilion and a professional wrestling gym. Scott said he was advised to go into the party venue business by his friend Candee Masters, who could no longer continue to run Kids Rock. The WOW Factor will serve both as the venue for USA Main Event Wrestling and as an event space for “just about every type of party imaginable.” Scott wants whoever buys Downtown Dairy Treats to maintain the tone he has established and be heavily invested in the community fiber of Lincolnton. Scott said, tongue-in-cheek, he took Steve Jobs’ advice to heart: If you want to make people happy, don’t be a leader, sell ice cream. Considering the venture a success, he wants to pass the torch to somebody who can keep the joy alive.
Happiness Is Job One
Chad Scott wants to sell his ice cream shop. Since opening in Lincolnton in 2016, Downtown Dairy Treats has become a community gathering spot. It was so successful, in fact, that Scott was
The UNC Institute of Marine Sciences’ wet lab reopened after being closed for one year during its $795,000 renovation. Most of the work done was in order to provide a state-of-the-art floor. It doesn’t
the old north state
sound like much, but the lab houses live marine specimens for testing, so it is easy for contaminated water to splash onto the floor. The new floors are grated with a drainage system engineered to make hosing the place down routine and safe. Materials and best-practice designs for wet labs have advanced considerably since the building was constructed 30 years ago. Research projects currently underway at the lab largely pertain to shellfish and water quality. A lot of work involves oysters, such as DNA testing to detect harmful bacteria in otherwise edible creatures and the creation and marketing of materials to trap sediment, stabilize shorelines, and form easily-accessible oyster habitat. North Carolina State University’s Marine Sciences and Technology department conducts experiments in dedicated space at the building, as well. The North Carolina Division of Coastal Management, which also cares for the animal specimens, provided funding for the lab’s rehabilitation.
The Rise and Fall of Mati durham
Mati Energy is going out of business. Founder Tatiana Birgisson launched the
A downtown shopping destination for more than 50 years where the amazing selection of footwear for men, women, and children is only outdone by the award-winning customer service
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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.
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1185 Charlotte Highway Suite I Fairview, NC 28730 828-628-1546 Katherine C Morosani
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organic energy drink company in 2012 while a student at Duke University. Her competitive edge was that she didn’t load her beverages with sugar, instead using a simple recipe of guayusa tea, fruit juice, and carbonated water. The drinks were described as giving the boost of an equivalent amount of coffee, but without a crash or jitters. Early on, the company won Google Demo Day, and soon thereafter received $100,000 from AOL cofounder Steve Case; it went on to sign contracts with major grocery chains like Whole Foods and Kroger. But in 2018, Birgisson was forced out of the company, and, shortly thereafter, Eric Masters, a former executive with Coca-Cola, was brought in to accelerate growth. The company had raised over $10 million, and Masters sold corporate equity to raise another $3.6 million in order to take the company to the next level. Masters attributed his plan’s failure to a supersaturated market dominated by players with far greater resources. He said he had been looking at the numbers for months and, still seeing no path to sustainability, decided to pull the plug. Manufacturing has ceased; only a skeleton crew remains to wind things down, and Masters will stay on as CEO until all assets and inventory are sold.
Solar Powered Innovation mooresville
Powerhome Solar won a place on Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies 2020 list, which included 434 businesses from 39 countries. Powerhome launched in 2015 with a mission of expanding the use of solar technology in residential spaces. The company’s services start with a free energy audit, then a consultant designs a customized system, and, if the price is right, the company will proceed with installing made-in-the-USA solar panels. (If the price is too steep, the company can arrange for financing.) Focusing on nuts-and-bolts education about the pragmatics of the technology and offering a free introduction to the company aren’t the only marketing strategies that set Powerhome apart; it also conspicuously advertises on its installations built for six professional sports franchises and one college athletic program. Founded in Mooresville in 2015, the company has since branched into commercial markets and now employs 800 in nine states.
Do-not Fear, Delivery Is Here winston-salem
“Craving a doughnut but can’t get off the couch?” read the headline in the Triad Business Journal. Krispy Kreme rolled out delivery service February 29th. The company, founded in Winston-Salem in 1937, now has 350 locations WE STE RN N ORT H C AROLINA’S BUSINESS LIFESTYLE MAGAZINE
| May 2020
around the world. Delivery was made available to anybody within 10 miles of a store for a charge of $4.99. To announce the new service, Krispy Kreme delivered free doughnuts to parents of Leap Day babies at hospitals within that 10-mile radius. To qualify, parents only had to tag @KrispyKreme with #KrispyKremeSpecialDelivery on Twitter or Instagram and name the hospital where the baby was born. Krispy Kreme would then deliver five dozen Original Glazed doughnuts. Stay-at-home orders are taken through the Krispy Kreme app or website and delivered by DoorDash. Krispy Kreme has been trying to launch delivery for several years but wanted to be sure doughnuts could be delivered “hot now” before launching full-scale.
Now They’re Really Lost wilmington
Filming of The Lost Boys was shut down over the coronavirus scare. Buzz over filming had started when the Wilmington Regional Film Commission listed the project as being in pre-production on its website. Then Hurricane Alley’s, a bar and grill in Carolina Beach, posted on Facebook that location scouts had confirmed scenes would be filmed on the boardwalk, and they’d need 200 extras for a carnival scene. Other locations included the 6th Street Bridge, Cardinal Lanes, and a country club in Wilmington. Extras would include surfers, joggers, pedestrians, EMTs, and fishermen. Pay was described as $64 for eight hours with a typical gig lasting 10-12 hours. But city filming permits were canceled in March because the cast and crew would number over 100. An adaptation of a cult vampire flick from 1987, The Lost Boys is a production of Warner Brothers for the CW Television Network. Another project being filmed in the area, Fox’s mockumentary This Country, dealt with advisories by accelerating filming with an attenuated selection of extras.
Back to Basics high point
The High Point Market was among the many events shut down following Governor Roy Cooper’s recommendation pertaining to gatherings expected to draw 100 or more. The event, open only to members of the furniture industry, typically brings tens of thousands from hundreds of countries to the area twice a year. Established in 1909, it has only been canceled once before because of World War II in 1942. Dudley Moore, Jr., chair of the High Point Market Authority board and president of Otto & Moore, expressed regrets over foreseen economic repercussions affecting the industry, community, and thousands of people and endeavors that would suffer loss May 2020 | capitalatplay.com 57
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downstream. The convention, originally scheduled for April 25–29, was going to include a gala with a keynote series headed by style icon Miranda Kerr. Now tentatively rescheduled for June 12-14, the pared-down market will cut the fanfare and stick to transactions between buyers and sellers, like appointments and meetings in the showrooms.
Ball at the Mall gastonia
Oscar Davila wasn’t sure a shopping mall was the greatest spot for a baseball training facility, but things turned out better than expected. Following a trend of providing services in brickand-mortar spaces originally built for retailing merchandise, Davila opened Powerhouse Dugout in Eastridge Mall. The business operates where several businesses, including Forever 21, once stood. It houses two 50-foot batting cages and two professional 70-foot cages with mounds. It also has a small workout area with weights and an assortment of fitness equipment. While it has an Iron Mike pitching machine, coaches are available by appointment to provide 15-, 30-, and 60-minute sessions for all levels of ability. Space may be booked online, and memberships are available, but the facility is primarily used by the five amateur teams Davila manages as Powerhouse Baseball. Davila says this “great little hole in the wall in the mall” benefits from visibility to foot traffic, and customers are attracted by the climate-controlled environment and high-quality artificial turf.
Knocking on Education’s Door burlington
Robert Drummond and staff from the central office of the Alamance County School System are making the rounds to keep up education during quarantine. 58
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Aware that poverty affects many children’s ability to participate in online learning activities during the COVID19 shutdown, Drummond, who is the principal of Turrentine Middle School, visited about 35 children in one day in order to deliver educational packets to areas of concentrated need. Materials, which are now being distributed more broadly, include workbooks covering core areas, as well as subjects like foreign languages and even physical education, and they only review material already taught. Drummond’s team is delivering the packets, as well as nonperishable food provided through the school’s social workers and volunteers, to residential developments with the greatest need. Extra packets are left at housing development offices and at the schools, and they will be delivered to anybody who phones school offices and requests them.
Too Late asheboro
Randolph Health has filed for bankruptcy. Angie Orth, who was made CEO in 2018 and tasked with “stopping the bleeding,” reached out to Cone Health Systems, her former employer, who helped the hospital develop a management action plan that identified 300 cost-reducing measures that could save a total of $4 million. Some of the most significant changes adopted were switching to Atrium as a lower-cost supplier, closing the surgery center, and eliminating contract labor. Even with these changes, the hospitals’ circumstances still prevented its salvation. It serves an aging population with growing needs for chronic and acute care; it’s too late now for many of those people to benefit from preventive measures widely adopted by other health systems. What’s more, about half the population is uninsured or covered by Medicaid/CHIP, which does not reimburse at market levels. Randolph wrote off $17 million in uncollectable receipts in 2018. While the changes
stabilized day-to-day operations and began reducing the hospital’s debt, the operations still did not bring in enough revenue to address capital needs in the 60-year-old building. Now that the hospital has declared bankruptcy, any number of paths are available for a successor organization to meet the county’s healthcare needs.
