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or such a short, rounded syllable, “home” is a word with so much weight. It’s a place and a feeling; it’s a house, a town, a country; it’s a physical structure and an intangible inclination. For some of us, it’s a wish or a memory; for others, it’s a person or a pilgrimage. And for all of us, after months battened inside of it, home is more home than ever. Over the past five years, this—Western North Carolina—has become my home in a truer sense of the word than I’ve ever known before. When I step out into the seashell pink glow of a Candler morning and dig my toes into grass speckled with the colored drops of violets or clover, it feels like a homecoming. But so does the drive to Panthertown Valley when the leaves fall like golden confetti, as does sidling up to one of Asheville’s water-stained bar tops. And so does pulling out and dusting off the keyboard and writing to you all at my long-vacated desk here at Capital at Play. We may be a business magazine, but so often the stories we tell are integrally tied to the idea of home. For dedicated and passionate entrepreneurs—the kind we most like to profile—their business embodies so many of those concepts we associate with home: comfort, inspiration, the sheer allocation of time and resources. A business can be, and usually is, a home for both its proprietors and patrons. And then there’s the fact that in building a business, entrepreneurs are digging their roots deep into the community in which they’ve settled. Setting down the stakes of a business is a lot like pouring a concrete foundation: That thing’s not going anywhere. It’s this notion of home that so many of our stories bring to mind this month. Whether they were born and reared in our mountains or migrated to them, these entrepreneurs have made Western North Carolina their own, establishing the kinds of ventures that help others feel at home here, too. From the nostalgic respite of a double-scoop ice cream cone, to the knowledgeable recommendations of the High Country’s outdoorsmen, to the quirky literalness of a yome, these businesses help folks feel at home here in the mountains. With restrictions lifting and folks tiptoeing back into the streets and thoroughfares, it feels a bit like a new kind of homecoming. As these businesses and hundreds more flip their closed signs to open, they greet visitors from near and far with the same kind of sentiment as family reunions and gestures adapted for social distancing: wide smiles behind masks, air hugs, and ardent greetings and adieus, motions that feel no less familiar for their six-foot berth. It feels, in a phrase, a lot like welcome home.
Till next month, WAKE, Mel Chin, on view in Asheville thru 9/7. Photo by Michael Oppenheim.
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istory will likely remember 2020 as the year of video streaming; for Kim Celentano and Ilya Gorelik of Strivven Media, it’s a banner under which they’ve already flown for years. The husband and wife team met at a technology startup in 2000, where Celentano, a former sports television producer, headed the company’s media unit and Gorelik was its lead developer. “That experience gave us a head start on where the industry would eventually evolve with streaming video across the internet,” Celentano remembers. “Over the next ten years, Ilya and I worked together on a variety of projects in ways that leveraged our multimedia and software development backgrounds.” These collaborations eventually led them to the idea for Strivven Media’s core product, VirtualJobShadow.com. “We had the vision for VirtualJobShadow.com as a service that would transform the way students shaped their future plans long before we actually brought it to fruition. Our plan since day one always involved delivering highly produced videos of real people at real jobs. It was always about creating role models out of everyday people,” Celentano says of the platform, which, as the 12
| July 2020
name suggests, exposes kids and career seekers to the behindthe-scenes realities of different professions. “Sports television has been doing this for decades with athletes: up-close-andpersonal pieces. What a great way to bring exposure to kids about careers!” It was ten years before technology in schools caught up with Celentano and Gorelik’s idea, and in 2012 they founded Strivven Media, launching VirtualJobShadow.com in 2014. “While our job shadowing and career advice videos make up the backbone of VirtualJobShadow.com, the platform is actually a comprehensive college and career readiness solution that empowers over one million active users in classrooms and workforce programs around the country,” Celentano explains of the platform. “It includes a wide-range of integrated tools that provide functionality beyond career exploration. Educators use VirtualJobShadow.com to meet district needs in many different ways, including helping students develop post-secondary plans, build a resume, or learn about financial literacy. Because the platform has an integrated lesson builder, educators also use VirtualJobShadow.com to create, assign, and grade lessons that are essential for their classes.” The website serves as the ultimate career counselor, providing students with an insider’s look at all sorts of industries. In
Asheville alone, they’ve shot videos with companies as wideranging as Capital at Play alumni Sunburst Trout Farms and French Broad Chocolate, to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOA A), McGuire Wood & Bissette, and Biltmore Estate. While the company is based locally, with much of its 27-member team, including developers and its in-house video production team, in Asheville, it competes on the national stage—or rather, screen. Celentano points to the team’s core competencies in both software development and multimedia production, the platform’s ease of use, and the quality of its videos as the business’ key differentiators: “Given how much content is now consumed online, the expectation is high in this area, and I believe the quality of our videos can compete with anything you’d see on entertainment channels.” Today the platform is implemented in all 50 states and Canada in some of the largest school K–12 districts in the country, as well as colleges, vocational rehabilitation, workforce agencies, and nonprofit organizations like Boys and Girls Clubs. The popularity of VirtualJobShadow.com in schools kindled the conception of its sister platforms, VJSJunior.com and the LifePath Career Exploration Course. Celentano explains, “We developed VJSJunior.com after we realized that elementary schools were purchasing VirtualJobShadow.com just to have access to our job shadowing videos. The VJS Junior platform was designed specifically to meets the needs of K-5 students, reinforcing literacy and cross-curricular skills in each interactive learning module.” LifePath is a semester-long course designed for high schoolers to evaluate and refine their strengths and interests and identify correlative career and education opportunities. In its nearly decade of business, Strivven Media has become integrally tied to Asheville’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, both in
its operations, like highlighting local businesses in its videos, and in its own growth. “We have been lucky to meet many WNC business founders and mentors over the years and have participated in some great programs like Venture Asheville and
“Given how much content is now consumed online, the expectation is high in this area, and I believe the quality of our videos can compete with anything you’d see on entertainment channels.” Scale Up,” Celentano points out. “I don’t know that we would have survived the earliest years if we hadn’t been surrounded by so much talent and community support.” As the possibilities, potential, and integration of video streaming continues to grow, so does Strivven Media. Celentano says the business is on track to more than double its growth from 2019 and has plans to launch a new product later this year that will assist high school counselors with course planning. Of course, it’s also a particularly fruitful time for video streaming, and Celentano adds, “The demand for our products and services due to COVID-19 and the shift to online learning has forced us to find ways to operate more efficiently but also gives us more confidence that we’re headed in the right direction.” Learn more at VirtualJobShadow.com July 2020 | capitalatplay.com
| July 2020
BCO CO-OWNERS (L-R): Ben King, Liz Nance, and Brett Hackshaw
Great Outdoors THE
written by shawndr a russell
photos by evan anderson
In Swain County Opposites Attract in a Leadership Team That’s Expanded Bryson City Outdoors to Three Locations in Five Years
he term “serial entrepreneurs” seems like an understatement when it comes to Ben King and Brett Hackshaw of the growing Bryson City Outdoors (BCO) empire. These co-owners, collaborators, and friends— “Brett is my first marriage,” Ben quips — are savvy businessmen who have opened a new location almost every year since 2013, when Ben first founded a rental company out of his home in Bryson City. Brett became a co-owner in 2015, the same year the company moved to its original brick-and-mortar location. “We vowed to add some new element to our business every year since we teamed up, and so far, it’s mostly been locations,” Ben says. “One year it was shoes,” Brett adds with a wry smile. “Shoes are kind of a nightmare.”
Although King characterizes their partnership as a marriage, we might describe it as a brotherhood: Brett is 15 years Ben’s senior, and while there’s an air of respect between the two, it’s also clear they’re not afraid to needle each other or debate their business. When breaking down their gross income, Brett says with a touch of disbelief, “Our rental program only nets, like, 2% of our gross income.” Ben quickly jumps in, shaking his head. “But I just don’t want to give that up—it’s nostalgia for me!” he laments. “It’s a great job for a college student, too.” Like brothers, their arguments aren’t any indication of a deeper discord; you can tell they dig each other’s company, and they play up each other’s strengths. And most importantly, both are quick to say that they couldn’t do Bryson City Outdoors July 2020 | capitalatplay.com
without the other. “I would not have succeeded without Ben —or someone from Bryson City—even though I was born in Winston-Salem. Western North Carolina is a different culture. It really is his vision, and I am just grateful that he has allowed me to tag along,” Brett says. With this leadership team, it’s not a matter of who was first or who was right, but how they can work together to create a business that has a positive impact in the community, their families, and promoting the great outdoors.
Right Place, Right Time Success breeds success. Timing is everything. Such idioms ring true when telling the Bryson City Outdoors story. Back in 2013, Ben could see that interest in adventure and outdoor tourism was growing nationwide, and he recognized an opportunity when he realized there wasn’t an outdoor rental company on Fontana Lake. After a short post-college stint in Santa Barbara doing graphic and web design, the Western Carolina University grad and Bryson City native moved back to his hometown to start a business—actually, businesses, which also included a web design company, WNC Interactive—with his original partner, Dwayne Parton. “I built the [Bryson City Outdoors] website in 2013, got the phone number, bought some kayaks, and we rented them out in our spare time in between building websites and doing marketing,” remembers Ben. Dwayne bought a trailer so they could haul the kayaks from their house to the lake and back again, and that was their simple business model for two years. “We had very little debt. Very little expenses. But we didn’t make any money,” Ben laughs. Which brings us to the Hackshaws. Brett met his wife, Ashley, in college at Wake Forest in the late ‘90s, and both pursued 16
| July 2020
careers in banking in Charlotte after graduation. “It’s not easy to have a personal life when you work 20 hours a day, six to seven days a week in your mid-twenties, but we made it work,” Brett says. After six lucrative but anxiety inducing years in banking, Ashley decided to pursue a simpler life. After quitting their banking jobs in Charlotte, they made their first cross-country move to Southern California, where Brett had spent much of his childhood. “We found out we were having our first child the day we moved into our new home in Southern California. So I guess things happen for a reason!” Brett chuckles. He started a construction company with some partners and spent the next six years honing his building skills. Eventually Ashley’s pursuit of a slower pace of life, documented in her lifestyle blog, Lil Blue Boo, inspired the rest of her family to do the same; the Hackshaws packed up their home in Palm Desert, California, and headed to Bryson City, wooed by Ashley’s fond memories of visiting the city’s Hemlock Inn as a child. “We’d gone to Disneyworld, the beach… all the usual stops… but none of those created the vivid memories like the Hemlock did,” Ashley wrote on her blog in 2014 when she announced the family was moving to Bryson City. Thanks to Lil Blue Boo, which by 2012 was garnering onemillion-plus pageviews per month and now has a 60,000+ social media following to match (@lilblueboo), Ashley’s lifestyle business—which currently includes classes, original artwork by Ashley, property renovations, and tutorials—brought in enough revenue to support the Hackshaw family. So when Ashley introduced her husband to Ben (she’d tapped WNC Interactive to update her blog), Brett was looking for something to fill his time. Ben says, “Honestly, Brett needed something to do, and he asked me, ‘What does this town need?’ I’d worked in town in
By the Numbers BCO Sales by Platform & Service 3% RENTALS
25% Beer and Taproom 3% Rentals
LIZ NANCE brings her extensive beer knowledge to BCO’s bar program.
72% Retail (25% of gross sales are generated by private label product designed in-house)
retail when I was younger, and people would always ask, ‘Where’s the outdoor store?’” It was a question Ben—and now Brett—were ready to answer in the form of a broadened Bryson City Outdoors concept. Brett immediately set his sights on helping Ben expand his vision for Bryson City Outdoors to open a brick-and-mortar outdoor gear shop that still offered rentals. The timing was perfect: Dwayne wanted to leave Bryson City to live the van life in Montana, and Brett wanted to stay in Bryson City and invest in a business, so Ben and Brett bought out Dwayne in 2014. For BCO’s headquarters, Brett set his sights on the most dilapidated building in town, an old pawn shop. Ben credits his business partner for having the vision to convert the property. “When he showed it to me, I was like, ‘Oh, that’s pretty ugly!’ Thank goodness for his vision,” he laughs. They began renovating the building and documenting the progress on Ashley’s blog and on the Bryson City Outdoors Instagram page, harnessing lessons learned from Ashley’s rise to internet notoriety. Brett’s background as an investment banker and co-owner of a July 2020 | capitalatplay.com
construction company—plus his capital—and Ben’s skillset with design were also integral in beginning the business. The community felt an immediate connection to the venture, with locals stopping by during the renovations to give their two cents on what they should be doing with the building and the brand in a town that doesn’t even have a Walmart. The building was in shambles, but the guys gutted and rebuilt it utilizing reclaimed wood. They opened the new Bryson City Outdoors in 2015, selling and renting gear.
“We went for three years behind the register when we weren’t in the back office, thinking about how to expand.” For the first year of business, the duo made no profit and didn’t add themselves to their payroll. “For the first couple years, being the new store with a bigger retailer only 15 minutes away, wholesalers would say, ‘Come talk to us when you’ve been around for three years’ — that’s the benchmark for retail. A lot of people did not think we would be around still, and they are still surprised!” Ben says, laughing. “We’re just way more fun. They can’t do a lot of house calls and drink a beer with their customers… You’ve got to really live in the community,” Brett adds.
Evolution and Expansion Ben and Brett have always had a clear vision for the kind of company and impact they want to make with Bryson City Outdoors, but that meant growing their team slowly, with only one hire for the first nine months, and doing much of the legworks themselves. “It wasn’t easy,” Brett says. “We went for three years behind the register when we weren’t in the back office, thinking about how to expand. People watched Ben and I put everything in—the blood, sweat, and tears—but we’ve had great help.” Now they staff more than a dozen people who “really care about the brand and the idea,” he adds. In April of 2016—one year after they made their first sale in the renovated shop—Ben decided to go all-in with Bryson City Outdoors; so he closed down his web and graphic design business and shifted his focus to creating original designs for their brand. “We really wanted to see where it could go, instead of me trying to split time because it’s really hard to focus on everyone else’s brands instead of focusing on your own. Turns out, we were right,” he says. With his focus on 18
| July 2020
Behind the Brand
Ben King Shares the Process Behind Brainstorming Bryson City Outdoors’ Popular In-House Brand Designs Our Outdoors On Tap design has been a longstanding favorite of our customers and really embodies the spirit of what we do here at BCOutdoors: beer and gear! As I started working on designs for 2020, I knew I wanted to give each one of our Outdoors On Tap Handles
their own unique personality so we could continue to expand the Outdoors On Tap Designs we have to offer. Creating new designs throughout the year keeps our customers interested and coming back just to see what we do next!
One of the first ideas that popped into my head was to use the tree tap handle, and what goes better with a tree than roots? So off we go. Roots are not that difficult to design because they are random and do not have to be symmetrical; they are, however, time-consuming. There are a lot of great examples of roots out there to help guide your design’s direction; just search “vector roots” and you can browse for days!
Once the first rooted tree is complete, I can take that art and replicate it and easily change the color to give the design dimension and depth. The beauty of digital-based art is how easy it is to try ideas and erase them without having a bunch of random pink dust all over your desk and graphite smudges on your paper!
FITTING THE ROOTS
FINALIZING We can now add the rooted pint glass to the tree root collage and move some layers around to get the right colors on top of one another. Give it a few long looks. Add a banner and the “Outdoors On Tap” text, and we are finished. Make sure to expand the appearance of your text before sending it off to the printers! We now have our complete design. Note: I will have to remove the gradient inside the “rooted pint” and the lettering before it goes to the t-shirt printer since that is not possible to screen print, but it will look great on the sticker!
Now that the trees are complete, it is time to tie in the beer aspect with the roots idea! I switch over to Photoshop and grab a screen shot of a pint glass to guide the shape of my roots. I take my original root concept and put it inside the pint glass and begin expanding the root system one tiny line at a time. This part took the longest! Once the drawing is complete in Photoshop, I drag it back over to Illustrator to give it the color it needs to represent your favorite craft beer straight from the tap!
July 2020 | capitalatplay.com 19
their internal brand, Ben was able to ramp up designs to appeal to an increasingly broad customer base, growing their house brand to 25% of gross sales. While the company and its brand were growing, the owners recognized that they needed something more to draw people from Bryson City “over the bridge.” “It was hard to draw people down there, so in our third year we added the taproom after debating, ‘What can we do to become that community hub and when people drive by, they think, ‘We gotta go there?’” Ben explains. “We wanted to be known for beer and gear.” In 2017 they replaced their parking lot with a patio and opened a bottle shop on-site with the intention of turning it into a taproom—after they changed the law. “We didn’t want to sell liquor, but with the alcohol license, you used to have
| July 2020
to have all three: [beer, wine, and liquor]. So we petitioned the local alderman to remove the requirement to hold the Mixed Beverage Private Bar license,” says Brett. The day the requirement was removed in December of 2017, the guys drove from Bryson City to Raleigh, bought a kegerator, and tapped a keg that night to start selling to customers. “At the Christmas parade the next morning, people were drinking on our patio. It was awesome!” Ben says. Brett and Ben decided to ask their employee Liz Nance to come on as a third co-owner when they opened the bottle shop because of her deep well—or rather, stein—of beer knowledge. Prior to joining BOC, Liz had cut her teeth at Nantahala Brewery. When the guys asked Liz if she wanted to become their partner, “I actually cried a little. Brett asked if I was
BEN’S DESIGNS END up on BCO’s merch, like hats and tees.
crying because I was happy or because they had tied me down,” Liz remembers. “My husband and I have a little gypsy blood in us, so the idea that I was laying roots was new. It felt good to know they saw potential in me. BCO gave me an outlet for my extensive beer knowledge, and it gave me a reason to keep learning,” she says. “My goal for the taproom has been to create a comfortable atmosphere that isn’t pretentious. A place where a novice can ask all the questions and an expert can sample some new brews. A place where beer education and trail stories are swapped instead of gossip,” Liz says. “Our bartenders are ambassadors of Bryson City, helping people not only find their next favorite craft beer, but maybe their new favorite hiking trail, campsite, or sunset view.”
Adding shuttle services for hikers became another way to connect with folks beyond the store’s footprint. “We will shuttle up to five passengers anywhere they need to go. We have done a lot of shuttles in the past, but they are more important as a customer relations and service that is needed than a way to add to the bottom line. It is not cheap to pay for a vehicle, the appropriate insurance, fuel, a driver, and the park services to run a legitimate shuttle service like we do,” Brett explains. Their next major milestone was opening their Western Carolina University location in January 2019. “We needed to open on the first day back from winter break, so we had about 45 days,” Brett explains. They built everything in the shop with the goal of “bringing the outdoors in,” with features like an indoor trellis. This location quickly morphed into more of a bar
July 2020 | capitalatplay.com
Best of Bryson City
he Bryson City Outdoors ownership team is completely devoted to their town. Brett and Ashley purchased a proper ty that now houses Ashley’s own shop, One Twenty Main, which Brett remodeled last year. Now he’s working on remodeling the house attached to the shop. He also manages a 1920-era Airbnb in downtown Bryson City on Park Street they call Sixty One Park, while the Kings are in the rental game with a long-term rental in Bryson City. The trio shares their tips for making the most of a trip to the Western North Carolina town. •
photo courtesy La Dolce Vita Bakery
“Restaurants: La Dolce Vita Bakery, The Everett Bistro. Breweries: Mtn Layers Brewing and Innovation Brewing. Hikes: Lonesome Pine Overlook up the Nolan’s Divide Trail. And things to do: The outdoor activities nearby are endless, and the small town community has a great vibe.”
LIZ’S RECOMMENDATION “One of my favorite hikes that is close to the shop is Noland Creek Trail. Perfect for a day hike star ting at its crossing on the Road to Nowhere, it is only one- mile from the nor th shore of Fontana Lake.”
