Page 1

Alden & Kelly Ward Ward Piano Co. p.18

Clark Mitchell

Roots & Branches p.54

Matt Maness & Les Vance High Country Boats p.76

Western North Carolina's Free Spirit of Enterprise

colu m ns

The Power of

Your Posse p.50 Wine In The Time of Tariffs p.66 

l o c a l i n d u s t ry


A Manufacturing ODYSSEY p.36

Volume X - Edition I complimentary edition



















January 2020



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Tom Dempsey

Local Industry

SylvanSport p.16

Paul Heumiller

The State of Manufacturing 2019 p.37

Dream Guitars p.16

Western North Carolina's Free Spirit of Enterprise

Leisure & Libation

Jason & Alyssa Moore

Escape Rooms in Western North Carolina p.57

Local Industry

Elite HRV p.14

Event Planners in Western North Carolina p.35

Western North Carolina's Free Spirit of Enterprise

Western North Carolina's Free Spirit of Enterprise

l e i s u r e & l i b at i o n


colu m ns


Volume IX - Edition I complimentary edition


Brandon & Amanda Bryant Red Tree Builders p.16










i ng





January 2019

lo c a l i n d u s t ry

Real Estate 2018 Review A look back on Real Estate in Western North Carolina. p.37

Volume IX - Edition II complimentary edition

Volume IX - Edition III complimentary edition

February 2019

March 2019

Megan Brown & Chris Allen

Frazier, Mercer, & Green

Waynesville Soda Jerks p.14

Well Played Board Game Café p.74

Western North Carolina's Free Spirit of Enterprise


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Investing in the Health of Employees p.70 Western North Carolina’s Free Spirit of Enterprise

Western North Carolina's Free Spirit of Enterprise APRIL 2019 - VOL. 9 ED. 4

Tracking THE Hives

James Wilkes & HiveTracks are

Cutting Edge l o c a l i n d u s t ry

Old-School Barber Shops



Volume IX - Edition IV

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Environmental Stewardship in Business p.32 Building a Portfolio Life p.56

Volume IX - Edition VI

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April 2019

Todd Fowler & Jon Sarver ALFIE Loans p.12

Chardin Detrich & Ira Friedrichs

Jon Jones & Jason Stewart

Smart Fellers p.72

Anthroware p.16

Western North Carolina's Free Spirit of Enterprise

colu m ns

Articles of Innovation: Robbing Our Own Cradle p.28

Dan & Betsy Reiser


Is The IPA Still King? p.36

l e i s u r e & l i b at i o n

Wine Column: Restaurants Worth a Second Look p.72 Western North Carolina’s Free Spirit of Enterprise

Western North Carolina’s Free Spirit of Enterprise

Western North Carolina’s Free Spirit of Enterprise


Business Flower Farms in Western North Carolina are growing “One Seed at a Time” p.59

lo c a l i n d u s t ry

Living Well p.39 Retirement Communities in Western North Carolina

Practicing Yoga Outdoors in Western North Carolina p.57

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Dave Brewer

AUGUST 2019 - VOL. 9 ED. 8

JULY 2019 - VOL. 9 ED. 7

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Volume IX - Edition VIII

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an n ua l


Volume IX - Edition X

October 2019

September 2019

John Taylor

Larry & Cyndi Ziegler

O.P. Taylor’s Toy Store p.18

High Country Candles p.60

Western North Carolina's Free Spirit of Enterprise

Western North Carolina's Free Spirit of Enterprise

2019 s w ee t a nd


NOVEMBER 2019 - VOL. 9 ED. 11

OCTOBER 2019 - VOL. 9 ED. 10

Music & Art

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Where the Locals are

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The Wine Column: Thanksgiving Rules of the Road p.90

l e i s u r e & l i b at i o n

Small Local Venues

Western North Carolina’s Free Spirit of Enterprise

Western North Carolina’s Free Spirit of Enterprise



Volume IX - Edition IX

complimentary edition

Annual Nonprofit Edition

Western North Carolina's Free Spirit of Enterprise

lo c a l i n d u s t ry

A look at Asheville’s everevolving River Arts District

Our Annual Western North Carolina Alcohol Report

Support Systems p.54 CBD, Marijuana, & the Workplace p.72

Asheville Improv Collective p.76


Zone Ahead

Negotiations 101 p.34

Hall, Hall, & Awad

A Music Man p.14

lo c a l i n d u s t ry

Alcohol Evolution


Eda Rhyne p.76

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Om Outdoors

Chris Bower & Rett Murphy

Craftpeak p.16

Western North Carolina's Free Spirit of Enterprise

Self-Storage Facilities in Western North Carolina

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June 2019

Kelley, Melissas, & Bullman

A Black Belt in Business p.76

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Wine Column: Pair Like a Pro p.52


Nathan Masters is Seeking

Play, Fun, & Joy

A Perfect Union

Creating LandlordTenant Agreements For Commercial Leases. p.72

Local Industry


complimentary edition


p.57 Auctions in Western North Carolina

at SimpleShot in Woodfin


Veterinarians of Western North Carolina p.37

in Western North Carolina

l e i s u r e & l i b at i o n


Western North Carolina's Free Spirit of Enterprise

l e i s u r e & l i b at i o n





In West Asheville by Elise Olson, of On The Inside

Western North Carolina's Free Spirit of Enterprise



colu m n

t io

FEBRUARY 2019 - VOL. 9 ED. 2

JANUARY 2019 - VOL. 9 ED. 1

with East Fork Pottery

Made With

Western North Carolina's Free Spirit of Enterprise

Western North Carolina's Free Spirit of Enterprise

Progress & Change



The Wine Column: Drink Well in 2019 p.70

p.57 in Western North Carolina


For Our Area

Nonprofits Interviews with 13 directors of 9 local nonprofits discuss how their work is real business.



WNC Christmas Tree


Christmas Tree farms are evergreen in more ways than one. p.37

Faces of Enterprise

p. 16 - 25, 44 - 53, 74 - 83, 94-99

Faces of Medicine Volume IX - Edition XI complimentary edition

p. 112-122

November 2019

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| January 2020


Holiday Gifting Guide for Beer Geeks p.52 December 2019


s I pointed out in this space last year, since 2013 Capital at Play’s January issue has devoted many of its pages to analyzing Western North Carolina’s manufacturing industry—essentially our taking the regional temperature of that admittedly broad business sector. How broad, you ask? In bygone days the term “manufacturing” immediately conjured images of huge pieces of machinery clanging and whooshing away in some massive industrial warehouse complex, one additionally populated by floor-to-roof banks of storage shelving and forklifts zipping back and forth, all overseen and operated by a small army of workers in hard hats and steel-toe boots. But while that model still holds in certain sub-sectors, in 2020 “manufacturing” involves everything from making parts for the automobile and aerospace industries, to designing computer solutions and software, to creating biotech products for the medical industry, to fabricating gear utilized by outdoor activity/sports enthusiasts, to processing pretty much any type of edible or drinkable item you’d care to mention. Nationally speaking, there have been troubling reports of late regarding the overall health of the manufacturing industry. So, how are we doing here in the mountains, then? With any business sector, of course, there will be fluctuations in the market, and manufacturing in particular is subject to both the omnipresent/straightforward supply-and-demand factor and more nebulous concepts such as global markets and international trade agreements. “Nebulous”? Yes indeed—just mention current buzzword “tariff” to the average person on the street and watch their eyes glaze over when you try to explain how the economics of tariffs actually work in the physical world as opposed to the rhetorical world of politics. But read our report in this issue—which features thoughtful observations from a number of area professionals whose business is to know about business—along with a trifecta of profiles we assembled on the entrepreneurs behind Swannanoa’s Roots & Branches, Blowing Rock’s High Country Boats, and Canton’s Ward Piano Co., plus mini-profiles of several prominent outdoor gear manufacturers. I think you’ll come away with a “not too shabby” assessment for the region in terms of manufacturing wages, manufacturing jobs being created, expansion in general, and predictions going forward. Spoiler alert, however: that “T” word does figure prominently in those stories, along with any contemporary discussion about manufacturing in Western North Carolina. We remain extremely proud of our Annual Manufacturing Report. We feel it’s important to acknowledge and analyze a key element of the Western North Carolina economy, particularly at a point in time when discussions are growing more and more contentious regarding the future of the area economy and how that relates to the overall quality of life here in the mountains.


Fred Mills


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You don’t change the world with the ideas in your head, but with the conviction in your heart. -Bryan Stevenson

Western North Carolina's Free Spirit of Enterprise


Oby Morgan associate publisher

Jeffrey Green managing editor

Fred Mills briefs and events editor

Leslee Kulba copy editors

contributing writers & photogr aphers

Evan Anderson, Jennifer Fitzgerald, Jason Gilmer, Derek Halsey, Anthony Harden, John Kerr, Jim Murphy, Laura Webb art director

Bonnie Roberson newsletter editor

Emily Glaser

Dasha O. Morgan, Brenda Murphy

Information & Inquiries Capital at Play is Western North Carolina’s business lifestyle magazine. It embodies the idea that capitalism thrives with creativity—that work requires an element of play. Exploring everything from local industry to the great outdoors, Capital at Play is inspiration for the modern entrepreneur. In every edition we profile those who take the risk, those who share that risk, and those who support them—telling the untold story of how capitalists are driven by their ideas and passions. We cater to those who see the world with curiosity, wonderment, and a thirst for knowledge. We present information and entertainment that capitalists want, all in one location. We are the free spirit of enterprise.

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Editorial content is selected and produced because of its interest to our readership. Editorial content is not for sale and cannot be bought. Capital at Play is financially sustained by advertisers who find value in exposure alongside our unique content and to the readers who follow it.

Photo courtesy of the Riley Howell Foundation Fund


| January 2020

This magazine is printed with soy based ink on recycled paper. Please recycle. Copyright © 2020, Capital At Play, Inc. All rights reserved. Capital at Play is a trademark of Capital At Play, Inc. Published by Capital At Play, Inc. PO Box 5552, Asheville NC 28813

Capital at Play is protec ted through Tr ademar k Regis tr ation in the United States. The content found within this publication does not necessar ily ref lec t the views of Capital At Play, Inc. and its companies. Capital At Play, Inc. and its employees are not liable for any adver tising or editor ial content found in Capital at Play. The ar ticles, photogr aphy, and illus tr ations found in Capital at Play may not be reproduced or used in any fashion without express wr it ten consent by Capital At Play, Inc.

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Capital at Play has partnered with Bclip Productions to bring the pages of each edition to life, just for you. Featured at and our Facebook page, we give you exclusive interviews and insider info on the people, places, and faces of Capital at Play has partnered with Bclip Productions to bring the pages of each edition to life, just for you. Featuring a new enterprise throughout Western North Carolina. Visit us on social media or at our website to see the latest 60 Seconds at Play.

second video every two weeks, we give you exclusive interviews and insider info on the people, places, and faces of enterp throughout Western North Carolina. Visit us on social media or at to see the latest 60 Seconds at Play NOVEMBER VIDEO


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MARKETING AND TRAINING VIDEOS FOR BUSINESS At Bclip we do more than tell your story. Our business-first mentality and combustible creativity set us apart from other video production companies. It’s our mission to help our customers sell their products, train their staff, and entertainINcustomers with video. We strive to eat, sleep,P and think like the FOX HUNTING WESTERN NORTH CAROLINA wonderful companies we work with. photo by at Tryon Hounds


| January 2020

At Bclip we do more than tell your story. Our business-first mentality and c creativity set us apart from other video production companies. It’s our mis help our customers sell their products, train their staff, and entertain custo video. We strive to eat, sleep, and think like the wonderful companies we w

thi s page :

DOUGH BEING worked into sections to create loaves of bread at Roots & Branches. photo by Anthony Harden

w 60 prise y.

combustible ssion to omers with work with.

F E AT U R E D vol. x




ed. i





MATT MANESS & LES VANCE January 2020 |


C ON T E N T S j a n ua ry 2020

ASSEMBLY LINE for manufacturing herbal medicines, photo by Anthony Harden


lo c a l i n d u s t r y

2020 A Manufacturing Odyssey


Capital at Play’s Annual Manufacturing in Western North Carolina Report



Climb Every Mountain, Ford Every Stream

9 Area Outdoor Gear Manufacturers Talk About Their Businesses

colu m n

30 Carolina in the West 70 The Old North State

p e o p l e at p l ay

50 The Power Of Your Posse 88 2019 Venture 15 Awards Written by Laura Webb

66 The Wine Column: Wine

& Venture Asheville Honors

In The Time of Tariffs Written by John Kerr

events on the cover :

Alden Ward stringing a piano at Ward Piano Co. in Canton. photo by Evan Anderson


| January 2020

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January 2020 |



Climb Every


Ford Every


Some of Western North Carolina’s outdoor gear makers, both small and large, break down their business models, celebrate their successes to date, and discuss challenges they currently face.

a lyson n e e l founder


b lys s ru n n i n g

scot t mccr e a co - f o u n d e r


s waygo g e a r

LOCATION: Fairview

LOCATION: Asheville

PRODUCTS MANUFACTURED: Running apparel for women.

PRODUCTS MANUFACTURED: Waterproof backpacks and caving equipment.

NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: 1 WHY DO YOU CHOOSE TO HAVE YOUR HEADQUARTERS HERE IN WESTERN NORTH CAROLINA? I live in this beautiful area! But I don’t think I would have been able to start this business anywhere else. The support from the local business community, as well as the outdoor community, has been invaluable. HAS YOUR COMPANY BEEN IMPACTED BY TARIFFS? Yes. My fabric and trim costs have increased. So far I am able to not pass that cost on to the customer, but if this drags on much longer, I may have to. 12

| January 2020

NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: 1 WHY DO YOU CHOOSE TO HAVE YOUR HEADQUARTERS HERE IN WESTERN NORTH CAROLINA? It’s where I live—no relocating costs [and] inspiring surroundings. BIGGEST CHALLENGE YOU WILL FACE IN 2020? Increasing sales. HAS YOUR COMPANY BEEN IMPACTED BY TARIFFS? Nothing directly, for now.

photo courtesy of Transylvania Economic Alliance

th o m a s de m p s e y founder


s y lva n s p o rt

LOCATION: Brevard photo courtesy SylvanSport

PRODUCTS MANUFACTURED: SylvanSport RVs (including GO, VAST, GO Easy), SylvanSport GEAR (including shelters, sleeping bags and mattresses, backpacks, lighting, camp kitchens). NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: 21

m at th e w s h i r e y founder


s h i r a f o rg e

LOCATION: Sylva PRODUCTS MANUFACTURED: Forged knives, axes, and kitchenware. NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: 1 WHY DO YOU CHOOSE TO HAVE YOUR HEADQUARTERS HERE IN WESTERN NORTH CAROLINA? Because it’s absolutely beautiful here and I love the culture/art of WNC. I feel like these mountains have called to me since I came here on vacation when I was a little kid. It is very advantageous to my business to live where craft is still appreciated and a lot of the community wants to support handmade goods.  BIGGEST CHALLENGE YOU WILL FACE IN 2020? Finding time to get everything done. Running a business and raising a family is a constant balancing act. If I could learn to do without sleep, I might be able to get ahead of myself! HAS YOUR COMPANY BEEN IMPACTED BY TARIFFS? Yes. The cost of steel has risen substantially.

WHY DO YOU CHOOSE TO HAVE YOUR HEADQUARTERS HERE IN WESTERN NORTH CAROLINA? We have been here since founding in 2004, and I was involved in the founding of other outdoor businesses (liquidlogic) prior to SylvanSport. Our home in Brevard is ideal as our proximity to the beauty of Pisgah National Forest naturally attracts visitors from much of the USA. We get to develop and test our products in our own backyard. If one of our shelters can withstand the precipitation put forth here in Transylvania County, chances are it will perform anywhere! We also enjoy the workforce here in WNC that has a historic affinity for manufacturing, [although] disadvantages include proximity to trucking transport hubs (limited to Transylvania mostly). BIGGEST CHALLENGE YOU WILL FACE IN 2020? Launching our new VAST travel trailer, and upping our digital marketing game. HAS YOUR COMPANY BEEN IMPACTED BY TARIFFS? Tariffs on commodity metals have caused the overall price of metals to increase, which has had an impact on our cost to produce. While the majority of our products are produced in the U.S. and mostly in WNC, we have been affected by tariffs on our imported component parts. January 2020 |



photo by Pisgah Glamping/Pisgah Hospitality

j oh n de l a loy e c eo


diamond br and gear

LOCATION: Asheville PRODUCTS MANUFACTURED: Canvas wall tents for the Boy Scouts, overnight camps, and glampers; handcrafted bags and tents for those who love the mountain lifestyle; also partnered with the Biltmore on a collection of bags for the sophisticated traveler. NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: 41 WHY DO YOU CHOOSE TO HAVE YOUR HEADQUARTERS HERE IN WESTERN NORTH CAROLINA? Since relocating our factory to WNC in 1942, and corporate offices in 1966, Diamond Brand Gear has kept manufacturing and hiring local, making the mission to revive the craft of sewing for which the area used to be known. There are many advantages—great access to outdoor recreation and a plethora of local talent in the area, from makers to designers and more. [But] there are always challenges to manufacturing local and trying to compete with mass-produced goods from overseas. BIGGEST CHALLENGE YOU WILL FACE IN 2020? Continuing to find local people who want to keep the craft of sewing alive by making it their career. To tackle this issue, we recently partnered with over 20 WNC manufacturers, the Carolina Textile District, Blue Ridge Community College, and A-B Technical Community College on an industrial sewing program. Our second biggest challenge will be growing awareness of canvas wall tents and reaching a broader market‌ [also] selling them factory-direct to anyone who is interested in having one. HAS YOUR COMPANY BEEN IMPACTED BY TARIFFS? Since we manufacture everything right here in WNC, we have not been affected by the import tariffs. It has always been important to us that we keep manufacturing local, as it allows us to employ our neighbors, reduce waste, and practice LEAN manufacturing. 14

| January 2020

all photos this page courtesy Diamond Brand Gear

te d s wart zb aug h co - ow n e r


ta r p e s try

LOCATION: Sugar Grove PRODUCTS MANUFACTURED: Outdoor blankets/tarps, dog duvet, blanket/yoga straps. N U MB ER OF EMPLOYEES: 2 full-time, 1 part-time WHY DO YOU CHOOSE TO HAVE YOUR HEADQUARTERS HERE IN WESTERN NORTH CAROLINA? [We are both] former Appalachian State grads who love the Boone area. It caters to our love of the outdoors with hikes, rivers, Watauga Lake, snowboarding in the winter, etcetera. Our headquarters is out of an old barn on our property, and it’s amazing to be able to go to work in such an amazing atmosphere. Headquartering in Boone and having manufacturing in Boone allows us… a direct line of communication for product development and general business discussions. [However], living in the mountains comes with inherent disadvantages in business like shipping delays due to road conditions [and] less accessibility to events

that occur more frequently in bigger cities regarding business development. BIGGEST CHALLENGE YOU WILL FACE IN 2020? We are working on expanding the business into retailers. We are working with the Waypoint Accelerator cohort to line up mentoring and gain knowledge in how to grow intelligently and effectively. This might also require hiring, which will be new to us, too. HAS YOUR COMPANY BEEN IMPACTED BY TARIFFS? Yes. We use multiple styles of fabric that are made in China. There have been increases to at least four fabric suppliers, including two price increases from a main supplier. We had to reset our COG analysis and have had to increase MSRP on our end. This price increase could affect sales to the general public as well as retailers. Hopefully, the market adjusts with us, but that is always hard to predict accurately. For a smaller company like ours, it definitely made an impact on our ability to grow.