Contractors Fill Hole pleasure island
The Pleasure Island Chamber of Commerce hosted a grand opening for Flooring Direct. While it has a familiar ring, the business was conceived only recently. Keith Bloemendaal, owner of Dutch Built Homes, constructed 15 houses in the area in 2018 and also noted “a hole in the market” when it came to finding flooring for refurbishing older homes. He therefore went into business as a supplier with Justin McKeithan, who is a co-owner and fellow installer. Combined, the two have 54 years’ experience as contractors. The store is intended as a one-stop shop for hardwood, vinyl, carpet, and tile flooring; cabinets and vanities; granite, marble, and butcherblock countertops; hardware; shutters; and fireplaces. The complete showroom is staffed by knowledgeable, professional, and accommodating salespersons, Gary Babbitt and Travis Whitlow. The building also has a bargain room for overstock. To celebrate the opening, the store offered $1/square foot vinyl flooring in addition to its daily contractor discounts. While the store just opened, business couldn’t wait. Last year, Bloemendaal was already involved in a number of installations, doing business as Flooring Direct.
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In accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act, the United States Forest Service (USFS) began
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hosting open houses throughout Western North Carolina in order to receive public input on a proposed land management plan for Pisgah and Nantahala national forests. Coronavirus, however, forced the cancellation of the meetings. While opportunities to weigh in at fs.usda. gov/goto/nfs/nc/nprevision remained, the forest service decided to extend the comment period “indefinitely.” On the table are four options. Option A, maintaining the status quo, is described as unsustainable, while the other three options call for increases in recreation opportunities and active management. Active forest management includes logging, planting, and controlled burning, all of which would disrupt existing habitat to some degree. After a new closing date for comment passes, it will be another year before the USFS weighs and considers the tens of thousands of comments expected.
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One winner in the economic recession being set by coronavirus: garden shops. Multiple news outlets reported record sales at garden centers, as customers looked for something to keep them busy, help them feel useful, and get them involved with the kids while confined at home and practicing social distancing. Keeping a good thing going, Prevost, the largest garden retailer in the state, started offering free delivery within a 10-mile radius, launched a curbside pickup for online orders, and moved its point-of-sale registers outside to facilitate the flow of business and prevent too many people from standing too close to one another for too long. The phenomenon, of course, is not unique to North Carolina. News from Australia, for example, reports buses being chartered for city folk to descend upon rural seed and feed stores.
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photo by Jennifer Callahan Photography
Petal Pushers THE
written by le ah middleton
| May 2020
leisure & libation
Neighborhood Indoor Botanical Shops Deliver More Than Just Flowers. May 2020 | capitalatplay.com 61
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photo by Jennifer Callahan Photography
photo by Meghan McIver
here is a class of universally popular shops, found everywhere from California to Carolina, that share an interior aesthetic that’s what social media influencers might consider “Instagrammable:” modern architecture and open spaces; cotton-colored walls paired with gleaming marble countertops; dark wooden furniture complemented by French-inspired, forest green velvet sofas. It’s a diverse style that is simultaneously pleasing to the eye and to the soul, encouraging the kind of relaxed tranquility usually reserved for the places we call home. Though the styles vary from brightly modern to French chateau traditional, they always have one thing in common: plants. Lots of plants. 62
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With the help of social media, which allows shop owners to highlight their boutiques and attract locals and tourists alike through stylized images, botanical shops are thriving. Influencers and their followers flock to these shops to capture selfies surrounded by nature’s (indoor) beauty, then geotag their location for others to enjoy. The shops also draw local gardeners, decorators, and plain old gift buyers who hear of their wares and services from word-of-mouth promises of having just the right thing. Whether they’re walk-in customers or die-hard fans, visitors leave with fragrant cut flowers, thriving house plants, unique gifts, and an experience that’s part florist, part boutique, and entirely memorable.
More Than Meets the Eye They might come for the philodendrons and fiddle-leaf figs, but once in these floral shops, there’s plenty to keep customers entertained, from auxiliary coffee bars, to monthly workshops, to giftable knick-knacks. When walking
photo by Anthony Harden
the pedestrian thoroughfares of West, South, or North Asheville, you’ll likely come across each neighborhood’s notso-secret indoor garden offering up more than just a bundle of bubblegum peonies or a bouquet of dried lavender; inside you’ll find local goodies or timeless acrylic paintings from a River Arts District artist, and you’ll meet plant experts who are excited to share their wealth of knowledge on how to keep your new plant friend alive. The showpiece of each of these shops is, of course, its selection of flowers and plants: petite African violets and string of pearls, trailing ferns and philodendrons, and proudly tall snake and swiss cheese plants, plus buckets of seasonal cuttings like daffodils, dahlias, daisies, ranunculus, lilies, and lilac. But in meandering through these alleys of flowers, customers will also find other trinkets to take home or gift, like ceramic plant pots created by local artists or a magnetic animal head for their refrigerator, Vermont goat milk caramels or dark chocolate bars from French Broad Chocolate, and diffusers from Antica Farmacista or one-of-a-kind artwork.
photo by Anthony Harden
The goal of these shops is to provide not just the plants, but the resources for customers to care for them. That’s why it’s important for the shop owners and associates to share advice on plant care so that their customers can be successful in their own greenhouse (or regular house). Most shops will offer plant care workshops that welcome individuals looking to improve their competence, opening the floor to share knowledge and advice from their years of experience. Thanks to a supportive local community of talented creatives, these botanical shops are able to offer a variety of hands-on workshops for all shades of green thumbs. From wreath-making around the holiday season to arranging your own spring bouquet, shop owners frequently take on the role of mentors within their communities through workshops. Workshops offer an intimate teaching experience with designers and shop owners who guide you through the formulas of creating your own floral centerpiece. Attendees receive firsthand lessons in the artistry of floral design, using everything from foraged greenery from their own backyard, to an assortment of native wildflowers, May 2020 | capitalatplay.com 63
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MEGHAN MCIVER AND LINDSAY RILEY of Palm + Pine, photo by Taylor Tkach
to lush dahlias from flower farms within miles of the shop. The result is a temporary arrangement, but the skills and design inspiration last long beyond the class. Want them to do the work for you? There’s a boutique for that. Though these local flower shops are popular for their fresh-cut flowers and indoor plants, they also offer an array of design services for weddings, events, and arrangement deliveries. Each individual shop has their own floral design process for weddings, but most start with a consultation with the engaged couple to discuss the decor vision for their gathering. Some shops, like Flora, offer full-service floral design, in which they install floral fixtures before the ceremony and deliver boutonnieres and bouquets for the bridal party. After the wedding, Flora gives couples the option to donate their flowers to Meals on Wheels so that their bouquets get a second chance and brighten a senior’s day. Other shops, like the Gardener’s Cottage, provide special occasion arrangements that combine seasonal flowers, like tulips or calla lilies, into a unique bouquet.
West Asheville: Palm + Pine Roaming through West Asheville, an unassuming grey brick building hides the kind of botanical shop 64
| May 2020
millennials dream of: an open floor plan where sunbeams kiss the sand-colored flooring, bounce off the pearly white walls, and bathe the plants in a golden glow. Hundreds of plants raise their arms high, arching towards those warm, distilled rays. Meghan McIver, co-owner of Palm + Pine, notes that the space, and the good vibes it brings, are entirely intentional. “Our most common compliments are that it ‘feels good’ or ‘smells nice in here’... that’s on purpose. Everything we do with this space is intentional and is a direct reflection of who we are as individuals and what kind of energy we want to put into the world,” she says. Visitors to the shop are surrounded by hefty monsteras, canopy-like philodendron selloum, and assorted prickly cacti, transporting them instantly from the Blue Ridge Mountains to the deserts of Sedona. Upon entering, it becomes a little easier to breathe—literally: Scientists have proven time and time again that having plants in your home helps you breathe easier. Palm + Pine started as a different concept from its current brick-and-mortar in December 2018, when McIver started building a brand for herself on Instagram, selling plant cuttings online, teaching plant care classes, and offering plant installation services to local Asheville businesses. While working in retail
together, McIver met now co-owner Lindsay Riley. The two quickly learned that their skills complemented one another, and the duo decided to collaborate to make Palm + Pine a bigger business. Together they dreamed of expanding Palm + Pine into a physical space, which led to their taking courses at Mountain BizWorks to make their dreams a reality. The reimagined Palm + Pine first ran as a pop-up shop from May to October 2019; McIver and Riley would host events at local businesses around Asheville, bringing their plants, directly sourced from local warehouses and growers, to sell. The pop-up shop validated the success of their concept, and they finally opened a permanent door to the public in West Asheville in January of 2020. When starting Palm + Pine, McIver heartily believed in sharing information about each individual plant
“Sharing knowledge is one of the tenets of our business, and I am always happy to share everything I know about each individual plant.”