BRETT’S RECOMMENDATION “Everett Hotel and Bistro and Smokehouse BBQ in Dillsboro. My favorite hike is LeConte up Alum Cave trailhead, and I enjoy spending time on Fontana Lake in a ski boat.” Road to Nowhere and Everett Hotel and Bistro photos courtesy of the Bryson City NC/ Swain County Chamber of Commerce
| July 2020
BCO HAS THE GEAR—and expertise—to help customers hike, camp, and more.
photo courtesy Bryson City Outdoors
and hang-out for seniors, and the guys had just wrapped up a remodel to transition more of the space away from retail and toward community space before they had to close due to COVID-19. “That was going to be our first female-run company,” Ben says. “We’d made some changes, then spring break happened in the beginning of March, and we did some more remodeling to make it
mean, and aggressive when necessary, as exhibited by their push to make a significant strategic move every year. Simultaneously, they heed the advice of one of their good friends who owns a retail shop in Georgia: “He said, ‘Go as slow as you can, don’t expand until you can’t hold it anymore.’ So before we expand, we always ask, ‘Are we ready for this?’” Brett says. In fact, two years
“We use the gear, we tell you what trail to go on, share our favorite backcountry camping spots—but you’ve got to prove you’re a good steward before we give you the good spots!” more lounge-ish and minimize the retail footprint. We did all those changes, but no one got to experience it.” Ben and Brett have been intentional about planting seeds along the way, like through their relationship with Motion Makers, a bicycle shop in Cherokee. “Two years ago, we told them if they ever decided to move somewhere else and we liked the location, we would be interested in sharing,” Brett says. That led to their co-opening their Fire Mountain Outpost in February 2020 with Motion Makers’ new location up front and Bryson City Outdoors’ third in the back. Brett and Ben bring up Silicon Valley and bloated tech companies with a touch of disdain, yet it’s clear they run their business with the startup mentality of being lean,
ago they passed up on a 4,000-sq.-ft. space because the owners agreed it just wasn’t time. The BCO team is growing fast, but not without intention. “Not everyone needs to be a millionaire. Money is not success. That’s not success. We want to create a business that can provide for our families for the next 40 years,” Brett adds.
Bryson City’s Benefits According to Allied Market Research, the global adventure tourism industry will reach $1.6 billion by 2026; in 2018 it was already valued at $586 million. This growth is evident on a micro-scale in the outdoor July 2020 | capitalatplay.com 23
| July 2020
mecca of Swain County, which has experienced a 10% compound annual growth rate since Bryson City Outdoors opened, with TDA revenue topping $1 million for the first time in 2019. Nearby, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, already the most visited of the national parks, broke attendance records in 2019 with more than 12.5 million visitors, an increase of about 10% from 2018. “You can feel it. Bryson City and Swain County have a soul. You can feel the growth,” Brett says, citing everyday business as well as local tourist attractions like the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad as impetus for the city’s growth, plus that same nostalgia Ashley felt when they decided to make their move in 2014. Witnessing the growing popularity of Bryson City and its outdoor scene is in part why they have felt confident opening up three new locations in just five years. “I mean, we’re surrounded by the Great Smoky Mountains—there’s 25 different outdoor activities that you can do within 15 minutes that are basically free except for the gear,” Ben points out; as outdoor retailers, that’s the perfect market to outfit. Their growth was almost inevitable as the only outdoor retailer in town (Bryson City was home to an outpost of the Nantahala Outdoor Center, but the shop closed more than a decade ago.). Plus, Ben, Brett, Liz, and their teams are as passionate about the outdoors—and the gear they use to explore it—as their customers. “We use the gear, we tell you what trail to go on, share our favorite backcountry camping spots—but you’ve got to prove you’re a good steward before we give you the good spots!” Ben says, laughing. Liz certainly oozes love for the area, too, a prerequisite for any Bryson City Outdoors team member. “My favorite thing about Bryson City is the fact that we are surrounded by places to get outside,” she says, sharing her favorite spots: “Pisgah National Forest, Nantahala National Forest, Slickrock Wilderness, and the Smokies are all just a short drive from here.” It’s this love for the outdoors that informs their own in-house brand, which has grown to make up 25% of gross sales. Ben lights up when he talks about his design work for BCO’s merchandise: “People love finding out that me, the guy behind the counter, is the one who created the Bryson City Outdoors gear,” he says. “People want to buy from us. You can’t buy our designs on Amazon, and you can’t develop that relationship on Amazon.” While BCO’s growth has paralleled that of the city, Ben also acknowledges that growing up locally has helped their business thrive tremendously: “I grew up in Bryson City, been part of the community, and have lots of family ties. Plus, I didn’t make anyone too mad here,” he jokes. Besides breeding goodwill, his local knowledge helps the business stand out, too. “I know the trails, the area, the people… you relate that to your customer. The local expertise—you just can’t replace that.” “Our little town is an amazing place and full of small momand-pops just making a living, but that is enough for all of us, and our lives are full because of the community. Money is not
what is important to most of us out here, it is the friends and relationships that drive us,” Brett adds. That’s why the business makes a point of giving back to the community, be that fiscal or product donations. “It may not always be a big thing: a $50 sign, something for the raffle, a door prize,” Ben says. They also love teaming up with organizations like Big Brothers Big Sisters by doing a pint night where part of the proceeds from that day’s tab go to a charity. A cause that’s particularly close to their heart—in part because Swain County is ranked as having the lowest average teacher pay out of all North Carolina counties, in part because Ben’s wife, Brenae, is a teacher—is supporting local teachers. This year, they co-sponsored with the school board a $10 gift card for 100% of the faculty and staff in the county, a total of 150 people. “Brett has always gone by the mantra, ‘community over commerce,’ and Ben has a huge heart for our town, so we do a lot to give back,” Liz adds. The town obviously appreciates the efforts these folks are making to improve Bryson City’s business sector, electing Ben to the Bryson City board when he was only 28 back in 2017, and, since December 2019, Ben has served as the town’s mayor pro tem. “I wish that more young people across the country would start to take notice of the decisions that are being made at not only the federal and state level, but also the local level,” says Ben. “The decisions being made by town boards and county commissioner boards have more impact on your daily life and your community’s future than you may think, and you can help be the voice for those in your community that feel similarly to yourself!” Ben urges.
What’s Next? Although they share a lot of core values that influence how they run the company—giving back to the community, building a strong company culture with fulfilled team members, and innovating constantly—Ben and Brett differ in their aversion to risk, with Brett describing himself as “very conservative” when it comes to the company’s finances and investments, where Ben would like to amplify their growth quickly. Brett points out, “We’ve been given the liberty to grow at a slower pace than a lot of people have. People have grown with us; they come back every year, they feel a part of it, like they are building something. It’s really been beneficial to grow at our pace, but we are in conflict because he’s hungry and younger than me.” However, they still like to dream about where they’d like to see the business go next. Ben says, “We’re trying to get into a model where it’s not seasonal and be able to provide jobs that are careers. That requires diversification. What can we do online? How can we build a brand that people connect with when they’re home?” And for every new idea Ben comes up with, Brett is there as the ever-vigilant reality check. “It’s not a good idea unless it’s a good idea. One of you has to be the idea person,” Brett explains, adding, “For me to take any risk July 2020 | capitalatplay.com 25
is like pulling teeth. You don’t have to grow to make more money, you have to grow in the right ways. Companies that are just growing to grow, they’re suffering.” Despite their success and measured approach to growing the business, these two know that a post-COVID world is
Both Ben and Brett recognize that their value lies not necessarily in their stores and taprooms, but in the Bryson City Outdoors brand. Brett says of owning a retail store, “It has no intrinsic value. It’s very cut and dry. If you don’t create a brand that has value, it’s only worth what your product is worth.” With internal design work, community connection, and real-world passion, these entrepreneurs have added value to their business that far exceeds its products. As for their future, Liz explains, BCO is constantly changing, a fact that’s not likely to change itself: “Since I’ve joined the team, we’ve added a bottle shop, a taproom, a shuttle service, and two other locations. We try to stay fluid but authentic by constantly finding new ways of bringing what we love about our town and our life and making it accessible to those around us. I see this growing over the next five years as we continue to add to our guest services and learn new ways to encourage people to live life outside.” Brett adds, “This is an ever-evolving, living thing, and it feeds off of all of us. Being a part of something bigger than myself is important, and Bryson City Outdoors is definitely bigger than even its collective parts. It really is fun and beautiful.”
“This is an ever-evolving, living thing, and it feeds off of all of us. Being a part of something bigger than myself is important.” going to be particularly tough on retail businesses. “The brick-and-mortar retail stores are struggling right now, and I am not sure what the future holds for a lot of us,” Brett says. But they’ve kept their taprooms open for pick-up and their shops open to customers throughout the pandemic, and Brett points out they’ll always have an advantage as a small-town, physical retailer: “Even with more and more business online, I believe that vendors and product lines will need the specialty retail guy more than ever to connect with the customer,” he attests. 26
| July 2020
hen COVID-19 hit, the Bryson Cit y Outdoor s owner ship returned to their startup roots and stopped giving themselves paychecks, which allowed them to keep on seven of their 13-person staff and only close their Western Carolina University location. Since being a taproom makes them an essential business, Bryson City Outdoors has been able to offer curbside pickup for both beer (and beer delivery within a 15-mile radius) and retail items at its Cherokee and Bryson City locations. Inside the retailer, there are a maximum number of people in the stores at one time, plus they limited their hours. To help cope with COVID-19, they offered blind tasting grab-bags for curbside pickup, and Liz would do a Facebook Live to guide folks through an online tasting they called Pints on the Porch. “She would put together three beers in a paper bag and do a Facebook Live, talking about the tasting notes. The customers didn’t know what they were buying. It’s actually driven a lot of beer sales,” Ben says. “I enjoyed them because I was able to actually drink the beer with our guests, something that I wouldn’t be able to do standing behind the bar. Pints on the Porch was a fun way to connect with our taproom regulars and allowed us to show off our new designs and new brews while sharing a laugh,” Liz explains. One thing the coronavirus has certainly taught them? “We will be more prepared for something like this in the future. I mean, would anyone have ever thought that the government would come through and close your business? We never really fathomed that could happen,” Ben says. •
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The Modern Wine Cellar
Everyone Should Have a Wine Cellar—Here’s How to Build One That Suits Your Lifestyle and Budget
is the co-owner of Metro Wines located on Charlotte Street in downtown Asheville.
LMOST EVERY WINE LOVER DREAMS of having their own wine cellar. The very thought brings to mind images of a cool, subterranean room filled with an ample stock of your favorites, all aged to perfection. At dinner time, you would idly browse through the collection, selecting the wine that best suits your mood and meal.
A couple of centuries ago, this was, in fact, what cellars looked like. But back then, only the aristocracy could afford the very best wines, which were highly tannic or acidic, requiring decades of aging before they were drinkable. In the world of the landed gentry, you drank the wine in your parents’ cellar and bought the wine your children would someday serve. If your parents have yet to surprise you with a room full of aged wine, not all is lost. To build a wine cellar these days, you don’t have to be a nobleman, and you don’t need decades for the wine you buy to be palatable—you don’t even need an aristocrat’s income. You can build a cellar that fits your lifestyle as well as your budget—here’s what you need to consider to do so.
| July 2020
At its essence, a cellar is simply a stash of wine in the house; consider it part of your pantry that holds one of the key ingredients you need to make a great meal. Keeping a few bottles in the house also means you’re prepared for any event; you can avoid a dash to the store when unexpected guests drop by, and you always have a party or housewarming gift at the ready. This modern, everyday cellar should hold wines you’ll want to drink over the next year or two. Just about any wine of reasonable quality will improve with six to twelve months of aging, as age softens the edges and integrates the flavors. Even a good rosé will taste better with a few months of age. (Just avoid grocery store rosé, which is designed to fade around the time you put away your white summer pants.)
J For this kind of grab-and-go cellar, you need a spot to hold 12 to 48 bottles. One of the more efficient ways to store this quantity is a small wine refrigerator; they’re more compact than a dishwasher and can be installed under your kitchen counter or double as a tabletop in your dining room. You can avoid even this expense by simply using a closet. Find the coolest closet in the house, and put a rack on the floor; this will do just fine for holding wine a year or two from its release date. For long-term aging, there are a few things to consider before making the effort and expense. First, buy a couple of aged bottles to make sure you like the taste. Years ago, my brother got a great deal on 10-year-old Barolo and passed the savings on to his restaurant patrons. After a couple of weeks, he added a notice to the wine list saying that customers could not send the Barolo back. Although the Barolo was perfectly aged, many customers had never tried an aged wine and just didn’t like it.
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THE MOST COMMON MISTAKE IN AGING IS WAITING TOO LONG TO ENJOY YOUR WINE. Second, be prepared for some loss. The older a wine gets, the more variation there is between bottles. Even two bottles stored next to each other can taste vastly different after a decade of aging. If you’re looking for consistency, aging bottles may not be for you. Also, expect a few of your bottles to be corked, a term that describes the wet basement flavor of unwanted bacteria that can taint a bottle. About one out of every 50 bottles might be corked. If you buy just one bottle of a wine to age, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. You’ll never get to enjoy the rewards of your patience if the one bottle is corked or didn’t age well. Buy three or more bottles to ensure you get at least one good one in a worst-case scenario. The most common mistake in aging is waiting too long to enjoy your wine. Many people hold that special bottle for an illdefined special occasion. Twenty years later, when they finally open it, the bottle is long gone. Set a date to enjoy your wine so that you don’t miss out. (Every ageable bottle has a different time frame, so confirm the aging window with your wine shop or critics.) If you can’t think of something special enough, remember opening a great bottle is the special occasion. The corollary to the special occasion problem is buying too much wine. Some people are more enthralled with the thrill of the hunt and amassing a collection, rather than actually drinking the wine. The saddest part of my job is assessing someone’s cellar only to find that most of the wines are undrinkable because they’ve been in storage too long. Keep
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July 2020 | capitalatplay.com 29
in mind, 95% of wines are at their peak for one year after release, 4% are good for five years, and only 1% are built for the long haul of ten years or more. Assess what you’ll need for yourself, friends, and parties over the years, and limit your purchases to that predetermined number of bottles. You’ll still have fun buying new wine to replace what you’ve served. A long term cellar—which holds bottles to age for five years or more—will set you back a few bucks. You’ll need to find a space big enough in your home to hold your collection. Because wines become increasingly fragile after ten years of age, you’ll need a space that is dark, without vibration, and can hold the temperature around 55 degrees. Keep the humidity between 50 and 70% so the corks don’t dry out. There are all kinds of refrigeration equipment to help you maintain this ideal environment. When it comes to filling your everyday or long term cellar, there are a few things I’d suggest in order to make the most of your collection over a lifetime:
1. Focus on wines you like and that go with the food you serve. This may sound obvious, but people sometimes buy wines they think they should own, rather than the ones
| July 2020
they usually serve. Having said that, if you’re building a long term cellar, do buy a few of the great wines like Bordeaux or Barolo, even if they’re not your style. Almost everyone’s taste changes over time, and the wines you avoid today may become your preferred style in a decade when your purchases are ready. And even if you don’t like them, you’ll have a great gift for your friends who do.
2. Make sure your cellar has wine for every occasion. Whether it’s Tuesday night spaghetti or your ten-year anniversary, you want to be ready with a bottle that suits the celebration (or lack thereof). Also, stock enough everyday wine to survive any event, otherwise your special bottles will fall victim to end-of-party raiding.
3. Start with relatively affordable wines. If you must have Napa Valley, you’ll spend a fortune. Keep in mind, you can acquire world class wines in the $15 to $25 range if it doesn’t have to come from the most popular grapes or locations.
4. Select one or two wines you like and buy a little every year. Over time you’ll amass a great vertical collection, allowing you to enjoy the differences between the vintages. Lining up two or three vintages on the table makes for an unforgettable dinner party.
5. Buy six or twelve bottles of a wine you really love. This gives you the opportunity to open a bottle every year or two to see how it’s aging. When it reaches the point you think it’s at its best, accelerate the opening.
7. In states like North Carolina, some of the best wines are only available for a short time each year. Wine from small vintners is a bit like produce at farmers markets: When it’s in season, you’d better grab it. And just as farmers market produce can be a deal, these bottles often cost less at your local wine shop than if you buy them from New Jersey or the winery. Build a relationship with your local wine shop, and ask them to contact you when your favorite wines become available. With these tips in mind and with a little planning, you can serve great wines within your budget for years to come.
6. Buy a few bottles from the vintage that matches the birth year of your child. Since these bottles need to last twenty or more years, make sure these are wines that can make the journey. Some couples buy the new vintage each year and give the two cases of wine to their child when they reach legal age.
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CAROLINA in the
A New Market buncombe county
Organizers of the Patchwork Alliance accelerated its launch in response to the COVID-19 crisis. The alliance is a producer cooperative supporting local growers and makers, and it is helping consumers and products connect as supply chains prove vulnerable. From a broader perspective, the objective is to support self-sufficient, local economies through “cross-enterprise” collaboration. Patchwork is a larger version of a similar cooperative producer/owner Sunil Patel supported in Montford for five years. Farmers, crafters, restaurant owners, grocery markets, and supply shops are invited to join the group, whose membership rose to 35 rather quickly. Producer/ owners pay $50 a month for membership fees, and a variety of subscriptions are
available for consumers. While plans to expand the membership experience at the Weaverville “aggregation site” with restaurants upon further buildout are on hold, Patchwork is currently running an online market and accepting orders from its website Friday through Monday, with pickup available Thursdays on the premises of various cooperating partners. Patchwork accepts payment via credit and debit card, and EBT cards are accepted for some pickup points.
A Learning Experience haywood county
Waynesville Town Manager Rob Hites had colorful language for the findings of the contractors who recently drained a digester tank at the municipal wastewater treatment plant. The tank is 20 feet
tall by 20 feet in diameter, and it hadn’t been drained since 1964. Normally, when contractors drain tanks, they treat the sludge on the bottom with lime and haul it away for use as fertilizer. In Waynesville the contractors found a 12-foot mass of hair, plastic, and flushable wipes. “Pretty gross,” were Hites’ exact words. The town had to spend an extra $20,000 to rent a knuckle boom to lift the mass and then haul it to the landfill. Hites repeated rules of thumb often abandoned for an ounce of convenience: (1) Sewer plants can’t handle plastic, even thin plastic from hygiene products; and (2) Flushable wipes aren’t flushable. In another lesson lost for convenience now reinforced by experience, the contractors also found bars on metal grates had corroded past the breaking point. “Deferred maintenance always costs you more in the long run,” said Hites.
Nothing Slowing These Guys watauga county
As restaurants, unable to provide on-premises dining, were experiencing a universal slowing in income, Chris Wilcox and Clayton “Boonie” Miller
A Unique and Independent Real Estate Company since 1979 32
23 Arlington Street Asheville, NC 28801 | 828. 255.7530 | www.appalachianrealty.com | July 2020
were working on opening one of their own, Boonie’s Chicago Style Pizza. They acquired a lease for a building that had been operating as a Hardee’s until February 22. Two advantages are it’s near the campus of Appalachian State University, and it will be able to conduct business out of the drive-thru window as long as stay-safe orders are in effect. But for now, Wilcox and Miller are investing $120,000 in upgrades. As things return to normal, the friends expect to offer a menu of pizza, pasta, sandwiches, and appetizers and stock a bar with local beer and wine. Patrons will be able to enjoy casual dining under four big-screen televisions or possibly book a private meeting room. The plan is to start moderately and expand as business allows. Miller’s brother opened a restaurant in 1978, albeit in Chicago, and Wilcox and Miller have been dreaming about doing the same for a decade.
the old north state
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Harrie T. Lindeberg, and its landscape architect, Chauncey Beadle, were of no small reputation. The two-story, fivebed, six-and-four-half-bath brick home sits on 4.5 acres overlooking the 13th hole of the Biltmore Forest Country Club golf course. The interior is marked by extensive and diverse woodwork and chandelier and sconce lighting. Other remarkable features include a spiral staircase with wrought-iron trim and marble columns. The decor presents an overall traditional aura with subtle twists of modern design. Now 74 years old, the current owner, Kip Warlick, is downsizing. Through the years, the home has been passed down to family members, so this is its first listing. Marilyn Wright of Premier Sotheby’s International Realty is the seller’s agent, and the asking price is $8.75 million.
The Carbon Cycle Check Out the Interior buncombe county
The Ellsleigh Estate in Biltmore Forest is up for sale. The historic mansion was built in 1927 for the founders of the Coca-Cola Bottling Company of Asheville. Both the home’s architect,
carolina in the west
composites and abrasives announced the release of braided, impact-resistant, carbon-fiber bicycle spokes. Others have tried to make carbon-fiber spokes, but they either cut spoke shapes from carbon sheets, which proved unacceptably brittle, or manufactured wheels in a single piece, which would be cost-prohibitive to replace. CEO David Watkins said he had been trying to figure out how to make carbon-fiber bicycle spokes for a long time when he heard, at a conference in 2016, that technology had been developed for braiding the fibers. Now, after 13,000 hours of research and development, which included Richie riding a bike with the spokes around Pisgah Forest for a year without a single breakage, Keir is ready to go to market. The spokes are 40% lighter than conventional steel spokes, and Watkins says they’re also the toughest on the market. The only downside is cost with wheel sets priced at $2,300 each.