g r egory h ardy ow n e r


roc kg e i s t b ac k pac k u s a

LOCATION: Woodfin PRODUCTS MANUFACTURED: Bikepacking gear. NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: 4 WHY DO YOU CHOOSE TO HAVE YOUR HEADQUARTERS HERE IN WESTERN NORTH CAROLINA? To contribute to and learn from the rich bike and textile culture here. We have also benefited from the guidance of larger, more established outdoor gear manufacturers in WNC in addition to the strong entrepreneur support found in Asheville. A big advantage [to this] is the privilege of representing East Coast bikepacking. While our biggest

competitors are based out of the Rocky Mountains, we are focused on contributing to our bikepacking communities throughout the Blue Ridge Mountains. BIGGEST CHALLENGE YOU WILL FACE IN 2020? Scaling. Our custom gear offers a unique value to the bikepacking world, but they are time-intensive products to produce. HAS YOUR COMPANY BEEN IMPACTED BY TARIFFS? While making our products, we make it a priority to source the best possible materials made in the USA or Europe. This has minimized the effects of recent tariffs on our products. January 2020 |



i sa ac pr e s son m a r k e te r


i n d u s try n i n e

LOCATION: Asheville PRODUCTS MANUFACTURED: High-end custom road, gravel, and mountain bike components (including wheels, hubs, stems) NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: 45 full-time WHY DO YOU CHOOSE TO HAVE YOUR HEADQUARTERS HERE IN WESTERN NORTH CAROLINA? Industry Nine has been based in Asheville since the inception of the company in 2005. Clint Spiegel, our founder and owner, grew up working in Turnamics, the machine shop next door. Turnamics still machines all of our hubs, spokes, stems, and more… We can have new product prototypes within hours, as opposed to shipping overseas, which can take weeks or months just to get a new prototype during product development. Disadvantages would include high manufacturing costs compared to some other companies that don’t manufacture products domestically. We also face high shipping rates when sending components to bicycle companies that assemble their bikes in Asia. BIGGEST CHALLENGE YOU WILL FACE IN 2020? As a rapidly growing company, we experience a lot of the inevitable growing pains that small companies face: production-meet-demand, inventory management, and continuing to maintain our brand image—a boutique company that, as we grow to be larger company, is more in the public eye and open to scrutiny. HAS YOUR COMPANY BEEN IMPACTED BY TARIFFS? We do source a few complementary parts from Asia which have been subject to tariffs

photo by @jjhoeper




| January 2020

Put the power Put the power two ofof two toto work for you! work for you!

ada m m a ste r s founder


b e l lya k , i n c .

LOCATION: Candler PRODUCTS MANUFACTURED: The Bellyak, a patented lay-on-top kayak

photos courtesy Industry Nine

NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: 2—we contract out our manufacturing to BIG Adventures, a rotomolding facility in Fletcher that manufactures liquidlogic, Native Watercraft, and Hurricane. WHY DO YOU CHOOSE TO HAVE YOUR HEADQUARTERS HERE IN WESTERN NORTH CAROLINA? This is where we design, test, and use our gear. There is no better epicenter for outdoor recreation than WNC [given the] abundant natural resources in the area. BIGGEST CHALLENGE YOU WILL FACE IN 2020? Taking our whitewater designs and decreasing our manufacturing costs to enter into the recreational paddlesports/big box retail market. This will likely require partnering with the largest kayak manufacturer in the world, Lifetime Products out of Ogden, Utah. We will still be headquartered and deeply rooted in WNC. HAS YOUR COMPANY BEEN IMPACTED BY TARIFFS? It has affected our European market due to a 25% tariff on watercraft.

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January 2020 |




| January 2020

For the piano aficionados of Canton’s Ward Piano Co. repair and restoration are an art form.

Making Notes written by jason gilmer photos by evan anderson

January 2020 | 19


KELLY & ALDEN WARD | January 2020


LDEN WA R D R E A DILY A DM ITS that he isn’t an extremely savvy user of modern technology. He does, however, know enough about electronics to turn a tired, old piano into an instrument that can perform concertos and operas at the touch of an app. This isn’t something his grandfather or father, for that matter, could have envisioned as part of the services offered by Ward Piano Co., Inc., in Canton, North Carolina, just outside Asheville. The third-generation small business has evolved since its 1944 inception even as it has kept its history firmly in the spotlight. From sales to repairs to moving to tuning, the tiny workforce has served Western North Carolina and the surrounding areas for decades, while still residing in the same sprawling structures it has resided since the business’ boom in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Alden and his sister, Kelly, took over the company in 1986 from their father, Guy, and have continued the small company’s dedication to customer service and taking on the toughest moving jobs.

“I always thought that I would be a nurse,” says Kelly, who has a degree in business administration from Haywood Community College. “I shouldn’t say ‘always’. It was one of the things I wanted to do. We just worked here, and it was 1986, and Dad was retiring, and he asked if we wanted it.” “We didn’t have the better sense to tell him ‘no,’” says Alden, whose 55-year-old body is muscular from years of moving 300 to 1,200-pound pianos. Times have changed for the piano company. While the small showroom still houses pianos, the company is no longer an authorized dealer for any of the major makers. Now, the showroom’s main attraction is the company’s refurbished pianos; baby grands and upright pianos, from makers such as Yamaha, Baldwin, Kawai, and Wurlitzer, sit near other pianos that still must be remade into beauties. Alden and a couple of employees spend their workweeks taking apart pianos, restringing them, painting the inner mechanisms, and rebuilding the frames. They take something that could be destined for the scrap heap or burn pile and turn it into something that can easily add earworms to listeners’ brains. January 2020 |


'RESTYLING' AN old piano requires lots of sanding.

“Right now, moving is probably the biggest part of our business,” Alden says. “Some of the other piano movers in the area have gotten to where they don’t want to do the hard jobs, so we get all those calls.” Sales are down these days, they admit, with the majority of purchases coming from piano players who want to upgrade their instrument. They don’t sell to as many families, as parents don’t push their children to take lessons anymore. If someone wants a starter, Craigslist is full of families who want to rid their home of those dust-catching piano units that sit in corners draped with framed elementary school photos. Gone are the days when Ward Piano Co. employed dozens of workers who worked two shifts to transform truckloads of pianos into showpieces that were shipped across the Southeast to dealers. That, though, hasn’t stopped the Ward children from carrying on a family legacy.

Humble Beginnings Like many blue-collar workers in Canton, L.J. Ward worked in the town’s paper mill in the 1940s. As a side job, he would assist a piano dealer with sales in the area. 22

| January 2020

“Our granddad was a big singer and always loved to sing, and he loved choir,” Kelly says. “Music was always his thing. There was a man selling pianos, and for every piano that granddaddy would sell for him, he got like five dollars; and this was in 1941 or ’42. So, granddad got to thinking, ‘Why should I be selling it for him? I can just sell them for myself!’ So he quit the mill in 1944 to sell pianos.” “My understanding was he would get a piano, and they would fix it up and sell it,” Alden adds. “And it started out as one piano at a time.” Work on the piano would be done in an uncle’s garage. Once work was complete, the piano would go in the back of a pickup truck and then be driven around until a buyer was found. That kept L.J. afloat for a while, but the business really picked up when L.J. drove to visit his son, Guy, who was in the military and stationed near Philadelphia. There, the father and son bought their first truckload of pianos. “Dad helped him pick out the first load of pianos,” Alden says. “They put them on a truck and shipped them back.” Before a return to door-to-door sales, however, those pianos got refurbished. “Dad said that the first sale was always the hardest,” Kelly says. “Usually, the people who bought a piano would know

A VARIETY of different piano legs can be found in the workshop.

someone who needed one or who had kids who needed one.” “And then they got a bigger truck and would put several on there, and they would go and go until they got them all sold,” Alden says. Eventually that business model changed. Ward Piano Co. went from relying on door-to-door salesmen, to furnishing pianos for dealers. They would purchase pianos that were broken, weathered, or undesirable to the owners, repair and refurbish them, and then take them by the truckload to dealers who would sell them. They had a showroom in downtown Canton for a time. Then in the 1950s, Ward began to build the buildings on nearby Asheville Highway, where they are still located.

Alden and Kelly each started working in the family business when they were young. Kelly says she was 14 when she began answering the phone.

KELLY CLEANING foot pedals

How did a family, one without any musical education, learn this trade? “I’ll be honest,” muses Alden, “it was probably just on-the-job training. You’ve got to consider, back then, these old uprights that are now 100 years old were only [at the time] 30 or 40 years old, so they weren’t in that bad of shape. There wasn’t a whole lot that had to be done on the inside, other than being tuned. Maybe they would clean it up and maybe do some touch-up paint, which was usually the biggest problem of a lot of those pianos back then.”

Becoming More Involved Alden and Kelly each started working in the family business when they were young. Kelly says she was 14 when she began answering the phones: “Ward Piano Co., hold on, please.” She’d earn five or ten dollars for those phone-answering sessions and then began working after school at age 16, when she would place key tops on keys and learned to January 2020 | 23

clean hardware. Over time, she has learned to do sanding and stripping of the piano’s exterior. Alden was close to that age, too, when he first worked at the store. When he got his driver’s license, he would drive the company’s two blind tuners to their appointments after school and on Saturdays. (They also have older siblings—a brother named Kerwin and a sister named Robin—who once worked at the store, but no longer do.) Kelly and Alden say that they were there so much, while growing up, that not too many memories really stand out from those days—although they both remember the RC Cola


| January 2020

machine that sat in the back room. It was the kind with a glass door that you’d open and pull out the soda bottle; they remember begging their father for coins to buy a drink. The business grew as music became more and more popular, and the music business itself expanded nationally. In the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, the company had around 35 employees who worked two shifts. This was around the time that big upright pianos fitted with a mirror were popular, so they would cut pianos and add the mirror. “They called it ‘restyling,’” explains Kelly. “They were cutting the pianos down, refinishing them, and going through them to make sure everything worked

right,” adds Alden, “and they were doing between 30 and 50 a week and sending them wholesale to dealers.” “Dad told us that sometimes they would take a load on the truck,” Kelly says, “and before they would get back, the dealer would be calling to ask for another load.” They did a lot of selling in Florida. In fact, the family spent a lot of vacations in Florida as their dad worked that territory. There was even a dealer in Calgary, Canada, who would buy from Ward Piano Co. “The dealer would bring a tractor trailer load of 32 pianos and drop them off, and pick up 32 that we rebuilt and take them back to Canada,” Alden says. (Kelly: “I remember that

because I had to type the customs papers.” Alden: “And I had to help load and unload them!”) By the time Alden and Kelly became more involved in the company, however—Kelly graduated from college in 1979 and Alden did the same in 1982—the wholesale aspect of the business had dried up. Like any good business, though, they evolved.

Making Moves All Over The Ward stories of moving pianos are numerous. Just a few weeks prior to this interview, in fact, three employees moved a grand piano down 43 steps. That same day they moved a

January 2020 | 25

console up 14 steps. Recently, they raised a piano into a loft during the construction phase of a build because completing the task that early was the only way. Picture the bulk and imagine the weight of a grand piano and you might have a sense of what’s involved in these types of jobs. They once needed a crane to lift a six-foot grand piano onto an outdoor patio five floors up, because the elevator in the building only went to the fourth floor and the stairway to the apartment turned too many times. Crane jobs actually aren’t too unusual, the siblings say, and they recently accomplished a job with one in Tennessee. They’ve done other jobs over the years where they set up scaffolding to hoist pianos into lofts. (The editor of this magazine still has a childhood memory of a job involving a crane having to hoist such a load into his parents’ house, which, due to no reasonable stairway options, also involved having to temporarily remove a large set of second-story windows.)

They average 10 to 15 moves a week, and the majority of those are local. They also still have several piano tuners who stay busy with appointments. The roughest day, Alden says, is when they moved six, including a grand piano that had to go down a flight of steps and a console that had to go up two flights of steps. Smaller pianos can weigh 350 to 450 pounds; the concert grands can top 1,000 pounds. “We get some doozies,” he deadpans. “And I’m not getting any younger.” Such moves, though, are their main source of revenue these days. They average 10 to 15 moves a week, and the majority of those are local. They also still have several piano tuners who stay busy with appointments. Alden has upgraded several pianos and made them player pianos with QRS Music Technology, which allows owners of these pianos to choose from thousands of songs—some with other accompaniment and vocalists—to be played in their home. The cost, though, is a bit steep, at more than $6,000, but he still has completed four of these upgrades in recent months. The other part of the business remains refurbishing and selling pianos. The door from the showroom leads into a room that can aptly be described as a piano garage and shop—It’s a little dark and a little dirty, and there are parts and tools everywhere. A small table and a couple of chairs occupy the 26

| January 2020

EMPLOYEE SEAN spraying the finish on the piano. January 2020 | 27


| January 2020

SKELETONS OF old pianos line the area behind the Wards' shop.

center of the space. This is where old pianos become prized possessions. More than 60 pianos are in storage, waiting for their turn at restoration.

What Does the Future Hold? Whether all of those pianos will ever have the needed work completed is a legitimate question. “We take it a day at a time,” admits Kelly. “As Alden says, we aren’t getting any younger!” Alden has three kids and talked them all into doing something other than the piano business. “I know where the business is headed,” he says. “It’s going to become a very specialized field, and there’s a lot of stress and headaches with this business.” Instead of raising three piano movers or tuners, he has a teacher, an architect, and a soldier. This family business is in a tough spot. They want to continue the legacy that was built by L.J. and Guy, but they aren’t sure if that will happen. “We know we wouldn’t sell our name,” Kelly says. “I just don’t think so, because of the reputation that our grandfather and dad and us built over the years. You never know what somebody would do with the name. As a business, I guess we would think about selling it.” “I don’t know that it would sell as a business,” Alden adds. “When the economy took a nosedive recently, a lot of piano dealers went out of business. Even though the number of dealers went out as the economy recovered, piano sales really didn’t pick up to the point [to] where they were before. I guess there was such a long period of time when people couldn’t afford pianos, and that’s when it died out a little bit and kids stopped taking lessons. But honestly, it will probably just phase out as a business.” And that would be a shame. But until the time nears for a decision to be made, Alden and Kelly continue each day, working with the fervor and blue-collar mentality that turned Ward Piano Co. into a name known throughout the area, and beyond, for excellence. Interestingly, after each encounter with a customer, a thank-you note is sent from the Canton shop. It’s just one of the little ways that the Wards have chosen to be a step above the competition, the kind of small gesture that could turn into more business for them. Another move, another refurbishing—another job keeping alive the family tradition that was begun in the ‘40s and continues to this day with the third generation of piano workers. January 2020 | 29



news briefs

3rd Indie Jeweler Done buncombe county

Jewels that Dance is set to close after 36 years in downtown Asheville. The store was born at the beginning of Asheville’s renaissance, when the only other businesses on the street were the newly-situated Malaprops and the longgone Banner House pocketbook factory. It began as a studio for goldsmith and jewelry designer Paula Dawkins. The business went on to become a jewelry store specializing in custom-designs made of precious metals and gems including conflict-free South African diamonds. As with other mom-and-pop jewelers deciding to quit while they’re ahead because “it’s time.” Dawkins served what could be called a legacy customer base, with children wanting to purchase wedding rings from the store that made their parents’ rings. And,


like the other jewelers, Dawkins is saying what she will miss most in retirement is her loyal customers and employees. At presstime, no specific date had been set for the closing, as Dawkins wanted to complete all custom orders in the pipeline.

Bites The Dust, Pt.1

active pharmaceutical ingredients and products and qualified to perform US Food and Drug Administration testing. Services include identification and development of chemicals, as well as alternative delivery methods, accelerated testing, and even legal assistance. Following the acquisition, the Brevard facility will continue to be used by Raybow for research and development, but it will also become the company’s headquarters for North American operations. Raybow further plans to expand the site to handle more projects in parallel. Satellite offices in Los Angeles, Princeton, and Copenhagen will handle marketing. Raybow was founded in 2008 with 1,200 employees and, prior to the merger, employed an international research and development team of 300.