INSIDE FLORA, photo by Jennifer Callahan Photography
she sold to her customers so that they could keep it thriving. Sharing knowledge was something she did online through her Instagram platform when beginning the business, and she brings that ethos over to the physical brick-and-mortar today. “We teach plant care classes and host a monthly plant club on the last Thursday of every month, which is free and open to the public — folks can bring clippings to swap, come with questions, or just come to hang. Our focus on community and plant education sets us apart — we are here to sell you plants, yes, but we also want to help you keep them alive,” says McIver. For those whose green thumb is black enough that it’s a challenge to keep even a cactus alive, they’ll find comfort in plant experts like McIver and Riley, who are open books of resources. “I encourage people to ask questions. I walk around the store with folks all of the time. It’s a very integrated and personalized approach to the retail experience. Beyond the aesthetic and energetic, I always want people to feel comfortable asking questions,” McIver promises. “Sharing knowledge is one of the tenets of our business, and I am always happy to share everything I know about each individual plant.” May 2020 | capitalatplay.com 65
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photos this page by Jennifer Callahan Photography
West Asheville: Flora Walking into Flora is like walking into Disney’s Enchanted Forest, but with the approachability of your friend’s living room: long vines trail from the ceiling; large fiddle-leaf fig trees nestle in corners with handmade straw vases; and easy-to-care-for terrariums in geometric glass containers hang from shelves. A petite coffee corner offers Dynamite Roasting Company botanical lattes and espresso paired with locally made, organic pastries from the Rhu Bakery, and customers grip steaming mugs as they catch up with friends or lounge comfortably with a book from neighbor Bagatelle Books. In the center of the adjacent room sits a fountain of blossoms: bundles of gold sunflowers, watercolor pink roses, dainty baby’s breath, and Crayola bright royal purple and magenta-colored ranunculus. Flora began as owner Melissa Thomas’ wedding and events floral design business, which was based in her basement, and has since evolved into a full-service floral design studio in a two storefront building on Haywood Road in West Asheville. Today, Flora is known both for its luscious, whimsical floral design for weddings and events, including a specialty in living wall designs, and for its storefront, which is both a shop and a community maker. Thomas’ dream to expand Flora was inspired by creating a gathering space for locals. “Our idea is to create a place where people can have an oasis right in town. Where hopefully they can relax for a bit and get inspired to bring some natural beauty and sustainability into their everyday life at home,” explains Thomas. “We want customers to walk in the shop and feel the weight of their lives lighten. Ideally, they will be able to envision themselves living a lifestyle that is more balanced with nature.” 66
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THE GARDENER’S COTTAGE, photo by Sunday Grant
While the shop is known for its plants (hence its name), Flora also offers unique home decor like animal-shaped pots filled with foliage and moss and nostalgic botanical prints. Flora’s designers offer a variety of botanical workshops and events, including terrarium making, floral design, plant care, and other various botanical crafts. In addition to hosting events in their space on Haywood, Flora also oversees workshops at the North Carolina Arboretum: “It is such a beautiful place and we are lucky to be a part of a garden of trees!” says Thomas. The first Friday of every month, music lovers can catch local songwriters like Slow Packer, Sophia Corinne, and Margot and the Toothless Hags performing in the shop’s music series. “It first began with a team member, Claire, who started the Flora Listening Room Series,” says Thomas. “Now we have musicians who reach out to us to play, and we love having live music and so do our plants.” Concert goers can enjoy a glass of red wine or local ginger beer from Ginger’s Revenge while taking in tunes in Asheville’s most unique venue.
Biltmore Village: The Gardener’s Cottage The architecture of historic Biltmore Village mirrors a children’s book version of a hamlet in England. In springtime,
the Village, painted with dogwoods blooming white and pink, takes strollers back to the 1890s, when the community was built to house the workers of the nearby Biltmore Estate. Since then, these historic buildings, then constructed to be residences, have been converted into small businesses and restaurants like the Gardener’s Cottage. Tucked near the Biltmore Estate entrance, the historic English Tudor cottage is filled with enchanting antiques, artwork, and, of course, flowers and plants. The Gardener’s Cottage was founded by Bee Sieburg in 1997 solely as a flower shop. Shortly after,Sieburgwas joined by her sister, Molly Courcelle, when they expanded to offer retail items like antiques and local artistry, ceramics, and vases. In 2004 the sisters swapped garden gloves for paint brushes and passed the shop on to two new sisters, Laura Belsinger and Libby Endry, who were employees of Seiburg’s at the time. When Endrey and her sister took over Gardener’s Cottage, they wanted to continue offering both floral design and home decor. “I think what makes it unique is the combination of the fresh plants and flowers mixed with handpicked gifts and the time we put into finding unique pieces. The combination of old and new adds a charm and unique feeling to the shop,” comments Endry. May 2020 | capitalatplay.com 67
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photo by Jennifer Callahan Photography
At the Gardener’s Cottage, you’ll find limited-edition gifts that were intentionally chosen by Endry, as well as bundles of florets from local growers like Flourish Flower Farm, Carolina Flowers, and Judy Carson in Barnardsville.
“I want it to look good, smell good, and sound good, so that they feel happy when they’re here. I think of all of these things when I’m shopping in a store.” Endry’s flair for finding unique pieces has cultivated a diverse, ever-changing inventory: an antique silver bowl marked by lion’s head handles filled with local moss and ferns; cobalt and milky vases with Chinese art from the 1800s; an English George III mahogany chest; and books upon books of gardening inspiration. 68
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In addition to its charming indoor space, Endry’s unique inventory continues outside the shop, with carved stone statues of lambs and playfully posed children in the garden. Outdoor plants are available for purchase, like pilea baby tears, multi-colored violas, and silvery rex begonia tucked into a Bergs Potter ceramic pots. “I want them to feel like they’ve been transported when they come into the shop,” Endry says of the feelings she hopes the Gardener’s Cottage instills in its customers. “I want it to look good, smell good, and sound good so that they feel happy when they’re here. I think of all of these things when I’m shopping in a store, and so I try to incorporate that into my shop.” When it comes to arrangements, Gardener’s Cottage offers a more classical approach to their floral design, which includes special touches like romantic stone-sculpted vases. The shop has a team of designers on hand for large events like weddings and local events. “I have a longtime flower crew that I basically inherited from when Bee owned the shop that I am fortunate to still work with when we’re doing a big event,” Endry explains. “We do a lot of small
photos this page by Anthony Harden
LIBBY ENDRY of Gardener’s Cottage
ROSE BARTLETT of Rose’s Garden Shop
gatherings as well that Sarah Mollere, our shop manager and flower designer, [and I] take on together.” Like the other botanical boutiques, the Gardener’s Cottage also offers occasional workshops in which gardeners of all levels learn design from founder Bee Sieburg herself. “Last year Bee and I taught a Mother’s Day flower workshop where you could come with your mom/daughter (or not!). I call Bee my ‘Asheville Mama,’ and so it was special to teach a workshop with her,” Endry says.
North Asheville: Rose’s Garden Shop Hidden behind large oaks and evergreens lies a 1917 era house; in springtime it sits in a nest of daffodils with a welcoming, front-facing garden that features a native flower collection, a striking stone sculpture, and a miscellany of gardening pots. It feels like coming home, and for shop owner and resident of the Charlotte Street flower shop, Rose Bartlett, it is. Bartlett settled in the mountains of Asheville after a visit to finish her book, The Bartlett Book of Garden Elements, that she and her late husband collaborated on. The trip was
May 2020 | capitalatplay.com 69
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Coming Up Roses Rose Bartlett of Rose’s Garden Shop recommends five houseplants and shares her growing tips so even you green gardeners can keep them thriving.
MONSTERA DELICIOSA A fast-growing plant that makes a statement with its big, bold, fenestrated leaves. Monstera is easy to grow, provided you don’t overwater it, and it’s adaptable to lower light conditions, just don’t set it in direct sunlight. Unfortunately, this plant is toxic to pets.
ZAMIOCULCAS ZAMIFOLIA, OR ZZ PLANT An upright plant with dark green leaves so shiny they look like they’ve been polished. The ZZ plant can succeed in very low-light spots and will tolerate bright light, but not direct sun. It should be watered no more than every two weeks. Unfortunately, it is also toxic to pets.
MARANTA LEUCONEURA, OR PRAYER PLANT Known for leaves that fold up at night, hence its alias, “Prayer Plant.” The velvety leaves are beautifully striped with red or white, and from time to time small pink flowers emerge. The plant has a cascading growth form and does best in middle light but can take somewhat lower light. It is non-toxic to pets.
PHILODENDRON CORDATUM, OR HEART LEAF PHILODENDRON An easy-to-grow vining plant with moderate to fast growth that tolerates low light. It can be grown in a hanging basket or trained to climb a pole or totem. It has dark green, heart-shaped leaves, and there is a variety called “Brasil ” that has chartreuse stripes on the leaves. Another plant toxic to pets.
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FERNS They are not the easiest to grow because of their dislike of dry conditions — both dry soil and low humidity. But there are so many diverse forms, from the delicate and graceful Maidenhair fern to the architecturally striking Bird’s Nest with its strappy leaves. If you love to pamper plants, ferns will reward you with the drama of their unfurling fronds. They prefer middle light and are non-toxic to pets.
photo by Anthony Harden
photo by Jennifer Callahan Photography
enough to make Bartlett fall in love with the eclectic style of Asheville and its folks, and she decided to make the town her new home. She purchased the commercial space on Charlotte Street in the historic Albemarle Park with a clear vision of founding a neighborhood flower shop where she could apply her knowledge gleaned through more than thirty years of experience as a designer of flower, herb, and vegetable gardens. The compact and cozy rooms of Rose’s shop are home to a collection of conventional and unconventional house plants, vintage accessories and antiques, and outdoor ornaments. Bartlett is proud to offer lesser-known plants than her flower shop counterparts, like hindu rope, a rare plant in the area, easy adaptable ZZ plants, and snake plants. Some of these species are easily adaptable, so individuals who may struggle with regular ferns and fiddle leafs might find more success with Rose’s offerings. Barlett is also a great guide for finding the best plant based on the customer’s current living conditions and availability for care. She occasionally ventures to antique shops and estate auctions as far as her old stomping grounds in Washington, D.C., and over the mountains to Tennessee to find the best pieces to refurbish and restock her home decor selection, so the wares she finds are spectacularly unique, artifacts and ornaments like a distressed stone sculpture of a mermaid holding a seashell or owl-shaped bookends. Bartlett’s team includes other plant experts who have worked with her since she opened shop in 2013. “Dee May 2020 | capitalatplay.com
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Eversmeyer was horticultural manager at The National Cathedral and is an encyclopedia of plant knowledge, and Julie Van Buren is hands-on in plant care as well as a great refurbisher of the ‘stuff’ I find,” Rose says of her collaborators. “We all care deeply about plants and love sharing our knowledge.” Another integral member of the team: Bartlett’s Corgi Border Collie mix, Yote.