Keir Manufacturing has applied for six patents for its first consumer product, which will be marketed under the new brand Gulo Composites. In a partnership with mechanical engineer and professional cross-country cycling racer Richie Trent, the manufacturer of ceramic
A Land Gamble swain county
The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) has filed a federal lawsuit opposing another attempt by the Catawba Indian Nation to build and operate a
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July 2020 | capitalatplay.com
carolina in the west
casino in Kings Mountain. The complaint charges the government agents working on behalf of the defendants were not following their own rules, “running roughshod” over environmental protections and historical preservation, with consequences. It further alleges the EBCI was caught blindsided, hearing about developments indirectly and late in the game and being denied normal opportunities for providing input. The latest strategy, which provoked the lawsuit, would have created a federal trust to purchase, for the Catawba’s casino, the 16.57 acres the tribe has been trying to acquire since 2013. The Catawba Nation, with a reservation in Rock Hill, South Carolina, is required to follow state laws for opening a casino, and South Carolina does not allow gambling. So the tribe wants to build a casino 34 miles away, over the state line. The Cherokee Nation, however, argues the new casino would drain off one-third of its casino’s customers, reducing the tribe’s annual revenue by over $100 million. State and local governments are supporting the EBCI, while federal entities tend to favor the Catawba Nation.
Staying Productive buncombe county
Sarah Wells Rolland, owner of The Village Potters, applied for several loans to help with losses incurred during stay-home orders. But rather than sitting around fretting about whether or not anything would materialize, she decided to get to work. She kept making unique pottery, but reframed the process. The goal was to create 500 pots, each of a different size, shape, and surface treatment and glazed from a “broad palette.” Called Vessels of Hope, she is asking members of the community to purchase one of the pots, each priced at $100. Proceeds will pay for overhead at The Village Potters, with 10% going to support other artists in the same predicament. The pottery will be fired whenever enough pieces
| July 2020
are created to load a kiln. Then, when all 500 pieces have been completed, The Village Potters will pack and ship them with labels randomly stuck on the boxes to add an element of surprise to the endeavor. To stay connected, she is posting videos and photos of the crafting process on social media.
Like a Museum ashe county
Eddie Vannoy has decided it’s time to let somebody else enjoy his personal collections of cars and Americana that he’s been acquiring for 50 years. Mecum Auctions has agreed to help Vannoy unload, compiling a catalog and setting a date, which is now suspended due to pandemic-related issues. In the meantime, the collection has attracted national attention, scoring a photo feature with Business Insider, among other outlets. Most remarkable are the cars. There are over 80 in the collection, and most of them are American muscle cars. Vannoy also has menageries of motorcycles, outboard motors, barber shop and diner art, and various forms of automobile memorabilia. The display is as museum-grade as the items themselves, most of the highshine cars having hardly been driven at all. Until things reopen, the curious and potential buyers can peruse pages of annotated photographs of every item in the Eddie Vannoy Collection online at mecum.com. Vannoy and his brother, Mark, are second-generation co-owners of Vannoy Construction, a developer of large commercial and institutional projects that conducted $600 million in business last year.
More Financial M&A’s macon & jackson counties
Select Bancorp, the holding company for Select Bank & Trust, has finalized the acquisition of three branches of Entegra Bank, a division of First Citizens Bank. Purchased were the branches on 30
Hyatt Road in Franklin, 498 East Main Street in Sylva, and 473 Carolina Way in Highlands. Through the deal, Select acquired the deposits, most loans, and physical assets of the branches. Select’s president and CEO, William Hedgepeth, explained his company is working to expand its geographical footprint, buying established branches with trained employees as much as possible. The Dunn-based bank recently purchased a branch in Cornelius and loan offices in Winston-Salem and Durham. The acquisitions put Select in control of 22 bank branches and three loan processing facilities in North and South Carolina and Virginia. For the first quarter of 2020, Select reported $1.3 billion in assets, $982.7 million in deposits, and $1.0 billion in gross loans.
Here’s the Meat watauga county
During the meat shortage, the Peddler Steakhouse of Boone was able to capitalize on its relations with producers and vendors to, as owner Tristan Muehleib described it, “get meat to as many people as possible.” The Peddler built its brand around all-natural fine dining with ambience; when the dining room had to close, Muehleib envisioned a greater destiny than carryout for his prime rib and New York strip. Seeing his restaurant was the broken link in the supply chain, Muehleib started offering his steaks, made of “specially selected heavy Western beef... aged precisely for proper tenderness and texture,” raw for pickup. People could call in orders from 10AM-5PM Mondays and Tuesdays and pick them up Wednesdays and Thursdays. Muehleib said this went well, though he sometimes had to limit how many of a certain cut he could sell to a single customer. The restaurant continued to offer carryout Friday and Saturday, offering a full menu of appetizers, entrees, and all sides except the restaurant’s signal salad bar.
Serious Business buncombe county
Genova Diagnostics has agreed to pay up to $43 million in a settlement to put to rest allegations that it billed the federal government for reimbursement of medically unnecessary lab tests. Genova was accused of improperly submitting claims, engaging in improper billing techniques, and profiting off self-referrals. As terms of the settlement, Genova will surrender $17 million in claim payments suspended by Medicare and Tricare and pay more, depending on whether other criteria are met over the next five years. Genova also entered into a Corporate Integrity Agreement with the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General, under which it must establish and maintain a compliance program and submit to independent review. Allegations were brought against Genova by a former Genova vice president and executive officer, Dr. Darryl Landis, who, under whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act, can receive up to $6 million from the settlement. The investigation and disposition of the case was handled through a coordinated effort of about ten state and federal agencies.
More Than Skiing avery county
Beech Mountain Resort, best known for its winter sports offerings, announced its summer season would open June 5. With 95 acres ranging between 4,675 and 5,506 feet above sea level, the resort has a lot of room for social distancing and keeping cool. The resort’s scenic lift will be operating for all members of the public, but doing so at no cost to residents of Watauga and Avery counties. Visitors can ride for the fun of it or to reach the trailhead for downhill mountain biking experiences. Bikers can opt to go it alone, go with a guide, or even take a lesson. Mechanical or electric-assist
bikes may be rented on premises, and there is a full-service bicycle shop in the village should something go wrong. The lift also stops at the first hole of the downhill, 18-hole disc golf course, which will be open for hiking or playing. Beech Mountain Brewing and 5506’ will be open for takeaway to any number of nearby cool spots for a scenic picnic. The resort assures it is practicing enhanced sanitation and social distancing policies.
Boo-Hoo, Choo-Choo western north carolina
An era came to an end this spring when Norfolk Southern idled its hump in Linwood Yard in Spencer. Humps are hills used by railroads for decoupling cars from incoming trains for connection to other carriers. Since the track was built in 1979, trains would leave Linwood Yard to travel into Western North Carolina. The S-line consisted of 13 miles of winding track marked by scenic overlooks, colorful flora, tall bridges, and seven tunnels. No small engineering feat, at one point, the track split into three ascending loops. Now, industries relying on thru-rail for hauling freight are all gone from the region except for one, Evergreen Packaging in Canton, and it is served by Watco Blue Ridge Southern. Trains will still use the track to haul freight locally on short runs west of Spencer, however. Norfolk Southern continues to operate 19,500 miles of track in 22 states and the District of Columbia.
Struggling for a Signal rutherford county
Beth Revis, an author of fantasy and science fiction for young adults, was mentioned in a New York Times article illustrating how the COVID-19 crisis is calling attention to the digital divide. A best-selling author with 20 titles published in over 20 languages, Revis was described as pulling up in her car to an elementary school parking lot for a free Wi-Fi connection so she could teach
a two-hour writing class from her car. The article told how people across the country are going to public buildings or Starbucks and parking in every-other space in order to get a connection for work or school. About one in four Americans has no high-speed internet access in their home, due to either geographical or income restraints. Revis, who lives in a rural area, explained what had been a challenging situation is now an impossibility. Educators are noticing that some students have to drive miles to complete their assignments, and teachers get concerned when students drop off, only to learn they’ve lost their connections. They argue students’ grades should not be a reflection of their ability to get a good signal.
The Tension Continues buncombe county
Disgruntled and former employees of No Evil Foods are citing various actions allegedly taken or not taken at the company during the COVID-19 crisis to continue pushing for unionization. The latest vote by employees on unionization was defeated 43-15, and it was taken as a show of support for the company’s already progressive compensation package. The defeat, however, was followed by the circulation of a petition for hazard pay, which was beaten to the punch by the company granting the pay before the signatures were presented to leadership. Then, complainants allege, several people were fired for supporting the petition. In January company leadership contracted with Constangy, Brooks, Smith & Prophete for legal help fighting unionization, after which time complainants say pro-union employees were taken into “educational sessions.” While North Carolina was a pioneer among right-towork states and remains among the least unionized in the country, workers for another protein processor, Smithfield, succeeded in unionizing in three votes taken over ten years.
July 2020 | capitalatplay.com
DARGAN LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTS DESIGN, photo by Sarah M Valentine at sarahmvalentine.com
Lands OF THE
Sky written by dasha morgan
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A New Generation Carries on Western North Carolinaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Legacy of Landscape Architecture July 2020 | capitalatplay.com 37
photo courtesy Kerns Land Planning & Design
photo by Sarah M Valentine at sarahmvalentine.com
In Western North Carolina there is a community of talented, knowledgeable, and able landscape architects who have had a significant impact on our terrain. The region’s long history of noteworthy landscape architecture began with the famed work of Frederick Law Olmsted at Biltmore Estate in the 1890s and continues today through residential projects and monuments as wide-ranging as the grounds of Trinity Episcopal Church’s Asheville campus to the North Carolina Arboretum. According to the North Carolina Board of Landscape Architects, there are 24 firms listed in the Asheville area, and many of the nation’s preeminent firms, while based elsewhere, are being tapped to contribute to and shape our regional landscape. While it is a notoriously competitive field requiring a host of skills, it’s also a rewarding one, as landscape architects reshape the Western North Carolina outdoors into works of art to be admired for generations to come. 38
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Landscape architects are essentially outdoor designers: They determine the site of a building in relation to the land where it is being placed. It’s a profession that embodies and requires a dizzying set of skills. Landscape architects combine art, science, math, and horticulture; they must analyze, plan, design, manage, and nurture the environment. Site analysis, site inventory, site planning, land planning, planting design, grading, stormwater management, sustainable design, construction specification, and ensuring that all plans meet the current building codes and local and federal ordinances are all within their domain. To understand the profession of landscape architecture, one must first understand what such professionals do and what they don’t do. The landscape architect works in collaboration with other professionals to create functional designs. It is the responsibility of the landscape architect to create a beautiful project design while ensuring the continued sustainability of the natural resources and ecology of the area being developed. They design the project, but they do not implement the plan; the implementation of the landscape architect’s plan is done by the construction company selected and paid for by the client. However, landscape architects remain involved until the completion of their design. They often visit the site after having given very detailed plans for the construction of the site—sometimes as many as 100 pages of specifications— including exact plant choices, soil requirements, and structural provisions. Landscape architects can be involved in the design of various projects at various levels. It’s the landscape architect who designs parks, campus areas, streetscapes, trails, plazas, and other projects that help define a community, in addition to yards and outdoor living spaces.
NORTH CAROLINA ARBORETUM, photo courtesy The North Carolina Arboretum
Becoming a professional landscape architect is no easy feat. A formal education is essential to gain the needed skills to become a professional registered landscape architect. Professional education in landscape architecture can be obtained at the undergraduate or graduate level. There are two undergraduate professional degrees: a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture (BLA) and a Bachelor of Science in Landscape Architecture (BSLA). These usually require four or five years of study in design, construction techniques, art, history, and natural and social sciences. Besides a formal education, most states require professionals to have a license to be considered a landscape architect and institute continuing education requirements to maintain that license. There are many in the field who are landscape designers or horticultural designers, but to be considered a registered landscape architect, one must have an accredited degree and pass the state exams. To become a licensed landscape architect in North Carolina, designers must take and pass the Landscape Architect Registration Examination (LARE) in addition to meeting all other eligibility requirements for the state. Becoming a landscape architect also requires a certain degree of inherent talent. The American Society of Landscape Architects (the professional organization representing
landscape architecture in the United States) considers that a landscape architect needs: 1) sensitivity to landscape quality; 2) understanding of the arts and a humanistic approach to design; 3) ability to analyze problems in terms of design and physical form; 4) technical competence to translate a design into a built work; and 5) skills in all aspects of professional practice, including management of professional ethics. The salary of a landscape architect varies widely and depends on their experience and whether he or she is a young designer or principal. A landscape architect with a well-regarded firm can charge anywhere from $100 to $300 an hour. Landscape architects spend much of their time in offices, where they create designs, prepare models, and meet with clients. A great deal of thought and care must go into each project as they deal with the various elements of design. The firm itself can vary tremendously in size, from a small, boutique firm of one or two (like Dargan Landscape Architects and Kerns Land Planning and Design), to a medium-sized firm of approximately 50 (Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects), and then some very large firms of well over 100 landscape designers (like SWA, a landscape architecture, urban design, and planning firm with a network of seven studios worldwide). July 2020 | capitalatplay.com 39
photo by Sarah M Valentine at sarahmvalentine.com
THE NORTH CAMPUS Gateway project Perspective rendering by Blaine Weinheimer
photo courtesy Kerns Land Planning & Design | July 2020
It should be noted that landscape architecture is a highly competitive profession. Often a project desired by a client is brought to the attention of a number of professionals or firms for them to review and have preliminary discussions with the client on the landscape and building site placement. The size of the project often determines how many firms will compete for the job by demonstrating their qualifications with examples of past work on similar projects. Public works often differ from general commercial and residential projects, because public contracts are guided by state statutes and are usually awarded after a publicly advertised, and often lengthy, submittal process. In certain cases, with highly visible public work such as a memorial or public plaza, design competitions may determine the final selection of a landscape architect. Deciding on a firm for a project isn’t just a matter of what’s pretty. Perhaps the project’s selection committee finds they have a better rapport with one firm over another, or the focus of the design concept appeals more to their long term vision for the space. The preferred design concepts and firms are narrowed down by the client (or selection committee) to a few favorites before the final selection is made. The landscape architect is then retained for the project and proceeds through a process from design development through more detailed plans, specifications, and construction documents. Residential landscape architecture, as opposed to municipal, institutional, and larger commercial work, often involves a simpler and more personal selection process. The owner may have worked with the firm in the past, admired the firm’s work, or received a recommendation from a friend or colleague. According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) and National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), landscape architecture services contributed $2.7 billion to the United States’ economy in 2015, and some 26,000 landscape architects earned $2.4 billion. Employment of landscape architects is projected to grow 4% from 2018 to 2028, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Approximately 16,400 landscape architects are currently licensed in the United States. Over the past twenty years, there has been a tremendous influx of powerful women leaders in the profession of landscape architecture. Much like engineering, architecture, medicine, and law, the profession has opened up to women, with many women now serving as principals, owners, and active professional participants. Some prominent women with their own international firms include Signe Nielsen and Kim Matthews, Kate Orff, and Katherine Gustafson. Here in Asheville, Lynn Raker has been a landscape architect for many years. She is currently on the Arboretum Society Board, a past president of the North Carolina Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects, and is on the Asheville City Council’s I-26 Connector Aesthetics Committee. She originally planned to pursue law, but taking a class with the well-loved and renowned horticulturalist JC Raulston at North Carolina State University opened her eyes to the diverse possibilities in landscape architecture. Lynn recalls of her early years in the profession, “There were only a handful of other women landscape architects; now we may make up closer to 30% to 40%.”
STATUE OF OLMSTED at the North Carolina Arboretum, photo by Rachel McIntosh Photography
Seven Key Features of Olmsted Design Frederick Law Olmsted built the foundation for modern landscape architecture. The National Association for Olmsted Parks (olmsted.org) shares the key features set by Olmsted more than 100 years ago that still define the field today:
Designs that give an enhanced sense of space and scenery: indefinite boundaries; constant opening up of new views; avoidance of hard-edged or formalized planting; designs that have either "considerable complexity of light and shadow near the eye" or "obscurity of detail further away."
Designs in keeping with the natural scenery and topography of the site: respect for, and full utilization of, the "genius of the place."
Designs in specific styles for a particular effect. Pastoral Style: open greenspace, small bodies of water, and scattered trees and groves designed to be soothing to the eye and restorative in spirit. Picturesque: profuse planting, especially with shrubs, creepers, and ground cover, on steep and broken terrain, to convey the richness of nature with effects of light and shade to produce a sense of mystery.
Subordination of all elements, all features and objects, to the overall design and effect intended. The "Art to conceal Art."
Separation of space for different purposes to ensure safety and reduce distractions; buried transverse roads to obscure commercial traffic; discrete walking paths; separation of conflicting or incompatible uses.
Provision for adequate drainage and other engineering considerations, not simply surface features. Designs promote the physical and mental health of users.
Planning of designs to serve a "purpose of direct utility"; that is, to meet fundamental social and psychological needs: "So long as considerations of utility are neglected or overridden by considerations of ornament, there will be no true Art."
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OLMSTED’S DESIGNS still define the Biltmore Estate property, photo courtesy The Biltmore Company, by Jared Kay
The Father of American Landscape Architecture Frederick Law Olmsted (1822-1903) has been considered the father of American landscape architecture since he and Calvert Vaux won the contest to design New York’s Central Park in 1858. As a prolific writer, he outlined his approach to design with major principles and timeless aesthetic theories which continue to greatly influence the profession today. His design philosophy and approach to process have formed the basis and standard of excellence of modern landscape architectural practice. (see sidebar) Olmsted moved his home to suburban Boston in 1883 and established the world’s first full-scale professional office for the practice of landscape design. Olmsted made public parks an essential part of American life, as opposed to reserved for the upper classes as they had been in Europe prior to his work. Over his career, he designed an array of outstanding public parks, including Prospect Park in Brooklyn, New York (with Calvert Vaux), Iroquois Park 42
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in Louisville, and Jackson Park in Chicago, as well as the grounds surrounding the Capitol in Washington, D.C.. The firm was carried on by Olmsted’s two sons and others and completed approximately 6,000 projects before it closed.