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Raybow Pharma, a global provider of pharmaceutical research and development services headquartered in Taizhou, China, has acquired PharmAgra Labs. PharmAgra was founded in 1999, in Arden, by Peter Newsome, a senior research chemist, and Roger Frisbee, former vice president of Pisgah Labs. In 2002 growth justified moving to the current facility located in Brevard, where the company began developing

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Based in Wilmington, Liberty has been in business for 125 years and owns 29 senior care facilities in the Southeastern United States. The president and CEO of Appalachian Regional Healthcare System (ARHS), Chuck Mantooth, said the deal is just the beginning of a partnership to build a continuum of care facility for seniors on 68 acres purchased a decade ago by the hospital with that end in mind. Back in 2009, Richard Sparks, then president and CEO of ARHS, advocated taking measures to allow aging baby boomers to continue living and being cared for in the High Country when what is called in the industry the “Silver Tsunami” hit. The first step was to purchase the acreage and establish the Foley Center for post-acute care.

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two days. During Elk Fest, the grounds had insufficient Wi-Fi bandwidth for processing payments (as well as consistent internet access, a common complaint of festival attendees nationwide), so for the near future, the town will likely only allow promoters access. Also, neighbors complained about the noise. The grounds are exempt from noise ordinances that prohibit sound trespass greater than 70 decibels beyond ten feet of the property line. The aldermen were advised to hire an acoustician who could solve a lot of the problems through adjustments like moving speakers closer to the ground and angling them down into the audience. Artists complained that the stage had bad reverb, which the town plans to fix with other upgrades, such as making the ticket booth more comfortable, upgrading refrigeration for the concession booths, and keeping restrooms open 24 hours for vendors. Bookings are adding another musical event for 2020, a Memorial Day Americana Concert, to the twelve concert days scheduled in 2019.

your complete your complete Fabric center Maggie Valley is revising its policies for its festival grounds. Last year the grounds were the venue for 20 events spanning a total of 55 dates. While the gathering spot hosted car shows, motorcycle rallies, and craft shows, it was the Smoky Mountain Elk Fest in September that motivated many of changes.Largest The Elkselection Fest is a of upholstery family-friendly music festival that lasts

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a month before it had been scheduled. For years Haynes has hosted a concert with an all-star lineup to raise funds for Habitat for Humanity. He usually sells out the 8,600 capacity of the US Cellular Center well before the show, and for several years the Jam has run for multiple nights. To date the Jam, which initially started in a local club in 1998, has raised $2.7 million for the charity. Chris Corl, director of the Center, said he could see the cancelation coming. It is estimated the cancelation will bring the Center’s revenues in about $100,000 below target, but Corl optimistically expects this year’s prior eleven arena concerts, an unusually high number, will leave them in a position not to require subsidies from the city’s general fund. Fans of the Jam reportedly are not satisfied with reasons cited in the official cancelation announcement, among which is that it’s the right time for a hiatus that will allow the concert to come back with stronger fundraising potential. A number of smaller fundraisers for Habitat continue to pop up following word of the cancelation, and the Haynes organization has also established the Christmas Jam Pop-up Store with BeLoved Asheville— featured in Capital at Play’s nonprofit special in the November 2019 issue—on Market Street.

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Jack Frost’s Late Arrival haywood county

On November 3, Maggie Valley’s Cataloochee Ski Area was the first skiing destination to open on the East Coast. Cataloochee closed the next day to make snow for the duration of the week and reopened the following Saturday. Cataloochee covers 50 acres with a peak elevation of 5,400 feet and a vertical drop of 740 feet. When it opened, portions of three slopes were skiable with a snow base 2-8 inches deep in most places. Skiing was made possible when overnight temperatures dropped below freezing in exceptionally dry conditions. Tube World, located near the ski area, remained closed. Content writers for Sugar Mountain Ski Resort’s website described the difficulty experienced by the other resorts: “We have been working hard, squeezing every flake of snow out of the snow machines, but unfortunately temperatures did not allow us to open today.”

What’s in the Tower? buncombe county

Mission Hospital’s 12-story, $400 million North Tower is open for business, the most important piece of news being that the emergency department (ED) now with 50% more capacity, has been relocated. The new ED is more easily accessed, with dedicated parking off the south side of Hospital Drive, which is the two-lane entrance connecting the main campus with the old St. Joseph Hospital. Most sensationally, a helipad sits atop the tower, and it is serviced by a trauma elevator, equipped and staffed like an ambulance for treating arrivals on the way to the ED. The building’s overall layout is intentionally designed to minimize time wasted wheeling patients around and connecting them with time-critical treatments. Designers tried to create a second-nature healing ambience that includes ample windows opening to natural lighting and scenic vistas. The art on each patient floor celebrates one of five substrates: 32

| January 2020

earth, wood, water, metal, or air; and over 650 pieces of commissioned art were created by local makers. On the high-tech end, instead of cold and crunchy hospital mattresses, Mission has invested in smart Hill-Rom Centrella beds equipped with comfort settings, call buttons, and controls for a big-screen, HD TV that can run movies, games, and personal health and treatment updates.

Potty Humor henderson county

The City of Hendersonville has partnered with its Main Street Program to construct public lavatories downtown. And the jokes just keep flowing. Not only did the city announce a “ribbon” (tissue) cutting, the public was invited to a “ceremonial first flush.” The construction was the culmination of long debate over what the most pressing needs were for infrastructure downtown. Having decided on restrooms in early 2018, the Tourism Development Authority got in the game to develop guidelines and identify a location. Space in a 1920s era building on Fifth Avenue just off Main was selected, and the city, with assistance from private contributions, purchased the property. Samsel Architects, the firm that designed Asheville’s public restrooms in Pack Square, as well as a rich portfolio of far more elegant classic and modern buildings, won the competitive bidding process. Samsel will develop a design not only for the restrooms, but also for restoring the extra space to accommodate administrative offices for downtown economic development programs. Dunlap Construction of Hendersonville won the bid for construction.

One Way to the Top avery & watauga counties

The Town of Beech Mountain is calling for transportation improvements in its recently adopted 15-year comprehensive plan. While the plan requires

that development respect and preserve the natural amenities of the area, better transportation infrastructure would not only help with health and safety, it would provide better access for enjoying the outdoors. A major concern was creating better routes of egress from the mountain itself. Currently, only one paved road, Beech Mountain Parkway, services the mountain. The other route leads up the backway and is unpaved. So, the town will be evaluating whether it wants to pave the dirt road and/or construct additional access routes. Another idea mentioned in the plan was to legalize the use of golf carts on public streets. There is also a push to make the town more walkable. It currently has a dozen isolated trails, which the plan recommends linking to each other and to residential communities.

Cat-and-Mouse Gamble jackson county

Airbnb launched in 2007 and almost immediately agreed to remit to the state, for distribution to the appropriate taxing bodies, a lump-sum tax payment for all stays. The payment included local taxes and room taxes due tourism development authorities. Vrbo, which stands for Vacation Rentals by Owner, a website launched in 1995, is now owned by Expedia, and only recently adopted Airbnb’s method of collecting and paying taxes. Before that, Vrbo would charge taxes and return the collections to the property owners for forwarding to the appropriate taxing agencies on the honor system. While short-term rental growth remains high, with Jackson County’s TDA collecting $75,000 from Airbnb alone last year it is estimated that about 80% of hosts do not register to avoid paying taxes. That has led to a budding industry of businesses like Host Compliance, whose mission is to help local governments identify parties evading taxes in the shared economy. Jackson County had been considering auditing all vacation rental properties,

Don’t stop now

but the action likely would not pay for itself, as it would come with a price tag of about $16,000.

Respecting the Elders swain county

Last summer, the Tribal Council of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians approved moving forward with the construction of a comprehensive continuing care retirement community on land next to the new Cherokee Indian Hospital. Believing the award-winning outcomes of the new hospital were the product of over 30 community meetings, tribal leaders held the first of many public conversations for the facility at the hospital. Principal Chief Richard G. Sneed thanked those in the community who have been advocating for the facility. Vice Chief Alan B. Ensley said the stark contrast between the aging and inadequate Tsali Care Center and the new hospital really brought home the need for a new facility. The suggestion that an adventure park go next to the hospital paled in comparison to the obligation to care for the elderly. The new facility will provide independent living, assisted living, skilled nursing, and memory care housing, as well as centers for adult daycare, wellness, and dialysis. When attendees were asked what they wanted in the new facility, answers included commons areas for gatherings and a community garden, library, therapeutic pool, chapel, and salon. Attendees wanted the elderly to have rich cultural enrichment opportunities, as well as private rooms, security, and well-compensated caregivers.

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Representatives of the Henderson County Board of Commissioners, the Henderson County Chamber of Commerce, and the offices of state and local legislators showed up for

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the announcement that BrightFarms was going to set up operations in the Seven Falls parcel of the Pleasant Grove community in Etowah. BrightFarms was promised up to $55,000 in performance-based incentives from the One Nortarolina Fund and $530,348 over seven years from Henderson County. The main attractor, from many angles, though, was the county’s water that is so pristine it exceeds state standards before treatment. The altitude-modulated temperatures of the Four Seasons climate was also deemed optimal for the seven acres of hydroponic greenhouses BrightFarms will use to grow salad greens. The objective is to use modern technology to raise crops totally free of pesticides and ship them to markets no further than 200 miles away—so they can age in the end user’s refrigerator instead of a delivery truck. BrightFarms purchased the 31-acre plot from Conserving Carolina to help the organization pay its debt on the remaining 115 acres under its protection.

Awards 2019. This is the third year in a row The Swag has been recognized in both categories of the competition. Winners are selected by readers, who rate different categories of accommodations in terms of their overall setting, lodging quarters, aesthetics, ergonomics, hospitality, culinary offerings, amenities and personal services, and value. Reader quotes published include, “This is a very unusual place, but I mean that as a compliment,” “The views can’t be beat,” and, “The owners are delightful and engaging, and the staff are friendly and efficient.” Owners Annie and David Colquitt strive to achieve a sense of homespun luxury for their 14 newly refurbished rooms made of rustic materials and decorated with regional crafts. Each has a fireplace and steam shower, and most have private balconies. Amenities include massage, racquetball, badminton, croquet, and special classes. Twin Farms in Vermont was the only other resort east of the Mississippi to rank nationally.

and minds of local leaders as the quintessential community partner. Generous incentives were awarded the company that promised not only living wage jobs in a vibrant corporate culture – it bore the cost of serious infrastructure upgrades, creating programmable community space in the process. Now, New Belgium, headquartered in Fort Collins, Colorado, has been acquired by Lion Little World Beverages of O’Connor, West Australia, a subsidiary of Kirin Holdings of Japan. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but New Belgium was employee-owned, and founder Kim Jordan stated the transaction will bring payouts to employee-owners over the life of the company to almost $190 million. Preliminary conversations are calling for adding a bottling line to the Asheville facility, which will create a number of jobs to be announced. The deal also means New Belgium will “go international.”

A Staple on the List

Bites the Dust, Pt.2

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The Swag, a luxury, all-inclusive resort in the Smoky Mountains, scored ninth in the list of Top 10 Resorts in the United States and first in the South in Condé Nast Traveler’s Readers Choice

Pending regulator approval, New Belgium has been sold. In the months leading to its 2016 construction of a facility to service the Eastern United States in Asheville, New Belgium won the hearts

Who’s A Good Boy! Barkers Anonymous hosted its grand opening in downtown Hendersonville the first week in December. Owned by certified professional trainer Comora Tolliver, the establishment is both a boutique, offering food and accessories for dogs, and a training facility. Tolliver trains

Spanish LIFE@ Western Experience: Carolina Journey to Valencia 34

| January 2020

puppies and rescues and says one can teach an old dog new tricks. She avoids harsh methods, preferring instead “scientifically-proven” techniques of two-way communication. Tolliver can help owners of difficult dogs put a lid on dog aggression and anxiety, and she can help already mild-mannered pets improve their social skills around people and other animals. Owners develop a training plan, which can include anything from housebreaking to cultivating good manners to learning tricks for treats. Then, Tolliver takes a holistic approach to reaching goals, giving consideration to a dog’s diet and background environment as well as triggers. Once a pet is enrolled, its owner is part of the Barkers Anonymous family, with the ability to address follow-up concerns via email for no extra charge.

in Buncombe County, and he counts not having to purchase the land or run new utility lines to a facility a boon. Rice estimates a commercial kitchen would have to be at least 1,000 square feet, with construction costs running around $115-$175 per sq.-ft. Furniture, fixture, and equipment expenses would be extra and significant. Rice has successfully applied for United States Department of Agriculture loans for other projects, and he suggests private donations and long-term, low-interest loans could help with any balance. Many people could, however, capitalize off a certified shared space by paying $20-$25 per hour. ABCCM is currently running an online survey to gauge interest and find out what kinds of appliances and tools are in-demand.

Ovens Fired Up

Shave & a Haircut

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Asheville Buncombe Community Christian Ministries (ABCCM) is working with consultant Dr. Alan Rice to test the waters of feasibility for creating a commercial kitchen for entrepreneurs in Clyde. The prospect is made possible because of a 4.8-acre parcel, valued at $338,000, recently gifted to the mission. Rice has helped set up three other incubator kitchens in the state, including one

Portions of the Birch Building at A-B Tech are undergoing a $108,000 renovation to make room for a new offering from the Workforce Programs Division created in response to industry demand. The A-B Tech Barber Academy is enrolling its first cohort for training that will begin in January. Students will attend a full-time program for about 15 months, with tuition and fees running around

$250. Upon graduation, they will have the 1,500 hours of training required by the state and be prepared to take the licensing examination administered by the North Carolina State Board of Barber Examiners. Without A-B Tech’s offering, aspiring barbers would have to travel or relocate, Shelby being the closest barber school in the state.

That’s a Wrap henderson county

The Hendersonville Police Department is investing in a device for restraining people who might be dangerous. The tool would give them a less-lethal use of force than tasers or techniques of physical restraint. Designed after the bolas used by gauchos in South America, the BolaWrap 100 uses a Kevlar line about eight feet long with weighted latches on either end. It is shot from a small gun and will rapidly wrap around a suspect’s body, buying time to safely restrain the person. The device answers to high-profile criminal cases in which police have been faulted for excessive use of force. The units are the invention of Elwood “Woody’ Norris, a serial entrepreneur with almost 100 patents. BolaWrap guns cost $1,000 each, and their disposable cartridges are $30 each.

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| January 2020

local industry


A Manufacturing ODYSSEY written by jennifer fitzger ald


photos by anthony harden

Each January, Capital at Play turns its lens upon the regional manufacturing industry, which encompasses everything from hard goods to foodstuffs to more tech-related businesses. Let’s look at some of the factors that went into the mix during 2019, and what we might expect from the year to come. Spoiler alert: The sub-sector known as Advanced Manufacturing will play a significant role.


ariffs, trade tensions, chance of a recession: These terms dominated national news headlines in 2019. But how goes manufacturing in Western North Carolina? Has our manufacturing sector experienced continued growth in the last 12 months and expanded its employee base? Let’s take a closer look. Buncombe County manufacturing continues to see strong organic expansion buoyed by both local existing industry growth at GE Aviation, Linamar and Avadim Health, as well as relocating employers like Haakon Industries, according to

Clark S. Duncan, executive director and senior vice president, Economic Development Coalition for Asheville-Buncombe County, Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce (EDC). “Advanced Manufacturing,” observes Duncan, referring to a manufacturing sub-sector, “has the unique ability to drive wage growth, upward economic mobility, and a strong tax base for all communities of Western North Carolina,and it remains the centerpiece of our economic development strategy in Buncombe County. We are investing in a host of new mentorship and apprenticeship initiatives that help both January 2020 | 37

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current residents and next generation workforce navigate the many career pathways into the field of manufacturing, whether you start out with a high school diploma, a certificate from A-B Tech, or with an advanced degree in hand.” In the four-county Asheville MSA (Buncombe, Haywood, Henderson, and Madison counties), September 2019 year-over-year figures show the manufacturing sector added 1,000 new jobs (data provided by Heidi Reiber, MPA, Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce, EDC). Duncan says that the strategy of the EDC focuses resources on those economic sectors that offer the most promise for local job creation, business expansion, wage growth, and specialization of the Buncombe County workforce. Their research has identified target sectors in Advanced Manufacturing, as well as Life Sciences, Climate/Environmental Services, Outdoor Products, and Corporate Office/ Technology employment. Western North Carolina remains well-positioned for continued growth in high-wage sectors such as Automotive and Aerospace and has growth potential in Outdoor and Recreational Products Manufacturing. Despite the continued growth and economic diversity of the Asheville Metro Area, growth in Advanced Manufacturing is the common ground and shared goal in regional economic development. Henderson County also continues to see steady growth. During the last fiscal year, over 103 new jobs were added in the manufacturing segment, and over $40,600,000 was invested in new capital.

“I believe we’ll see continued growth in the manufacturing segment with positions such as skilled machine operators and machine assemblers.” “While there was growth, we have also seen a slowdown in new leads (down 20%, state average as well),” says Brittany Brady, president and CEO of the Henderson County Partnership for Economic Development. “More companies are growing where they are. This is due to a number of things: workforce, new technologies, and the ‘growing recession’ that is suspected [to take place] in 2020.” For example, Smartrac, Gaia Herbs, and HiViz all expanded their footprint in Henderson County this 38

| January 2020

past year, while Continental announced a future closing in 2022. Companies that are technology or e-commerce based are seeing growth, as are food, beverage, and health companies. The automotive market is slowing down, though many companies are adjusting and recovering to a “normal” pace— admittedly a somewhat nebulous notion, given today’s ever-shifting “new normal” parameters in the United States. Similarly, the manufacturing sector of the economy in Yancey County continues to grow. The county’s largest employer, Altec Industries, recently announced an expansion of its existing facility and the opening of a second manufacturing facility in that county. Due to continuing growth among such firms in Yancey, the largest sector of the workforce continues to be manufacturing. “We have had no closures of any manufacturing companies in Yancey County in the past year,” says Jamie L. McMahan, planning and economic development director for the county. “Altec Industries, Yancey County’s largest manufacturing firm, recently announced a second facility here in Yancey County which is presently under

construction and due to start production by the end of the calendar year. Our efforts to recruit new companies to Yancey County have been very productive in 2019. As of the date of this interview, we have seen the announcement of the Altec project—which was a facility for which we were in competition with two other states—and plan a second site selection announcement regarding the recruitment of a new company to Yancey County in December. We have seen a steady improvement in performance of all of our manufacturing companies over the past year here in Yancey County, with each of our companies either maintaining their current levels of employment or adding positions.”

