Capital at Play April 2021

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l antern he alth The New Frontier p.14

tsug a In the Mouth of the Wilson p.58

Western North Carolina's Free Spirit of Enterprise



Garden &



Western North Carolina’s Public Gardens Delight Visitors All Season Long

Volume XI - Edition IV complimentary edition

April 2021

Ingles has the tastiest snacks to get the party started.

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Editor’s Thoughts


pr i l is t he most beaut i f u l month in the mount a ins. I know autumn gets all the hype, when she sweeps her chromatic blanket across the hills, turning

them different shades of gold and umber and drawing

visitors for miles around. And sure, there’s a certain magic to those rare, snowy days when everything is

downy and soft, and I love a summertime dip in a river as much as anybody, but there’s just something about April. It’s this month when color really returns to our region: sunshine-yellow forsy thia, violets sprinkled like purple confetti across that bright green new-growth grass, magenta rhododendrons and mountain laurels. This month, the mountains themselves shift from brown to highlighter yellow

Photo by Nathan Rivers Chesky

to deep, verdant green. These lands are beautiful always, but in April, they sing. Our own ode to that song can be found in this month’s Leisure & Libation, a consideration of the many public gardens across Western North Carolina where you can see, smell, and savor these brief figments of spring (p.34). Perhaps you’re thinking, “But Emily, this is a business magazine.” Well, yes—but it’s also a magazine about Western North Carolina and what it means to live and do business here. While I am perpetually inspired by our entrepreneurs, it’s our landscape that draws many of them here and from which they draw their own inspiration. One of my favorite parts of my job is that it’s a balance of business and pleasure—much like life itself. One need look no further than Jimi Combs of Tsuga (p.58) to see this concept in action. This business owner was brought here, like so many, by the outdoors, and it’s our natural wonderland that continues to drive him and his business forward. Combs helps create products—for his own business and those he consults with—that make the outdoors even easier to enjoy. And it sounds like he gets as much joy out of the products he creates as anyone. See, business and pleasure. So are we a business magazine? Sure, but in these parts, that kind of means being an outdoor magazine, too. And it’s in April, this most beautiful of months, that this balance becomes more evident than ever. I hope we inspire you to get out there and enjoy it.

Till next month,

Emily Glaser


| April 2021




LOCATION IS EVERYTHING The Faroe Islands are a small island group remotely based in the pristine North Atlantic waters between Northern Europe and Iceland. The region is renowned for its cool and steady sea temperatures, strong currents and accessible saltwater fjords that provide a refuge for the salmon. This region of the world is committed to sustainable fish farming. Driven by the Faroese government, their “quality through welfare” programs are among the strictest aquaculture operations in the world. The goal of the legislation was to create the most predictable and sustainable salmon production environment in the world.

RICH IN HEALTHY FAT Faroe Island salmon are raised in open net pens in the gulf stream waters of a pristine natural feeding ground for wild salmon. These farms never use antibiotics or hormones; rely on only all-natural feeds; and are harvested in a low stress manner. The result is a salmon that contains a higher content of healthy omega-3 fatty acids, making it the most flavorful and delicate salmon in the world. On the other hand, wild salmon is traditionally lower in fat, which also reduces its tenderness and flavor. Frequent harvesting of wild salmon has also led to a decline in global fish stocks, increasing the need for fish farms. Farmed fish has become more common as the world’s wild fish stocks have declined. Unlike Faroe Island salmon, the farmed salmon you find in traditional grocery stores can be fed processed feed which can contain contaminants, making it a less healthy option.