Olmsted believed that Biltmore was a private work of great public importance because of its combination of science and landscape art. Locally, Olmsted is best known as the landscape designer hired by George Vanderbilt to collaborate with architect Richard Morris Hunt in creating a comprehensive master plan for Biltmore Estate, which at its peak consisted of 125,000 acres and Biltmore Village near the Estate’s entrance. Olmsted believed that Biltmore was a private work
For Those Who Seek The Exceptional Life. of great public importance because of its combination of science and landscape art. Olmsted convinced Vanderbilt to undertake a managed forest rather than a park “with a view to crops of timber.” During his time working on the estate, Olmsted oversaw the establishment of a self-sustaining model of managed forestry and agriculture that inspires operations to this day. Olmsted’s model has been continued by Bill Alexander, Parker Andes, and others who have succeeded him at the Estate. A lexander worked at the Biltmore Estate from 1978 until 2019 in various positions, including horticulturist, greenhouse and gardens sup er v isor, la nd scap e ma na ger, landscape curator, and landscape and forest historian, before retiring in 2019. Parker Andes has been with Biltmore for many years as director of horticulture. Prior to coming to the Estate, he worked in other public gardens, including Callaway Gardens. The Approach Road, which winds and leads up to Biltmore House, is a wonderful example of Olmsted’s work and one that Andes often refers to when speaking of Olmsted. Andes recognized that the three-and-a-half mile Approach Road is the first element of the Estate that Vanderbilt’s guests experienced after disembarking from the train. “[We strive] to keep that design intent intact today and want today’s Biltmore Estate guests to come as close as possible to what was experienced in the past—even though the guests are no longer in a horse and carriage and are traveling at a different speed and sitting at a different height. If they do, then we have succeeded.” In keeping with Olmsted’s philosophy, the Biltmore Estate grounds have a combination of open green spaces, secluded groves of trees and bushes, and pools of water and ponds. These are all, as Olmsted planned, soothing to the eye and restorative to the spirit. Commercial traffic is obscurely directed and walking paths wind throughout the property discreetly.
photos by Marilynn Kay Photography
31 Cedar Hill Drive, Biltmore Forest NC - MLS#: 3591567 - $2,175,000 This Normandy Style home with timeless appeal is sited on 1.29 acres
Marilyn C Wright Global Real Estate Advisor Certiﬁed Luxury Home Marketing Specialist Guild
10 Brooks Street Suite 130 Asheville NC 28803 828.279.3980 | Ashevillerealtormwright@gmail.com July 2020 | capitalatplay.com
FOUNTAIN AT THE ARBORETUM, photo by Michael Oppenheim
Striking Public Projects The North Carolina Arboretum The 434 acres of the North Carolina Arboretum, nestled in the Southern Appalachian Mountains just outside Asheville, are an amazing testament to how effective and beautiful a property can be when designed by knowledgeable landscape architects. The Arboretum was established in 1986 by the North Carolina General Assembly to serve as a statewide and national resource almost 100 years after Frederick Law Olmsted completed the landscape design for his last project at nearby Biltmore Estate. (Olmsted’s design originally included an arboretum at the Biltmore Estate that was never realized.) The role of demonstrating, interpreting, and celebrating the importance of plants to our economy, culture, and enjoyment is expressed through the Arboretum’s mission, vision, and values and is closely aligned with Olmsted’s four key design criteria: environment, economics, aesthetics, and social factors. It has become a major learning center and attraction for Western North Carolina. The Arboretum is the product of the combined works of some of the best minds and efforts of the region’s landscape 44
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QUILT GARDEN DESIGNED by Jay Smith of O’Brien Atkins Associates, photo courtesy The North Carolina Arboretum
architects. Executive Director George Briggs and Drake Fowler, chief business officer and chief operations officer, are both registered landscape architects and have raised funds for and overseen the spectacular and stunning growth of the state’s western arboretum. Clara Curtis, director for design and exhibit assets, lends her horticulturist expertise to all the gardens and landscaping. And even outside contributors, like Jay Smith, a principal and director of landscape architecture and planning at O’Brien Atkins Associates, have shaped the Arboretum into the attraction it is today. From the moment you enter the grounds, the evidence of the impact of these landscape architects becomes apparent. The entry road, Frederick Law Olmsted Way, is long, winding, and dramatic, utilizing native trees organically to echo the spirit of Olmsted himself. The Arboretum is a public space, which of course is a major consideration for the design, and the buildings, walkways, pavilions, gardens, trails, and even the parking have been synthesized for a cohesive experience. A visitor can easily go from one area to another while absorbing botanically diverse landscapes or taking in the view of the Pisgah National Forest. On the 10-plus miles of trails there are dozens of native wildflowers to admire; inside its building is a collection of bonsai specimens to study; and across its
LOCAL KIDS CHECK out the site of the future Karen Cragnolin Park, photo courtesy RiverLink
many garden exhibits are dozens of botanical approaches and varieties to appreciate. To enable this expansive project to be continuously realized, “there are always many issues and discussions between the landscape architect, the architect, and the horticulturists as to how they must all work together on projects.” This is perhaps most evident when collaborating with outside influences like Jay Smith of O’Brien Atkins Associates, a medium sized interdisciplinary design firm based in Durham. He has designed 11 individual projects at the Arboretum, including a 400-seat outdoor amphitheater, a main entry road and garden, and a series of small garden “rooms,” known as the quilt, stream, spring, and outdoor events gardens. These gardens reflect, through the use of a variety of materials, the heritage of the Southern Appalachian region.
Karen Cragnolin Park and Haywood Street–Page Avenue Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects, with offices in Charlottesville, Virginia, New York City, and Houston, Texas, was selected to provide Master Plans for two major landscape architecture sites in Asheville: the Karen Cragnolin
Park, owned by RiverLink, and the city-owned properties on Haywood Street and Page Avenue. Thomas Woltz, the owner of the firm, has deep connections to the Western North Carolina community. He was born in nearby Mt. Airy and his mother (who was born in Waynesville) and her family have lived in Haywood County for many generations. After his parents passed away, he began the complete restoration of his grandparent’s home in downtown Waynesville. The house stands next to his great grandparent’s house, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. Woltz’s achievements place him among a national cadre of landscape architects. In 2011 he was inducted into the American Society of Landscape Architects Council of Fellows, among the highest honors achieved in the profession. In 2013 he was named the Design Innovator of the Year by The Wall Street Journal Magazine. He is recognized by many as someone who loves the topography of the land, researches the history, culture, and ecology of the proposed project area, and, when needed, seeks public input. Karen Cragnolin served as executive director of RiverLink for 30 years, and Thomas Woltz’ firm was chosen by RiverLink to be the landscape architect for a new park honoring her work. Together they will transform a plot of land, which sits July 2020 | capitalatplay.com 45
on Amboy Road between Carrier Park and the French Broad River Park, into a recreational park and educational center. In 2009 this project won the Founders Fund Award of the Garden Club of America, which then contributed funds toward a Landscape Master Plan to be created for the Karen Cragnolin Park. After the RiverLink Selection Committee reviewed many entries, Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects was selected to design the final master plan, which includes an open air education pavilion, a small pergola, a contemplation area, a bike path, and a small lawn area. However, a great deal of work had to be done before they could even begin. For over 50 years, the land served as a car junkyard and was covered with concrete; thus, the soil was toxic from oil and fuel. Over the past eight years, the concrete was removed
Karen Cragnolin served as executive director of RiverLink for 30 years, and Thomas Woltz’ firm was chosen by RiverLink to be the landscape architect for a new park honoring her work. and the toxicity of the soil eliminated; the next step in the process will include the capital campaign to raise the funds to construct and later maintain the park. Construction is expected to begin once enough funds have been raised. Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects is also collaborating with a team of sub-consultants, including Samsel Architects, the City of Asheville, and the Asheville community, to develop a civicfocused, sustainable vision for a long vacant, city owned property at the corner of Haywood and Page Streets in downtown. The goal is to facilitate a process for manifesting the community’s aspirations into an implementable vision for this important site in the heart of Asheville. Directly across from the Basilica of Saint Lawrence and the Harrah’s Cherokee Center – Asheville, the final design plan, which will encompass the many hours 46
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POLLINATOR GARDEN, rendering courtesy Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects
KAREN CRAGNOLIN PARK, rendering courtesy Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects
photo courtesy Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects
of information garnered from public input, will likely be delivered to the city this month.
Trinity Episcopal Church Trinity Episcopal Church, which was built in 1913, interviewed landscape architect firms in the spring of 2018 to design the entrance and courtyard of the downtown Asheville church. Asheville-based landscape architecture firm Sitework Studios, founded in 2004 by two partners, Steven Lee Johnson and Matthew Sprouse, was awarded the commission. Sitework Studios worked closely with Trinity’s steering committee to develop designs. Steven Lee Johnson, the lead consultant, attributes the success of the project to the church’s choice to assign the decision making process to Stan Hubbard and his small steering committee. “This was a formula for success, as any church project can involve so many opinions,” says Johnson. July 2020 | capitalatplay.com 47
TOP IMAGE: Design plans for the cour tyard at Trinity Episcopal Church. PHOTOS L-R: Cour tyard in progress, and cour tyard project completed. Photos cour tesy Sitework Studios, PLLC
The basic project program for the landscape architect included developing a new design for the primary entrance stairway (which was originally designed by Six Associates Architects in 1955), creating a timeless multi-purpose outdoor space that unites the historic church architecture with the site, designing new plantings with four seasons of interest, and developing preservation plans for the property’s historic Elm Tree. According to Johnson, “The client’s commitment to have a project that would last at least 100 years made this project so special.” The church requested the firm use materials such as granite, bluestone, and bronze. The masonry and ironwork were to be crafted by quality craftsmen; the beautiful iron gate entryway by Lynda Metcalfe of Brasstown exemplifies this commitment. The setting in downtown Asheville, with memorial plaques to loved ones, whose ashes are buried in the memorial garden, is peaceful and serene, a lovely spot for contemplation and prayer.
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Residential & Long Range Impacts Dargan Landscape Architects Dargan Landscape Architects is the firm of landscape architects Mary Palmer Dargan and her husband, Hugh Graham Dargan. Both are incredibly accomplished professionals, having been on many boards, including the Brookgreen Gardens and The Garden Conservancy, and written many highly acclaimed books, including Timeless Landscape Design: The Four Part Master Plan and their latest, Lifelong Landscape Design. Mary Palmer (who uses a double first name) says, “It is important to have an ecological balance in my projects. I find it vitally important to do my best to be a good steward of the earth and improve the quality of life around her.” She and Hugh find it important to help a person’s home environment correlate closely with their lifestyle. It’s a tactic that’s best accomplished by appealing to clients who share similar interests and approaches with the Palmers.
photo courtesy Kerns Land Planning & Design
DARGAN DESIGNED PROPERTY, photo by Sarah M Valentine at sarahmvalentine.com
Mary Palmer says, “Our practice is primarily upper residential landscape architecture. We met potential clients by being interested in doing the same things that they did, like attending Historic Preservation Galas, botanical garden openings, flower show galas, symphony balls, etcetera.” She continues, “Hugh Dargan started his business in 1973 in the depths of a recession. It seems every ten years we have a recession. So our motto has always been to accept out-of-state work and not just focus on one market, such as just Charleston or just Atlanta or just Cashiers—three places where we’ve had our business bases since 1973.” The Dargans’ work in historic preservation landscape architecture in Charleston, South Carolina, propelled them into the national spotlight in several books by influential British garden authors Penelope Hobhouse and Rosemary Verey. In 1998 the demand for beautiful projects in Western North Carolina prompted the Dargans to purchase Highcote at High Hampton in Cashiers, North Carolina. Highcote, which means “high cottage,” was their home on the High Hampton property. In 2015 they renovated Dovecote, a historic farmhouse in downtown Cashiers, which was a unique garden store and landscape design studio. There they offered the Garden Talk Salon, which provided many interesting lectures and talks with renowned speakers. Their restoration efforts and community programs received the prestigious Cashiers Historical Society’s Village Heritage Award in 2016. They are now based in Asheville and are constantly finding new projects on which to embark. In addition
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Plan for the Unexpected!
photo courtesy Kerns Land Planning & Design
It is always a good time to Plan your Estate.
to traditional landscape architecture services, the Dargans also provide resources to help others on their own landscaping journeys. Timeless Landscape Design is the Dargans’ podcast series of 50 lectures on garden design, horticulture, and living seamlessly in your home environment. The Placemakers Academy is a new online garden design course for homeowners in which Mary Palmer starts students on a journey to create their own home garden utopia. It teaches someone to design their own garden in ten modules, 50 videos, and ten workbooks for a minimum charge of $388.
Kerns Land Planning & Design ESTATE PLANNING | ELDER LAW TRUSTS | WILLS Licensed in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Florida
828.258.0994 | strausslaw.com
402 E. Rutherford Street #1630 Landrum, SC 29356 77 Central Ave, Suite F Asheville, NC 28801
104 N. Washington St Hendersonville, NC 28739
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Hutch Kerns is the founder of Asheville-based Kerns Land Planning & Design and has been practicing landscape architecture and land planning for 26 years. He fell into the profession after taking an engineering drafting course his junior year at Auburn. “Wandering around the academic halls at Auburn, I finally found the perfect blend of technical and creative,“ he remembers. Kerns’ firm has “changed over the years, from a solo practitioner that includes planners, landscape architects, and graphic designers, as well as a steady list of collaborators and consultants on the team. We’ve made it our pursuit to stay diverse and not specialize on a project type, but over the past 20 years we have established a strong portfolio of residential design in Western North Carolina.” The firm’s projects vary widely, from high-end private communities and residential estate design to public streetscape projects and parks. Currently, Kern’s firm is involved in a number of projects in mountain communities across Western Carolina, including projects at Mountaintop Golf & Lake Club, Wade Hampton Golf Club, the Highlands Biological Station, and Balsam Mountain Preserve. “I find the topography of this area always challenging, requiring unique solutions. I particularly like working for people, making them happy, especially families,” says Kerns.
Worth the Work In speaking with these architects, they all mention the many challenges involved in their profession. With a variety of landscapes, from smaller residential projects to larger commercial spaces and from vast tracts of land to planning regional city blocks and urban spaces, no two projects are the same, each requiring creative ingenuity from
DARGAN hand-created concept plan for a proper ty, cour tesy Dargan Landscape Architects
the ground up. And, as mentioned, landscape architecture is a field defined by its constant competitiveness, and the professionals relate the need to have to “sing for their supper.” Yet, despite its challenges, la nd sc ap e a rch itect u re is reputed to be an incredibly rewarding field of work. Jay Smith, for example, mentions the joy in the variety of his firms’ projects and that he enjoys working with a broad spectrum of people—architects, engineers, construction crews, horticulturists, civic leaders, and city officials. Landscape architects’ contributions to the future of communities can be significant. The way a community
or city takes shape is often the result of the input given and plans drawn by the landscape architect working with
Yet, despite its challenges, landscape architecture is reputed to be an incredibly rewarding field of work. urban planners; they set the foundation for the growth of a city or urban area to make it liveable and viable. Landscape architects combine the best of the arts, the science and math of architecture, and the pure beauty of nature for projects designed to last for lifetimes. July 2020 | capitalatplay.com
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NEVER MEANT TO OPEN A BRICK-AND-MORTAR
store with my business partner, Nicole Hairfield. It sounds rather odd, but it happened by accident. We decided to go into business together in early 2015; she had a background in art, and my expertise was in sales and website development. We wanted to put our skills together to sell handmade goods online.
Today, Moonlight Makers is a brand of funny t-shirts, dish towels, and merchandise which we design and screenprint ourselves, but we started off just making wall prints and jewelry. When we first launched our website, it was to the sound of crickets. I knew face-to-face sales, but I was unfamiliar with online selling. When we started, offering products online meant we could operate with little to no overhead and fixed costs, and, as a new startup, the risks and stress associated with a brick-and-mortar seemed unnecessary. Being an online-only retailer also meant our business could be open 24/7, we could target our ideal customers, and we could sell on a local or global scale, yet the business could be managed from anywhere with a solid internet connection. However,
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when we launched our website in 2015, it did not matter that it was easy to use and looked great; nobody knew it existed, and we had to spend money we had not yet made on advertising, SEO, and more. For two years, we built our online presence and took our products to 30 local festivals each year, but at no point did we say we wanted a store. From the suburbs of London where I grew up in the ‘80s and ‘90s, to the present day, the “retail apocalypse” has been an ongoing trend. From large chains forcing out the mom-and-pops, to the rise in popularity of online shopping in the early 2000s, people no longer have confidence in opening brick-and-mortars like they did in the old days. After spending uncountable hours working on increasing online sales, we did eventually start to
C see some traction, especially when we joined marketplaces where we could benefit from their customer base. I remember my proud walk down to the mailbox the first time we shipped ten orders in a day; now we can see days of 150–200 packages, and it is growing year by year. It was only by chance in 2017 that some friends of ours had a retail space in downtown Asheville they were not using and were looking to generate some cash. We were able to move in temporarily as a “pop-up shop” to test out a retail store with little risk. Selling
A brick-and-mortar location allows you to put faces behind the brand and give it a personality that can be experienced by potential customers, rea l ly deepening the tr ust a nd legitimacy of your business. Generally, retail consumers prefer to feel the quality of the product and really assess if it is worth the cost. As interactive and effortless as online shopping is, you cannot compete with a product in your hand that you can have instantly (which also helps when it is someone’s birthday tomorrow and you’re too late for twoday shipping!). With the personal touch
AS INTERACTIVE AND EFFORTLESS AS ONLINE SHOPPING IS, YOU CANNOT COMPETE WITH A PRODUCT IN YOUR HAND THAT YOU CAN HAVE INSTANTLY.
online gave us the ability to run out of my house around our kids’ schedules, even if that meant screen printing t-shirts and dish towels until 3AM every night. With a brick-and-mortar, however, that flexibility was lost; we hired our first employees, and we were faced with a new level of commitment. After a successful six months, we were surprised by how much the brick-andmortar model appealed to us: We loved having a team, we loved having a store, and we loved watching the business grow. We struggled to find a permanent space until our business mentor, John Trimble of Transport Safety Apparel, pointed to a space across the street and suggested we ask about taking over the lease. It turned out that merely 24 hours before, the owner had begun to consider selling everything and travelling. For all parties involved, it was just too serendipitous to pass up, and the deal was made. Fast forward three years: It is 2020, and the store has accounted for approximately 50% of gross sales since we opened the doors of its permanent location.
of brick-and-mortar, inspiration via browsing, impulse buys everywhere you look, and the knowledge that a return or exchange is going to be much easier and quicker, you can understand why, as of 2017, 91% of all retail sales in the United States were still made in person. Of course, a brick-and-mortar is highly seasonal, and in Q1 of 2020, our online stores accounted for 86% of our gross sales. We’ve spent the past three years since the physical store opened strengthening the online side of the business by introducing our products to handmade marketplaces like Etsy and Amazon Handmade. We also developed our own wholesale website, joined wholesale marketplaces like Faire, and acquired regional sales reps, all of which contributed to our brand now being in 500+ brick-and-mortars around the country. A major challenge in expanding the brand both online and in physical retailers was the constant need for updates and content editing. One hundred and ninety hand-drawn July 2020 | capitalatplay.com
designs on 12 styles of shirts, all with five or six sizes and some with up to 20 color options is a lot. Add tote bags, dish towels, magnets, mugs, koozies, stickers, coasters, greeting cards, and pins, and you find yourself with 2,500 listings per site and 120,000 SKUs and growing (just thinking about it makes my head spin). We hired more staff to deal with the workload but still had to consider streamlining the process to make it manageable by reducing the number of sites we sold on or offering fewer designs online. Then COVID-19 arrived; in the middle of March we closed our retail store but kept our online stores open. We are incredibly lucky that we had not removed any products or deleted any online stores as our online sales shot up, and now we have completely reassessed the value of time spent on online content editing. As we watched our downtown neighbors try to get new and old websites off the ground, I became increasingly grateful for the online marketplace weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d already established; without these online sales avenues, I am not sure we would have survived the crisis. Our online sales were our solid foundation, giving us a platform to build our brick-and-mortar and eventually reopen when the time comes. The spike in online sales is evidence that we really need to keep growing online if we want to stay in
business through unpredictable times and if we want to keep providing jobs locally. When we made the shift from online retail, to brick-andmortar, and then back online, we communicated this to our
IT IS HARD TO PREDICT HOW THE ONLINE/IN-PERSON BALANCE MIGHT SHIFT IN THE FUTURE, BUT IF 2020 HAS TAUGHT US ANYTHING, IT IS TO NEVER RELY ON ONE OR THE OTHER TOO HEAVILY. customers right away through social media and email blasts. We currently are not tiktoking, tweeting, or snapchatting, but through Instagram, Facebook, and email capture, we see a great response when we launch new designs, new styles, and sales.
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Online Versus In-Person Sales 100 PERCENTAGE OF SALES
We feel extremely fortunate to have established a solid presence both online and in-person, but we are still working out the optimal balance between the two and willing to adapt depending on the circumstances. Listening to your customers both in-person and online can give you great insights into what does and does not work for both. Also, online sales tools can track activity and help with basic market research, which can be used to decide what gets the prime location(s) in your retail store. Our store currently contains the top 20% of our best-selling items online; products that didn’t sell all that well online generally follow the same suit in person, so it is a great way to maximize your retail space. It is hard to predict how the online/in-person balance might shift in the future, but if 2020 has taught us anything, it is to never rely on one or the other too heavily. Retail models have been shifting toward diversification, and it’s increasingly evident that this will be the foundation of ours and other retailers moving forward.