Employment Opportunities? North Carolina’s Secretary of Commerce, Tony Copeland, cites data for the Western Prosperity Zone (13 counties), that show employment increased over the year by over 100 jobs in Beverage and Tobacco Product Manufacturing, Fabricated Metal Product Manufacturing, Food Manufacturing, Machinery Manufacturing, Primary Metal Manufacturing, and Transportation Equipment Manufacturing. A decline of 175 jobs occurred in Computer and Electronic Product Manufacturing (from the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages, Q1 2018 to Q1 2019). Copeland adds that, per the Quarterly Census, in the first quarter of 2019 the average weekly wage in manufacturing in North Carolina was $1,232. The United States manufacturing average weekly wage was $1,419 in the same time period, with North Carolina essentially located in the middle range of all states. In 2019 Western North Carolina saw growth among entry-level manufacturing wages. Express Employment Professionals, a staffing provider helping job seekers find work with a wide variety of local businesses clients, share that for their clients, entry-level manufacturing average pay has grown from $12.39/hour in 2016 to $14.54/hour in 2019. Meredith Campbell, co-owner of Express, says 2019 demanded an increase in skilled machine operators, but not necessary CNC (computer numerically controlled) programmers. A decade ago, machine operators were asked to load and unload machines and inspect parts. Today’s machine operators and machine assemblers need to operate and troubleshoot the machine. Manufacturing employers today benefit most from those with machine operation experience or the

mechanical aptitude to work with automation (think: robots). “I believe we’ll see continued growth in the manufacturing segment with positions such as skilled machine operators and machine assemblers,” says Campbell. “We should also see growth in the roles that perform work that follow the results of manufacturing, such as warehousing, customer service, and accounting.” If someone is looking to work in manufacturing with no prior experience, Campbell suggests they should expect and be open to entry level opportunities. While workplace skills are transferable and could help one find growth and promotion quickly, most manufacturing environments require knowledge of

In the 24 counties of WNC the overall manufacturing sector's estimated




2014-2019, adding nearly 5,500 jobs. Sources: ACOC, EMSI

key terms, procedures, and experiences (such as OSHA, Lock out Tag out, ISO, Lean, Just in Time Inventory, etc.). “A high number of manufacturing employers (not all) do onboard and evaluate talent through a local employment agency,” says Campbell. “An employment agency is a good starting point to learn about a variety of manufacturers in the area in order to evaluate jobs and companies. “Another helpful option is to attend one of the local community colleges to obtain a certification. This takes much less time than a full degree and provides you, the job seeker, the foundational knowledge to be successful in a manufacturing environment. Common current certification available in Western North Carolina include, but are not limited to: Fundamentals of Machining, CNC 101, Industrial Maintenance Academy, and Manufacturing Boot Camp. Once you’ve landed a manufacturing job, Western North Carolina employers are excited to retain and promote those that demonstrate three key traits: reliability, on-the-job social skills, the ability to learn.” Manufacturers are not unique in the belief that there is value in having a recruiting partner. In January 2020 | 39

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Net Change (In Thousands)

Asheville Area Manufacturing Sector Year-Over-Year Employment Growth 1.5










Month/Year Graph rebuilt from Information courtesy the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce

the Western North Carolina market, working with a recruiting firm is a strategic choice that allows manufacturers to focus on their core product and the retention of their people. “Most often, manufacturers use a recruiting partner to onboard entry and mid-level talent using an evaluation hire method,” says Campbell. “The recruiting firm identifies, screens, and onboards an employee into the manufacturer’s workforce, allowing for both the employee and the employer to evaluate skill set, fit, and longevity. After an agreed upon length of time, the recruiting firm employee becomes a permanent employee of the manufacturing organization. If the manufacturer is looking to add highly experienced talent to their team, a direct hire process could align with their strategy. This process includes an extensive search and vetting process prior to hire.”

Tariff Trouble Nationally, the impact of trade tariffs—including those levied by the United States upon traditional 40

| January 2020

trading partners such as the European Union, as well as occasional trading adversaries like China— and trade-related uncertainty has fallen hardest on the manufacturing, agriculture, and freight/trucking industries. Commerce Secretary Copeland says that in North Carolina, we are seeing over-the-year employment declines in trucking (-2.2%), as well as trade-impacted manufacturing sectors including food (-5.2%), tobacco (-11.1%), and medicine (-1.9%) (Current Employment Statistics, September 2018 to September 2019, not seasonally adjusted). We ster n Nor t h C a rol i na ma nu fact u rer s potentially impacted the most are those who need components from other countries to manufacture their product. Though the manufacturing sector in Yancey County continues to grow and improve, tariffs are said to have had a negative impact on some companies, relating most directly to the ready availability of imported materials needed by many Yancey companies to create the products they manufacture. “With most manufacturing firms relying on a justin-time inventory model for raw materials, the ready

13,188 5,839 to 13,187 4,537 to 5,838 Wilkes County 2,750 to 4,536 576 to 2,749 0 to 575

2019 Manufacturing Jobs by County


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13,188 5,839 to 13,187 4,537 to 5,838 Wilkes County 2,750 to 4,536 576 to 2,749 0 to 575

m it





yancey madison










jackson polk


e ro



tr a


ani s y lv



Graph Information courtesy the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce

availability of those materials in a timely manner from importers has been more of a problem than the associated end cost of products,” says economic development director McMahan. O t her lo ca l ma nu fact u rer s a l so rep or t experiencing impacts from the tariffs, with the cost of needed materials rising significantly. Wellknown outdoor gear manufacturer SylvanSport, for example, located in Brevard (21 employees in Western North Carolina), makes SylvanSport RVs and SylvanSport GEAR—including shelters, sleeping bags and mattresses, backpacks, lighting, and camp kitchens. Tariffs on commodity metals have caused the overall price of metals to increase, which has had an impact on their cost to produce. “While the majority of our products are produced in the United States and mostly in Western North Carolina, we have been affected by tariffs on our imported component parts,” says Thomas Dempsey, founder and CEO of SylvanSport. Or consider Moog Music, located in downtown Asheville, which has been manufacturing electronic musical instruments in the United States for close

to 70 years, and has been a significant Asheville employer since 1994. Mike Adams, president of the employee-owned manufacturer, maintains that the business now faces the most serious threat to its existence in the past 18 years. Not because it is threatened by competitors, he says, and not because it is threatened by obsolete technology or obsolete products (in fact, Moog Music leads the world in developing new technology for their synthesizers, which are more popular than ever). Adams feels that Moog is being threatened by our own government. “I completely understand that there are businesses that have been impacted by unfair trade practices, currency manipulation, theft of intellectual property, and subsidies from China,” he says. “This has nothing to do with our situation. We produce commercial products for musicians. Tariffs have added over $1 million in unplanned expenses to our annual costs.” Adams adds Moog’s view is that, as a company, their hands are tied: “We will take action to offset this impact by outsourcing to other parts of the world and increasing prices to our customers, but we need time to make those adjustments. We have contracts, January 2020 | 41

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$ In 2018 the Asheville MSA Manufacturing Sector (Buncombe, Haywood, Henderson, and Madison counties) paid approximately


more than the overall average wage for all industries combined.

($1017.44 vs $805.79) Sources: ACOC, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, NC Department of Commerce

tooling, fixtures, and years of know-how that have been purchased and shared with our current partners. It is impossible to make those changes without at least 24 months’ notice. In the meantime, we have had to guess at what the policy would be, based on hearsay and uncertainty. Then all of a sudden, we have a $1 million impact to our business. This is directly and negatively impacting the 130 families employed by Moog Music in Western North Carolina.”

Let’s Go Outdoors Some North Carolina exporters may also face challenges when other countries increase their own tariffs in response to new United States tariffs. In such cases, those exporters may find they are less able to sell their products in those countries. Josh Carpenter, manager, Existing Industry Expansions, Western Region Economic D evelopment Pa r t nersh ip of Nor t h Carolina, encourages local companies who may be impacted to explore and find new international markets for their products. The Partnership has trade specialists that can help North Carolina businesses do exactly that. 42

| January 2020

Carpenter supports existing industry in 13 North Carolina counties, stretching from westernmost Cherokee into Buncombe, Madison, and Rutherford. From 2014 to 2019, the number of manufacturing jobs in that region increased 10%, according to data from the labor market analytics company Emsi, versus 6% overall in North Carolina, and 5% across the United States. There are more than 780 manufacturing establishments across those 13 counties in the state’s western region, employing more than 28,000 people. “Regionally,” says Carpenter, “I think strong community college partnerships and workforce training through schools such as Asheville-Buncombe Technical C o m mu n it y C o l l e g e, B lu e R id g e Community College, and Hay wood Community College are contributing to the manufacturing growth in Western North Carolina. Relatively low labor costs and a high quality of life also draw companies to the region. Western North Carolina continues to have a strong presence of automotive and aerospace-related manufacturers. I believe that we will have continued growth in these sectors due to our skilled workforce and ease of access to the United States market. From 2014-2019,

the Western North Carolina manufacturing sectors seeing the highest percentage increases in employment included soft drink manufacturing, industrial valve manufacturing, aircraft engines and parts, breweries, and surgical supplies.” Carpenter further emphasizes that the region continues to see significant growth in the outdoor industry-related manufacturing, not to mention interest in, and involvement with, the outdoor economy. Recently, in October of last year, the Outdoor Gear Builders of WNC, Mountain BizWorks, and Western Carolina University hosted an Outdoor Economy Conference for those who want to grow the outdoor industry in their communities. The conference drew over 500 participants. Obviously the climate and scenery of the mountains of the region make it an ideal location for outdoor industry manufacturers. Not only are their products in high demand in the area, but their employees appreciate the quality of life. “North Carolina is the nexus of the outdoor industry on the East Coast,” explains Amy Allison, director, North Carolina Outdoor Recreation Industry Office, Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina. “Our state’s natural

photo courtesy Industry Nine January 2020 | 43

local local industry industry

assets and thriving outdoor community makes it a prime location for outdoor gear manufacturers. North Carolina’s wild places and diverse landscapes provide the perfect testing ground for new gear being built and designed here. From backpacking to boating, climbing to angling, and everything in between, North Carolina has it all.” Allison says we are lucky to have a strong network of manufacturers, entrepreneurs, outfitters, retailers, and conservation-focused nonprofit

In my role I look forward to continuing to support the already thriving outdoor recreation community in our state, to grow the existing industry, and to bring in new and expanding outdoor businesses looking for a strong and active outdoor community to call home.” Candler-based Bellyak, Inc., partners with BIG Adventures, a Rotomolding facility in Fletcher to manufacture The Bellyak, a patented lay-on-top kayak. Founder Adam Masters says the company

“There is no better epicenter for outdoor recreation than WNC. The advantages are abundant natural resources in the area.” organizations, all working together to impact the outdoor economy here. “In North Carolina outdoor recreation generates $28 billion in consumer spending annually,” Allison explains. “With the growing alliance of the Outdoor Gear Builders of WNC, the support of our regional economic development partners and organizations like Mountain BizWorks, and the collaboration of the Growing Outdoors Partnership, the sky is the limit. 44

| January 2020

manufactures in the area because it is where they design, test, and use their gear. “There is no better epicenter for outdoor recreation than WNC. The advantages are abundant natural resources in the area. The challenges are the high cost of living due to the popularity of Asheville.” Tarpestry is a manufacturer of outdoor blankets/ tarps, dog duvets, and blankets/yoga straps located in Sugar Grove. The Tarpestry concept combines

2019 WNC Manufacturing Job Statistics Data From Heidi Reiber Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce Sources: ACOC, EMSI

The Top Five Manufacturing Industries That Added the Most Jobs Between 2014-2019 Were: 1. Beverage Product Manufacturing +1,396 2. Plastics and Rubber Product Manufacturing +996

The Top Five Manufacturing Industries That Lost the Most Jobs Between 2014-2019 Were: 1. Computer and Electronic Product Manufacturing (notably, prerecorded compact discs) -623

3. Machinery Manufacturing +818

2. Furniture and Related Product Manufacturing -321

4. Transportation Equipment Manufacturing +773

3. Apparel Manufacturing -116

5. Chemical Manufacturing +599

4. Miscellaneous Manufacturing -110 5. Fabricated Metal Product Manufacturing -66

At the most detailed industry level for Manufacturing,


RRxx Pharmaceutical Preparation Manufacturing employed the most people with 3,500 jobs in 2019. Rx The concentration of Pharmaceutical Prep Mfg. jobs in WNC was nearly


6 Times the National Job Concentration.

January 2020 | 45

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North Carolina Manufacturers Exporting ONE OUT OF FIVE

North Carolina Manufacturing Firms Export to Canada and Mexico.

North Carolina’s Top Exports to Canada and Mexico: chemicals engine, turbine and power transmission equipment motor vehicle parts textiles and apparel pharmaceuticals and medicines agriculture, construction and mining machinery electrical equipment and components fabricated metal products other machinery plastics 46

Source: The National Association of Manufacturers | January 2020

the water-repellent feature of a tarp and the beauty, design, and softness offered by the fabric of a tapestry. With two full-time employees and one occasional helper, co-owner Ted Swartzbaugh says the former Appalachian State University grads love the Boone area, which caters to their love of the outdoors with hikes, rivers, Watauga Lake, and snowboarding in the winter. (Tarpestry was featured in our December 2019 issue.) “We moved from Boone to Colorado to Boone because we see all the same adventuring perks, plus the ability to garden, too,” Swartzbaugh says. “We focus a lot of energy vending at music festivals and Boone is a fairly central location on the East Coast. Headquartering in Boone and having manufacturing in Boone allows us to have full access to our manufacturer for better oversight, as well as a direct line of communication for product development and general business discussions. Another advantage is that this community and the people who visit typically understand why our Tarpestrys and other outdoor gear brands are important: a strong supportive local community.” Tarpestry uses multiple styles of fabric that are made in China. There have been increases to at least four of the company’s fabric suppliers, including two price increases from a main supplier. Swartzbaugh says it was necessary to reset their COG analysis and increase MSRP on their end as well. “This price increase could affect sales to the general public as well as retailers. Hopefully, the market adjusts with us, but that is always hard to predict accurately. We were selling at our old price for around six months while paying higher prices on COGs due to the tariffs. For a smaller company like ours, it definitely made an impact on our ability to grow.” Taking a different, local-only approach is Industry Nine, based in Asheville since the inception of the company in 2005 and making high-end custom road, gravel, and mountain bike components, including wheels, hubs, and stems. They employ approximately 45 full-time employees. Founder and owner Clint Spiegel grew up working in Turnamics, the machine shop next door. Turnamics still machines all of Industry Nine’s hubs, spokes, stems, and more. Having a machine shop next door allows them to be nimble and flexible with product development, as they can have new product prototypes within hours, as opposed to shipping overseas, which can take weeks or months just to get a new prototype during product development. January 2020 | 47

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“With our staff entirely based in Asheville, we’re a team full of riders, which allows us to handle every aspect of product development from initial concept to prototyping to product testing, all in-house under one roof,” says Isaac Presson, marketing specialist for Industry Nine. “It also doesn’t hurt that the riding in WNC is world class.” Industry Nine does see high manufacturing costs compared to some other companies that don’t manufacture products domestically. They also face high shipping rates when sending components to bicycle companies that assemble their bikes in Asia.

2020 Forecast: Rain or Sunshine? Here we are in 2020—what is the outlook for the regional manufacturing industry? Our local experts are optimistic that growth will continue. 48

| January 2020

“We continue to see record low unemployment in the greater Asheville metro area, which is great news, but does cause concern for companies who are looking to locate in the area and see this as indicative of a smaller pool of available, skilled workers.”

photo courtesy Diamond Brand Gear

photo courtesy SylvanSport

“We expect Western North Carolina, with its many assets for businesses, to remain a contender for manufacturing companies looking for the best place to locate or grow,” says Carpenter. “Not only because of the assets specific to the region, but also because of North Carolina’s general business advantages, including having the largest manufacturing workforce of any state in the Southeast United States (at more than 472,000 workers), a fast-growing population that fuels the workforce pipeline, and a central East Coast location that puts more than 178 million customers within a day’s drive.” McMahan believes we are fortunate to be poised to continue to see growth in the manufacturing sector. In her opinion, there are two factors that would limit that growth—specifically, the availability of ready sites and, perhaps more importantly, available workforce. “We continue to see record low unemployment in the greater Asheville metro area,” she observes, “which is great news, but

photo courtesy Industry Nine

does cause concern for companies who are looking to locate in the area and see this as indicative of a smaller pool of available, skilled workers. I do think economic developers in the region are keenly aware of this issue, however, and are dealing with it by focusing their efforts on talent recruitment and retention to ensure that we have sufficient workforce to continue to meet the demands of companies who are considering WNC to relocate.” And in Henderson County, Brady sums up her forecast with three words: a steady economy. Many companies have been working overtime for years now, she says, and predicts that as we grow into 2020, new technologies and ways of doing business will allow companies to right-size and better-perform. “Many companies are keeping all their employees, but adjusting the way they do business to account for this change. We are still seeing a good bit of activity, and due to our diverse economy, I suspect some industries will thrive in the year to come.” January 2020 | 49


The Power of Your Posse


Why your squad is the new professional network.


l aur a webb ,

CFP®, is President and founder of Asheville’s Webb Investment Services, a wealth management and investment consulting firm since 1995.



a range of resources within your reach, from professional development organizations to online trainings to industry conferences to entrepreneurial grants, but perhaps the most invaluable, yet underutilized, is also the most universal: your posse.