Western North Carolina: Botanical Shops Galore While some may think that a saturated floral industry in Western North Carolina means escalated competition, our botanical boutiques actually thrive off and complement one another. “Asheville has a nice group of garden shops, and I feel like we fit together like a jigsaw puzzle. Each does something a little different, so we don’t really compete,” Bartlett says, noting that shops are quick to refer customers to one another if they don’t find what they’re looking for at their first stop.
photo by Anthony Harden
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“It’s a very supportive floral community here though, and I feel lucky that we can all call on each other. I used to feel so competitive when I was younger which is funny to think about now. We really love supporting each other and
to farmers. “I’ve lived here for 12 years and have been frequenting local plant shops in the area for almost that entire length of time,” McIver says. “I love the folks at Fifth Season Garden Supply — they’re some of the most knowledgeable and kind in the business; I buy fertilizer and soil from them regularly.” “We love supporting and working with local farms and greenhouses who grow for the public,” says Flora’s Thomas. “We feel really fortunate to be part of such a wonderful community, and we have lots of flower friends who help us out and vice versa. Asheville has a very tight-knit community of makers and artists, and everyone here wants everyone to succeed.” There’s a belief among gardeners that planting too close together breeds discord — that one plant might overshadow another — but when it comes to gardeners themselves, they’re best when planted together. Such is the case with the sweet botanical living shops of Western North Carolina.
We feel really fortunate to be part of such a wonderful community, and we have lots of flower friends who help us out and vice versa. seeing each other succeed, and that is such a wonderful thing,” comments the Gardener’s Cottage’s Endry, who collaborates with other shops in the area on projects like the grand opening gala of the Asheville Art Museum, which she coordinated with Flora and Brevard’s Floressence. Local shop owners also attribute their success to other limbs of the local floral industry, from suppliers
The Cabinet Design Studio at
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May 2020 | capitalatplay.com 73
The Most Powerful Force in the Universe
is a wealth management advisor at White Oak Financial Management, Inc..
LBERT EINSTEIN REPORTEDLY SAID, “The most powerful force in the universe is not gravity,
but compounding returns.” It’s unlikely he actually uttered those exact words, but it makes a great point — a point that investors should revisit in both good times and bad.
“Compounding returns” means an investor is earning a return on the original investment and is earning a return on the returns. To illustrate the power of compounding, let’s think about two people, Maria and Harry, both 20 year-old-college students with part-time jobs. After taking a finance course, Maria decides to save $50 per week and invest it in the stock market. She sets up an automatic deposit into a stock fund* that tracks the returns of the S&P 500. Easy peasy — set it and forget it! Harry did not take that finance course and just goes on about his life. Ten years later, at age 30, Maria turns off those automatic deposits because she is now saving through her employer-sponsored 401(K), but she keeps that original account invested as before. At the same time, Harry decides he better get busy saving for retirement. Just like Maria, Harry starts investing $50 per week in that same stock fund. Skip ahead 35 years. Maria and Harry are both 65 and thinking about retirement — but their
| May 2020
circumstances are a little different. Maria invested a total of $26,000 of her own money over those first 10 years ($50 per week x 52 weeks per year x 10 years). Harry invested a total of $91,000 over the last 35 years. Each invested in the same stock fund, earning the same rate of return over all those years. (For ease of calculation, let’s assume the long-term, total return of the stock fund was 10% per year.) Perhaps surprisingly, it’s Maria who has more money. (See chart 1.) Even though Harry invested three-and-a-half times as much money as Maria ($91,000 versus $26,000), Maria’s account is 50% larger than Harry’s ($1.2 million versus $829,000). That’s because of compounded returns. Even though Maria invested a much smaller amount, her investment had ten more years to earn a return on the returns; that extra time of compounding returns is the difference, and it’s a big one. It is easy to understand why Einstein might have called compounding the most powerful force in the universe.
Chart 1 $1,300,000
1/1/2014 1/1/2015 1/1/2016 1/1/2017 1/1/2018
It is particularly important not to lose sight of this basic principle of investing when markets get unsettled and volatile as they have this year. Turbulent times can lead investors to consider getting out of the market to wait for things to settle down, then reentering the market once the chaos passes. Such a desire is perfectly understandable, but taking such action can result in as much damage to a portfolio as the downturn itself. The reason relates back to the power of compounding returns. Here’s an example to prove the point. Toward the end of 2012, things were unsettled and the market was volatile; political uneasiness permeated the national consciousness, and the financial crisis was still at the forefront of everyone’s minds. An investor made the decision to exit the markets, worried about an impending downturn. But then 2013 was a great year — up about 30% — and the investor missed it. Few, if any, predicted 2013 was going to be a great year; I certainly didn’t. But even before it panned out, I cautioned the investor that the decision to exit the markets was not in keeping with long-term principles of investing. What was the impact? Let’s say the investor had $100,000 invested in the same S&P 500 stock fund that Maria and Harry used. Graph 2 includes two lines: The green line represents the account’s value if the investor had stayed fully invested throughout the period, and the blue line is the portfolio’s value without the 2013 returns. It proves that missing a move higher can have as large of a negative impact on a portfolio as a downturn does. Missing 2013 resulted in an account that is 23% lower than it would have been otherwise, a difference that is compounding over time.
In other words, the dollar difference between the two lines is increasing over time. I recognize that if 2013 had been a down year, the investor would be better off today. But I don’t have a crystal ball that tells me when markets are going up or down, all I can go on are the principles of investing — one of which is that missing a move higher can negatively impact a long-term investor. Data going back to 1930 shows that if an investor who owned the S&P 500 missed the ten best days in each decade (roughly one day per year), the investor’s total return would be just 91%, compared with a total return of 14,965% for investors who were invested throughout the entire period. That difference is staggering and is the result of compounding returns. There are principles for getting into the markets as well as ones for getting out; neither involve trying to time the bottom or the top. Compounding is a very powerful force in investing, a force that cannot be forgotten when markets become chaotic as they have this year. Moving forward, we can expect that markets will continue to go up and down and that some investors will want to step to the sidelines during turbulent times. Such an action greatly increases an investor’s risk of missing out because whenever the market does find a bottom and does turn around, missing out is just like experiencing a second downturn on top of the downturn just endured — a real double whammy! * All discussion of stock funds in this article are referring to hypothetical situations. The hypothetical stock fund and the returns used in the calculations are based on the assumptions provided. As with all investment discussions, past performance does not guarantee future results. May 2020 | capitalatplay.com 75
Fish written by bill kopp
photos by anthony harden
A Third Generation Carries on the Legacy of Sunburst Trout in Haywood County.
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HARVESTING TROUT from the farm. May 2020 | capitalatplay.com 77
EMPLOYEES HAND clean trout fillets.
t the start, Dick Jennings had no particular background in aquaculture. But in 1948, the enterprising young Pennsylvania-born engineer established a commercial trout farm. The venture that Jennings launched has grown into a thriving enterprise that continues to this day. A Western North Carolina family-owned and operated business, now led by brothers Wesley and Benjamin Eason (Jennings’ grandsons), Sunburst Trout Farms celebrated its 70th anniversary in 2018. Sunburst Trout’s processing facility is in a Waynesville industrial park, but the fish still come from the family trout farm, which is nestled in a valley eight miles north of the Blue Ridge Parkway. The farm stands in the shadow of a nearly 100-yearold dam in the pristine headwaters of the Pigeon River’s west fork. Above that dam lies 80-acre Lake Logan, situated on property owned by an Episcopal Diocese of WNC. “There are only two houses above the lake,” says Ben Eason, co-owner and manager, “and then beyond that, it’s national forest.” The history of Sunburst Trout Farms is an unlikely one, a three-generations-and-continuing tale that speaks of forging one’s own path, learning on the job, taking risks, and being unafraid to change direction when it feels right to do so. It begins shortly after the end of World War II, not in Western North Carolina but just outside the industrial metropolis of Pittsburgh. 78
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From Mink to Trout “Our [maternal] grandfather, Dick Jennings, founded the company,” says Wes Eason, co-owner and director of sales. Jennings lived in Sewickley, a Pittsburgh suburb with just over 5,000 residents, and by his mid-20s he was well-traveled, including some time in Europe. Jennings had recently earned his engineering degree from Yale, and it seemed reasonable to expect that he would go into the family business. “He came from an oil family,” Wes recalls, “but he just did not want to be that kind of businessman.” So Jennings moved to Western North Carolina. “He had vacationed down here as a child with his parents,” Wes explains. The family owned property in the Lake Toxaway and Cashiers region, “a big swath of land called Lonesome Valley.” Jennings had long since fallen in love with the area, so in the mid-’40s he acquired a tract of land within his family’s property and started a mink farm. That endeavor wasn’t as odd then as it might seem today; in postwar America, mink coats and stoles were wildly popular. “He would raise minks, process them there, and sell them to furriers, mostly in New York City,” says Wes. “I don’t know why he thought mink would be his cup of tea,” he adds with a bemused chuckle. The business was a successful one, but Jennings yearned for greater challenges. During his earlier
visits to Europe, he got a firsthand look at the thriving aquaculture industry there, particularly the popular venture of salmon farms. “They were doing a lot of it in France,” Wes says. “He was seeing how they were hatching fish, raising them, feeding and harvesting them.” Thus inspired, Jennings added a trout farm to his list of endeavors. “He did it just to have another business,” Wes says. “He had plenty of space and beautiful water in Lonesome Valley, so he ran both [businesses] at the same time.” The company’s original name was Cashiers Valley Trout Farm. But within a few years, Dick Jennings sensed that things were changing. “He could see the writing on the wall: Food was a much more stable business than fashion,” says Wes. “So he got out of the mink business and kept farming trout.” Jennings was a pioneer in his field. Wes points out that today there are hundreds, if not thousands of trout farms in the United States, but most of those are out West; Sunburst Trout Farms is one of only two in Western North Carolina. At the outset, Dick Jennings’ trout farm didn’t deal in retail: “He was just selling live fish to stock ponds and lakes,” Wes says. But the business kept on growing. “It wasn’t until the mid-’60s, when he moved the farm to its current location, that he branched out,” says Wes. It was also at that time that the founder changed the business name to Jennings Trout Farm. Jennings’ primary reason for moving the farm had to do with water volume. “There’s nothing wrong with the water up there in Jackson County,” Wes emphasizes. “It’s great. But if you have a drier, hotter summer, those creeks and springs that were on the property would dry up.” And that spells danger to a trout farm. “You need a pretty substantial volume of water to raise rainbow trout,” he explains. The new location would provide that all year round. “Because of the depth of the lake – we’re pulling from the bottom – we can pull 6,000 gallons per minute,” Wes says.