BRICK & MORTAR
Where Professional Designers Go for Rugs 562 Long Shoals Road Arden NC • 828-687-1968 • TogarRugs.com
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July 2020 | capitalatplay.com
Glitch May Pass Without Incident charlotte
About a month after the incident, Bank of America publicly disclosed the occurrence of a data breach affecting applicants for Paycheck Protection Program loans. The incident occurred as actual applications were being uploaded by the bank onto a test platform managed by the United States Small Business Administration. The platform allowed bank personnel to practice using the software prior to officially submitting anything. Information such as business addresses and tax identification numbers and owners’ names, addresses, social security numbers, phone numbers, email addresses, and citizenship status would have been visible to other
lenders or vendors authorized to use the SBA test portal as well. On the bright side, there is no indication that any of those parties viewed the data before the breach was reported and addressed, and therefore no indication that any of the data was misused. The bank is offering affected parties a two-year subscription to Experian for monitoring against identity theft.
a day now, and Karen Everhart said the backlog is growing as suppliers struggle to keep up. People can work puzzles as they while away the hours at home, and three of the five companies in the United States who cut jigsaw puzzles had to close due to the pandemic. Typically, most of the company’s business comes from wholesalers and small gift shops, but, unable to get out, people are ordering puzzles directly. Karen indicated the company is not giving priority to wholesale orders because she has sympathy for the family ordering just one puzzle to have something to do. And, while the company could raise prices in light of demand, Heritage has imposed a price freeze to, again, help people through a difficult time. Matt said the company has received a lot of thank you notes from families needing something to break the boredom.
Bringing Things Together
Heritage Puzzle, a family business founded in 1998, reports business during the COVID-19 shutdown was better than ever. Matt Everhart said the company is doing a month’s business in
In May the Port of Wilmington welcomed the largest ship it has ever received. The MV Hyundai Hope, which is capable of carrying 14,000 full-size containers, ships to and from ports of
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call in Asia, South America, and the Eastern United States. Built in 2014, it is operated by Hyundai Merchant Marine in partnership with THE Alliance, a consortium of four carriers. Wilmington was but one of the ship’s stops as it trekked northward to New York from Cartagena. The Port of Wilmington spent $221 million on improvements so it would be able to receive ships of this size. Investments included acquiring three new neo-Panamax cranes, adding 2,600 linear feet of continuous docking space to allow simultaneous docking of 100,000+ container vessels, expanding the turning basin diameter from 1,400 feet to 1,524 feet, and raising power lines that cross the Cape Fear River another 40 feet. The upgrades at the Wilmington Port were largely spurred by interest in doing business with larger vessels that, following the expansion of the Panama Canal, can move faster.
Another Community to the Rescue carolina beach
Like most bars and restaurants, the Fat Pelican struggled during the COV ID-19 shutdown. The popular
carolina in the west
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hangout, described by locals as a landmark, was rated the best dive bar in the state and the 25th best in the nation by the Huffington Post. Doubting if he would be able to stay open long enough to weather the storm, owner Danny McLaughlin decided to sell his car, at which point his son and daughter-in-law started a GoFundMe page and took to Facebook. With small donations of $20 or $25, the strategy worked, raising over $13,000 overnight. McLaughlin told a reporter from WECT TV6, “I had to cut it off. I don’t need more than I need.” McLaughlin will use the funds to pay two employees and continue paying utility bills. Other strategies McLaughlin has deployed to stay afloat include building unique furniture for sale and applying for a government loan. If the situation is not soon corrected, he may also start selling produce.
the old north state
wellness programs featuring on-site, nurse-administered health assessments and personal wellness coaching. The combination has been demonstrated to improve healthcare outcomes and contain costs for treating chronic disease through early and ongoing intervention. The acquisition will expand the range of health management services McGriff provides and transfer 50 persons to its employ. McGriff, which consists of two separate companies, is an insurance brokerage that helps companies with a wide range of risk management and insurance products. BB&T Insurance Holdings, a subsidiary of Truist Bank, is the fifth-largest insurance broker in the United States and the sixth-largest in the world. It operates more than 200 offices through five companies, among which are both McGriff entities.
Nonessential? Insurance Broker Invests in Wellness charlotte
McGr if f, a subsidiar y of BB&T Insurance Holdings, has acquired Peak Health. Peak Health, based in Wilson, provides workplace health and
Factory Cleaning Equipment has added a spray bar to its floor-cleaning machines. It was formerly sufficient for the machines, which are driven around on factory floors, to sweep, scrub, and vacuum the dirty water in a single pass. Now that floors must be disinfected
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27 N Lexington Ave. • Asheville, NC 28801 • 828-254-6721 • topsforshoes.com 27 N Lexington Ave. • Asheville, NC 28801 • 828-254-6721 • topsforshoes.com
27 N Lexington Ave. • Asheville, NC 28801 • 828-254-6721 • topsforshoes.com 27 N Lexington Ave. • Asheville, NC 28801 • 828-254-6721 • topsforshoes.com
July 2020 | capitalatplay.com 57
the old north state
every day, the company has installed the sprayers on the back of the machines. Disinfectants typically have to sit on a surface for about ten minutes to be effective, so the sprayers leave a film that can just sit and work overnight without being a fall risk. Factory Cleaning Equipment President Rick Schott said this isn’t the only change his business, which sells and maintains floor-cleaning machines, has made. He said most plants are now on lockdown, admitting only employees who have passed a temperature screening. Repairmen are not allowed to perform quick-fixes inside the plants, but must take a machine outside or back to the shop, steam-clean and disinfect it, and leave it at the door when they return. After shuttering as an officially non-essential business, Schott expects Factory Cleaning Equipment’s business will surge as facilities reopen.
Conscious Investment pembroke
JR Dallas Wealth Management of Coppell, Texas, has acquired Native Angels’ Enterprise. The deal, involving millions of dollars, includes Angel Exchange, Native Angels’ Homecare, and Native Angels’ Total Property Management. Back in 2018, Angel Exchange owed $95,000 in property taxes plus $40,000 in fees to its landlord. Robeson County had intended to purchase the building in question for $6 million for the school system’s central offices. The school system, however, said it was only using the building temporarily during the recovery from Hurricane Matthew, and it did not meet its permanent needs. The county affirmed its intent, and the school system purchased another building for its central offices. Now, JR Dallas appears to have plans to use the space to undertake a multiphase development that involves assisted living. CEO Jehangir A. Raja said his company is committed to, “completing our projects and adding value to the communities [they serve].”
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Ripe, Juicy, and Delicious pinnacle
This year, strawberry farms are coming up with roundabout ways to get fresh strawberries to customers. While some growers are offering U-pick with themes and variations on social distancing, Kevin Brown, owner of Country Road Strawberries, isn’t going to risk it. Instead, he’s taking pre-orders by phone for drive-thru service. By calling ahead, customers can confirm availability, and Brown can control traffic, as the phones have been ringing off the hook. When arriving within a 30-minute, prescheduled window, drivers check in; a Post-It note corresponding to their order is placed on their windshield; and they are directed to park in a tent, where employees accept payment and place the berries in the vehicle. Orders are only taken by phone or in-person. Country Road is also selling in remote locations, like Mayberry Mall. Remote sales vary with supply and demand, so they’re announced on short notice on the farm’s Facebook page. This year’s weather was good for strawberries, and the season was expected to extend into June.
Making the Cut morehead city
Local governments are no strangers to hiring freezes as a means of balancing their budgets in hard times. Morehead City, however, is actually laying off employees. City Manager Ryan Eggleston made the decision to cut ten full-time and at least eight part-time workers across several departments. While he could not give specifics for “privacy reasons,” he did confirm cuts had been made in the city’s police and fire departments and Webb Library. Severance packages were made available, and those affected were eligible to receive unemployment benefits immediately. Eggleston is
cutting non-personnel expenditures and postponing capital investments as well, but he is under fire for retaining a controversial $300,000 COVID-19 relief loan program for small businesses. He anticipates the COVID-19 crisis will cost the city $1.3 million, or 10% of fund balance, before it’s over. The majority of the city’s losses are from a shortfall in sales tax revenue.
Every Little Bit Helps kannapolis
Military veterans Stefan Perrine and Kyle Lingafelt may have felt it was too good to be true back in February when business was booming at Old Armor Beer Company, which they had opened only a couple months prior. The pandemic hit, and they knew they weren’t going to stay in business serving takeout and delivery. Lingafelt came up with the idea of selling beer bonds, so customers could help Old Armor keep its drive-thru open now and cash-in later with value added. Like other brewers and distillers, the two started manufacturing hand sanitizer, and they also delivered it. Another income generator begun before the shutdown is also bringing in revenue: The state doesn’t allow military discounts to apply to alcoholic beverage sales, so Old Armor started a Pay It Forward campaign, which allows customers to prepay for drinks to members of the military and first responders. A chalkboard is used to handle the accounting publicly. The brewers have since added a feature to their website to let customers pay it forward from home. The greatest source of income through it all, though, was a Paycheck Protection Program loan from the federal government.
Smooth Seas Ahead? mooresville
Lowe’s hardware stores have seen sales increase 12.3% year-over-year for the
Because we know it’s not just life insurance. fiscal year ending May 1. The company had planned on rolling out curbside pickup next year, but, with word of COVID-19 shutdowns, accelerated preparations to launch the service in three days. The company also made improvements to its website to capture more e-commerce and saw online sales increase 80%. Sales, revenue, and profits were up 12.3%, 10%, and 28%, respectively. While the company saw a boost in sales from people purchasing major household appliances with their stimulus checks, it also incurred $340 million in unexpected COVID-19 expenditures. The store awarded a $300 bonus to its full-time hourly workers and $150 to its part-time workers, not once, but twice, costing the company $145 million. Lowe’s also increased hourly pay for frontline workers by $2 for the month of April. Preliminary reports show business is tracking higher at Lowe’s stores in reopening states.
Who’s Hot and Who’s Not? apex
Bboulder Investments has announced a partnership with Israk Solutions of Malaysia to launch a system, the ARVIA Fever Screening Camera/Scanner, that integrates facial recognition, thermal imaging, and contact tracing software. Its facial recognition software is capable of archiving facial records for up to 50,000 persons and matching them with a 99.99% accuracy rate; its thermal sensors operate with an accuracy of ±0.3oC over a five-foot range. Unlike other products, ARVIA does not require people to stand still or isolate for scanning. Both facial recognition and thermal sensing software capture data within 0.3 seconds. ARVIA then timestamps the data and forwards it to applications for gatekeeping or integration into routine self-evaluations maintained by human resources departments. The World Health Organization has
recommended that scanning by such devices be required by public health practitioners, government agencies, and property owners prior to reopening. Wall mount, tabletop, and floor stand models are available.
Heaping Misery on Woe raleigh
The state filed its first price gouging lawsuit against A1 Towing Solutions of Charlotte. The state alleges the company engaged in predatory and booting practices during the COVID-19 crisis. The courts have issued a temporary restraining order against the company, prohibiting it from conducting business until the case can be heard. The office of Attorney General Josh Stein received complaints of four instances in which A1 had allegedly booted trucks delivering essential goods. The trucks, complainants alleged, were parked on property with the owners’ consent, and the booting delayed the delivery of essential goods to destinations further down the route. A1 had not only booted the trucks, it charged $4,000 to release them, doubled towing prices, and increased other fees. Special price gouging legislation went into effect March 10, when Governor Roy Cooper declared a state of emergency. Since then, Stein’s office has received 1,763 complaints.
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photo courtesy Sunshine Sammies
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leisure & libation
Cool Where to Scoop Up Locally Made Ice Cream in Western North Carolina written by gina smith photos by anthony harden
July 2020 | capitalatplay.com 61
leisure & libation
hether or not we’re not literally screaming for it, as the old song goes, ice cream undoubtedly holds sweet sway over summer. Even in less sun-kissed seasons, just the thought of a cone topped with a cool scoop (or three?) of your favorite flavor brings a rush of nostalgia for the days of swimsuits, bare feet, and outdoor fun. From friendly soft-serve stands to high-end gelato bars, Western North Carolina communities are home to a smorgasbord of frozen-treats traders, including some Ashevillearea businesses who take pride in sourcing from nearby farmers and makers to churn out hand-crafted frosty offerings with a distinctly local taste. Of course, as with any food service operation, running an ice cream business is not all cherries and sprinkles. Winter inevitably arrives, and the weather isn’t always sunny, but these entrepreneurs thrive on the creative energy they find in developing unique and unforgettable flavors and are sustained by deep community roots.
Sweet Beginnings: The Hop “Our job, when you really get down to it, is to make people happy,” says Greg Garrison, who co-owns The Hop Ice Cream Cafe with his wife, Ashley Garrison. The story behind how the Garrisons found their way into the ice cream business is every bit as delightful as the dreamy frozen products they crank out at The Hop Ice Creamery production facility in West Asheville. The venture began in a former North Asheville gas station in 1978 , but the Garrisons have expanded the business into a local institution. In addition to the Creamery, there are three retail shops—two in Asheville and one in Black Mountain—as well as a wholesale business, mobile sales carts, and a popular catering and birthday party operation. The Garrisons were Texan high school sweethearts when Greg moved to the area in 2000 to play soccer and major in theoretical mathematics at UNC-Asheville (UNCA). Ashley, who was studying biology at a college in Alabama, joined him at UNCA in 2003 to finish her degree. She took a part-time job at The Hop, then a little ice cream shop in the original location on Merrimon Avenue (that location is now a YOLO frozen yogurt biz). Greg soon started working there as well. 62
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THE GARRISON FAMILY share their own sweet treats at The Hop.
After college, the couple kept slinging scoops at the shop while Greg coached soccer at UNCA and Ashley finished an internship. She was trying to decide what to do next with her life when she saw a potentially sweet opportunity. “I love dessert, and I always have. I was toying with the idea of maybe doing a bakery or opening some sort of dessert shop and was kicking that idea around when it came out that the owners of The Hop were thinking about selling,” says Ashley. “So, I thought, ‘Maybe this is my segue into the dessert world.’” Having worked at The Hop for four years, she had a solid understanding of the operation and saw plenty of potential, so the Garrisons decided to buy the business. But it was 2008, and the United States’ economy was in a downward spiral. “We probably got the last SBA loan given out in the country before they shut everything down, and it took a lot of fighting tooth and nail to get that,” she recalls. On top of the broad economic implications, the shop had lost much of its customer base when it moved from its original location—which was in need of significant repairs—to its current space in the Merrimon Square shopping center. But with youthful energy and creativity, the duo immediately implemented changes to rebuild the business. “We revamped a lot of the recipes, got a cleaner ice cream mix, and just kind of hit the ground running and haven’t really looked back,” Ashley says. From the beginning, their formula for success has involved drawing clear lines between their individual roles in the business. Greg focuses on external operations, such as marketing, events July 2020 | capitalatplay.com 63
leisure & libation
and social media, while Ashley is the internal magic maker. “I’m more than happy to just put my head down and crank out ice cream day-in and day-out, so I’ve been the recipe person from day one,” she says. In addition to ice cream, the business produces a whimsical variety of treats, including sherbets, sorbets, “Hopsicles,” doggie ice creams, and a rotating selection of specialty ice cream cakes and desserts. Ashley says she pulls inspiration from recipes, travel experiences, menu items at local restaurants, suggestions from her team of employees—just about everywhere. “I pretty much know what it’s going to taste like before I make it,” she explains. “I just have to figure out the sequence of events to get it to that flavor. So I kind of retroactively reconstruct the flavor in my mind.” The base for the dairy-based recipes is an all-natural, 16% butterfat mix of regionally sourced hormone- and antibioticfree milk, eggs, and sugar that the Garrisons developed with Greenwood Ice Cream, a dairy processor in Atlanta. (The Food and Drug Administration requires that commercial ice creams be made with an approved pasteurized mix.) From there, The Hop sources other ingredients primarily from local farms and food businesses, such as the ginger from Rayburn Farms in Barnardsville and Ol’ Turtle Farm in Marion that finds its way into many spicy fall and winter flavors, and the sea salt praline caramels made by local caterer Carlito’s Sweet and Savory that 64
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are the highlight of the The Hop’s best-selling salted caramel ice cream. “We’re super fortunate to live in the area that we do, where there’s this rich local business community and an amazing local producer community, whether it’s the actual farmers who are growing the produce or people who are creating products and putting out these unique items that are a no-brainer to put in ice cream,” Ashley reflects. She finds it exciting to employ that local bounty in branching out beyond the expected into more savory and unusual flavors— think 12 Bones Barbecue blueberry chipotle, Thai curry, Lusty Monk Mustard, or blueberry kale. “I don’t do anything too crazy, I don’t think,” Ashley muses. “We’ve only had a couple that sort of flopped. One was a red wine and onion flavor that did not work.” Since expanding production capacity with the opening of the Creamery space in 2015, Ashley has really been able to unleash her innovative spirit—and thrill dairy-free dessert lovers—through developing The Hop’s huge line of vegan and allergen-free treats. Because they don’t include dairy or eggs, the vegan bases are less regulated, which means the business has the ability to craft its own mixes from scratch. This freedom has allowed Ashley to put the shop’s original soymilk-based option out to pasture, harnessing her ingenuity and scientific acumen to concoct more than 20 types of vegan
bases. Made from whole soaked and blended nuts and seeds, the most popular are almond and full-fat coconut milk, but they also produce pepita, cashew, hemp, sunflower, peanut, and pecan bases, as well as an almost totally allergen-free banana base. Each vegan base mix brings its own flavor profile to the table, so flavors are paired with them very intentionally.
year’s quarantine closures, which forced the Garrisons to close their shops, lay off dozens of employees, and adopt an efficient curbside pickup model at the Creamery, the retail spaces are normally open year-round to maintain consistency for customers and staff. Slower winter business is buoyed, says Greg, by sales of their popular ice cream yule logs during the holiday season and a steady following of customers who realize “that it’s still OK to eat ice cream in the wintertime and come in and bring your family and hang out.” That hanging-out factor is a key part of The Hop’s people-pleasing equation. Not long after buying the business, the Garrisons saw a need in Asheville for an alcoholfree, all-ages events venue and instituted a regular schedule of family-friendly happenings at the Merrimon Avenue store, including performances by local musicians, magicians, and dancers, art shows, and more. As the Garrisons added two children, now ages seven and three, to their own family, such activities also became a staple at The Hop’s smaller but always bustling Haywood Road store, as well as the recently opened downtown Black Mountain space. Even the Creamery began hosting regular
“We’re super fortunate to live in the area that we do, where there’s this rich local business community and an amazing local producer community.” “We know that fruits go best with pepita milk. We know that coffee goes best with almond or hemp milk,” Greg explains. “Things that have a more subtle flavor, we pair with a milk base that’s less imposing.” In pre-coronavirus times, the Creamery made 1,0001,500 gallons of ice cream per week during full summertime production to meet demand from wholesale accounts, events sales, and the three retail locations. Aside from this
July 2020 | capitalatplay.com 65
leisure & libation
s one might imagine, the production kitchen where Ultimate Ice Cream Co. crafts its frozen assets is a happy place. After entering the nondescript, unmarked building on New Haw Creek Road and passing through a cozy office area, the first face that greets guests is that of pastry chef Alexis Walton, who is frosting a tall layer cake on a rotating pedestal. Walton, who also operates her own business, Layered Custom Cake Co., from the facility, crafts Ultimate’s ice cream cakes, brownies, and other baked goods. In a back corner, just past the workstation of a small coffee-roasting company (Sunshine Sammies also produced from this space before it opened its brick-and-mortar store), are three silver Emery Thompson ice cream machines, which stand slightly smaller than laundromat dryers. Although they’re huge and expensive—the largest one set the company back $36,000, says Ultimate’s co-founder and owner Kevin Barnes—they work on the same principle as an old-fashioned, hand-crank ice cream churn, only with vertical blades. Walton’s wife, co-worker, and fellow pastry chef, Kim Walton, has premixed the company’s special blend of dark cocoa and Guatemalan milk chocolate with about five gallons of the Milkco pasteurized base mix, plus a little extra sugar to offset the bitterness of the cocoa. She pours in the ingredients, shuts the little round door, turns it on, then it’s only 12-14 minutes before the 9-gallon batch of frozen, chocolate bliss is ready. While the ice cream spins, Barnes explains what is known in the ice cream industry as “overrun.” “You have to put a little air in it, otherwise it’ll be frozen like ice,” he says. “We do 30-40% overrun, but by law it can be up to 100% air.” When the batch finishes spinning, Kim Walton empties it into large plastic tubs, ready for wholesale. Before closing each lid, she uses a spatula to swoop a big heart shape into the ice cream. “We heart all of our tubs,” says Walton. The origins of the heart, which is Ultimate’s logo, are tied inextricably to the company’s roots. “I made all the ice cream for seven years,” says Barnes. “And I was just so scared at first... So I inscribed a heart on the tub, so when restaurants would open it up, they would see a heart on top.” • 66
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EVERY TUB OF Ultimate Ice Cream gets a signature heart.