Your posse—a diverse group of professional mentors, acquaintances, and friends—can be both a rewarding channel for your unique skill sets and a foundational support system and resource when you need it most. I was recently reminded of the power of the posse when a wonderful female advisor I know (we’ll call her “Mary”) turned to her posse for support and solutions when she received the surprise of her life. Mary was a rising star. A substantial partner in an advisory firm, Mary had started at the bottom of the ladder and climbed it rung by rung. Along the way, she contributed significantly to the development and evolution of the firm: She improved the firm’s investment process and its operational efficiency; managed and developed client relationships; and served as an important advocate for women in the business. Throughout her career, Mary established an honorable reputation and was frequently tapped to serve on advisory groups and panels to share her expertise and experience.

| January 2020

Unfortunately, Mary’s male partners did not appreciate the impact she was having outside of the office. Despite the tension that was mounting, Mary never expected her partners’ next move. Without the formality or process of a shareholders’ meeting, and without consulting their third partner, the duo made a shocking decision: Mary was out. They no longer wanted her to be a part of the firm. Mary called her closest friends in the business— not her “posse,” but her “peeps”—to share the news and start to plan her path forward. Your peeps are the core group of your posse, but more importantly, they’re your emotional support system. When crises strike, they’re the first calls you make after the inevitable call to your spouse or partner; your peeps are your shoulders to cry on, open ears to listen to your gripes and grumbles, and your safe space to vent so that you can move forward with a clear head.



For Those Who Seek The Exceptional Life.

Which brings us to your posse. When it’s time to get down to business, it’s time to call on them. By definition, a posse can be many things—a gang, mob, company, crew—but in the case of women in business, particularly those of us who represent a minority in our field, a posse is a group of peers who have developed a mutual fondness and respect, and significant professional friendships. These women, vested with different skill sets and experiences, serve as a resource for their posse, with specialties ranging from practice management to work-life balance. This network can be a powerful support system for businesswomen, both


professionally and personally, which is why we recommend all women actively cultivate their own posse. The proof of the posse’s potential power lies in the story of Mary. As word spread of her partners’ rebuff, the posse’s members sprang into action. Everyone in her network had something to offer: One person gave her a place to land, another a place to start her own firm; some peers sat down with Mary to strategize how she should negotiate her exit from the partnership, while still others spoke to the sales management team of the firm and requested assistance in helping her get a fair deal. The rest of us motivated Mary as sounding boards and cheerleaders. The posse proved to be exactly what Mary needed. Perhaps most importantly,

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she felt empowered and supported during a very stressful and disruptive period of her life; indeed, the knowledge that she had a network of women behind her gave Mary the confidence and strength to persevere. The advice and impetus of her peers also

Ready to build and develop your own powerful posse? Here’s how:


Be open to de veloping n e w profession al relationships. Don’t just be open to the idea, but actively pursue these professional relationships. Make time to attend professional events, and sit with people you don’t know. Relationships are not sales pitches, so it’s important that you ask people you meet about themselves, rather than just talking about yourself. Be sure to stock your wallet with cards so that you can maintain your new relationships after the event.


Lead with a servant’s heart. Although Mary’s story shares the value of your posse as a resource, it’s the support her peers gave that make her story special. Your primary role in your posse is as a giver—of advice, support, contacts, and active listening. Your service to your posse could serve you well someday (remember the old adage


emboldened Mary to negotiate for a better and more equitable deal, rather than accepting the weak first offer. Though the circumstances were injurious, their results will be positively constructive; with the aid of her posse, Mary will likely build a much better business for herself and her family.


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| January 2020

of what goes around comes around), but for now, prioritize giving over taking.


Be a connector. As you develop your posse, consider how you could connect members of your network to perpetuate the cycle. One of the most valuable resources you can give to your group is the gift of each other. Don’t wait for other people in the group to meet or even to introduce you; be the connector and make your own introductions.

4. Be trustworthy. As you develop a more extensive

network, keep in mind that gossip never flatters anyone—including the person who shares it. You want to develop relationships based on trust and respect, so be sure to maintain environments that cultivate those attributes.

5. Show up for your posse. When someone in your

network needs help, be willing to share your insight or ear. If you provide the help they need,

they will likely show up for you when you need it most. If you think you’re too busy to develop your posse, you’re not; everyone’s busy, and it’s no longer an excuse. Making the effort to cultivate your network is both personally rewarding, as you develop lifelong friendships, and professionally resourceful, as you develop the very support system you just may need.

Laura Webb loves being an advocate for women, especially women in business, and was instrumental in helping the Asheville Chamber of Commerce create WomanUp. Securities offered through Raymond James Financial Services, Inc. Member FINRA/SIPC. Webb Investment and is not a registered broker/ dealer. Investment advisory services are offered through Raymond James Financial Services Advisors, Inc. CFP Board owns the CFP® marks in the United States. Any opinions are those of Laura A. Webb and not necessarily those of RJFS or Raymond James.

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Entrepreneur’s Journey written by jim murphy


photos by anthony harden

The moral of the Roots & Branches story could well be a warning: Be careful what you wish for. But it could also be a prediction: There’s always another version ahead of you. 54

| January 2020

January 2020 |


Clark Mitchell and his wife left a successful business and pulled up stakes, traveled 700 miles to Asheville, established another successful business, and were living the dream. Then… Read on. The journey to the Mitchell’s Roots & Branches began in 2001. “Just after 9/11,” Clark says. He had opened Be Green, a vegetarian restaurant in Belmar, New Jersey. “I was in no way qualified to open this restaurant,” he says. “Looking back, it seems insane. But it became wildly successful.” Five years later, a friend introduced him to Ana Camarotti, a graduate student at Monmouth University. She soon became his business partner. “I kidnapped her from grad school,” he says. And the following year, 2007, they made the three-mile journey up the coast to Clark’s hometown, Asbury Park, where they opened Twisted Tree, another restaurant focusing on vegetarian fare. (When he mentions Asbury Park, the automatic response is to ask if Bruce Springsteen ever dropped in. “Yep. A friend brought him in to meet me. He came back more than once,” Clark says. But with characteristic diffidence, he adds, “I wouldn’t say I know him.”) Twisted Tree quickly sprouted into a popular destination, earning a review in The New York Times: “The vegetarian Twisted Tree Cafe in Asbury Park forsakes meat without forgetting taste. Even carnivores should be able to appreciate the delicious soups, salads, and sandwiches served here. “Although the menu is mainly vegetarian and vegan, some seafood choices, like a smoked salmon wrap, are also served ($8.50). The owner, Clark Mitchell, who opened the shop in January, says the menu reflects ‘exactly the way I eat.’ (The name comes from Mr. Mitchell’s avocation, bonsai.)” Clark and Ana turned out to be an ambitious team unafraid of hard work. “We had a whole wholesale business out of this restaurant,” he remembers. “We would make vegan cupcakes, cookies, brownies, and muffins, and she would take them to farmers markets. We were also selling our baked goods to local health food stores. It was quite the operation.” 56

| January 2020

By this time they were married, and their business was thriving, but they began looking for something new—make that some place new. They were ready to leave for what Clark calls, “obvious New Jersey reasons. It’s hard to live there for a lot of reasons.” He had visited Asheville in the past, and he convinced Ana it would be a good place to open a vegetarian restaurant.

Moving On Up

CLARK MITCHELL cutting out dough for bread.

They arrived in Asheville in 2010: “We still intended to open a café and we just thought we would ease into it.” They checked out the area farmers markets, and decided to sell baked goods as their way to “ease in.” He says they attended as many as seven markets a week, giving them ample opportunities for sales. They got the kitchen in their house officially certified and began selling baked goods at the various markets. “I made crackers on a whim,” Clark says. “I thought about it and decided I needed a product that has a little more shelf stability, something I don’t need to sell today. Crackers seemed to go with our product mix. And it just started taking off.” The rapid popularity of the crackers moved their restaurant plans to a back burner—on a low simmer. Clark shakes his head and takes

a sip from the thermos of tea that takes him through the day. “With so much success of the crackers, I couldn’t stop it anymore.” He flashes a quick grin at the upside of the cracker business. “One of the reasons we’re not going to open a café now is I’ve become happy with having weekends and nights off—which you don’t get with a restaurant.” They were still making their crackers in the kitchen of their two-bedroom house. They brought in a commercial dough mixer and three convection ovens, in effect turning their home into an impromptu cracker factory. Sales continued to increase, and they began selling wholesale to local stores. “Our first client was West Village (Market and Deli) on Haywood Avenue in West Asheville. We started picking up more and more accounts locally, and I thought we were a local company, but then I realized we were very quickly becoming a regional cracker company.” One of those early local clients was French Broad Co-Op on Biltmore Avenue in Asheville. The Co-Op’s outreach coordinator Claire Schwartz says they’ve carried Roots & Branches crackers since 2008. “We probably sell a case of each flavor at least once a month,” she says. She adds that they carry all five flavors and average about 100 sales a January 2020 | 57

month. That volume “definitely gives it prime placement, and it’s not going anywhere.” She adds a personal note: “They’re lovely to work with!” For Clark, the company’s growing pains were forcing him into a sales role rather than full-time baker. “I like to put my crackers in a client’s hand,” he says. “I would load the van and drive to Charlotte and hit as many as 20 stores in a day. And I’d come away with 15 orders.”

The Way of the Cracker By the end of 2011, the company had outgrown their house. The obvious growth strategy was to find a location they could turn into a full-fledged cracker-manufacturing facility. From the outside and to the uninitiated, the building they landed on, in Swannanoa, appears anonymous, perhaps even deserted. Only a small replica of a street sign, Cracker Way, gives any hint of the occupants. But inside the factory, the activity presents a very different image: 58

| January 2020

A busy and efficient business, turning gobs of dough into flavored crackers. Clark begins his day before 7AM, mixing 25-pound balls of dough into the raw material that, by the end of the day, will become 600 boxes of crackers. He says they use about 400 pounds of dough every day. Even sitting at his desk, his hands-on role is apparent from the smudges of flour that dot his jacket. He mixes all five flavors, using sea salt and olive oil, the ingredient that, he says, “sets us apart. We don’t use the cheaper saffron or canola oil.” More expensive ingredients usually dictate a higher retail price. But, Clark adds quickly, “We’re competitive.” A quick survey of area supermarkets reveals Roots & Branches at the high end of the cracker market, but fully in line with other artisan crackers. At Earth Fare, Roots & Branches were priced at $5.29 for a seven-ounce package, while Organic Triscuit Olive Oil was $5.79, and Breton Gluten Free was $5.79 for 4.2 ounces. At Fresh Market, Roots & Branches was selling for $5.49; Stonewall Kitchen and Rainbow Crisps were $5.99

SLICING CRACKERS is a precise operation

There Are No Droids Here To Look For The manufacturing process resembles an old-fashioned assembly line, pre-robotics/artificial intelligence. In the production facility, manager Teri Lee Condron presides over as many as eight employees, stationed along a series of long tables set end-toend and side-by-side. The dough balls are cut into smaller globs, about the size of small, thick pies, which are then pounded and kneaded into a thinner, more workable shape. At one end of the tables is a device called a “sheeter,” which pulverizes them into strips that stretch nearly five feet. The long, thin strips slide out of the sheeter, and along the smooth, flour-coated tables where workers wait with hand-held cutters, much like pizza slicers. The workers trim the dough to fit a baking tray and then cut it into 42 cracker-size squares. They work with a speed developed by months, even years, of repetition: Five cuts across, six down; it takes less than ten seconds. They slide the full sheet onto a baking tray and put it in one of five convection ovens. Twenty minutes later, a tray of crackers is ready to be packaged.

ANA’S BROTHER, Sergio, packing the crackers

January 2020 | 59

LOAVES READY FOR the ovens, then the masses


| January 2020

The line appears to run with maximum efficiency, and as Clark points out, “One of the things we’re the best at is getting things out of here. Moving product out the door.” But in a product line dominated by major food companies, Roots & Branches remains a tiny producer. “I always joke that Nabisco makes more crackers by 9:30 on a Monday than we make all year,” he says. So, yes, in the grand scheme of things, Roots & Branches is a small player. But in the specialty artisan market, the company clearly occupies a prominent niche. Clark credits his manager, Condron, with much of their production efficiency, saying, “Without Teri Lee, I’d sell (the company) in a minute.” (She returns the accolade: “I love Clark and Ana. They’ve been such a blessing to me.”) Condron started at Roots & Branches eight years ago. “I

For all its success, Roots & Branches remains very much a mom-and-pop company—with family ties. had a bunch of little kids and needed some extra money and got offered a part-time job,” she reminisces. “It was kind of serendipity, I guess.” Back then, she and Mitchells were still working out of the family house. “Originally, we rolled these crackers with a rolling pin (instead of the sheeter). That was difficult for me to get the hang of.” But now, “it’s like a well-oiled machine.” But getting to that “well-oiled” status took a lot of work— and patience. Condron has to train each new employee. “Nobody’s ever made crackers before!” she says, laughing at the idea. “Nobody ever comes here and says, ‘I do this all the time. I’m a cracker pro.’” That meant spending time at what she describes as being the hardest part: “For a long time, it was a constant cycle of training. For me, that’s the most difficult to accommodate.” Condron moved into the management slot a year and a half ago, when Ana gave birth to the Mitchells’ son, Kai. Ana is no longer involved in the day-to-day manufacturing process. For all its success, Roots & Branches remains very much a mom-and-pop company—with family ties. Ana’s brother, Sergio, packages the crackers, scooping a bunch into a plastic bag sitting on a scale. He adds a cracker or two to assure the weight is correct, runs the bag through a sealing device, and places it in one of six open boxes that wait in their shipping cartons. And Clark’s sister, Marnie Lister, does the photography, artwork, and internet presentation. January 2020 | 61

TABLE OF employees hand cutting crackers

Clark has high praise for her work on the company’s website and Instagram account.

The Whole Package While Condron runs the production line, Clark is chained to his desk, processing orders, keeping track of inventory, and attending to those CEO duties that drag him away from baking. The desk is cluttered with random papers and a trophy he won last year for his fantasy football picks. (He predicts another victory this year.) He points to the wall opposite his desk, which is stacked with nearly 100 cases of crackers, each case marked with a flavor: olive oil, sesame seed, black pepper, rosemary, herb garden. “They’re all going out today,” he says. “Tomorrow, that wall will be empty.” The destination of those crackers could be anywhere from Asheville to Seattle. Clark’s goal to become a regional company was soon dwarfed by the popularity of his crackers, expanding Roots & Branches into a national market. He credits some of the growth upon an unexpected factor: The packaging. “When we switched over to a box, we just took off.” The boxes followed a long line of previous packaging efforts. “We started with a plastic bag with a twist tie and we would stick labels on them. And then the labels got fancier. And then 62

| January 2020

we went to sort of a paper coffee bag with a window. The box was a game changer.” To some it may seem dubious that a prosaic matter such as packaging would have such an effect, but Clark is ready with an explanation. “First off, they’re professional. They’ve got UPC codes and they’re store ready. And they’re shippable. So, suddenly, we were shipping them all over the place. We were selling at Earth Fare, Fresh Market, Whole Foods. We started going into big distributors.” One of those distributors is The Aniata Cheese Co. in California. That company’s sales rep Jonathan McDowell says they have represented Roots & Branches since 2014. “They have something new to offer in the market,” he says. “The size, flavor, packaging, and their story checked all the boxes. Their flavor profile is neither overpowering nor underwhelming. We probably sell 50 to 60 cases of each flavor a month.”

“There’s always a new challenge”: The Reveal But with that success came a problem. Roots & Branches was beginning to become a victim of its own success. Clark points across the office at a standing metal cabinet covered with paperwork hanging by magnets. “Those are all orders. A

CLARK MITCHELL January 2020 | 63

THE CRACKER DOUGH is pounded out then run through a machine that makes it cracker thin.

couple of them are pretty big—five or six pallets. And there’s probably another 15 I haven’t written out yet.” He lets out a long breath. In late November he was facing a crunch that would overwhelm his artisan hands-on production process. “Our holiday orders are exceeding our capacity by about 25 percent. It sounds like a great problem, but it’s actually very stressful because we’re not making our holiday order this year.” It was a critical problem that could be summed up as: Too much of a good thing. He could not see any way to increase production to meet his growing demand. Add a second shift? Out of the question. “I would have to clone Teri Lee and myself,” he says. The other option is essentially to reinvent Roots & Branches as a large-scale cracker company. “It would mean moving to a bigger space, investing in larger, more sophisticated

“I might be a little overconfident in my ability,” he says. “But there’s always another version ahead of you.” equipment, and industrializing our manufacturing process. We’d have to look at the way we process our crackers, with people standing around a table, and just throw it away.” Starting over, with bigger, better, faster—and more expensive—equipment would essentially transform his beloved mom-andpop company into a big impersonal corporation. And, despite the success, despite the popularity of his crackers, Roots & Branches remains a tiny entity in comparison to the more familiar brands. To illustrate the situation, under the category of popular cracker brands, Wikipedia lists no fewer than 25 options, including Carr’s, Ry-Krisp, Triscuit, and Wheat Thins. Roots & Branches is not listed. “We’re just big enough to need more of everything,” Clark says, “but we’re low on the pecking order. We have no leverage with our suppliers.” His words quicken as he considers the obstacles. “There is a reason there are not 40 small cracker companies,” he says. “Like, every city has 15 bakers, three 64

| January 2020

Mitchell makes loaves of bread, with the care and consideration of a quality baker.

coffee roasters, and you can kind of scale up those businesses easily.” But, by his estimation, not a cracker company. And there is another significant consideration. “I don’t like being a CEO. I don’t like sitting at a desk,” he says. “It’s not my skill set.” He refers to the Peter Principle—but instead of rising to a level of incompetence, he refers to a level of misery. “I’ve reached my level of misery. Am I the guy to take this to the next level? I think I’m not. I’ve got to get my hands back in dough.” He considers what next steps he must take, and what direction he should go. “Are we going to pump the money in to upgrade to where we need to be? We’re holding ourselves back intentionally.” He has thought about the situation for months, conferring with Ana, and trying to decide on the best path forward. “We’ve

reached a crossroads,” he says. It has led them in an unexpected direction. “We’ve been talking to a broker, and we’ve just listed the cracker business for sale.” He points to Roots & Branches’ other products, soups and breads, that they still sell at farmers markets, suggesting they could be part of his next venture, but he also hints at the possibility that he could strike out in an entirely new direction. But at age 50 can Clark simply walk away from this company that he started in his kitchen, nurtured to a regional status and is now a player—if even a relatively small player—in the national market? “I might be a little overconfident in my ability,” he says. “But there’s always another version ahead of you. There’s always a new challenge.” January 2020 | 65


Wine in The Time of Tariffs A Europhile’s guide to navigating around the often-confusing wine tariffs.