Sunburst: The Next Generation In 1985, after 40 years at the helm, Dick Jennings began to step away from the business. “But just a little bit,” Wes adds with a chuckle. At that point, Jennings’ daughter and her husband — Wes and Ben’s parents — ran the farm and processing facility. In 2001 Dick Jennings was recognized for his efforts and success: He was inducted into the North Carolina Agricultural Hall of Fame. May 2020 | capitalatplay.com 79
Brothers Wes and Ben Eason came on board that same year, but it was never a foregone conclusion that they would have roles in the family business. “We would work here as teenagers,” Wes says, but he had plans to work in the field of juvenile delinquency. “I did an internship in Charleston,” he continues, “and it opened my eyes. I have great respect for people in that line of work, but it’s not what I wanted to do. I found it difficult and sad.” Around that time, Wes’ parents told him that they were a little short-staffed at the farm. When they asked if he wanted some hours while he worked things out, Wes said yes. “Twenty years later, here I am,” he laughs. When Wes returned, he brought a new perspective. “I saw the places that we sold to and how fresh this product was,” he says. “I looked at it as more than just a job. The pride and the challenge of this business is what brings me in. I love what I do. I love everybody I work with. I love the customers that I deal with. Everybody respects what we do, and I’m proud of every sale I make.” On the surface, Ben’s path was different, but essentially similar. “I thought I was going to be a chef,” he says. He spent a year in culinary school and — like his brother — realized that his first choice of career wasn’t right for him. “It was like, ‘Man, this is a really high-stress type of thing. Why’s everybody screaming? What’s going on here?’” he says. He didn’t fit in at all. “I’m a laid-back person,” he explains. Like Wes, Ben came home and picked up some hours at the farm. “But I was still partying, rocking and rolling,” he admits. For two years he clocked in regularly, but still harbored dreams of doing something else. Eventually, he found himself taking on more responsibility, and he enjoyed the work. “I paid my dues and stayed on the processing line for another couple of years,” he says. “After three or four years I was like, ‘I like this. I think I want to stay.’” Dick Jennings passed away in 2017, shortly after his 93rd birthday. Today, many members of the extended family are involved in Sunburst Trout Farms’ day-to-day operations. Wes emphasizes that everyone gets along: “A lot of people talk about the challenges of family business,” he says. “We do have challenges in our business, but they have nothing to do with us being a family.” The secret to that success is delegation. “When it’s a small family business, you wear a lot of hats,” Wes explains. “But nobody wants to wear the hat of the other person. Ben doesn’t want my sales hat. I don’t want Ben’s fish inventory hat. Everybody does their own thing, and that takes stress out of the equation.”
The Race is On The lives of these trout begin not in our local waters, but far to the west. A company in rainbow trout’s native 80
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Pacific Northwest ships eggs to hatcheries via FedEx. “The eggs come in little trays with just a little bit of water,” Wes explains. “There are thousands of eggs in each one.” The hatcheries raise the fish until they’re “fingerlings”— six months old, about four to five inches long, and weighing about one ounce — and then deliver them to farms like Sunburst, using live haul trucks with stainless steel tanks. “They’re in transit for two hours, max,” Wes says. Each shipment includes about 20,000 fingerlings.
“You take that screen, put it in the raceway, and start walking alongside. The fish that are lean enough can fit through the gaps; the bulkier ones can’t fit through.” “The driver pulls up, puts a chute up to the side of the truck, and opens the hatch,” Wes explains. The fish pour out into one of Sunburst’s ponds or raceways; the latter of which are rows of long, concrete-lined troughs that look like single-lane swimming pools. He notes that 20,000 fingerlings in a raceway doesn’t look like much. “They’re so small, it’s nothing. There’s so much extra room for them to roam.” The trout at Sunburst are fed a diet of pressure-cooked pellets, which, according to Wes, contain “fish meal, fish
oil, wheat, soy, vitamins and minerals, all scientifically formulated to maximize growth and health.” As the fish are fed, they grow to a target weight of two pounds each. “And as they grow, all of a sudden the raceway looks fuller,” Wes says. “We don’t want to overcrowd them, so after they reach about eight or ten ounces, we separate them.” There’s a simple but clever device designed to help that process. “A grader is a solid screen with little gaps in it,” Wes explains. “You take that screen, put it in the raceway, and start walking alongside. The fish that are lean enough can fit through the gaps; the bulkier ones can’t fit through.” The larger fish end up gathered at one end of the raceway. “You keep that screen in place and net out the smaller ones, putting them in a neighboring raceway.” Typically, the netting is done manually, but Sunburst has a tool for larger jobs. Motioning across the property, Wes says, “For a really big load, we can use the boom truck. Drop its crane in the water and we can pull up 600 pounds of fish at a time.” The grading process happens two or three times during the trout’s life cycle. “Once they’re ideal processing size – which for us is one and a half to two pounds each – it’s time to harvest,” Wes says. The time it takes for the trout to grow to target size and weight is determined by a number of factors. Trout like cold water; they get sluggish and lose their appetite when it’s warm, Ben Eason explains. “But if the weather’s good and we can feed them pretty much all year, it takes about ten months” to grow to harvestable size.
May 2020 | capitalatplay.com
From Farm to Table At harvest time, workers fill up Sunburst’s own live haul truck with fish for the 20-minute drive to the company’s processing plant in Waynesville. There the fish are placed into recirculating tanks inside the plant. “If we need them [for processing] right away, they’re there maybe ten minutes,” Wes says. “Or it could be up to four days, if that’s the whole week’s inventory.” The next step is an ice bath for the fish, which rings a death toll for the trout. Mere moments after a fish gets its ice bath, it’s time for processing. Sunburst’s tidy and organized facility is modestly sized yet somehow roomy; the dozen or so workers on the processing line aren’t huddled together, and each has his or her own specific task. Wes Eason explains that each fish is first run through a “heading machine,” which is just what it sounds like. “The head goes down one chute, and the body goes up a conveyor belt.”
The next step is done by hand. “We split the belly, pull the entrails, and – if the fish is egg-bearing — separate the eggs,” Wes says. (Those eggs are for Sunburst’s prized trout caviar.) Next, a machine fillets the fish and removes the ribs. “Then it goes to a table where it’s trimmed by hand,” Wes says. “That’s to make it look nice and neat for the supermarket or restaurant.” After a quick rinse, the fish’s next stop is the pin-bone machine. “It plucks out the 28 pesky little pin-bones,” Wes says. Quality control inspectors stationed at the end of the line check the fish for missed pin-bones, removing them manually as needed – and quite often, it is needed. “Rarely does the machine do its job the way we want,” Wes says with a warm chuckle. Asked how thorough the inspectors are at eliminating every single pin-bone, he laughs again. “Depends on which chef you ask. That being said, we are selling a bone-out product, and ideally, all of the bones have been removed. But any person who orders a fish at a restaurant understands that at some point that fish was full of bones.”
The Process of Trout Processing
1. The ice bath is the first step, the shock of which quickly kills the fish.
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2. Then the fish is brought to the “heading machine.”
3. The trout is then gutted by hand, and the eggs and entrails are removed.
Next, each fillet is weighed and placed in one of several tubs based on its size, then it’s off to the packing station. Orders are packed according to when they’re scheduled for shipment. The packaged fish go onto a multi-shelved speed rack which is rolled into a large freezer; after 45 minutes, they’re transferred to a cooler, where they remain for up to a few hours until shipping. The entire trip from live delivery to cooler can be measured in feet, not yards. The fish that go out the door on any given day were swimming that morning, Ben Eason emphasizes. Putting the nose-to-tail philosophy into practice, at Sunburst, nothing goes to waste. Unusable materials are sold to feed and fertilizer processors, and pieces of trout too small for market size are used for the company’s sausage or as a base for its trout dip. Larger fish, on the other hand, are ideal for smoking; Sunburst’s smoked trout ranks among its most popular products.