GREG AND ASHLEY GARRISON of The Hop
Friday ice cream Flight Nights and tasting parties almost as soon as it opened. Having experienced an abundance of help and support from the community in their early days of entrepreneurship, the Garrisons are committed to investing time and energy into leveraging their everpopular products to support local causes, weaving those efforts deftly into the fabric of their business model. A notable recent community endeavor was The Hop’s work with the Asheville Strong COVID-19 food service industry support initiative, making special ice cream flavors inspired by specific local menu items—such as Nine Mile Chipotle and Root Down Banana Pudding—to raise awareness about the area’s small businesses. “We’ve always wanted to be supportive of nonprofits and other organizations that work super hard in Asheville to help people,” says Ashley. “While we may be limited with the physical hours that we can go and volunteer somewhere, we can help out by throwing a fundraiser in our store and donating a portion of the funds back to that group. So that’s been the way that we’ve found in our lives that works to spread the wealth and help out the community.”
Hidden Gem: Ultimate Ice Cream Back when the Garrisons were still just employees at The Hop, Lucia and Kevin Barnes took their own
adventurous plunge into the world of frozen desserts. It was November 2005 when the pair of social workers decided it was time to switch career paths; in what Kevin calls a “literal handshake deal,” they bought Ultimate Ice Cream, a little shop inconspicuously tucked away in the back of a strip mall off Tunnel Road near the WNC Nature Center. New to both entrepreneurship and ice cream artistry, Kevin went to the shop every day after work for about a month before they took over the five-year-old business to learn what he could from the former owners. “I had always enjoyed cooking, and it was an easy transition into creating ice cream flavors,” Kevin explains. “As with most things, the basics are easy to learn, but it took years to truly learn the craft.” The timing of the venture quickly proved to be problematic. “It’s November, and it’s cold, and no one’s coming in, and it was like, ‘How do we do this?’” Kevin recalls. “It was really intimidating, and that first winter was a bit delicate for us; we were wondering if we were going to make it or not.” The hidden location added another layer of challenge. “We used to joke around that it’s actually the worst place for an ice cream shop, or at least it was back then,” Lucia says with a laugh. “We just embraced that and said, ‘We hid it well. Come find us.’ And that was part of our messaging in the beginning,” adds Kevin. “We thought about moving it, but then we looked at the outside area that we have, and we’ve energized that space now, and folks know it.” The Tunnel Road shop soon developed a strong following in its East Asheville community, as well as drawing plenty of guests from other parts of Asheville and beyond. In June 2012 the Barneses opened a production facility near the Tunnel Road store to accommodate needs for both retail and wholesale distribution to several regional businesses, including West Village Market, Asheville Sandwich Co., and Weaverville Drug. A couple of months later, Ultimate launched a second retail location in North Asheville near the Grove Park Inn. A s the business g rew, the Bar neses were simultaneously raising a family—they have three sons, now ages 16, 18, and 21 (their oldest son, Gabe, manages the North Asheville store)—and finding their way on their ice cream-making path. As Kevin grew increasingly confident in the process and began sourcing ingredients from more local businesses, he started reconsidering the provenance of his base mix. Although he was happy with the one they’d been buying from a dairy cooperative in Georgia, in 2009 he decided to look for something closer to home.
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“This was just when the local food movement was really getting its feet under itself, so we approached the Ingles affiliate, Milkco, out in West Asheville,” Kevin remembers. Although Milkco wasn’t making any ice cream mixes at the time, the company was open to the idea of partnering with Ultimate to develop one. “They gave us the standards, and it took us about two-anda-half years to get the volume that we were producing to the level where it would make it worthwhile for them,” he explains. Once the shop hit that mark, Kevin worked with Milkco in its laboratory to come up with a custom, high-butterfat mix using eggs, sugar, and antibiotic- and hormone-free milk, the majority of which is sourced from within 150 miles of Asheville. More than seven years later, Kevin says, a couple of other Western North Carolina businesses have joined Ultimate in using that base mix, making it a more lucrative venture for Milkco. “When they’re doing a million gallons a week, we’re small potatoes, but they treat us well,” says Kevin. “We’ve even been out with the president of Milkco to local dairy farms to close that loop and see exactly where it comes [from].” For Kevin, an important aspect of helping develop the mix is that he was able to dictate a lower sugar content. “The experience of the flavor is you want to taste the chocolate or the raspberry and have the sweetness play a supporting role,” he says. And that deft balancing of flavors is where Kevin gets to play. “Even though we always have strawberry, chocolate, 68
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cookie dough, and some kind of mint, those kinds of things, people started coming in and looking for the more interesting flavors like the blue cheese with caramel swirl or the bacon ice cream,” he says. “They just really wanted to try these new things, so that was all I needed in the beginning to just go in and keep working with ingredients and trying things out.” But not everything works, he adds, “I tried to do some Buffalo sauce kind of thing for someone that I just could not get the flavor right on.” And then there was the bride-to-be who asked him to create a one-off dill pickle ice cream. “We actually sold the extra in the store, and it went so fast, I couldn’t believe it!” he recalls. Some of his personal favorites are the aforementioned blue cheese and caramel, along with pistachio, which is made with pistachio butter imported from Italy. The goat cheese-Bing cherry flavor also tops his list. “That’s a lovely one,” he says. “And once we figured the goat cheese out, we thought, well, what else can we do? We can put figs in it. Or lemon zest. So it’s just working with the established flavor profiles that we know work but have not been done in ice cream before.” As Lucia ponders Ultimate’s offerings, something occurs to her: the subtle beauty of simple flavors. “Sometimes I kind of forget. I get excited about the pistachio or the molasses gingerbread or the goat cheese, and then I have a vanilla and I think, ‘Oh, yeah!’ And the strawberry—because we use real strawberries in it—we have so many people who say, ‘This
reminds me of when I was a kid and my grandmother would make strawberry ice cream fresh.’” The hundreds of pounds of strawberries needed each year for that classic taste are sourced as locally as possible each spring, then from Florida, if needed, then processed and frozen for later use. Ultimate also makes its waffle cones and whipped cream fresh in each store, as well as nearly all of its sauces. The cookie dough for cookie dough ice cream, brownies for the signature brownie ice cream sliders, cakes, and other baked goods are handmade in the company’s production kitchen by pastry chef Alexis Walton. Business does dip in the winter, Kevin admits, but they keep the shops open year-round as an anchor for both staff and customers who count on them. And though Ultimate’s two retail locations don’t have large enough footprints to allow for extensive on-site activities, the Barneses have their own recipe for community connection. In the early days of the business, they traveled frequently to serve ice cream at area festivals, bringing the whole family along to help. “When my kids were like eight, nine years old, they’d be at LEAF or Downtown After 5, and they’d be running the front. Of course, we’d be right behind them scooping the ice cream,” Kevin grins. Through its long-running Flavor of the Month program, Ultimate partners with local nonprofits throughout the year to craft a custom flavor connected to each group and donates proceeds from its sale to the charity. For instance, June is always MANNA Banana month at Ultimate in celebration of MANNA FoodBank’s annual Blue Jean Ball fundraiser. Kevin notes that 2020 would also have been Ultimate’s 15th year of serving the ice cream at the MANNA event; unfortunately, the fundraiser was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which additionally forced Ultimate to lock up its shops for weeks on end, limiting business to only a few local wholesale outlets and some delivery via Kickback AVL. One special aspect of being a part of the Asheville community for Kevin, who serves as chair of the Asheville Independent Restaurant Association’s board of directors, as well as on the board of Chow Chow: An Asheville Culinary Event, is Ultimate’s collaborative work with local chefs. “They’re so immensely passionate about what they do,” he says. “You can get ice cream after a soccer game, that’s fine, but it can also be part of an elegant dessert in a white-tablecloth restaurant, and I love being a part of that… Now I can go and talk to a pastry chef, and she says, ‘I’m doing a fig tart this week. What can you make to go with it?’ And I’ll say, ‘Let’s do a ginger ice cream, maybe we can put a little chocolate in it,’ and just riff like that. I love doing that kind of stuff. That’s the juice for me with all of this: Just elevating simple ice cream.”
A Taste of Nostalgia: Sunshine Sammies When Susie Pearson rolled into the Asheville food scene in the summer of 2013, it was by way of a small, solar-powered vending cart constructed by her boyfriend, Luke Croop. A UNC-Asheville graduate who had worked a variety of hospitality jobs, she was drawn to the idea of being her own boss; when considering possible LUCIA AND KEVIN BARNES of Ultimate Ice Cream July 2020 | capitalatplay.com 69
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goods to sell, the cool efficiency of ice cream-cookie sandwiches was appealing. “I knew that they would be more portable to be able to sell from an umbrella cart, which was going to be the most affordable startup option,” Pearson explains. She learned to make ice cream through trial and error, “by just learning from my mistakes and kind of going for it.” She hasn’t attended pastry school, although she says she’s always enjoyed baking. “I just never really thought that I would make it my job,” she muses. That first summer of slinging handmade ice cream-andcookie combos from the cart in downtown Asheville was just an early proving ground for Sunshine Sammies. The product was a hit, and expansion was inevitable. The following winter, Croop retrofitted a vintage delivery van, dubbed it Sunny, and started traveling to festivals all over the region. “We definitely started as a mobile business, which was great and
BASE MIX AND INGREDIENTS GO into the ice cream machine at Ultimate Ice Cream’s factory.
“We definitely started as a mobile business, which was great and flexible and felt doable to us in terms of what we were able to invest into it and to kind of take little baby steps as it grew.”
| July 2020
photo courtesy Sunshine Sammies
flexible and felt doable to us in terms of what we were able to invest into it and to kind of take little baby steps as it grew,” Pearson explains. At first, Sunshine Sammies was one of several small food businesses that shared production space at Ultimate Ice Cream’s commercial kitchen in East Asheville. But as demand for Pearson’s unique and creative confections grew, moving to a brick-and-mortar location was the obvious next step. Pearson took her time with that decision, wary of making such a huge commitment, but in June 2017, Sunshine Sammies found a permanent home in an old brick building at 99 S. Lexington Avenue. Previously home to a motorcycle repair shop, she and Croop had used the space to store their original umbrella cart overnight before pushing it up the hill each day to hawk sammies on Patton Avenue. “It’s a cool old building,” Pearson says. “And it’s in a really awesome area because we’re on the border of the South Slope and the main part of downtown, so we get a lot of foot traffic.” It’s not just retail sales that have grown as a result of taking the leap into brick-and-mortar; having the added space for production has enabled Pearson to exponentially expand her catering and wholesale capacity, stretching distribution to
LUKE CROOP AND SUSIE PEARSON photo courtesy Sunshine Sammies
photo courtesy Sunshine Sammies
grocery stores and markets as far afield as Virginia, Georgia, and Tennessee. Sunshine Sammies now operates a second truck, as well, which proved a boon during the coronavirus pandemic quarantine. Pearson was able to close the retail location to the public but continue operating the business from the two trucks—one posted in front of the South Lexington Avenue building offering curbside pickup for online pre-orders, and the other cruising Asheville neighborhoods to do social-distanced sales. Customers, she notes, were “excited to have something cheerful and kind of normal feeling” during that time. Sunshine Sammies joins Ultimate Ice Cream in sourcing its dairy base mix from Milkco and produces its own vegan base using coconut milk. And, like both the Barneses and the Garrisons, Pearson digs into the bounty of Western North Carolina farms and food makers to find ingredients for the rich, creative flavors that define both her ice creams and baked goods. Rayburn Farms in Barnardsville is a go-to for the unique varieties of mint and ginger she produces, and a partnership with PennyCup Coffee Co. supplies not only Sunshine Sammies’ coffee program, but also flavors the cold-brew ice cream and honey-lavender latte ice cream. For those who fancy ice cream floats, Pearson makes them with strawberry-rhubarb and applerosemary all-natural sodas from Waynesville Soda Jerks. “Coming up with flavor combinations is so much fun,” Pearson enthuses. “We always try to have some classics that
would be crowd pleasers for both kids and adults, but then we always try to do some that are a little bit more interesting, more unexpected.” Some perennial favorites from the menu are reminiscent of classic treats brought to family cookouts by indulgent grandmas. The key lime pie sammie with graham cracker cookies and key lime ice cream rolled in toasted coconut is “a really delicious, summery, seasonal one,” Pearson notes, as is the popular lemon meringue pie sammie made with housemade lemon curd, housemade marshmallow fluff, and graham cracker mix-ins. “It tastes exactly like lemon meringue pie,” she says. “I like to take things that are approachable to people but maybe put a little bit of a twist on them.” Open year-round, except for a two-week break every January, the business has non-ice cream offerings as well. In an effort to transport guests back to simpler days of school lunches and Saturday morning cartoons, Pearson and her staff of trained pastry chefs also concoct a host of other nostalgic baked goodies, including house-made pop-tarts, oatmeal cream pies, and “cookie monsters,” which she describes as “big, chunky, delicious cookies that are great with milk.” Speaking of which, Pearson slings flavored milks—not just chocolate, but coffee, strawberry, graham cracker, and more—all of which can be paired in milk-and-cookie flights. “Those are really fun combos,” Pearson remarks. “We like to take childhood favorites and put a unique and all-natural spin July 2020 | capitalatplay.com
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on them, just make them a little more adventurous. Things you would have had in your lunchbox at school, I think those kinds of things always put a smile on people’s faces, and we’re lucky to be in a business where people are coming for something that makes them happy like that.”
Lifting Spirits: Luscious Liquor Ice Cream “I’ve been cooking since I could push a chair up to the stove,” says Luscious Liquor Ice Cream owner, Sara Widenhouse. Working in restaurants and bakeries in her native Rhode Island, as well as local spots like Rezaz, Mela, and Cecilia’s Kitchen during her 27 years in Asheville, Widenhouse finds joy in the process of creating flavors. Now she’s found the ideal outlet for her culinary imaginings in mixing frozen sweets and luxurious spirits in her ice cream-focused catering business. The venture had its boozy beginnings four years ago in a cake. A longtime member of the Asheville Mardi Gras group, which hosts a parade and other events each February, Widenhouse found herself named the 2016 Mardi Gras Queen. In a truly regal act, she made a special mint julep cake that featured her first-ever batch of homemade chocolate bourbon ice cream to celebrate that year’s volunteers during an appreciation picnic on Kentucky Derby day. “And it was so fantastic,” she says. “People were really excited, so that was kind of a turning point on this road.” Widenhouse originally launched Luscious Liquor as a mobile business in 2017 serving a variety of scoops, both spirited and kid-friendly, out of a little vintage postal truck. Just before the coronavirus pandemic, she switched her business model to catering and pop-up events, using a tabletop dipping cabinet and a couple of mobile carts. (Keeping the truck on the road, she says, was a “real adventure.”) 72
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photo by Emily Bidwell
Although she enjoys the science of the process, it’s creating rich, unforgettable flavors that drives and excites Widenhouse. “My whole goal has always been to make the tastiest, most mind-blowing ice cream that I can,” she says. Working on a very small scale, she crafts her own custom base mixes and pasteurizes them before churning. She grows many of her own herbs, such as lime basil for her limoncello sherbet, and buys locally grown fruit at the peak of season. She also partners with local and regional businesses, including distilleries, to source small-batch, premium items for her ingredients. Some of Luscious Liquor’s top-selling products include a lime rickey sherbet made with gin from Asheville-based Cultivated Cocktail Distillery and a Tia Maria coffee ice cream made with coffee rum from Dalton Distillery, another Asheville company. She also makes a popular chocolate-amaretto flavor featuring Raleigh’s Oak City Amaretto company. Can you taste the alcohol? The desserts are fairly boozeforward, Widenhouse says, but they’re not overwhelming. “We’ve had some of our liquor ice creams tested for alcohol by volume, and they’re about 4 or 5%,” she says. She notes that the business is regulated through the United States Department of Agriculture, but as long as she doesn’t have open containers
photos cour tesy Luscious Liquor Ice Cream
of alcohol while serving and the ice cream is in scoopable form, it doesn’t require any special permits. Luscious Liquor also offers plenty of alcohol-free varieties for kids and teetotalers as well as vegan products, including sorbetos. Widenhouse even creates custom flavors to match specific events. “I had a couple that wanted a chai ice cream for their Indian wedding, so we were able to come up with all the variations on the theme,” she says.
“I really feel like ice cream is a common denominator, where no matter your background, it’s going to bring a giant smile to your face.” The cool entrepreneur is also delving into gelato. Through a chance conversation with a waiter at a cafe during a trip to Spain last summer, she learned about Carpigiani Gelato University near Bologna, Italy. Soon afterward, she enrolled in a two-week course at the school, where she discovered some new processes, such as an intriguing balancing method: “It’s a mathematical formula where you take the naturally occurring sugars and fats of your ingredients and can really make gelato out of anything,” she explains. One of the challenges she was asked to complete at the end of
her course was to make gelato out of ripe avocados. “So what I came up with was a coconut, avocado, and lime gelato. It was fantastic! The texture was so perfect; I was so pleased,” she says. “I’m really excited about [offering gelato] because the possibilities are endless.” Widenhouse explains that gelato is lower in fat than ice cream and is served at a slightly warmer temperature, which gives it a more velvety texture. “Traditional ice cream is spun faster and incorporates more air. Gelato spins more slowly, so it’s a little bit denser. And it has a warmer mouth feel, so the flavors come out more instead of your mouth getting as cold,” she says. Like most businesses, Widenhouse ceased operations during COVID-19, but undeterred, she used quarantine downtime to play around with menu offerings, such as new cake and pastry varieties, ice pops, and some sweet little morsels called cherry bombs—individual spiced bourbon cherries surrounded by chocolate ice cream and liquorsoaked chocolate cake encased in bittersweet chocolate. Even once things return to normal, Widenhouse says she’s not looking for supermarket distribution for her products; her heart is in catering and pop-up events. “It’s the happiest I’ve ever been,” she says. “I really feel like ice cream is a common denominator, where no matter your background, it’s going to bring a giant smile to your face. So I really love that part, not just making the ice cream but serving the ice cream and getting to see people’s reactions. Ice cream is a great way to lift your spirits.”
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Sprinkled Across Western North Carolina July is National Ice Cream Month, and what better way to celebrate than taking a tasty tour of some of Western North Carolina’s most unique purveyors of frozen fun?
Kids go crazy for Rocky’s Grill & Soda Shop’s ice cream cones, photos by ExploreBrevard.com
ROCKY’S GRILL & SODA SHOP
MILLS RIVER CREAMERY
HARRY’S GRILL & PIGGY’S ICE CREAM
Rocky’s Grill & Soda Shop in downtown Brevard might just be a time machine back to the 1950s. Originally a drugstore and soda fountain founded in the early 1940s, the shop still features a luncheonette counter where guests (poodle skirts not required) can belly up to order from a huge menu featuring items such as old-fashioned banana splits, sundaes, egg creams, and malted milkshakes made with three scoops of ice cream and served in a frosty chrome cup. There’s also a full menu of hot dogs, burgers, soups, and sandwiches, including pimento cheese made from the original drugstore owner’s 70-yearold recipe.
The ice cream makers at Mills River Creamery never have to worry about their milk supply. The shop is operated by—and sources much of the butterfat-rich milk for its ice cream from—the nearby Mills River Dairy, which keeps a herd of Jersey cows descended from the cows George Vanderbilt bought for his dairy at the Biltmore House. Choose from more than a dozen homemade flavors, including fruit varieties made with local strawberries, peaches, black raspberries, and blueberries. While there, guests can also pick up some of the farm’s milk, buttermilk, cream, chocolate milk, butter, and eggs, as well as locally produced meats, cheeses, jams, coffee, and other items.
Half the fun of pulling up to Harry’s Grill & Piggy’s Ice Cream is the motley rooftop menagerie that greets you when you arrive: a herd of huge f iberglass cows, pink elephants, and more welcome guests from on high. The other half is walking inside to see the playful jumble of antiques and oddities lining the walls and ceilings—plus, of course, the frozen goodies on the menu. More than 30 flavors of ice cream, plus sugar-free varieties and yogur ts, are available to be made into malts, shakes, splits, sundaes, freezes, or just good old-fashioned cones. Opened in 1979 by Harry and Sallie Thompson, the business also includes Harry’s Grill, which offers a full menu of sandwiches, hot dogs, burgers, and barbecue.