REPARE TO PAY MORE FOR LIFE’S little pleasures—if they happen to come from Europe. The latest round of tariffs impose a huge price increase on our favorite foods and drink.


john kerr

is the co-owner of Metro Wines located on Charlotte Street in downtown Asheville.


At the top of the list are cheese, seafood, olive oil, and wine. This bodes for a very long and cold winter. What are these tariffs about and why did the United States decide to launch them at this time? To give you a better idea how we got here, I’ll outline the reasons. However, I don’t think you’re going to feel any better after reading the justification. More importantly, I’ll provide you with a guide to navigate around the high cost of European wine so you can continue to enjoy the wines you love. Wine tariffs are the result of a 13-year battle over subsidies paid by several European countries to Airbus, the main competitor to our Boeing jet manufacturer. The settlement grants the United States power to apply tariffs to European goods. We | January 2020

set the tariff at 10% on airplane parts. But to get Europe to sit up and take notice, we also applied a tariff that increases prices on wine and other goods by 30%. Not all Euro wine is subject to tariffs. It only applies to wine from France, Spain, Germany, and the United Kingdom, since these countries are the ones which subsidize Airbus. Italy, Austria, Portugal, and Greece dodged this bullet, so their prices will not change. If you’ve not explored the wines from these nontariff countries, now is a great time to take the plunge. You’ll get Euro style wine while avoiding the hit. But you’ll save even more on Greek and Portuguese wines since they’ve been a great value for years. If you like fruitier reds and crisp whites, then Portugal is for you.


it comes it to your to-do to you When comes When it comesWhen to your to-do list, put your future first. And many a sommelier says that Austria and Greece produce list, put your future fir the best food pairing wines out there. list, put your future fi rst. To find out how to get your financial


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Not all wines from France, Spain, and Germany are subject to tariffs. Only wines with 14% or less alcohol will have to pay the price. Which is to say that nearly all their wines will be hit. But there are several popular wines that avoid the tariffs. Many wines from southern France are tariff-free. The warmer climates of Languedoc, Roussillon, and southern Rhone produce many wines that exceed the tipping point of 14%. Unfortunately, the more revered wines from cooler climate regions like Loire, Bordeaux, Burgundy, etc., generally fall below the threshold.



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Many Euro wineries are fighting back. Their simplest fix is Financial Advisor to change the label, as labeling laws allow for a 0.5% leeway 1185 Charlotte Highway in disclosed alcohol levels. So, wine labels stating alcohol Suite I can also at 13.9% will magically become 14.1%. Wineries Fairview, 28730 postpone harvest for a week or so. The grapes ripen NC further, 828-628-1546 producing more alcohol. However, wineries that choose this path risk changing the style of their wine.

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Spain is a warmer climate country, so there will be more options for you there. Grapes like Garnacha and Monastrell are often well above 14%. But many of the great Tempranillo from Rioja are not. Neither are Garnacha and Mencia made with the old school methods that produce many elegant, complex wines. I hear that sparkling wines avoid the tariffs for some unknown reason. At the time of writing this article, I was not able to confirm the rumor. Assuming it’s true, you’ve got another opportunity to broaden your horizons. Sparkling wine is among the very best in food pairing. Several restaurants in New York City are proving this point by offering multi-course meals with a different sparkling wine at each course. The cornucopia of sparkling’s styles, weight, and grapes make this possible. Perhaps it’s time to put this to the test yourself.

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January 2020 | 67


Many in the wine industry have chosen the most painful path of all: They committed to absorbing all or most of the tariff increase. This is truly a sacrifice, since the 30% will wipe out the entire profit for most players along the chain. Small family wineries, like small farmers have precious little leverage to survive and thus will be hit the hardest. This leaves the importer, distributor, and retailer to take the losses. The players accepting the losses are doing this to ensure you can buy the wines you love at prices you expect. Importers like Eric Solomon have declared they will hold their prices as long as they can so that you are not affected. Since they’re making no or little profit on these wines, I encourage you to support these companies now as well as after the tariffs end. Another path to Euro style wine is to look to other countries. Until recently, the trend in winemaking outside of Europe leaned towards fruit-forward wine. This bold style is not going away. But there is a faction of winemakers returning to Europe’s methods of making wine: This new generation of vintners pay homage to the Euro style by producing wines with less oak and more nuance.


| January 2020

*** There are literally hundreds of these upstarts producing old world wines along our West Coast. Many of these young vintners have cult followings due to the elegance and quality of their

AT ROUGHLY $130 A BOTTLE, YOU’RE PAYING THE HIGH PRICE OF FRANCE’S BEST. BUT THIS HIGH PRICE IS NOT BUMPED UP BY THE TARIFFS. wines. Look for wineries like Broc, Lioco, and Lieu Dit. Don’t forget to check out many of the established names for Euro style wines—Matthiasson, Sinskey, and Arnot-Roberts to name a few. Merry Edwards produces a light Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir.

Although it has a bit more fruit than Burgundy, you’ll recognize the Burgundian style in each sip. While many California wineries boast about the Burgundian style Chardonnay, I find the Oregon Chardonnays to be more reflective of France. Consider Chardonnay from Rose Rock, Martin Woods, and Domaine Serene, which stand their own against the better white Burgundies. If there ever was a country known for its monster wines, it’s Australia. The Europhile vintners have moved in here as well and produce several grapes in the Euro style. With a little research, you’ll discover Semillon, Riesling, southern Rhone blends, and yes, even delicate Pinot Noir. Try MWC for its Burgundy style, but without the Burgundy price. Expect to pay around $16 a bottle. For wines that meet or exceed the quality of Bordeaux or Burgundy, try Catena’s Zapata collection. At roughly $130 a bottle, you’re paying the high price of France’s best. But this high price is not bumped up by the tariffs. These are among my favorite wines of all time, and should be in every high end cellar, tariffs or not.

For a more reasonably priced Argentine wine, try Cuvelier Los Andes Coleccion at around $20. The vintner is a transplant from France who built his career in Uco Valley, the country’s Mendoza area’s best wine region. You’ll swear you’re drinking a fine Bordeaux when you try this Malbec dominant blend. South Africa produces high quality wines that live between the new and old world. They have the fruit level of the new world, but finish like a European wine. Try the Pinot and Chardonnay from Hamilton Russell or B Vintners to see what the best from South Africa tastes like. You can enjoy beautiful wines at a lower cost with Raats Jasper Red Blend. It’s a Bordeaux blend with Cabernet Franc the dominant grape.

*** Use these tips to steer clear of high cost wines. By trying the new wines from other countries, you may find a few new favorites.

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January 2020 | 69




news briefs

Show Roy Da Money cary

Governor Roy Cooper informed a group of renewable energy businesspeople that, although he had vetoed the most recent proposed budget, he was going to move forward with the line item funding an analysis of the state’s potential for developing an offshore wind industry. Cooper said the study was important not just to stall climate change, but to create jobs. A growing trend for economic development offices is to build a strong supply chain for wind energy as a recruitment tool for the large plants. North Carolina’s supply chain already includes 27 manufacturers employing 1,000. Virginia’s funding of a couple similar studies, assessing its potential to manufacture, ship, and service parts that would be used for


an offshore wind plant, is credited for Dominion Energy proposing the largest wind farm of its kind in the waters off that state. The Outer Banks are among federal offshore lands now leased for wind power that combined could generate 14 gigawatts. The line item calling for the study set aside $300,000 for a year-long project, and Cooper said, despite budget stalemates, the funds will be found for appropriation.

Electrical Connections huntersville

NSi Industries, a manufacturer of electrical components headquartered in Huntersville, has acquired SullStar of Simi Valley, California. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. NSi has been

in business for over 40 years, equipping electrical contractors with a catalog now encompassing 25 categories. Their inventory includes switches, photocontrols, sensors, and connectors. SullStar manufactures low-voltage electrical components and tools used in assembling systems for data transmission and more traditional forms of telecommunication. It has a portfolio of over 60 patents from various countries, which NSi will now manage. SullStar will operate as a division of NSi’s Platinum Tools division, which has been selling and distributing SullStar products for years. Platinum Tools was acquired by NSi in March as a first step in entering the data communications market. In August NSi acquired Bridgeport Fittings, based in Stratford, Connecticut. Another electrical innovator and supplier, it has a catalog of hundreds of products.

Cobbling Jobs in the 21st Century lumberton

Pattie’s Shoe Repair is back in business. The shop repairs shoes and handbags, stretches shoes, and replaces zippers on boots and jackets. Owner Pattie Johnson


The Number of local dentists who refer their patients to Rockcliff for Oral Surgery and Dental Implants

In our business trust is earned. Call us today at 828.255.7781 to learn how we will earn yours! We have offices in Asheville, Hendersonville, Waynesville, and Sylva.


| January 2020

Rockcliff surgeons have placed more than


dental implants & have the most extensive training and latest technology.

Surgeons: Larry P. Parworth, William H. Logan, Samuel Hayes, Eric Burgon, Eric Warburton, Alexander Consky

30 carolina in the west

had to close after her store was flooded with a couple feet of water following Hurricane Matthew in 2016. There was so much damage, Johnson almost gave up on reopening. The Better Business Bureau did give up, posting, “It appears that the company is no longer in business,” etc. But Johnson’s faith kept her hope alive, much to the delight of locals. Upon reopening, business was strong, as the town doesn’t even have a shoe store. Those wanting to try before they buy in a bricks-and-mortar establishment still have to go all the way to Fayetteville. The grand opening was attended by luminaries from the Lumberton City Council, the Robeson County Board of Commissioners, and the Lumberton Area Chamber of Commerce.

Appreciating Apprentices asheboro

Apprenticeship Randolph is expanding to add to its programs to study manufacturing technology, automotive systems technology, and information technology. Apprenticeship Randolph was launched in 2016 as a collaboration of Randolph Community College (RCC),

the Randolph County School System, Asheboro City Schools, the Asheboro/ Randolph Chamber of Commerce, and local manufacturers. Its mission was to build interest and skills in advanced manufacturing among youth coming up through the school system. This would, in turn, help locals remain in the area by attracting and retaining businesses that value skilled and meaningful employment. The program is open to juniors and seniors and begins with a six-week trial period during the summer, where participants take two RCC courses and get on-the-job training 40 hours a week. Those selected as apprentices after the trial period will enter a four-year training program that includes a paid position, and graduates will receive an associate of applied science degree from RCC and a journeyworker certificate from the North Carolina Community College System and the US Department of Labor.

Earn While You Learn rocky mount

North Carolina Wesleyan College has received final approval from its regional accreditor, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, to offer a Master of Business

the old north state

Administration program. The program will be 100% online and consist of 33 credit hours to be earned in five sessions of eight-weeks each. It will therefore be possible to earn the degree in a year, but persons needing more time to juggle work and family obligations will not be under pressure to conform to the accelerated schedule. The first cohort will start taking classes January 6. Thereafter, qualified individuals will be able to enroll in the program prior to the beginning of any eight-week session. The program is described as teaching methods for developing results-oriented strategies and leadership skills for dealing with people. Those successfully completing the program should be qualified to further a career in human resources, insurance and risk management, real estate, finance, operations management and logistics, or product development.

Revolving, Rolling Door gastonia

Jim Cookson is going back into the business of manufacturing slatted, roll-up doors for large buildings like hospitals and stadiums. Cookson was once the owner of a company that bore his name, and, at its height, was





January 2020 |


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| January 2020


the third-largest manufacturer of rolling doors in the country. It had its beginnings about a century ago in San Francisco. The Gastonia plant was opened in 1978 to reach East Coast clientele. When the recession hit, Cookson sold his company, which was consolidated into CornellCookson, and he continued to work for the new company until the Gastonia plant closed in 2017. The Cookson brand was discontinued shortly thereafter. Cookson now wants to go back into business as the Rolling Door Company. Whereas the first time around he was focused on growth, this time he wants to focus on quality and leave growth to its own timescale. He is refurbishing an old building, equipping it, and hoping to hire back many who used to work for Cookson.

Documents to Doctors cary

Medfusion is spinning off Greenlight Health Data Solutions as a standalone company. Medfusion provides platforms for digital patient-provider communications that are used for scheduling appointments, making payments, and keeping track of prescriptions and procedures. The problem Greenlight attempts to solve is that data is currently typically aggregated for meta-analysis. If consent is not documented, a patient’s identity must legally be scrubbed from his data. As a result, patients run into problems when they want to transfer medical records from one professional office to another, between providers and insurers, or even into wellness apps. Greenlight is an attempt at securely retaining links between patient identity and data for touch-of-a-button access and sharing. The spinoff is funded by entrepreneur and investor Steve Malik, who sees “data consumption” as only increasing in the near future. The company will begin with a staff of two, which had been doing similar work for Medfusion,

but will now be able to dedicate themselves full-time to the project.

Big Even for an Airport Grant elizabeth city

The United States Coast Guard awarded a $15 million design-build contract for the Recapitalize Airfield Pavements and Airfield Lighting Project at the Elizabeth City-Pasquotank County Regional Airport. The airport is owned by the Coast Guard, which operates a base and an air station whose missions run the gamut from search and rescue, to maritime law enforcement, to environmental protection; which can require deployments to places as far away as Greenland, the Azores, or the Caribbean. The airport is the Coast Guard’s second-largest aviation base, housing about 850 personnel. A portion of the airport is also open to the public for general aviation. Work will include pavement rehabilitation, installation of new lighting and signage, the creation of an electrical duct bank, and reconstruction of the concrete helipad. The design process will schedule improvements in phases so neither civilian nor military air traffic will be interrupted. Granite, based in Watsonville, California, is a joint venture of Granite, Webcor Construction, Weeks Marine, and Healy Tibbitts Builders.

Strength in Diversification clyde

The Small Business Center at Haywood Community College has launched a Guest Counselor Program to better meet the needs of a diversity of small businesses in various phases of startup. New counselors include Martha Bradley, a real estate attorney for Hall Booth Smith specializing in business law with an emphasis on real estate disputes; Deanna Lynch, an

accountant, handweaver, and owner of Deanna Lynch Textiles; Emily Warren McCurry, a financial advisor for Edward Jones who also specializes in leadership development; Ryan Taylor, owner of the outdoor sports business Recpreneur, a provider of education programs for entrepreneurs in the outdoor industry; and Larry Trout, founder and president of Coldwater Business Development, who brings broad-based and in-depth experience from working with Fortune 500 companies and large healthcare systems. Director Katy Gould had been handling most of the counseling, which is free, confidential, and one-on-one, herself. The Small Business Center will continue offering resources and referrals and occasional seminars and classes.

Aid in Medicaid raleigh

A s ex pected, Nor th Carol i na’s Medicaid program will not transition to a managed-care benefits system next year. The public had been led to believe the state was going to save costs by replacing fee-for-service payments with fixed payments to private insurance companies or physicians’ partnerships for each patient visit. The change was marketed as providing better health outcomes for patients and more fiscal sustainability for Medicaid programs in North Carolina, which receive $4 billion from the state and $12 billion from the federal government each year. A series of delays pushed approval deadlines into the legislative recess, requiring pursuit of the transition to resume at square one in the next legislative session. Partisans are quick to put the blame on the other side’s delay tactics, while outside observers succinctly noted that the ultimate cost to taxpayers of the haggling is running counter to any claims of realizing savings. The changes, depending on their final form, could have affected an estimated 1.6 million of the state’s 2.2 million Medicaid recipients.

Still Negotiating the Approvals Process kings mountain

Piedmont Lithium awarded Hatch of Kings Mountain the contract for a pre-feasibility study (PFS) for its proposed lithium hydroxide chemical manufacturing plant. Located in Bessemer City, the plant would be built on new lands held by Piedmont Lithium in the Carolina Tin-Spodumene Belt and located midway between former lithium mines now closed. As part of the study, SGS Labs in Ontario continues to run analysis on bench-scale conversion of raw material from the mine to lithium hydroxide. Once a satisfactory PFS is completed, Piedmont Lithium will engage Primero Group for the definitive feasibility study for its lithium concentrator mine and Marshall Miller & Associates for a coordinated study for its lithium hydroxide processing plant. Contracts with haulers for the processed lithium remain in negotiations, but it is expected the material will be used in electric cars in the United States and Europe. Hatch is an engineering firm recognized globally, with other projects located in China, Australia, Namibia, and Portugal.

Pigs Doing Their Part duplin & sampson counties

About a year ago, Dominion Energy and Smithfield Foods formed a joint venture to harness the methane from pig excrement for use as an alternative to combusting fossil fuels. Methane accounts for 10% of greenhouse gas emissions, and it has long been a target of environmentalists; but developing a workable conversion process has taken decades. Confident in the strategy that spurred the initial $250 million, 10-year joint venture, Smithfield Renewables is now willing to double its investment to set up stations in three or four more states. The system starts with clusters of 15-20 farms that generate manure, which is piped to a covered lagoon, where January 2020 | 73

the old north state

volatile organic compounds in the solids decay into carbon dioxide and methane. The methane is sent via low-pressure pipelines to a processing facility that ensures the gas meets quality standards before piping it to end users. Two North Carolina sites were among the first four selected for the project.

trails for billing, tracking, and documentation with interoperability between departments and ports. The recent launch represents only the first phase of installations for NC Ports. The Port of Wilmington is expanding to enable it to handle a throughput equivalent to 1.2 million, 20-foot containers a year.