Healthy Fish, Happy Bellies Wes and Ben Eason are both keenly aware of consumers’ increased interest in natural, unadulterated foods. “In the early 2000s, we started to see the first uptick in people wanting to eat more fish,” Wes says. “People got a little less scared of aquaculture.” Sunburst Trout Farms’ fish have no antibiotics, hormones, mammalian by-products, or PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls). Ben Eason says that makes their farm fairly unique, and he emphasizes that the clean water source – with headwaters in Pisgah National Forest – is good for the fish, too. Of course, not every fingerling makes it to harvest. The survival rate for Sunburst’s fish runs about 95%, Wes says. “Summer has the highest mortality [rate] because the temperature is apt to be warmer. Last year was a little dry, and very hot, so we might have lost 15%,” Ben says. And he admits that there are occasional bad years. “I’ve seen us lose 50% of our fish in a summer.”
From swimming that morning to frying that night, this is how Sunburst Trout preps their fish for consumers.
4. The fillet machine is next, which removes the backbone and ribs.
5. Hand trimming follows, which ensures the fillet looks its best in the market.
6. Then, after the pin-bone machine and a rinse, it’s time for packaging.
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Additional steps are taken to keep the fish healthy and disease-free. “It’s pretty much industry standard that the fish are vaccinated,” offers Wes. “Either we do it, or the hatcheries do it,” he says. In part because of the commercial feed used at farms, there’s no such thing as organic seafood in the United States, Wes Eason says. “We don’t genetically modify any of our fish, but while the
Sunburst Trout Farms keeps conditions for the fish as close to natural as it can while maintaining capacity to supply a large and growing demand. feed companies source good ingredients, they can’t assure us that they’re GMO-free when there’s American-grown wheat and soy used in the feed. So we don’t advertise as GMO-free.” Some consumers express a preference for wild fish instead of farmed, but you’d have to hike into the mountains to get what fly fishermen call “native” trout; there’s no way that a theoretical wild trout supplier could keep up with demand. “Hey! We’ve got 84
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three fish,” Ben imagines with a hearty laugh. “Let’s go sell them at the market!” Wes also points out that when it’s done right, trout farming is a responsible, sustainable practice.
Quality Control Wes Eason says that state and federal inspectors visit the farm and processing facility unannounced about twice a year. “They typically spend two and a half days with us,” he says. He cites some typical questions: “What temperature was your cold-smoked trout when it went into the cooler? How long did you salt them? How much salt did you use? Show me your math on your caviar formula; did you use enough salt for that? How long did it brine?” The Easons don’t fear those inspector visits. “Because we’ve been doing this for so long, and they’ve been working with us for so long, our day-to-day setup doesn’t change,” Wes says. But he notes that inspectors have gotten more stringent in recent years. “About four years ago, they started a new test,” he explains. “In your kitchen, where you’re making trout dip that somebody is just going to open the lid and eat, they don’t want to see bacteria growing there. We were randomly selected, and they came to our processing plant. They did 88 swabs; all over. They even swabbed an air conditioning unit, something that trout would never touch.” With a smile, he recalls the warning the inspectors gave him at the time: “We’re probably going to find something, and
BEN PUTS harvested trout in containers to transport . May 2020 | capitalatplay.com 85
that’s okay. Because then we’re going to show you how to clean and treat it.” Wes’ smile broadens. “Out of 88 swabs, they didn’t find a single bit of listeria,” he says. “Not a single one.” Ben Eason speaks to the water quality side of inspection. “Every trout farm has to have a NPDES (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) permit,” he says. That inspection involves a “grab sample” of the water flowing out of the farm’s ponds and raceways just before it re-enters the river. “They’re just making sure that the water going back into the river isn’t full of crap,” he says with a laugh. Sunburst has never run afoul of the regulations.
Supply, Demand, and More Demand Wes points out that the company experienced an increase in demand around 2012–2013, attributing the increased popularity to the idea that more chefs today realize the broad appeal of rainbow trout, rather than seeing it as “something you eat in the summer when you’re staying at your cabin on the river.” Wes adds, “They say, ‘This is a high-end, fresh, delicious, affordable product that we can put on our menu.’ It’s something different that’s not salmon, salmon, salmon.” Sunburst Trout Farms keeps conditions for the fish as close to natural as it can while maintaining capacity to supply a large and growing demand. “This farm can hold right around 200-250,000 pounds of trout,” Wes says. “And you basically double that number to figure out how much we can produce in a year, because we always have new fish coming in and big fish coming out. It’s a cycle.” But as a practical matter, Sunburst never operates at full capacity. “It’s too great of a risk,” Ben says, “because we never know what the lake is going to do.” During hot and dry periods, Champion Paper – owner of the Lake Logan dam – may increase flow, bringing the water level down. That causes an increase in the temperature of the water Sunburst takes via a dedicated pipe installed in the dam. “And when the water starts heating up, the fish’s stress level goes up,” he says. The company keeps close tabs on production. “Under ideal circumstances, processing is based on demand,” Wes says. “In the summer, if we have plenty of fish in the water that are harvestable size, we’ll process, say, 10,000 pounds in a week.” He says that demand is constant for that level of production. But Sunburst can’t always keep up. “Last summer, inventory was about 80% of where we needed it to be,” he says. “We were processing about 7,500 pounds in a week. Demand was higher than our inventory. Typically, what we process is based on demand, but sometimes it’s supply.” 86
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Though fresh trout can be considered a commodity, Sunburst’s prices don’t fluctuate like grain or gasoline. “We try to stay pretty steady,” Wes says. “We definitely don’t fluctuate up and down within the year. We had a price increase back in February, and we won’t schedule another one for at least two years.” The most significant obstacle to growth is inventory, Wes says. “At least once a year for the past five years, there have been times where we couldn’t fill all of our orders.” He acknowledges that when that happens, customers – especially restaurants that have put together popular menu items around Sunburst trout — can get frustrated. “The nice thing is, 95% of our customers are pretty level-headed; they understand that we’re not a factory that pushes a button,” he says. “We’re not making shoes here.” Even now, Wes says that he’s constantly forced to turn new customers away. “Someone calls and says, ‘Hey, I’m a distributor in South Florida. I’d love to bring on North Carolina trout.’” But they need 200 pounds a week. “It just pains you to have to say no,” Wes says. “Because if you say yes, you’re cutting into your existing customers, and that’s the last thing we want to do. You want to grow the business, but you don’t want to grow it too fast, because then you can’t take care of everybody else.”
A Burst of Growth To allow increased production, Sunburst recently took a lease on another farm in nearby Cruso, North Carolina. The land is situated at a higher elevation than Sunburst’s primary facility, so the water coming out of the east fork of the Pigeon River stays cooler. In mid-March, that new facility was mere weeks away from going back into operation. “That’ll be our saving grace, as far as being able to hold additional inventory during the summer months,” Ben says. During the winter months, the primary farm’s higher water temperature is a blessing. “This place can grow fish really well in the wintertime; we’ll stock it heavily for fall, winter, and spring.” “When Ben and I started here full-time in 2001, we used to sell larger orders to fewer people,” Wes says. “Typical customers were distributors or wholesalers, buying a couple hundred pounds each.” He says that margins were thin. “They’re still kind of thin,” he admits, “but now we’re selling less volume [per order] to more people, and we’re going more direct than we did back then.” Much May 2020 | capitalatplay.com 87
BEN AND WES at the Sunburst Market.
of that share of direct sales is coming from restaurants and bypassing some distributors to sell directly to grocery stores. Wes says that a decade ago, most of Sunburst Trout Farms’ orders were local and regional, but with the growth of the brand, demand has gone national. Climate change is an acknowledged challenge; those trout like their cold water. “Things don’t look great down the road weather-wise,” Wes admits. “As a planet — certainly as a country — we need to make some changes, because there’s only so much we can do here to control it.” With that in mind, Ben and Wes are looking ahead toward a method called recirculating aquaculture. “I think that’s going to be important in the future,” Wes says. An indoor facility with filtered, recirculated water would take climate out of the equation for the farm. “Because then you don’t have to worry about how hot and dry it is outside.” But for now, the added facility in Cruso — with its naturally brisk water — looks to provide at least a short-term solution to the challenge.
The Future Looks Sunny for Sunburst Sunburst Trout Farms’ current annual revenue is around $2 million and trending upward. “We’ve got a good model of being 88
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able to handle demand,” Wes says. “We have more fish swimming on this farm than we’ve had in 15 years,” Ben adds. In recent years, the company has expanded its operations to include a retail store, adding products from other local and regional vendors to the shelves. Sunburst Market opened in 2012 in downtown Waynesville, and more recently, the company moved its retail operations to Sunburst’s processing facility. Walk-in traffic at an indus-
“I don’t ever dread going to work,” Ben says. “I work on days that I have off. I’m like, ‘I’m bored. I’m going to go drive to the farm and check the fish.’” trial park is, of course, less than before. “But the people who come in are usually on a mission to buy product,” Wes says. Online and retail sales account for about 10% of Sunburst’s revenue.
That new Cruso farm is just part of Sunburst Trout Farms’ forward-looking plans. “Right now, we do everything except hatch,” Wes says, but one of Sunburst’s goals in the next few years is to turn a currently unused processing building at the farm into a hatchery. “That way we’ve got complete control over inventory,” Ben says. And in a way, doing so would bring things back to the way Dick Jennings did them. “Hatching’s not easy,” Wes says, “but my grandfather did it up until the early ‘90s.” When Wes’s alarm clock goes off every morning, he’s excited to embrace the day. “It makes me happy when people share their pictures of doing cool stuff with product that my brother and I grew and fed and my team processed,” Wes says. “I get super excited to see where our beautiful products end up and what chefs can do with it.” “I don’t ever dread going to work,” Ben says. “I work on days that I have off. I’m like, ‘I’m bored. I’m going to go drive to the farm and check the fish and make sure the water flows are good.’” Asked what he would buy if a load of money fell out of the sky tomorrow, Ben has a ready answer. “More fish. And a truckload of feed.” Wes laughs and chimes in. “You stole my answer, dude,” he says, quickly coming up with another of his own. “A new hatchery. And more farms.”