50 S. Broad St., Brevard rockysnc.com
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4193 Haywood Road, Mills River millsrivercreamery.com
102 Duncan Hill Road, Hendersonville Harrysandpiggys.com
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Energy Business munich, germany
Siemens announced its intention to spin off its power business. Siemens would transfer 55% of the company to shareholders and ease out of its interest in the remaining 45%. Reuters described the move as part of the company’s plan to “shift away from a sprawling conglomerate.” Siemens has already spun off its hospital equipment business, Siemens Healthineers, and that company has been doing well. Siemens has plans to spin off its gear, converter, and generator business, Flender, too. While the company has been doing well overall, it has suffered from what has been referred to as its “conglomerate discount.” Over the last ten years, the value of Siemens stock has gained 38%, which is much less than the 83% its industrial sector has gained
alone. The energy business, which makes turbines, wind generators, transformers, and compressors, actually saw revenue fall last year. Siemens is trying to focus more on its core of factory automation, smart buildings, and transport.
Well, That’s Just Swale paradise, western australia
Following a voluntary isolation period in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, Novo prospectors returned to the field only to find more gold. Novo has been mapping the gold swales in the Egina Terrace, under which it now holds a mining lease. The latest discovery conforms to predictions for the site and actually continues beyond the lease. The swale is about 0.2 miles wide and up to six feet
deep. Novo has already performed extensive testing on another swale within a mile of the latest discovery. The gold has been discovered in gravel, and the next step will be to conduct additional assays to determine if it will be worth proceeding with an extraction operation. Testing will involve excavating one-ton samples and hauling them to the base camp, where they will be run through Novo’s mobile alluvial Knudson centrifugal concentrator to produce concentrates suitable for panning. If geomorphological assumptions are correct, the swales could be over ten miles long. Novo is a company based in British Columbia that has rights to mine gold in about 13,000 square kilometers of interest throughout Western Australia.
Computer Rights st. charles , missouri
An invention with the formal name “Devices and Methods for Attracting Enhanced Attention” was created by an artificial intelligence (AI) machine. While this should be big news, the trouble the machine’s inventor is having in trying to get it patented is stealing the limelight. Stephen L. Thaler, a prolific
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inventor, completed a form for United States Patent Application 16/524,350, filling in the blank for the inventor’s first name as “DABUS” and its last name as “Invention Generated by Artificial Intelligence.” Thaler did not feel it honest to name himself as the inventor, as he had only programmed neural networks in a machine capable of autonomous invention. He therefore named himself applicant, representative, and assignee, since existing law does not allow a machine to own property. Given the circumstances, Thaler did not attach the required statement from the inventor, signed under oath, and the application was rejected twice for its omission. Citing case law, wherein it was ruled that states and corporations cannot be inventors, only people can, the United States Patent and Trademark Office decided machines couldn’t, either. It further concluded that, while AI cannot be an inventor, concepts it generates may be patentable. Industry analysts are saying there will be more to this story.
carolina in the west
the old north state
laid in April. The bridge, spanning the Polcevera Valley and connecting Genoa with all points west, collapsed tragically on August 14, 2018. Not even a year later, before demolition was complete, a consortium doing business as PerGenova began construction on a design donated by renowned architect Renzo Piano. The plans called for 18 pylons and 19-50-yard spans, each on foundations going 50 yards into the ground. About 24 kilotons of steel was required. Special features include solar panels to power 43 lampposts, each in honor of one of the victims of the collapse, which took out buildings and boats, as well as motor vehicles making their way across. Labor, estimated at 60,000 hours over 620 days, continued through the national COVID-19 lockdown, the bridge deemed too strategic and symbolic to wait. All that remains to be done are the finishing touches, like paving, which is scheduled to be completed in August.
genoa , italy
The final structural span for the new Morandi Bridge, yet to be named, was
as hard to keep stocked as toilet paper. The Clorox Company reported a 500% increase in demand for its wipes, to which it responded with swift production. Actions taken include running its plants 24/7, entering contracts with new suppliers, and focusing resources on cleaning products that disinfect. President Linda Rendle said all the plants started running full-tilt in January. To keep up the pace, Rendle said it is imperative to look after the company’s essential employees and take the recommended measures for minimizing the risk of them getting ill, which included providing pay enhancements. W hile the company is still shipping the popular disinfectant wipes to stores, they’re disappearing too fast for many hopeful shoppers to buy. Rendle does not attribute the current scarcity to hoarding so much as interest from people who have never used the wipes before.
Health Cares san juan, puerto rico
Wiping It Clean All in Two Years
national & world news
Two items that disappeared from shelves in light of COVID-19: isopropyl alcohol and Clorox wipes. Amidst spiking interest in disinfecting, they were
Having lost both his parents to cancer and witnessing the financial impact serious diseases can have on a family, Lester Morales made up his mind early on to become a reformer. He studied in college for a career in risk management
Every Moment Matters. When living with a serious illness, Four Seasons can help you make the most of each moment and feel better doing it. FourSeasonsCFL.org (828) 692.6178
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Why choose a
Oral Surgeon for Wisdom Teeth Removal?
and insurance and went on to work for high-dollar companies, but he kept finding that, no matter how high he climbed the ladder, large corporations were not interested in industry disruption. So after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, he went into business himself with Next Impact. The business trains employers and advisors on how to shop for insurance, and Forbes recently ran a feature on his “seven-digit” startup. Morales said a lot of entrepreneurs with ambitions for disruption look for an easier way, but in healthcare, the easiest way is going along with the existing trillion-dollar industry “where sick people lose.” The way it’s currently set up, brokers and insurers are rewarded for working against the people who seek them for help. By showing companies what’s negotiable and how to negotiate, Morales says he can typically save companies around 20% on insurance. His website quotes Howard Shultz as saying: “Starbucks spends more on healthcare than they do on coffee.”
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Many customers who dropped jewelry off for repairs before widespread stayat-home orders went into effect were not happy. Particularly targeted were the subsidiaries of Signet Jewelers: Kay Jewelers, Zales, and Jared. The three chain retailers of diamond jewelry are typically located in malls and have to answer to corporate headquarters. So when people started calling and asking when they could get their rings back, store representatives had to tell them there was nothing they could do. Some customers wanted to clean up heirloom wedding rings for their special day, others only wanted a resizing; none expected to leave their precious jewels unattended for two months. Some disgruntled customers would note one or the other of the stores was taking online orders and shipping. Those orders, however, were handled by the
store’s fulfillment center and, as online sales, could be delivered lawfully in most jurisdictions. Until stores started reopening, representatives of Signet assured customers they were allowing employees to enter the stores to retrieve items left for repairs and ship them as soon as local ordinances would allow.
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A point-in-time analysis by the financial firm Stephens determined 1,043, or 18%, of Wendy’s restaurants were not selling hamburgers. The research consisted of a review of online ordering menus for all the chain’s stores. Corporate spokespersons explained their logistical infrastructure was fine, but their suppliers weren’t producing enough. Reports of about 5,000 workers testing positive for COVID-19 in 115 meat processing facilities in 19 states had forced the shuttering of plants, reducing nationwide pork production 25% and beef production 10%, year-over-year. Shortages were regional, though, with 30% of Wendy’s stores in Ohio, Michigan, and New York having no burgers. Wendy’s was more affected than others because it has built its brand on selling fresh beef. Restaurants that sell frozen and/or imported meat were not affected, McDonald’s reporting no problems with any of its suppliers. Stephens did not foresee irreparable damage to Wendy’s’ bottom line if the problem corrected soon. In the meantime, marketing of chicken and the new breakfast menu have been paying off.
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The Veterans Health Administration Innovative Ecosystem’s Initiative to End Diabetic Limb Loss at VA has entered a public-private partnership with Podimetrics. Last year, the VA system treated 75,000 diabetic foot ulcers, which accounted for over 80% of the system’s nontraumatic amputations. Also bleakly,
43% of veterans die within five years of suffering their first foot ulcer. The Podimetric intervention prescribes mats with thermal sensors to high-risk veterans. The veterans stand on the mats 20 seconds each day while data is collected to store a thermal image in the cloud. By looking at the heat maps, researchers have been able to detect diabetic ulcers five weeks earlier than they manifest through other forms of examination. In the 40 VA centers where the mats were used, they were credited with a 92% decrease in hospitalizations. The VA system intends to fully deploy the mats at all its centers as soon as researchers work out the logistics of scaling, a move expected to save lives, limbs, and $3.2 billion annually.
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A bill moving through Louisiana’s legislature would require businesses trading with bitcoin to be licensed. Businesses conducting less than $35,000 in cryptocurrency transactions a year would only have to register with the state’s Office of Financial Institutions. Initial registration fees would be $2,000 and annual renewals would cost $1,000. Principals of businesses trading higher volumes would have to have their fingers printed, undergo investigations to establish their “experience, character, and general fitness,” and possibly open their professional premises to an official search. If licensed by another state, a business could be exempt. Enforcement for the licensing operation is expected to cost the state $150,000 in the first year and $1.3 million over the next five years. The bill appears to be derived from a draft act prepared by the Uniform Law Commission (ULC) for streamlined adoption across states. California, Oklahoma, and Hawaii are also considering variants. The ULC version includes rules for compliance, reporting, enforcement, and consumer protection not detailed in the Louisiana bill.
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Burger King (BK) Europe announced some of its fast-food restaurants in Germany are offering customers do-it-yourself social-distancing crowns for on-site dining. As the world’s restaurants begin to reopen, BK fell back on the paper crowns the restaurant has given children since time immemorial to make something two yards in diameter. The mega-sombreros, sporting six times as many points as the classic fun favorite, are made of paper and sanitarily distributed still-folded. Though a hoot, the crowns are less tacky than putting tape all over the floor and work as well as the mannequins and stuffed animals other restaurants are putting in booths to separate customers. Spokespersons for the chain said they wanted a way to broadcast BK’s high commitment to safety and hygiene. BK in Italy took a greater marketing risk in offering the Social Distancing Whopper, which had three times the normal amount of raw onions.
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As scientists wonder how hepatitis E is passing from rats to humans, leading to an outbreak in Hong Kong, the Centers for Disease Control have issued a warning. It explains that rats had typically relied on restaurant dumpsters for food. Now that COVID-19 closures have reduced that food source to a trickle, the rats are venturing out, particularly in dense commercial areas. The report warns certain jurisdictions may see an uptick in rodent-related service requests and “reports of unusual or aggressive [rat] behavior.” The CDC is aware of over 35 diseases that can be transmitted from rodents to humans through direct contact, contact with body fluids, or parasites changing hosts. The agency’s three-part slogan for harm reduction is “Seal Up! Trap Up! and Clean Up!”
July 2020 | capitalatplay.com 79
Yome SWEET Peter Belt Has Built Something New with Red Sky Shelters
Yome written by pamel a pyms photos by anthony harden
| July 2020
July 2020 | capitalatplay.com
BELT WORKING on a yome vent cover.
he year was 1987, and Peter Belt
was camping near some hot springs outside of Eugene, Oregon. He decided to take an early morning hike when he happened upon a tipi someone had set up along the river. “The mist was coming up off the ground, and it was the most beautiful sight I had ever seen,” he reminisces. “I immediately thought, I am going to make myself one of those.” Little did he know that desire would redefine his future. Belt was no stranger to creative construction ideas. His inner spark for inventive fabrication was first ignited in middle school, when he took a required course called Bachelor Survival in his hometown of Denver, Colorado. “It not only taught us to cook and sew, but the class came with a Frostline Kit that included a set fabric, all cut out with clear instructions,” Belt remembers. “We learned to make tents, outdoor equipment, sleeping bags, down gloves, and a whole system of putting the down into the product without getting it all over the floor.” That sew-it-yourself kit gave Belt a skill he has since used his entire life: the ability to look at something and figure out how to construct it. During high school, for example, he took a job for about a month with Skynasour, a now-defunct kite company, where he admits he acted as a spy and stayed just long enough to be able to build one himself. 82
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Not surprisingly, when Belt returned from the camping trip in Oregon, he was eager to replicate the tipi. As this was the age before the internet, the local library provided him with a how-to book and a 24-volume encyclopedia called The Register, a seemingly infinite list of manufacturers and distributors with which he was able to gather the knowledge and materials to construct his own tipi. Using a friend’s basement, Belt honed his approach by making three or four test runs for family and friends. While doing so, it occurred to him that one day he might make a business out of fabricating tipis, but it seemed a far stretch from his day job as a graphic designer for a local Denver newspaper. In Belt’s free time, he also enjoyed participating in various festival circuits following The Grateful Dead. He was intrigued by the tensile structured canopies—large awnings with tentlike roofing held in place by steel cables—he would see there; ever the builder, Belt found he was able to construct these tensile canopies, as well, and he began building them in his backyard. (As a hobby here in Asheville, Belt has made these canopies for Pack Square park and Wicked Weed Brewery.) The festivals also introduced him to juggling toys, sometimes called magical dancing sticks or devil sticks, which he learned to craft and would then sell at The Grateful Dead concerts or small Renaissance fairs across Colorado. In the early ‘90s, as Belt approached his thirties, he felt the tug of the road. He began to look around for a new place to call home, traveling extensively along the West Coast and throughout Idaho and Montana. In the end, it was once again The Grateful Dead who inspired him, this time bringing him to his final destination. The jam band played in North Carolina in the mid-’90s, and Belt followed the band east to watch them perform. He stayed with a friend in Asheville, and its mystical mountains invoked their magic. Within six months, his move to the area was complete, and he has been a Carolinian ever since.
PACK SQUARE CANOPY, photo courtesy Red Sky Shelters
From Dream to Reality Once Belt settled in the Blue Ridge, he decided to dedicate his professional hours to building tipis. The name “Red Sky” came to him through a dream, and he first called his company Red Sky Tipis. He found his first workspace on Merrimon Avenue shortly after his arrival in 1995. “That studio had a fairly colorful history,” says Belt with a laugh. “Before I came along, I was told that Tibetan Monks had blessed the building. There were two studios side-by-side. I took the one that had originally been a drugstore for decades, then a boxing ring, then Dinner for the Earth (the natural food store which became Earth Fare grocery), then [Red Sky Tipis].” For five years, Belt watched as the neighboring studio changed hands, starting out as a karate studio, then a punk club, then a fire-and-brimstone church where he could hear the preacher evangelizing so adamantly people would leave in tears, then an S&M shop that put some whips in the window, painted the July 2020 | capitalatplay.com 83
PETER BELT . 84
| July 2020
interior black, and never moved in. After five years, in 2000, Belt expanded into that storied space, too, occupying both storefronts until 2005. “The crazy part of the story,” says Belt, “is that four days after I moved out, a car hit the building and the whole building collapsed!” The Monks may have blessed the space, but it was Belt who felt lucky. Belt admits that, during his first two years of tipi production in Asheville, they weren’t selling well, which, in hindsight, he attributes to a variety of factors. New in town and with no internet to help spread the word, Belt relied on small ads he posted in local publications of Mother Earth News and The Permaculture Activist to advertise his product. He also found that North Carolina’s environment wasn’t as conducive to tipi use because of the moisture in the soil. People who buy tipis usually do so because they enjoy the fact that tipis are primarily designed to have fires; the flaps of their walls allow for a flow of air to keep the fire going. Unfortunately, on the East Coast, with
its soil and humidity, the only way to keep it dry enough inside the tipi for a fire was to put it on a platform. “That was just awkward,” says Belt. “A wooden platform definitely increases the risk of fire danger, which negates the main highlight of camping in a tipi.” Belt quickly realized he needed to transition his concept away from tipis, and he began to consider several ideas that had long been in the back of his mind: tensile structures, domes, yurts, even the concept of using an umbrellas’s opening mechanism to launch a canopy and then anchor it to the ground in such a way that the center post could be removed. It was about this time that Belt was asked to build a yurt for Earthaven ecovillage to use as its council hall. Yurts are much larger than tipis and are designed to be built on a platform (ideal for our damp soil). Simultaneously, the LEAF Festival was in its earliest iterations. Although Belt had missed the first festival, a friend introduced him to the second annual event in 1996, for which Belt was asked to July 2020 | capitalatplay.com 85
HIGH CEILINGS at the Riverside space mean yomes can be constructed indoors.
make tipis for use as healing arts spaces. In return, the festival organizers offered Belt a 10x10-foot vending booth to promote his business. Belt took them up on the idea, intending to use the booth to sell his juggling toys. The booth also gave Belt an opportunity to experiment with building yet another structure, this time one he had seen at a pagan festival held a few years earlier in Colorado. “That structure seemed to have the combination of both a yurt and a geodesic dome. It was a true icosahedron structure. Because the icosahedron is one of those platonic solids, it is completely rigid and uses the least amount of material over a completely solid structure,” explains Belt. When he spotted it, he was so intrigued with the unique dwelling that he sought out its maker, a fellow he recognized from other festivals who manufactured 86
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“chameleon clothes.” “His name was Rock, and he was a very entertaining person,” Belt grins. “He had a garment that he would put on and demonstrate how it could be turned into 20 different things, from pants to a backpack.” Kindred spirits, Rock and Belt conversed awhile, and Belt stuck the idea of the icosahedron in the back of his mind. “I was always interested in exploring the structure, but I needed to wait for the right opportunity to come along. The vending space at LEAF gave it to me,” says Belt. So what is an icosahedron structure? It is a geodesic dome, like the spherical jungle gyms little kids climb on the playground; it is a perfect example of how triangles can be formed into a circle. (A planetarium is another example on a much grander scale.) Buckminster Fuller, a professor at Black Mountain College in the late 1940s, is credited with popularizing the geodesic dome. He built the first one in 1949 that could sustain its own weight; it was 14 feet in diameter, an icosahedron constructed of a vinyl plastic skin and aluminum aircraft tubing. To prove the building’s stability, Fuller had several students suspend themselves in the air from the structure. Belt had long been an admirer of Fuller’s designs, so there is an element of irony that LEAF is always held on the Black
Mountain campus, and Belt’s first vending booth, built out as an icosahedron, may have been as close as 300 yards from the birthplace of Fuller’s original structure. “Knowing I was going to make a shift from producing tipis, my first thought was to switch to building yurts because I built the one for Earthhaven, but LEAF coming along
“The main advantage of the yome, as compared to a yurt, is you can have something structurally sound constructed with a minimum amount of material.” when it did gave me an opportunity to explore something new. That is when I decided to build my first ‘yome,’” Belt remembers. “It wasn’t called a yome then because, at this
time, I was just intending to build out an icosahedron for my booth to see if I could do one. My plan was to sell my juggling toys out of it. I wasn’t thinking of using the festival to market my tipis or any dwelling units just then, other than being given credit for the tipis I built.” Enter, the hand of fate. When the weather shifted, as it’s prone to do during LEAF, Belt and his fellow vendors realized the true value of his architectural anomaly. A huge storm came rumbling through, and all the easy-up stands were blown away, the vendors and the wares formerly under them drenched. “Mine was the only one left standing,” says Belt. It was an aha moment for him as he realized how stable his design was and the value of replicating it. The answer to what he would do next had serendipitously arrived. Belt changed the company name from Red Sky Tipis to Red Sky Shelters—he was in the yome business. Well, he was in the Crystal Gnome Dome business, which is what he first called his icosahedrons, even having a new logo made, but he laughingly explains the name didn’t stick. He tagged his three associates, who had joined him early on — “When I first opened my studio, I opened it to others as well who needed a space to work. Some of July 2020 | capitalatplay.com 87
those people transitioned over to work with me,” he explains — to help him curate a new name. Deciding Crystal Gnome Dome sounded “a little too hippie and woo-woo,” yet wanting to convey the combination of the yurt and the dome that Red Sky was now manufacturing, he and his team decided upon “yome,” as they all agreed it was much better than “durt.” Belt was pleasantly surprised to find many advantages to yome-building over the yurts he had been considering constructing. The cost of building a yome, for example, was less than that of a yurt. While there were other national builders constructing yurts, Belt was designing and creating something completely unique; to his knowledge, no one was actively promoting a business utilizing this combination of yurts and domes. “The main advantage of the yome, as compared to a yurt, is you can have something structurally sound constructed with a minimum amount of material, thereby creating something as affordable as possible,” Belt explains. “Besides that, the biggest difference is that a yurt has a lattice wall system and the yome does not. People prefer the yome because they like the structural simplicity, something not as busy, and their view isn’t blocked by the lattice work.”