Bites the Dust, Pt.3



The Port of Wilmington and the Port of Morehead City are now using Navis’ N4 General Cargo and N4 Billing software. Implementation and training took less than a month because the port’s contract with its legacy software company was set to expire in October. North Carolina Ports contracted with Navis because of the complexities involved in running high-volume ports and a desire to scale-up with increasing shipments and pressure for fast turnaround. Among other things, the software can recommend more ergonomic layouts for the shipping yard, “pool” equipment used by multiple cranes to minimize time lost moving it between shipments, schedule cranes to meet ships, and even select the best cargo containers for shipments. Navis software also simplifies paper

The groundbreaking art, technology, and electronic/experimental music festival Moogfest was initiated in New York City during the mid ’00s, and then resurfaced to great acclaim in Asheville, home to music synthesizer manufacturer Moog Music, during the fall of 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2014 (the 2013 festival was Moogfest in all but its name, the “Mountain Oasis Electronic Music Summit,” due to issues between organizers and the event’s original promoter, Knoxville-based AC Entertainment). During those years, artists boasting both mainstream and underground bonafides were consistently part of the mix, from Brian Eno, the Flaming Lips, Moby, Thomas Dolby, and Kraftwerk, to Suicide, Grimes, Dan Deacon, El-P, and Oneohtrixpointnever. The event took a break in 2015 in order

to resurface and rebrand in the spring of 2016 in Durham, and continued there in 2017 and 2018. The general consensus among national music critics, however, was one of diminishing returns, with many questioning organizers’ wisdom of relocating from the city where the festival’s namesake was located. Last month Moogfest announced, via the Moogmusic. com blog, that the 2020 Moogfest, slated for April 16-19 in Durham, had been cancelled. “Moogfest on Hold to Focus on the Future,” read the post’s headline, but only “logistical reasons” were cited as reasons for the cancellation, along with the obligatory statement, “To all attendees, artists, sponsors, presenters, and volunteers: Thank you for your support, understanding, and patience as the Moogfest experience continues to evolve.” (Advance ticket buyers were instructed to email moog for details on refunds.) Fans of the festival quickly took to social media lamenting its demise, with many bluntly suggesting that the organizers strongly consider bringing it back to Asheville. (Note: Early in Capital at Play’s tenure, in our January/February 2012 issue, our cover feature, “The Art of Moog,” was a profile of Moog Music founder Robert Moog.)

Western North Carolina's Free Spirit of Enterprise

Join us on Social Media! f o r t i c k e t g i v e away s , e x c l u s i v e s , a n d m o r e ! 74

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Manufacturer Seeking Qualified Worker hickory

The Wall Street Journal reported the furniture industry in the United States is the strongest it’s been since the financial crisis, but the main story was the struggle manufacturers are having finding qualified workers. Jobs lost decades ago to an offshoring economy are now coming back as Millennials and Gen-Xers are favoring custom designs and China has no interest in serving that market (reasons cited include slow turnaround times being a deal-breaker, and tariffs pricing Chinese companies out of the market). About half the custom upholstered furniture sold in the United States continues to be manufactured domestically; custom designs, in turn, require skilled labor that is aging out as younger generations are attracted to other job sectors. In plants in and around Hickory, 42% of machine operators and 33% of upholsterers are at least 55 years old. About 250,000 production jobs were cut from North Carolina’s furniture plants during the recession, and this has led to a perception of job insecurity steering away prospects. One approach to filling positions is to offer cut-and-sew

training programs, but these, too, are not attracting interest. A skilled sewer might be paid $45,000 a year, while a master crafter could earn over $75,000.

Colors & Reactions high point

The Nido R. Qubein School of Communication and the Earl N. Phillips School of Business, both of High Point University, have collaborated to create the state-of-the-art BEACON Lab. BEACON is an acronym for biometric evaluation, analytics, cognitive observation, and neuromarketing. The lab is designed around software provided by iMotions, an innovator of technology useful in researching physiological determinants of emotion and behavior, and High Point is one of few colleges to be equipped with its technology. In the lab students use biosensors to track the brain activity, heart rate, and eye motions of human subjects as they read or view images on a computer screen. Models improve as more data feeds back to refine suspected correlations. The lab is available for research from any department at the university. One of its first uses was by a couple of students testing colors and keywords for the wrapper of an energy bar.

Touchdown! chapel hill

Mary Laci Motley developed a love for competitive sports (soccer in particular) growing up in Asheville, later nurturing that passion while attending UNC-Chapel Hill. A concurrent passion for community service and the nonprofit community led her to create EATS2SEATS in recognition of the struggles that nonprofits frequently endure due to size and available volunteers: There appeared to be an opportunity to connect nonprofits with UNC’s sports venues by providing game-day concessions stand volunteers for those venues and, in turn, generating financial backing for the nonprofits’ projects. For example, in 2019 EATS2SEATS generated $8,000 for Chapel Hill affordable housing charity PeeWeeHomes and $4,000 for Make-A-Wish Eastern North Carolina. Motley describes her company as a staffing business with a “circular business model” delivering value to nonprofits while “providing consistent and reliable staff” and saving thousands of dollars for venues. Plans going forward for 2020 are to expand to Eastern Carolina University, the University of Virginia, and other colleges.

Dignity. Honor. Comfort.

Your gift to Four Seasons provides support to patients, families, veterans, children and more. Please give generously. (828) 513.2440

January 2020 | 75


A Business

Proposition written by derek halsey


photos by anthony harden

Meet Banner Elk’s High Country Boats: Custom-built drift boats utilizing unique designs guaranteed to make your lake and river excursions as memorable as they come.


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MATT MANESS & LES VANCE January 2020 | 77 .


es Vance And Matt Maness, the two owners and builders of the High Country Boats line of custom watercraft, grew up within a half hour of each other in Raleigh, North Carolina. Yet they never knew each other until later in life, when they had a chance encounter on a stream that flows off of Grandfather Mountain through Wilson Creek Gorge, here in Western North Carolina. 78

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Many people who live in our region come from somewhere else and often forget that this beautiful part of the country really is a destination for folks around the United States and the world. That is the case for Vance and Maness, whose families traveled west and then up in elevation to vacation in the mountains surrounding the towns of Boone and Banner Elk. What brought the two together was a love of fishing, drinking beer, and finding a way to make a living in the mountains, which can be a daunting task. But their entrepreneurial spirit led them to yet another level once they joined forces and then set about designing and building custom-made drift boats of a high quality. Now, after years of trial and error, a desire to constantly improve on their designs and ideas, and the feedback of customers who love what they build, Vance and Maness are making their drift boats that are comfortable, utilitarian, durable, and innovative.

photo courtesy High Country Boats

The end result is a custom, made-to-order boat vessel that is a little over 16 feet long and six feet wide at the beam, plus 452 pounds in weight, yet can carry three people over less than five inches of water.

The Accidental Career Pt. 1 Les Vance developed a love of fly fishing as a kid, yet his early fish species of choice were not the trout that he knew were in the High Country mountains, some 200 miles away. “I grew up in Fuquay-Varina, which is about 20 minutes south of Raleigh,” recalls Vance. “I grew up fishing on farm ponds, fly fishing for bass and bluegill starting when I was about eight years old. I was self-taught and I fumbled through it at the beginning, reading a lot about it. There, a summer camp that I went to taught fly fishing and that piqued my interest.”

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Vance also had a familial link to the High Country mountains. “Eventually, I would come up here to Western North Carolina in the summer and trout fish a lot,” he says. “My Dad grew up there in Pineola, in Avery County, so I always had a connection to the area. His dad, my grandfather, was the doctor there in Avery County, simply known as ‘Doctor Vance.’ My dad was a graduate of Crossnore School. But my Dad is not a fisherman. My granddad did have an old fly rod, however, and I started flailing around with it. It was an old bamboo rod that should have been on a mantle, as it was not really meant to be fished with, although he also had some old lures and flies, but they were all rusty.” After Vance graduated from high school, he moved to Boone to attend Appalachian State University, where he became a parks and recreation management major. After college, Vance moved to Colorado and became a fishing guide in the rivers found amongst the majestic Rocky Mountains.

The first boat I ever made was built in my bedroom. I pushed my bed up against the wall and built this boat in the bedroom, and then we couldn’t get it out through the door [of the house]. “I took that job as a reason to go and play around for the summer, and I never had any ambition to be a fishing guide,” says Vance, outlining his gradual evolution as the proverbial outdoorsman. “I had to do an internship for my major and I found a ranch in Colorado that was hiring fishing guides for the summer. They hired me over the phone, but I went out there a month early and fished the rivers and learned the terrain. With fish guiding, you learn a lot as you go. I did it for that summer; then one year faded into the next; and then I got into the seasonal life, as in a ski bum in the winter and a fishing guide in the summer.” There are still people in the eastern part of America that have never seen the West and the Rocky Mountains, and doing so can be a life-changing experience. Vance agrees, saying, “The first time I drove across the country, you hit the Colorado line on I-70 and it still looks like Kansas. All of a sudden, you get within sight of Denver, and there is just a wall of mountains. It is pretty 80

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spectacular. Everything was brand new and awe-inspiring. As I have gone out there for years now, you kind of get used to it. However, there are still days when the view is pretty amazing. But whenever I come back here to the Western North Carolina mountains, the green is what blows my mind, and I forget how pretty it is here. Both mountain ranges have their charms, and I definitely have a love for both of them.”

The Accidental Career Pt. 2 Matt Maness also fished the waters of Western North Carolina as a kid, and that is how he and Vance met. “I met Matt up here when I was in high school, and he was four years older than me,” says Vance. “I was fishing and we were both camping on the same river, so that was kind of cool.” “We were camping behind Grandfather Mountain by Wilson Creek,” says Maness, taking up the narrative, “and Les came over and started stealing beers from us, and we have been stuck with each other ever since,” said Maness, laughing.

As an adult, Maness became a fishing guide in the Carolina High Country full-time, based in Foscoe and working the many rivers that flow off of Grandfather Mountain and other mountains. But, like Vance, it was a job that he never intended to pursue. “I went to North Carolina State for a while and wanted to transfer to Appalachian State, but had to catch up on some credits at Caldwell College,” says Maness. “I worked at a lot of outdoor resource stores, including at Footsloggers and at Mast General Store. One of the people that I worked with, her husband was a fishing guide, and they needed some help covering some trips one day. So, I started doing some half-day fishing trips, and then I did a few more, and then they needed help with river rafting float trips. “And, here I am, still a fishing guide 15 or so years later.” Maness was the one who first began to build boats as a young man, although with a rather humorous and auspicious start. “I started out building wooden canoes and kayaks,” he explains. “I got a couple of really good January 2020 |


photo courtesy High Country Boats

instructional books like CanoeCraft—An Illustrated Guide to Fine Woodstrip Construction, written by a guy named Ted Moores, who also wrote the book Kayak Craft. The first boat I ever made was built in my bedroom. I pushed my bed up against the wall and built this boat in the bedroom, and then we couldn’t get it out through the door [of the house]. So, we had to take the sliding glass doors out to bring it outside. I had to sleep on the couch that whole winter as the smell of the glue in my bedroom was bad. It was a wood and fiberglass boat kit—it came out pretty good, actually.” Vance continued to be a fishing guide out west, but he became interested in Maness’ boat building projects during the winter months back here in the Tar Heel State. Eventually, something clicked as their goal of producing a unique boat design came into focus. “I built my first drift boat around 2006 and I realized that even with kits, you were still building the boats from scratch,” says Maness. “That is when I decided to build one of my own making, truly from scratch. That is when we began to change our materials from wood to more modern day composites. 82

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From then on, every year we would research materials and designs and would change something to improve our designs. We designed a hull that had to be Coast Guard approved, and once that is done, the hull can’t change. But everything else, the interior layouts, space and capacity, rowing efficiency, and everything else were things we could innovate.” Once their designs caught fire, Vance and Maness started High Country Boats without financing, letting their quality-designed boats build up an organic following. “We built the boats for ourselves first,” admits Maness, “and used them on the water for several years—and then sold them. Once the word was out, people began to ask for them. But, now we do use Instagram and Facebook and social media in general.” “We are basically walking advertisements because we were using them on the water, and people would see them and would say, ‘I want one!’” adds Vance. “Since then, it has basically been a snowball effect. It started slow, but each year we have found more and more momentum. It has been an organic thing as we haven’t done a lot of advertising. It has been more word-of-mouth. We are also big on using social media. Our online content is a mixture of boats and fishing. At its core, this business is all about fishing. We combine boat photos with fishing photos and lifestyle pics, and we include a lot of boat construction pictures as well.” These days, every boat that Vance and Maness make is made to order, and the end result of their custom small batch production approach is a waiting list that is now about two years.



On the Fly Both Vance and Maness keep raising their profile as fishing guides, which has the additional benefit of keeping their boats on the water for all to see, both here in Western North Carolina in Maness’ case, and on rivers such as the Rio Grande, the Animas, and the San Juan out west with Vance. “Matt and I have fished New Zealand together,” adds Vance. “We have also fished in Patagonia, in Mexico, Belize, and more. New Zealand was beautiful, the fish were big, and you can do sight fishing there. It is more of a high-stakes fishing experience, as you don’t see a lot of fish because they see you [due to] the clear water, so you only get so many shots at the big ones. In many cases, you get one cast, one try, and that is intense.” Ultimately, according to Vance and Maness, their summer guiding gigs complement their boat building. As their reputation as craft builders continues to rise, the future possibilities for High Country Boats is exciting and unlimited, although their love for fishing and being on the water will not fade for this pair of Tar Heels lure slingers. “There are always new flies that are hot in any given year, but it comes and goes in phases,” says Maness. “People will fish [with a popular new] fly hard, and the fish will eventually get used to it. But there are tried and true flies that have been January 2020 | 83

photo courtesy High Country Boats

around for years, like the Woolly Bugger, the Prince Nymph, the Pheasant Tail, and the Parachute Adams fly. Those flies will always work. I mean, they may not work every day, but if I had to pick just one fly that I had to have, or if I could only have one fly, it would be one of the four I just named.” It should be noted that, when it comes to fishing, for as long as men and women have been doing it over the eons, they always try to keep their secret places just that—a secret. In the mountains, it could be wild and edible mushroom hunters who find amazing hillsides full of chanterelles, chicken of the woods, or morel mushrooms after years of searching and they don’t want these areas to be destroyed or over-harvested. So, they keep those trophy areas a secret. It could be a farm pond that you found with a friend as a teenager that has giant largemouth bass, crappie, or bluegill in it, or simply a certain tree, cove, or drop-off in a public lake that produces big fish time after time. In these cases, it is human nature to stay quiet about their location as honey holes are passed 84

| January 2020

on to close friends or family members, and even over the generations. The same is true with trout fishing in the Western North Carolina mountains. That kind of information can be what separates the everyday fishermen and women from professional guides, who spend countless hours finding these hot spots. Vance and Maness are not snobs about their sweet spots and they are happy when other guides are successful. They do have a sense of humor about it, however, calling various honey holes they’re partial to  “Trout Creek” or “Mountain River.” “Sometimes, people will watch where our trucks are parked, or try to see how our rods are rigged at the boat ramp, or they just ask us about what stretch we are fishing,” says Vance. “But it’s all good, as no one is following anyone else or anything like that. But the rivers are very busy these days, and that is why we are tight-lipped with our spots. It didn’t used to be like that. Now, there is a lot of fishing pressure because things are so accessible on the internet—people want to write about their adventures.” 

One reason for the additional fishing pressure on trout streams these days is the surprising fact that Millennials have fallen in love with fly fishing and have become the surging angler generation of late. They are buying up fishing gear and lifting up guide services all over Western North Carolina with their desire to get on the water. “Fly fishing has exploded, especially with the younger crowd,” states Vance. “The New York Times even said in an article in October that fly fishing is ‘the new bird watching’, that it’s an old hobby that has become trendy again. We have seen an increase in young folks on the water—and in women anglers as well—and that is good!”

R&D On the Horizon With the kind of demand High Country Boats is currently experiencing, the next move, of course, is to increase production in a way that keeps the quality of their watercraft at a high level, something clearly paramount for Vance, who describes their boat selling process as “very personal. Every boat we make is to order, and our customers are in the loop. We talk to them on the phone and text them, asking them, ‘What do you want here? Do you want to change this?’ It is very interactive and we send them photographs of their boat along the way. “It is not like [the customer] just gives us money and they show up and get their boat. They are a part of the process. Due to our success, thoughts of ramping up the boat-making-process is definitely in the works.” Making more boats and ramping up production inevitably means hiring more employees who also have the same goals. “We will probably bring in a couple more people soon, and we have one full-time employee already,” says Maness, nodding. January 2020 | 85

“Usually our most time-consuming day is when we are fiber-glassing a hull, using epoxies, and more. It is a long and messy day, and it helps to have a lot more hands doing it. A lot of the folks that help us out are also fishing guides.”

“There is a tried-and-true way to build boats, but we also don’t want to get in a rut, as there are new products out there to consider.” Right now, custom boat production only happens in the winter months, as both Vance and Maness continue to guide in the summer. But thoughts of year-round production and increased sales are on the minds of these two entrepreneurs, especially as the word continues to get out per the acknowledged excellence of their custom crafts. “All options are on the table at this point,” says Vance. “We are not afraid to go bigger, but we don’t want to lose 86

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our identity, either. That is why we have always grown slowly and stayed within our means. Every year, we are brainstorming. We have our basic design, but we are always thinking about things we can tweak for the better to make the boats more user-friendly or tougher under different nature conditions.” In the boat business, explains Vance, research and development is clearly an ongoing and necessary process. “We have improved the interior layout as far as how weight is distributed in our boats, as well as improved rowing ability and storage options. We are also looking for higher-tech materials. So, we do a lot of research, and there are always merchandise reps that we talk to who have new, hopefully innovative products they want us to try out. There is a tried-and-true way to build boats, but we also don’t want to get in a rut, as there are new products out there to consider if you want to give them a go. We want to be lighter yet stronger, so we use more expensive materials when possible. “Our niche,” he concludes, “has always been about pushing the boundaries of how boats are built.”