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People Work Our
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This month, like so many teams, COVID-19 has kept the Capital at Play crew at home. We’ve learned a lot in the process, so we’re sharing our WFH set-ups and sage advice. 9
1. Emily Glaser, Editor: “My number one WFH tip: Wake up early! I’m always infinitely more productive when I’m up with the sun. Luckily, I invested in a new, fluffy alarm clock to help keep me accountable.” 2. Bill Kopp, Writer : “When working — at home, or anywhere for that matter — I always make sure good music is close at hand to encourage creativity.” 3. David Morgan, Advertising Executive: “Try to organize your work into segments that can be completed to some reasonable stopping point in an hour to an hour and a half. Then, take a 15 to 30 minute break before starting another segment. And listen to the birds! It keeps you from getting bogged down.” 4. Roy Brock, Advertising Executive: “Working from home on spring days is all about outside sales!” 5. Jason Gilmer, Writer: “My tip is simple: Work when the kids are working. Overseeing virtual school is a tough assignment, but I generally put my laptop wherever my kids are doing school work, and I try to get ten minutes of work done before someone needs my assistance with a math problem — which, let’s be honest, I’m not helping with this new math — or coloring pictures. ” 6. Brent Ford, Columnist: “Reward yourself at the end of the day! I call mine the COVID remedy — a soak in the hot tub with a cocktail — guaranteed to keep the virus away.”
7. Bonnie Roberson, Art Director: “It’s good to pick one area as your ‘work area’ so you stay there and avoid distractions for the most productivity.” 8. Katrina Morgan, Advertising Executive: “The home office is sunny and bright, but I sure could use some more company! I have enjoyed getting out a bit to see how businesses are coping and pivoting into progress! Our town is amazingly hard-working and flexible.” 9. Jeffrey Green, Associate Publisher: “I’m quarantined in an 1896 Victorian home in Historic Uptown, New Orleans. I suggest you remove the standard poodles from the office before getting on the phone with a client; barking at the wine delivery guy tends to drown out the eloquence of the sales pitch!”
10. Evan Anderson, Photographer: “1) Supplies: Coffee. Lots and lots of coffee. 2) Work space: Make sure hammock is placed in ample sunshine. 3) Attire: Sweatpants and hoodies. 4) Focus: Rewards. Put a system in place for ____ (insert favorite treat here) rewards for every task completed. This is vital. Also, a beer during and after lunch is totally acceptable.” 11. Shawndra Russell, Writer: “I’ve been working from home for ten years, and I’ve learned to work outside as much as possible — which I know is easier said than done when my home office is a treehouse in West Asheville. But it makes my long hours very pleasant and inspiring. So, maybe the better piece of advice is: Create a creative space you love to work in.” 12. Leah Middleton, Writer: “1) Establish a routine. Figure out what works best for you in the mornings to guide you to start your workday and when to end it. 2) Schedule breaks. A five minute walk around the neighborhood or a quick yoga stretch helps clear the mind to get back to work with fresh ideas.” May 2020 | capitalatplay.com 91
EVENTS Events may be cancelled, but there’s still plenty to do from the comfort of your own home. Explore the world’s awardwinning museums, take a hike on a virtual trail, or challenge your friends to a sing-a-long. Here’s our curated list of things to do when there’s nothing much to do.
Seminars jb media webinars Justin Belleme and Sarah Benoit of the JB Media Institute are no strangers to multimedia. They put together the JB Media Webinar: Tools and Tips for Creating and Offering Simple Online Webinars and Classes, offered through Mountain BizWorks. Whether or not JB
Media will hold its monthly webinar in May, the marketing strategists continue to offer online resources, such as the Digital Marketing Toolkit, chock-full of information and exercises.
postponed, but you can revisit Asheville’s CreativeMornings series, featuring past speakers like French BroadChocolate’s Jael Rattigan, and John Vigeland of East Fork Pottery, via the catalogue online.
zoom town halls
The North Carolina Center for Nonprofits will host a webinar, Keep Calm and Carry On: Crisis Communications Tips and Strategies, on Wed. May 6 from 11:15–11:45 AM. Part of a four-part webinar series, Building Organizational Resilience, this session is designed to help nonprofit teams with transparent, calm communication. Resilience and Resumption: What You Need to Know and Do to Get Ready for a New Normal (Wed. May 13, 11:15–11:45 AM), the final webinar in the series, offers practical tips for getting nonprofits adjusted to a new normal after COVID-19.
The A shev i l le A rea Cha mber of Commerce hosted two Zoom town halls aimed at helping businesses weather the coronavirus shutdown, recordings of which are available in the Chamber’s online “Coronavirus Resource Guide.” The first featured Executive Director of the Land of Sky Regional Council Nathan Ramsey and reviewed best practices in safety and sanitation, as well as contact information for organizations offering employer/employee support. The second featured a panel that worked toward connecting concerned business owners with programs and loans.
the asheville art museum
New events for the Asheville chapter of CreativeMornings have been
The Asheville Art Museum online offers a self-guided virtual stroll through the
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premises, as well as a collection of YouTube videos of artist interviews and museum history updated on an ongoing basis with “Works of the Week.” For the kids, the museum will continue to upload fun activities to help children of different ages observe and interpret museum pieces.
> ashevilleart.org/museum-from-home/ wnc historical association The Western North Carolina Historical Association is running virtual exhibitions. One is on the history of pandemics in the region that, among other things, captures the interaction of hysteria and sensationalism through media clips covering the Spanish flu and the coronavirus. The Collection Spotlight is a 1918 Red Cross nurse uniform.
> wnchistory.org live from paris The Louvre’s virtual tour provides a walk-around, as well as close-ups of works with specs like the artist’s name, the person who commissioned the work, interesting historical tidbits, and the medium and dimensions.
Museum + Arts Center (BMCM+AC), includes varied work by writers and artists of different backgrounds. You can access Volume 10: Chance I Dance now, which includes videos, photographs, articles, and poetry on dance and performance at Black Mountain College.
aam book club The Asheville Art Museum’s next Discussion Bound program (a monthly book club), featuring Susie Hodge’s Why Your Five Year Old Could Not Have Done That: Modern Art Explained and scheduled for May 12 at 12 PM, will be held either in-person or on Zoom, as guidelines allow.
> blackmountainstudiesjournal.org center for craft
> ashevilleart.org/learn/adult-programs/ discussion-bound/
from the library The public library system is a portal to the world. With the flick of a library card, patrons can get past the paywalls of the New York Times and Asheville Citizen Times, log on to ancestry.com, learn auto repair or a foreign language, or prepare for a standardized test. For those who never got around to getting a card, libraries can email log-in credentials for temporary cards upon request.
Have you checked out the recently redesigned Center for Craft? Don’t worry, you didn’t miss your chance to see the new digs; you can explore a 3-D virtual representation of the space, including notes about design features and a look at the Craft Futures 2099 exhibition, online.
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te papa museum
The Te Papa Museum of New Zealand doesn’t have a virtual tour, but it does have quizzes, calming videos, downloadable activity books, and more for kids in these trying times.
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good golly ms. dolly Dolly Parton has launched a ten-part series, Goodnight with Dolly, in which the diva of country music will read a children’s book with an empowering message each week. Readings will begin with The Little Engine That Could. Not to be outdone, LeVar Burton of Reading Rainbow will also livestream readings of children’s books; just search the hashtag #LeVarBurtonReads.
> youtube.com/user/imaginationlibrary wild at home The WNC Nature Center’s Wild at Home video series, available on their Facebook page, features the center’s Outreach Education Specialist debunking common animal myths. Designed for students and families, the weekly series covers topics like whether all snakes hatch from eggs.
Music quarantine concert series The Orange Peel, musician Blake Anthony Ellege, and Josh Blake of the IAmAvl platform collaborated on the short-lived Quarantine Concert Series at the outset of the pandemic. The shows, featuring artists like Andrew Scotchie & The River Rats, and many other videos of live Asheville concerts are available online.
> iamavl.com/category/archives/ keep music live project
crafty kids LEAF Community Engagement Director Marsha Almodovar hops on Facebook Live every Thursday at 3 PM for a kids’ craft. The step-by-step instructions include supplies you’ll easily find around the house and bring fun creativity to little ones.
> facebook.com/theLEAF.org grandpa mountain Explore nature from inside with Grandfather Mountain’s new video series, Nature Minutes. The Facebook series takes a behind-the-scenes look at the attraction’s animals, like Cricket the opossum, and landscape so that kids can learn from home.
> facebook.com/pg/GrandfatherMtn amos The Asheville Museum of Science is helping parents homeschool their kids. They’ve invited educators to post videos, 94
activities, lesson plans, and more. Early activities include a plant phenology book, to which students add one species daily; lessons in circuitry with Christmas lights and a 9V; and videos on topics like metamorphosis.
| May 2020
Streamside Music, Dream Guitars, Fretboard Journal, Deb Cornish Audio, and the Asheville Music School formed the Keep Music Live Project to support local musicians with paid work through the crisis. At press time, shows were scheduled into April, and bookings continue.
> streamsideonline.eventbrite.com synthesize live Friends of Moog Music are coming together to livestream performances, Q&A sessions, synth improvisations, tutorials, and more on Instagram Live in events called “Synthesize Live”.