Red Sky at Riverside After ten years in business, in 2005, Red Sky Shelters had outgrown its first (apparently ill-fated) location. Belt’s radar had been focused for some time on a large textile mill on Riverside Drive; he loved the ambiance of its 16-foot ceilings and maple floors. When the mill owners finally took the cavernous spaces and converted them into smaller studios, dubbing the space the Mill at Riverside, Belt jumped at the opportunity to rent a space there. Belt was able to help steer the build-out of his new shop, and he retained the original concept of two studios side-by-side. Today, one studio does the sewing and the other the woodworking. “It was such a pleasure to have enough space,” says Belt. “In our old studio on Merrimon, it was kind of insane because we had to take the woodwork out to the alley and then take all the equipment back in at night.” Now when Belt arises each morning, after his green tea and kundalini yoga, he is as inspired as ever to go to work each day. Each space is approximately 2,500-sq.-ft., a just-right size for Belt and his three employees. The roles at Red Sky are fluid; everyone moves around and does it all, whether it is sewing, woodworking, or metal work. “The only downside is being indoors most of the time, but the satisfaction 88
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How a Yome Is Erected
Each yome comes with an instruction manual with these how-tos for easy installation. Directions below from Instructions For Setting Up A Septayome Or Octayome
A yome is erected by first building the framework for the roof on the ground. The roof cover is then draped over the roof frame and the vent cover is attached.
Next, while the roof frame is still resting on the ground, the side suppor t poles are attached to the corner bolts of the roof frame. The roof frame with its roof cover is then hoisted up by lif ting and swinging the side suppor t poles under it. As itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s being lifted, the dome assembly is stabilized by bolting the base plate poles to the bottom corners of the triangles formed by the side suppor t poles.
At this point the wall frame is up it is ready to hang the side cover on. When the side cover is hanging loosely in place, the roof cover is stretched over the top edge of it. Finally, the base of the side cover is fastened to the base plate poles and the roof cover and the side cover are laced together. If the yome was ordered with a door, this is where the side cover is fastened to the door frame. When the side cover is securely fastened, the yome is complete! July 2020 | capitalatplay.com 89
of designing, constructing, and seeing the tangible result still keeps me enthused every day,” says Belt. Red Sky Structures manufactures almost all the components of the yome in-house, from the biggest pieces—the side walls, which have windows and door combos—to the smallest, right down to the little brackets and eyebolts.
“If you compare a yome to a yurt or even a tiny house, the price still wins out. ” The wood used in yomes is Southern yellow pine, which Red Sky’s employees saw, mill, sand, and shape by hand. The roof used on the yome may be Belt’s proudest accomplishment. In 2002 he saw a documentary film called Blue Vinyl, which explored environmental and health risks associated with PVC (plastic polyvinyl chloride) popularly used in materials for yurts and other home sidings. It alerted him to the possible issues created in the manufacturing
of PVC. Belt began attending national textile trade shows in the hopes of discovering a viable replacement, and at one such conference he listened to a seminar about silicone-coated architectural fabric, which was odorless and flame resistant. The speaker was just developing the idea, and, as Belt is wont to do, he bypassed the speaker and found the source, a German company who was willing to work with him. They sent Belt sample after sample, and together they explored all sorts of combos. “Finally, they just sent me the rubber, and I spent hours and hours and hours trying to come up with something that wouldn’t burn.” He ultimately unearthed a way to make his roof flame resistant. “But that is definitely a trade secret!” he exclaims. Prices for yomes today depend on the size and style a client wants. Red Sky Shelters offers four models: a sixsided Hexayome for under $2,500, a seven-sided Septayome for $3,000-$3,500, an eight-sided Octayome for $3,490$4,000, and the Ultrayome, the eight-sided model with all the bells and whistles, including insulation for the roof, starting at $5,960. “The proportions of the triangles are the same, we just add more sides,” says Belt, “and every
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yome is custom-built to a client’s specifications, including where they want to place their windows, doors, and vents.” There are available add-ons for all the yomes depending on one’s preference and budget. It takes a few weeks to put together a complete package for a customer. “We don’t offer installation,” he continues, “but the package comes with directions, and it usually only takes about a day to construct.” When asked if a customer needs any foundational knowledge to construct the yome kit, Belt replies, “Most people with a little tech savvy should be able to do it. You don’t need too much in the way of tools—just a six- to eight-step ladder, three to four wrenches, cordless screw drill, and drill bits. It comes apart if you want to put it on a trailer, but you can pick it up yourself if you have as many people as there are sides,” he says, adding that the whole structure weighs about 300 pounds. Belt explains that about half his business is local and the other half goes primarily to the West Coast. “I can’t define a ‘type’ of client because they all vary. I’ve sold to people who are in the process of building a home, and they need interim housing; others just want a place in the backyard for their teenagers; and it is commonly used as intern housing on farms.”
Katherine C Morosani
He stays in Asheville because he loves it here, and he’s noticed a definite uptick in business, even in the last month. “I think there has been a lot of pent-up demand,” says Belt, “and if you compare a yome to a yurt or even a tiny house, the price still wins out. I was sad to see LEAF canceled this year,” he continues, “but in a way, it was a relief because we are suddenly swamped with orders and are booked out through July.” One can hear the smile in Belt’s voice as he harkens back to the day he was camping in Oregon when the mist around the tipi whispered to him, a whisper he still seems to hear some 25 years later. After all that time, Belt has not lost his spirited curiosity about how to continue to improve his product. “Matter of fact,” he says, “we are experimenting with some tensile structures for the roof right now. We want to keep the aesthetic, yet create an overhang that doesn’t diminish the stability of the structure.” It’s no surprise that Belt, an inventive builder at heart, is still inventing.
1185 Charlotte Highway Suite I Fairview, NC 28730 828-628-1546 July 2020 | capitalatplay.com 91
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| July 2020
Businesses across Western North Carolina are adapting to a new normal and new mandates as they reopen post-quarantine.
1. blu29 reopened with shortened hours and, in addition to following mandated guidelines, is offering disposable masks, gloves, and bottles of hand sanitizer to all shoppers. 2. Estate Jewelry Ltd. reopened with new safety measures, including eight plexiglass shields for their counters, as well as signage, masks, and sanitizing products. 3. Highland Brewing reopened with new sinks, signage, plexiglass, and cleaning routines. Taproom, deck, and rooftop bars are open daily and the Meadow was scheduled to reopen in June. 4. Alissa Hanan of Hillman Beer, where they created one entrance in order to keep count at the door and maintain 50% capacity, spaced out all tables outside, and marked off sections of the tables inside, among many other precautions.
5. Mtn Merch may look closed, but they’re open at both their Biltmore Village and Lexington Avenue locations and grateful for their community during this time. 6. VaVaVooom has reopened with all the safety measures in place and smiling faces behind the masks! They are offering curbside service and free local delivery for orders over $75 within 15 miles. 7. Ivory Road Cafe is open for outdoor dining on their expansive patio and picnic area, limited indoor dining, and carryout. 8. Carol L. King & Associates has instituted more Zoom meetings—both with clients and with each other. They’ve also instituted a strict sanitizing schedule.
9. Scout Boutique reopened during Phase 1 with new hours. Customers are encouraged to shop the website, and they’re offering free delivery for locals. 10. Zen Skincare and Waxing Studio is open with new protocol and practices like improved air filtration, including adding Ultra Violet – C light (UV-C) in the HVAC air system to kill any possible virus and bacteria in the air, and a revised process for check-ins to allow for social distancing. 11. Ambiente Modern Furniture is back open. They are requiring customers to use hand sanitizer before handling fabric and leather samples. 12. Beverly-Hanks Realtors and staff are back in the office with a variety of cloth masks. Patterns abound. July 2020 | capitalatplay.com 93
EVENTS DISCLAIMER: Acknowledging high volatility in openings and closings, the announcements below represent only a point-in-time events calendar effective at time of print. We’ve included virtual and in-person events, as well as notices for notable annual festivals and gatherings that have been cancelled. For updates, please consult the links provided.
Attractions the biltmore estate The Biltmore Estate has reopened. In addition to following guidelines and maintaining standards of cleanliness and sanitation, the estate is open for limited hours, with limited occupancy, though it is not accepting cash payments at this time. Consult the website to see which attractions and amenities are open on any given day.
> tweetsie.com north carolina arboretum In accordance with Phase 1 reopening guidelines, the North Carolina Arboretum opened its trails on May 9. While the buildings remain closed, the Arboretum will be offering some of its classes and workshops via Zoom. A large number of fee or free, live or on-demand classes on botany, gardening, and ecology may now be taken by registrants.
Traditions mountain dance and folk festival / shindig on the green So far, the Folk Heritage Committee is going ahead with two major heritage productions. The Mountain Dance and Folk Festival, now in it’s 93rd year, is selling tickets and packages for events running from August 6-8 at UNC-Asheville’s Lipinsky Hall that will include sounds of Scots-Irish, English, Cherokee, and African cultures. On all other Saturdays from July 11–September 5, Shindig on the Green will begin at 7PM in Pack Square Park. Normally about 500 gather on the lawn each night to listen, dance, and buy a food truck dinner. Attendance is free.
> folkheritage.org canceled folkmoot
tweetsie Tweetsie, a narrow-gauge railroad that runs locomotives on a scenic mountain trip to an amusement park, remains closed, but it has not canceled the season. The reopening date is yet to be determined and will require clearance by state and local governments as well as Tweetsie leadership. In the meantime, Golden Rail Season Passes will be honored through the 2021 season and are 94
still available at pre-season rates. Days Out with Thomas have been canceled.
| July 2020
Each summer since 1984, Folkmoot has hosted and produced a colorful celebration of traditional dance, music, and heritage. Since its beginnings, performers from over 200 countries have been represented. This year, Folkmoot has been canceled. On a bright note, organizers report their sound and light engineer has been using the downtime to make exciting changes for a 2021 season not to be missed.
canceled horn in the west For the first time in its 69-year history, Horn in the West has been canceled. The outdoor drama interprets what life may have been like in the Appalachians for pioneers led by Daniel Boone during the Revolutionary War. While the drama is off, the Hickory Ridge Living History Museum, on the same premises in Boone, has opened under Phase 2 guidelines. By reservation only, groups of no more than six will get to tour historic cabins occupied by period actors. Admission is $8 for adults and $5 for children.
> horninthewest.com canceled highland games It was with serious regret that the Board of Trustees for the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games called off the weekend of traditional Scottish music, dance, food, and sports. The cancelation was the first in the games’ 65-year history. Not only did the cancelation cut off funding for the scholarships the event typically supports, organizers had invested about $100,000 in setup and were saddened to deprive so many community members of employment. The organization is accepting donations on its website.
Festivals downtown after 5 online On the third Friday of each month, Downtown After 5 used to be a great place to chill out and keep networking after a long workweek. This year, the Asheville Downtown Association announced the events were going virtual so long as a live format could not be resumed. As they did with the Quarantine Concert Series, the Orange Peel is providing the venue, and IamAVL is supplying the technology for livestreaming the performances through Facebook and YouTube. The Downtown Association is also partnering with Asheville Music Professionals and
Ingles to fundraise and give $50 gift certificates to artists and professionals in the local music scene.
> ashevilledowntown.org/ downtownafter5
leaf downtown It’s so far, so good for the 6th Annual LEAF Downtown AVL Festival, August 7&8. Pandemic guidelines permitting, attractions will include roaming artists and buskers, interactive installations, live performances by local artists, a 5K, and more hands-on learning fun. The main LEAF festival, celebrating global arts, typically convenes twice a year. This year, the spring festival is merging with the fall festival October 22-25.
Outdoors parks In accordance with reopening guidelines, all national, state, and local public parks have reopened for hiking. But park amenities, where people would be inclined to touch common surfaces, such as playgrounds and restroom facilities, remain shut. Hikers are encouraged to observe all rules for social distancing, including traveling in small groups and staying six feet away from others and wearing masks when approaching other groups.Private parks may be enforcing tighter restrictions.
> ncparks.gov meteor shower The most visible natural event in the night sky during July will be the Delta Aquariid meteor shower. Most of the action takes place from July 12-August 23 each year, but this year the moon’s waning crescent phase will coincide with the shower’s peak to optimize viewing conditions from 12-6AM in late July. Away from city lights, with acclimated eyes, up to 30 per minute may be seen.
5k virtual race To raise funds for Veterans for Peace and the Wounded Warrior Project, Salvage Station scheduled a 5K. “Update,” reads their website, “This race has become a virtual race. Run the 5K in your own space. We will do a joint start at 9AM on our Facebook and Instagram pages.” Registration is required.
> avlindependenceday5k.com linville caverns Linville Caverns has been hit by one plague after another. First, six bats were confirmed to be infected with white nose syndrome, which, while not harmful to humans, could be spread by humans to other animals. Visitors were asked to follow special safety precautions. Then, COVID-19. Then, as soon as the caves reopened, they were flooded by heavy rains. The caves reopened Monday, June 15, with precautions set in place.
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> linvillecaverns.com farm tours The Organic Growers School’s (OGS) website announces, “Growing Food Is NOT Cancelled.” That said, the school’s traditional farm tours are going to continue virtually through the duration of the 2020 growing season. One or two virtual tours will be offered a month and feature a local grower who will tour their farm and give a presentation on a topic of their choosing. Also via Zoom, the OGS is hosting monthly “Virtual Twilight Talks.”
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> organicgrowersschool.org nantahala outdoor center The Nantahala Outdoor Center has resumed operations with limited capacity. Its retail stores, resorts, and restaurants are open, and rafting trips and watersport classes are underway.
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mountain bizworks coaching Mountain BizWorks’ Alpine program is now available in a virtual format. The course is designed for business owners who want to take a serious look at where their business is going. Sessions include evaluating the business’ mission and vision, reading financials from a planning perspective, and coming up with better advertising strategies. Facilitator Annie Milroy Price, founder of Birds Eye Business Planning & Adventures, will conclude with one-on-one coaching. The course will meet Wednesdays, July 8-August 5, from 2-4:30PM. Enrollment is $375.
> mountainbizworks.org/events/ category/workshops/list/
marketing tips webinar Justin Belleme and Sarah Benoit of JB Media continue to offer monthly webinars on topics of interest for surviving the uncertainties of the day. Previous webinars have featured SBA loan overviews, tips on creating online webinars and classes, and best practices for working at home. At the pace things are changing, topics aren’t being announced too much in advance, but registration will be required for live drop-in sessions, and archives are posted online.
> jbmediagroupllc.com/community/ score electronic consultant Asheville SCORE has no workshops scheduled at this time, but persons seeking expertise on business-related issues are always welcome to contact a consultant electronically.
Crafting virtual craft fair The Southern Highland Craft Guild is bent on keeping a 73-year-old tradition going with the first-ever Virtual Craft Fair of the Southern Highlands, which 96
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will be held July 16-19. As always, makers specializing in a wide range of genres will be showing their wares, except this time they will work from home and appear in “virtual booths.” Visitors will be able to interact with the artisans through livestreams, watch videos of the crafters at work, and buy items online.
> southernhighlandguild.org/craftfair/ river arts online As many studios and galleries in the R iver Arts District (R A D) remain closed, artisans are playing by ear for resuming Second Saturday Events. In the meantime, the RAD has moved into the digital space. By going to the normal website, visitors can click on portals that will take them to virtual exhibitions and classes as well as the artisans’ websites. To help each other out during the crisis, RAD artists have taken the artistssupportpledgeRAD, by which they commit to purchase each others’ works with profits from their own social media sales.
Performing Arts dancers in quarantine Terpsicorps has launched the Dancers in Quarantine Video Series. A press release states, “As an organization whose mission is to bring joy, diversion, and reflection, we know that these are times that call for that more than ever.” The first videos to be made available are a “meet the dancers” series, and work continues, in collaboration with other dance organizations, on a couple film projects, which, hopefully, will be released in early summer. If health considerations permit, Terpsicorps may host small, live, outdoor performances before the weather gets too cold. And classes continue via Zoom, with new students being accepted.
> terpsicorps.org montford park players
The Montford Park Players have the intention of launching their summer season as soon as current restrictions on the venue’s capacity are lifted. Shakespeare’s A Comedy of Errors was canceled; Euripedes’ The Trojan Women was scheduled to stream via Facebook Live and YouTube; Sharma’s The Sword in the Stone was moved to the 2021 season; and now (fittingly) the theater is hoping A Midsummer Night’s Dream can open the season July 3. Performances will be free and open to the public.
> montfordparkplayers.org closed the grail moviehouse The Grail Moviehouse, Asheville’s alternative cinema, has been streaming exclusive screenings on a pay-per-view basis, with revenues paying both the venue and its distributors. The moviehouse recently announced it is leaving its brick-and-mortar location and will reopen in a space that will allow social distancing as long as required. The cinema is also toying with the idea of occasional pop-up screenings.
> grailmoviehouse.com cancelled brevard summer music festival The Brevard Music Center has canceled its summer season. The decision affects the Summer Music Festival, which would have run from May 30-August 22, and all courses in it’s nationally celebrated training programs. First Monday Community Concerts will resume in October, and Chamber Music Tuesday encores are on-hold until March.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Please submit your event at least six weeks in advance.
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one l ast thing
New Generation, Same Values by he ather wright of provisions mercantile
ecades ago, my grandmother, Claudene McHone, owned and operated a mercantile from the basement of her West Asheville home. It wasn’t fancy, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t special. It was a place where the community could find life’s necessities like BC Powder, loaves of bread, jars of local pickles, and loads of fellowship. The shop didn’t need a formal name. It was simply known as “the community store.” Today, I’m aiming to carry on that legacy in West Asheville with my own shop, Provisions Mercantile. I wonder how my grandmother’s mercantile would have responded to our country’s current situation. She was no stranger to crisis. Her business was open in the South during the tumultuous ‘60s. I want to know what her store’s role was as I am seeking what ours should be. I just haven’t put my finger on it quite yet, but I will. While I ponder this parallel, I can’t help but reflect on the other ones I’ve come to recognize—the similarities that have made me smile and remain grateful for this undertaking. During the COVID-19 quarantine, my family, including three children and one remarkable husband, Matt, practically lived in the store. It’s a 1917 building in the heart of the neighborhood on Haywood Road. With time, sweat, and some help from the kids, we put this store together with the hope of opening up on May 15. I’m proud to say we made it. My grandmother had help from her children, as well. While in high school, one of my uncles was excused from class every day at noon so he could work at the store. Back then, kids were sometimes needed to work on the family business, whether it was a farm or a shop. The store in my grandmother’s basement meant a great deal to the neighborhood. Her intention was to meet the needs of her West Asheville community, and she was able to do that in a small space with a welcoming community. At my shop, I want to do
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the same thing, but with a few changes. I won’t call them improvements or say I’m “elevating” something because that’s not what it’s about for me. It is important to me that we carry products that are reminiscent of items from my family’s original mercantile—things like biscuit mix, nostalgic candies, pickled okra, and, of course, grits. We also give a nod to the past with items such as enamelware and cast iron cookware. Provisions Mercantile carries necessities, as did my grandmother, but the list goes on from there. For those who enjoy crafting cocktails at home, we have sophisticated drinkware. We carry apparel for men, women, and children, as well as a bevy of beauty products. I want the store to feel highly inclusive. Our space had to feel welcoming. It’s why we waited to find the ideal location in West Asheville with 3,000-sq.-ft.. Provisions Mercantile wasn’t going to exist without a lounge area, coffee bar for shoppers, and studio space for visiting artists and creatives; in my opinion, those are three key ingredients for neighborhood fellowship. It’s the kind of intimate community my grandmother cultivated in her shop, just made modern. When you hear any of us in the shop say, “Come back, even if it’s to say ‘hi,’” we mean it. On a day that started with uncertainty in our town during June’s protests, there was a soulful moment with a neighborhood customer. A West Asheville dweller for 38 years came into the shop today and told me he had $8 to spend in the store. He’d seen the “perfect sticker” the last time he’d been in and wanted to buy it to give to someone. He told me he’d never seen it anywhere else, and it made him smile. As a shop owner who’d sold a $3.50 sticker, it wasn’t the value of the sale that mattered. What mattered was my time with him and that he was more than satisfied with his purchase—he was downright delighted by it. What more could I hope for in a time of chaos? Maybe just this.
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