January 2020 | 87

People Play at






7 6

1. (L-R) April Brown, Kyle Brown, Andrew Nehlig, Tony Ubertaccio, Sarah Ubertaccio, & Sam Franklin


| January 2020

2. Anna & Justin Kaman, with Dawn Walker 3. Carol Ann Bauer 4. Drew Crawford, Kirsten Bonanza-Diaz Daniel Diaz, & Andi Rose

5. Jeff Kaplan hosting the event. 6. (L-R) Meg Mauro, Elisa Van Arnam Allison Blake, & Megan Gravitt 7 . Clark Duncan & Al Whitesides

2019 Venture 15 Awards & Venture Asheville Honors The Orange Peel | Asheville, NC | December 12, 2019 Photos by Anthony Harden 8







10. Jason & Alyssa Moore 11. Jill Sparks, Amber Victoria, & Melody Isis Herman 12. Rob Wind & Tim Draegen

13. Meghan Bausone & Alon Kaplan 14. Mathew Trowbridge, Stephanie Trowbridge, Zach Wright, & Alyssa Vahala-Wright 15. Josh Dorfman & Arthur Salido


8. (L-R) Kate Trombley, Jennifer Taylor, & Ginger Frank 9. Winners, supporters, and contributors all on stage for a group shot.

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EVENTS january 3

“A Life of Art” - Reception 5-8PM Asheville Gallery of Art 82 Patton Ave, Asheville, NC

The Asheville Gallery of Art welcomes Robin Wethe Altman, Tina Honerkamp, and Deb Sholly. The exhibition will run throughout January.

> 828-251-5796 > january 4

Ice Skating Fundraiser

5-6:30PM Appalachian Ski Mountain, Inc. 940 Ski Mountain Rd, Blowing Rock, NC Proceeds support the Appalachian Junior Race Team. Admission includes skate rental.

> Admission: $10 > 828-295-7828 > january 5

National Winter Trails Day 9AM-4PM

Sugar Mountain Resort 1009 Sugar Mountain Dr, Banner Elk, NC As part of a nationwide celebration, Sugar Mountain is offering free snowshoe tours for beginners. Ski and snowboard lessons will also be available.

> 828-898-4521 > january 5

Harlem Globetrotters 3PM Arena 87 Haywood St, Asheville, NC The Globetrotters are as much an American institution/tradition as barbecue, the automobile, and M.A.S.H. reruns. Plus, amid all the clowning and stage craft (court craft?) is the most virtuoso ball handling you’ll ever see—way

beyond NBA or NCAA levels. Fun fact: The late Bennie Lake, an Asheville resident, was a 1968-72 Globetrotter.

>Tickets: $19-$75 > 828-259-5736 > january 6

A Sandburg Story Slam 5-7PM

Henderson County Public Library 301 North Washington St, Hendersonville, NC To celebrate the poet’s birthday, folks are invited to tell a true story in five minutes. The theme is “movement.” Free registration begins at 4:30, but there will only be enough time for 12 storytellers, so names will be drawn from a hat.

> 828-693-4178 > january 6

Mystery Basket Competition 4-7PM

A Unique and Independent Real Estate Company since 1979 90

23 Arlington Street Asheville, NC 28801 | 828. 255.7530 | | January 2020

A-B Tech Culinary and Hospitality 340 Victoria Rd, Asheville, NC The Western North Carolina Culinary Association hosts a new year’s kickoff cookoff. Like the popular Food Network show Chopped, contestants get a basket of mysterious ingredients and have to make something delicious. Anyone can compete, but must pre-register; space is limited to 10 cooks.

> Entry: $100 > 828-398-7900 >


january 7

AM Foundations Business Planning Class

9AM-12PM Mountain BizWorks Training Room 153 South Lexington Ave, Asheville, NC The curriculum provides a big picture of entrepreneurism, from taking stock and getting perspective to financial planning and marketing strategies. This class meets every Tuesday through February 11.

> Registration: $375 > 828-253-2834

> workshops/list/

january 7

Septuagenarian Benefits & Party

12-1:30PM Sugar Mountain Resort 1009 Sugar Mountain Dr, Sugar Mountain, NC

Seniors enjoy cake and free skiing for a day, but must present valid photo ID at the administration office first. This party is for “Senior Citizen Skiers” at the Last Run Lounge.

> Admission: Seniors FREE, Others consult website for pricing. > 828-SUGAR-MT >

january 9 -12

Dulcimer U Winter Weekend

Lambuth Inn 91 N Lakeshore Dr, Lake Junaluska, NC

There will be tracks in mountain and hammer dulcimers for five levels of

experience. Registration includes classes, staff performances, and jam sessions. Accommodations are extra.

> Registration: $199 > 800-222-4930 >

january 9 -19

Frozen, Jr. The Magnetic Theatre 375 Depot St, Asheville, NC The Asheville Performing Arts Academy is putting on a production of this beloved Disney Broadway show. With all the favorite songs from the film, and new ones for the stage, this is an event you don’t want to miss. Times vary on different days.

>Tickets starting at $12 > frozenjr

january 10

Terrarium Workshop 1-2:30PM Bullington Gardens

279 Snyder Lane Mills River 28759

MLS #3490154 10 Acres of professionally landscaped outdoor living space and gardens with renovated Cape Cod style farmhouse and workshop / studio. 4 Bedroom 2 Bath Approx. Sq. Ft. 2225

January 2020 | 91


95 Upper Red Oak Trail, Hendersonville, NC Terrariums have grown in popularity in recent years for their ease of maintenance, and decorative flair. Join this workshop to build your own! All materials will be supplied for your very own, take-home garden in a glass.

NEW YEAR NEW YOU The Y strengthens community by connecting all people to their potential, purpose, and each other. Join us to discover your best self – and your best friends. The Y.™ For a better us. » « YMCA OF WESTERN NORTH CAROLINA


E-Newsletter! at c a P i ta l at P l aY . c o M

O u r we e k l y e - n ew s l e t t e r f e a t u re s e xc l u s i ve re g i o n a l co n t e n t yo u wo n’t f i n d a ny w h e re e l s e . I n c l u d i n g : • Breaking business news from across We s t e r n N o r t h C a r o l i n a . • I nfo o n eve nt s , i ncu ba to r s , a nd su p po r t p r og r a ms . • E xc l u s i v e b e h i n d - t h e - s ce n e s a r t i c l e s a n d videos. • G i ve aw ay s f r o m t h e C a p i t a l a t P l ay C o | O p . 92

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> Registration: $50 > 828-698-6104 > january 16

The Black Market Trust

7-9PM Wortham Center, 18 Biltmore Ave, Asheville, NC In suit and tie, they combine timeless, soulful American classics with gypsy jazz. Considered world class musicians in the genre of pop and vocal jazz, this group is sure to put on a crowd pleasing performance.

>Tickets: Adult $30-$35, Child $20 > 828-257-4530 > january 16 -19

Knitting & Quilting Retreat

Kanuga Conference Center 130 Kanuga Chapel Dr, Hendersonville, NC Beginning to advanced knitters and beginning to intermediate quilters are invited to select and complete a provided project or one of their own. There will be enough time to finish the project, hang out, and go on group excursions.

> Registration: $365-$790 > 828-692-9136 > january 16 -19

The Last Great Hunt’s New Owner 2PM (Sat, Sun), 7PM (Sun), 8PM (Thu, Fri, Sat) Wortham Center - Tina McGuire Theatre 18 Biltmore Ave, Asheville, NC Presented in live action, animation, and puppetry—this story of a rescue puppy shares messages of love, loyalty, and life. Told from the pup’s perspective, this show is appropriately in partnership with the Asheville Humane Society. You can

also take part in a puppetry master class with the stars of the show on Jan. 17.

You've worked hard for You've worked hard for what you have. what you have.

>Tickets: Adult $32, Child $20 > 828-257-4530 > january 17

Blue Horizons Energy Project

11:30AM-1:15PM UNC Asheville Reuter Center, 1 University Dr, Asheville, NC Project leaders Julie Mayfield and Sophie Mullinax provide information about the partnership among local government and Duke Energy and share tips and tricks for making homes and businesses carbon-neutral. Free, although lunch may be purchased or brown-bagged.

> 828-251-6140 >

Now let us us keep keepititsafe. safe. Now let

january 18

Wedding Festival

10AM-2PM WNC Ag Center, 1301 Fanning Bridge Rd, Fletcher, NC Weddings are big business. Learn all about the newest trends, fashions, and design at this wedding showcase. Show discounts will abound. Be one of the first 600 brides in the door, and you will be entered to win in their big giveaway!

>Tickets: $10 > 828-687-1414 > january 18

3rd Annual Chili Cook Off Stroll

12-4PM Various Haywood County Restaurants

Hosted by Jeweler’s Workbench and Galleries of Haywood County, the area districts of Main Street, Hazelwood, and Frog Level feature restaurants and merchants competing in this popular annual competition. A shuttle will be provided. A portion of proceeds goes to MANNA FoodBank.

> Wristbands: $5 >

Book a Book a free free site site visit visittoday today

1-855-914-2553 1-855-914-2553 January 2020 | 93




january 19

Tea Discovery Workshop

9AM-11AM Dobra Tea Asheville, 78 North Lexington Ave, Asheville, NC Miles Cramer will be leading this instructional course on all things tea. Expect to learn about how teas are brewed, tasting notes, origin and production methods, and more. Whether new to tea or a connoisseur, there is something for everyone.

>Tickets: $20 > 828-575-2424 > january 19 -26

Asheville Fringe Arts Festival Various Asheville Venues

Whether you’re into unique art installations, provocative theater and dance presentations, or simply in-your-face spoken word and performance arts to keep weird, there will be something for you at this festival, extant since 2002. Consult website for schedules and individual ticketing—note that there will also be free “Random Acts of Fringe” taking place.

> january 22

Supper Series: Down the Rabbit Hole!

6:30PM Ivory Road Cafe & Kitchen, 1854 Brevard Rd, Arden, Nc

SHOP TODAY! Thanks to our generous year-end donors, Goodwill stores are packed with a treasure trove of wonderful and unique items. Don’t miss this time to find great bargains on our everyday items and the chance to find that one-of-a-kind treasure. Plus, every purchase you make supports employment and training programs that help local people find good jobs.

“Celebrating gastronomic creativity” is the goal for this fourcourse, family-style meal with optional wine pairing, courtesy Chefs Jill Wasilewski and Susie Sharples. Reservations required.

>Tickets: $45 / $65 w/optinal wine pairing > january 23

Hugh Morton’s Living Legacy: Grandfather Mountain

11AM-12PM Blowing Rock Art & History Museum 159 Chestnut St, Blowing Rock, NC

Jesse Pope, president and executive director of the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation, will discuss and display classic and lesser-known perspectives from the


| January 2020

widely-published photographer. This is part of the Scholars & Scones program.

> Admission: $5 > 828-295-9099 > january 23 -26

Blowing Rock WinterFest Downtown Blowing Rock Park Avenue near Main St, Blowing Rock, NC

Events include the Polar Bear Plunge, WinterFeast, ice sculpting, the Rotary Chili Cookoff, and more. See our March 2019 issue for a photo spread of last year’s blast! There will be a restaurant crawl, but that will require registered attendance at $40.

> 877-295-7851 > january 23

January Jazz with Charlotte’s Jazz Revolution Band

7-9PM Laurel Ridge Country Club 49 Cupp Lane, Waynesville, NC

Versatile among the many subgenres and pushing the envelope, the Jazz Revolution Band is a five-piece ensemble specializing in Motown, swing, and, of course, Jazz. So be sure to have on your dancing shoes. There will be hors d’oeuvres, desserts, wine, and coffee. Tickets include one beverage and the show.

>Tickets: $50 > 828-452-0593 > january 25

Are You Ready to Start a Small Business? 9AM-12PM

A-B Tech Small Business Center 1469 Sand Hill Rd, Candler, NC Are you considering starting a business? Instructor Eddie Dorf returns to share 40 years of entrepreneurial experience at this free workshop. You will go over the viability of your concept, customer desires and needs, funding, and more.

> 828-271-4786 > january 26

Back to the Bassooniverse!

3-5PM Biltmore United Methodist Church 376 Hendersonville Rd, Asheville, NC

The setting is intimate, the selections classic, and the quintet acoustic and unplugged. Rosalind Buda, Jennifer Anderson, Susan Cohen, Will Peebles, Amber Ferenz Spuller will all be playing bassoons.

>Tickets: Advance $20, Door $25, Student (0-26) $5 > 828-254-7123 >

january 28 & 30

Retirement Planning Course

5:30-8:30PM WCU —Biltmore Park 28 Schenck Pwy, Asheville, NC

A two-day class framed in terms of meeting life’s goals, topics include budgeting for retirement expenses like taxes, risk management, investment strategies, and estate planning.

> Registration: $79 > 828-654-6498 >

january 29

Buncombe County TDA Meeting 9-11AM Explore Asheville Convention & Visitors Bureau 27 College Pl, Asheville, NC

Rescheduled from Dec. 18. Expect much discussion from the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority, considering how recent public workshops, as well as ongoing local media scrutiny (and very vocal citizen commentary in the media and social platforms) regarding the pros and cons of regional tourism and how it benefits or detracts from the local economy and quality of life, suggests.

> january 29

Getting Ready for Tax Season

11:30AM-1PM Lenoir-Rhyne University- 36 Montford Ave, Asheville, NC Participants are invited to bring questions to this free workshop. General topics will include how to get organized, commonly-overlooked deductions, being prepared for an audit, and more.

> 828-271-4786 > january 31

George Orwell’s 1984 8-10:30PM Wortham Center 18 Biltmore Ave, Asheville, NC Aquila Theatre applies their acclaimed staging and acting to the provocative classic. The 70–year–old novel about the dangers of a totalitarian society, is thought provoking entertainment. A preshow discussion begins at 7PM.

January 2020 | 95




>Tickets: Adult $40, Child $20 > 828-257-4530 > february 1-2

Build & Remodel Expo

10AM-6PM (Sat), 11-4PM (Sun) WNC Ag Center 1301 Fanning Bridge Rd, Fletcher, NC Over 100 industry specialists will share expertise and demo the latest in products and services. Put on by the Asheville Home Builders Association, there will be workshops, and inspiration abound.

> Admission $10 > 828-299-7001 > february 1

Homer’s The Odyssey Now - January 20, 2020

Donate $50 to Charity and save $400 on Stressless® Mayfair OR $200 off any Stressless ® Seating.* *See Store for complete details.


(828) 669-5000 Mon. - Sat. 9am - 5:30pm SPECIAL FINANCING See store for details.


| January 2020

sponsorships > 828-476-4667 >

february 8

Homestead Dreams

10AM-5PM Creekside Farms Education Center 339 Avery Creek Road, Arden, NC Whether you’re a full-blown homesteader or homesteading is just a twinkle in your eye, the instructors will share tips for living more self-sufficiently in any living arrangement, on any budget.

> Admission: $65 > 828-680-0661 > february 8

Calexico/Iron & Wine

8-9:30PM Wortham Center 18 Biltmore Ave, Asheville, NC

8PM Orange Peel 101 Biltmore Ave, Asheville, NC

Aquila Theatre interprets the ancient adventurous tale of a hero battling gods and nature to return home.

This Tucson-Durham collaborative project brings together two internationally-acclaimed Americana groups; their Cold Mountain Music Festival appearance last June at Lake Logan was one of the event’s most-celebrated performances. Years to Burn is their current release.

>Tickets: Adult $40, Child $20 > 828-257-4530 > february 1

8th Annual Polar Plunge

10:30AM-1PM Champion Credit Union Aquatic Center 77 Penland St, Canton, NC 109 BROADWAY

> Registration: $25, or free by raising

Subtitled “Kids In the Creek” (it’s a benefit for that org’s environmental education programs), one can only imagine the immersion’s resulting shivers—from both the kids and their parents. Prizes awarded for the best costumes, too.

>Tickets: $39.50-$45 > 828-398-1837 >

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 Please submit your event at least six weeks in advance.

FEBRUARY 1 & 2, 2020


Presented by:

Building • Remodeling • Outdoor Living • Kitchen & Bath Education • The Playhouse Showdown • & More

January 2020 | 97


| January 2020

ADVENTURE NEVER HIBERNATES. Visit North Carolina’s Land of Waterfalls this winter and discover our long range views, untouched trails and seemingly endless adventures available all season long.

EXPLOREBREVARD.COM | (800) 648-4523

DD BULLWINKEL’S OUTDOORS Your next adventure is in our backyard. We are WNC’s premier outdoor retailer - providing the best the industry has to offer in apparel, footwear and gear for hiking, camping and travel. DDBULLWINKELS.COM 828-862-4700

THE GREYSTONE INN A mountain retreat on the shores of Lake Toxaway with luxurious accommodations, lakeside restaurant and relaxing spa. Open to the public daily. GREYSTONEINN.COM (828) 966-4700

Enter our winter sweepstakes and enjoy cozy accommodations, unique winter adventures, dining and a Brevard shopping spree. WinterWarmUp Complete giveaway rules at

ROCKY’S GRILL & SODA SHOP 1940’s original drugstore style lunch counter & soda fountain. Homemade soups & salads, deli sandwiches, pimento cheese, amazing grilled hot dogs! Scrumptious shakes and ice cream concoctions. ROCKYSNC.COM 828-877-5375

January 2020 | 99

Commercial Growth in Western North Carolina It is official: our local area is now a nationally acclaimed destination. With this popularity comes the opportunity for economic growth, be it a small independent business or a national chain. Enter NAI Beverly-Hanks. Since 1976, owners, tenants, and investors alike have chosen NAI Beverly-Hanks to represent hundreds of commercial real estate properties each year.


| January 2020

Our affiliation with NAI Global enables us to extend our services to companies and investors with 7,000 professionals and 400 offices worldwide. The power of direct contact with other markets allows our clients to more efficiently acquire and dispose of real estate. You want to choose the best for commercial real estate services, and in Western North Carolina that choice is NAI Beverly-Hanks. Call us to learn how we can make our market share work for you.

410 Executive Park, Asheville, NC 28801 828 600 5027 •

Profile for Capital at Play Magazine

Capital at Play January 2020  

Vol 10 | Ed 1 - Western North Carolina's Business Lifestyle Magazine - Annual Manufacturing Edition

Capital at Play January 2020  

Vol 10 | Ed 1 - Western North Carolina's Business Lifestyle Magazine - Annual Manufacturing Edition