> moogmusic.com a night at the opera There are many web pages recommending places to go — digitally speaking — for livestream concerts. One standout would be “Nightly Met Opera Streams,”
with selections from HD recordings made over the last 14 years. The Met is providing the recordings as the nextbest-thing for providing members with first-rate opera, but the recordings will also be available free to the public.
> metopera.org asheville symphony sessions The Asheville Symphony’s producer Michael Selverne has put together an ensemble to highlight a diversity of local talent accompanied by the ASO in a greatest hits collection. The result, “The Asheville Symphony Sessions: A Musical Love Letter from Asheville to the World,” is available on the ASO’s website, as are videos of the production process.
music lessons online If you’d rather be the music than just hear it, guitar lessons are just a few YouTube videos away. They range from Claude Johnson for beginners to Steve Vai, who teaches his complex and inaccessible compositions. Another more melodic virtuoso who enjoys teaching is Mike Dawes. All you need do is Google one of their names, or the name of one of your faves, and “lesson”.
leaf drumming sessions If you’re more into rhythm, local djembefola Adama Dembele, under the auspices of LEAF, is teaching authentic West African drumming and dance for kids online, Wednesdays at 9 AM.
Outdoors meteor showers Weather permitting, it’s easy enough to venture out into the yard at night and look up. Highlights in May include the
For Those Who Seek The Exceptional Life. Eta Aquarids Meteor Shower. The show, produced by dust in the tail of Halley’s comet, takes place between April 19 and May 28 annually, but it will reach its peak May 6-7, during which persons in the Northern Hemisphere might see as many as 30 meteors per hour. Action will be concentrated around the constellation Aquarius, but a supermoon on May 7 may outshine the meteors.
> Astroasheville.org eat your greens The North Carolina Native Plant Society is an online source with lots of information about regional flora. A plant identification tool allows users to select features like color and plant type to narrow the search to a grid of possibilities. Once the name is known, more online research could reveal botanical uses and safety considerations.
photos by Marilynn Kay Photography
> ncwildflower.org (A similar
tool is available at gobotany. nativeplanttrust.org/simple/ )
mtns-to -sea While public parks and greenways overseen by local, state, and federal government agencies have been ordered closed, most of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail remains open. A list of areas that have been closed is posted to the trail’s website and updated frequently. In addition to the standard rules of social distancing, it is further recommended that this time be used to explore remote places and avoid popular spots and that Leave No Trace practices be followed.
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virtual outdoors If a virtual trip outdoors will do, Explore Asheville has partnered with Google to compile, as of press time, three sets of outdoor adventures. The first group takes the viewer on virtual hikes through parks and the Biltmore Estate. The second shows clips from movies
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that used Western North Carolina as a backdrop. And the third follows Sammy the Rescue Dog, a highly-trained CorgiSheltie, all about town.
Wellness yoga at home West Asheville Yoga continues to host almost all classes as scheduled via livestream. Classes run $8-$15, and one need only go to the online calendar and click to buy a session or pass. Other studios around town, including Asheville Yoga Center (featured in our Local Industry piece this month), Asheville Community Yoga, Pure Yoga Asheville, and more have transitioned to online classes.
> westashevilleyoga.com urban trail tours The public parks and greenways are closed, but if you have to walk the dog and yourself, you may as well follow Asheville’s Urban Trail. Tours are selfguided with assistance from a printable map, an audio tour, and a trail video with content for the thirty historic stations, each marked by an installation of public art. Teachers’ resources for the trail are also available online.
Film & Theatre sofa cinema Davida Horwitz and Steve White, owners of the Grail Moviehouse, have launched Sofa Cinema, which allows viewers to select from a menu of new arthouse releases not available through mainstream sources like Netflix. Purchasing a ticket will provide instructions, credentials, and links to access the streams, and also give a little bit to
| May 2020
the moviehouse to support employees through the shutdown.
> grailmoviehouse.com avl community theatre Asheville Community Theatre is hosting a weekday “happy hour”. Post a video of yourself singing a song that makes you happy, challenge three friends to do the same, and tag the video #ACTHappyHour (make sure your audience settings are set to public). Then join ACT at 5:00 PM, M-F, for a watch party on their Facebook page.
sxsw South by Southwest, an annual Austin, Texas, festival that shares the latest in entertainment and technology, was cancelled this spring, but Mailchimp is showcasing a slew of short films, formerly set for release at the fest, online.
> mailchimp.com/presents/sxsw/ asheville school of film The Asheville School of Film normally teaches courses in digital editing, storyboarding, introductory screenwriting, making a living in film, set protocols, and financing and distribution. Those courses are now being offered oneon-one in an online video conference format. Courses run around $200 each and are scheduled on-demand.
Arts handwork circle Local Cloth, a regionally based organization dedicated to growing the fiber economy, has started a weekly Virtual Handwork Circle where people can get together to stitch and kibbitz. They also have a free weekly Virtual Studio Tour featuring one of the nonprofit’s members. The group will host its annual Anything Fiber Sale online this year, an opportunity for members to sell everything from spinning wheels to yarn to fabric. Find the sale via the Facebook group, The Anything Fiber Sale Group.
> localcloth.org get creative Roots + Wings Creative Institute is offering virtual art and design classes, camps, and resources for kids and adults. Kits and classes are refined based on age group, and some of the resources — including a parent guide and creative brainstorm ideas — are free.
> creativecommunity.rootsandwingsarts. com
> ashevilleschooloffilm.com social distance festival Nick Green is hosting the Social Distancing Festival, a clearinghouse of online streams, virtual tours, and more from around the world to keep the creative sector united through the crisis. Users of the site can use the calendar or search by general genre.
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.
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one l ast thing
Entrepreneurship in the Time of Coronavirus by shawndr a russell
n January 27th, I signed my first commercial lease for Creative Hub Studios, a 4,000-sq.-ft. exhibit and event space next to Pack Square in downtown Asheville. On February 27th, we had our grand opening, the collaborative result of more than 40 sponsors and donors that saw more than 150 guests. On March 27th, Governor Roy Cooper issued a 30-day Stay Home, Stay Safe order. You could say that our first 60 days of being a business were a whirlwind. In addition to this new event space, which I co-founded with the intention of bringing together like-minded creatives, disruptors, and life-long learners, I also own a small group retreat center in Candler, North Carolina, centered around a converted railroad caboose. Owning two businesses in the face of a pandemic, one hardly two months old and both centered on in-person events, is admittedly stressful. But instead of freaking out that my business models don’t work in a COVID-19 world, we’ve pivoted and are focused on virtual events, e-courses, and other brand-building resources for small businesses and innovators. Our business plan always included a robust e-learning platform as we move away from serving individual clients (as Creative Hub Studios’ co-founder Julieta Fumberg and I have done for a combined 25+ years) to focusing on group coaching, consulting, and branding workshops; this pandemic just pushed up our timeline. We didn’t cancel our plans — we just changed them in order to best serve our community as it is today. And isn’t that all any of us can do during this pandemic: Evaluate our lifestyles, our work lives, our businesses and brands, and figure out how to serve our communities better? I’ve seen so many businesses step up and offer free meals for kids who are stuck at home and missing their last few months of school. I’ve seen people become brand advocates for the local businesses they want to see come back stronger than ever in our revived economy. And I’ve seen Asheville’s leadership step up to create solutions
| May 2020
like One Buncombe, a centralized COVID-19 donation and relief center put together by a group of entities and orgs like the Asheville Chamber, the Town of Montreat, and the Land of Sky Regional Council. Entrepreneurs are already some of the most resilient, persistent, and adaptable people in our communities. As a rule, we have to pivot constantly, follow and adapt to the trends, analyze our customer base, and serve as our own marketing departments. All the while, we have to try to stay true to our core beliefs, despite or in alignment with trends, because what is a small business if not a reflection of our values and how we want to make an impact in this world? A truly successful entrepreneur doesn’t launch a business just to make money; they know that to have a sustainable business, they must build up a network of support and be a force for good in their community. That’s one of the most powerful realities I’ve witnessed during this trying time: good brands stepping up and figuring out how to be part of the solution in a way that aligns with their core values. Businesses that exist for the right reasons — fueled by passionate people who want to build a community around their brand by connecting with like-minded folks — will be able to get through this trying time because they will never stop working to figure out how to serve their community. The most resilient businesses will take this opportunity to examine their brand and work to come out on the other side of this epidemic more determined, more customer-focused, and stronger than ever. Every single business is being challenged right now. Brands that have a clear sense of self and what they stand for will be able to endure this unprecedented time; businesses that exist just to make money, don’t have a strong company culture, or don’t take care of their people or communities will struggle and may never reopen. One last thing that the coronavirus has certainly taught us: We all have to be about more than the bottom line.
May 2020 | capitalatplay.com 99
WHAT WE USED TO CALL HOME
We know the importance you place on
Home has a different meaning these days. It’s
is shifting as much as the definition
not about friends and entertaining. No longer
of home itself. If your definition of
are we coming home of our own volition.
home isn’t what it was and you’d like
In a matter of weeks, the idea of home has
defining your home.The housing market
to discuss options, give us a call.
absorbed new definitions. It is a place of work.
We are here for you.
It is a place of school. It is a place of refuge.
| May 2020
Vol 10 | Ed 5 - Western North Carolina's Business Lifestyle Magazine - Featuring Western North Carolina Floral Boutiques, COVID-19 Reponse,...
Published on Apr 22, 2020
Vol 10 | Ed 5 - Western North Carolina's Business Lifestyle Magazine - Featuring Western North Carolina Floral Boutiques, COVID-19 Reponse,...