RARE FRESHNESS Importing this fish requires short transport times to ensure its freshness. Fresh fish from the Faroe Islands can reach American markets within 24 hours after being harvested, so you can be confident that our salmon is never frozen before it reaches our cases. Due to its high fat content, Faroe Island salmon is ideal for smoking, roasting, broiling or grilling. To create a special treat, try grilling it on cedar plank. For cedar plank grilling, simply soak the cedar plank in water for ½ hour and char the plank on a hot grill prior to placing the salmon on the plank. Faroe Island salmon is unique to the New York Butcher Shoppe - while it may cost a little more than the fish you find at grocery stores, we are confident you will find its flavor and texture unmatched! April 2021 | 5 200 JULIAN SHOALS DR • SUITE 10 • ARDEN, NC 28704 • 828.676.0594 • MON -SAT: 10AM – 7PM & SUN: 12PM - 6PM

Western North Carolina's Free Spirit of Enterprise


Anne Obolensky

As welcoming

managing editor

as the morning itself, the Stresslsess Sunrise is one of our most popular recliners. With contours that are softly rounded, yet surprisingly seating for any room. Having a full 360° swivel feature coupled with our patented Glide® system, the Sunrise responds to, and works with the motion of your body to provide unparalleled comfort. To ensure that your Sunrise medium, and large sizes. And it comes in both fabrics and leathers in every color under the sun. Experience how comfortable a Sunrise can be.

Emily Glaser

copy editors Dasha O. Morgan, Brenda Murphy

briefs and events editor Leslee Kulba

contributing writers & photographers Evan Anderson, Heather Hatmaker, Dasha Morgan, Shawndra Russell, Mary Catherine McAnnally Scott, Lauren Stepp, Tony Ubertaccio

founders Oby and David Morgan

advertising director Roy Brock

art director Lara Poll

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.

general advertising inquiries

for subscription information

e-mail or call 828.274.7305

subscribe online at or call 828.274.7305

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marketing & advertising David Morgan & Ellen Stroud

Sunrise 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.



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| April 2021

This magazine is printed with soy based ink on recycled paper. Please recycle. Copyright © 2021, Capital At Play, LLC. All rights reserved. Capital at Play is a trademark of Capital At Play, LLC. Published by Capital At Play, LLC. PO Box 5524, Asheville NC 28813 Capital at Play is protected through Trademark Registration in the United States. The content found within this publication does not necessarily reflect the views of Capital At Play, LLC. and its companies. Capital At Play, LLC. and its employees are not liable for any advertising or editorial content found in Capital at Play. The articles, photography, and illustrations found in Capital at Play may not be reproduced or used in any fashion without express written consent by Capital At Play, LLC.

April 2021 |


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NC LIC #74038

this page: BOTH RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT and manufacturing take place in Tsuga's Boone headquarters, photo by Evan Anderson cover image: VIRGINIA BLUEBELLS (Mertensia virginica), photo by Dr. Annkatrin Rose in Daniel Boone Native Gardens

Featured vol. xi



How Lantern Health’s Direct Primary Care Model is Changing the Landscape of Healthcare

ed. iv



Tsuga Founder Jimi Combs Is Poised at the Confluence of Outdoor Gear Research and Manufacturing

April 2021 |


C ontents april


Photo courtesy the Biltmore Company

12 Tough as Leather insight

How Axe & Awl’s Niche Hobby Leatherworking Evolved into a Thriving Business

Regulars briefs

30 54 70

Carolina in the West The Old North State National & World



Form Follows Function


Lessons in Making It

by Heather Hatmaker

by Tony Ubertaccio



34 Garden Variety leisure & libation


| April 2021

Events to Celebrate the Spring Season (& a Return to Normalcy)

one last thing


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Axe & Awl will soon open a storefront in Waynesville, photo by Cabell Tice (Orchard Coffee)

Tough as Leather How Axe & Awl’s Niche Hobby Leatherworking Evolved into a Thriving Business


hat’s in a name? For Axe & Awl Leatherworks, just about ever y t h i ng you need to know about this growing brand. Founded by husbandand-wife team Spencer and Courtney Tetrault in late 2014, Axe & Awl began, as so many businesses built on craftsmanship, as a hobby. It was originally a set of products created for firefighters, by a firefighter—hence the name, which pays homage to the tools of Spencer’s former and current trade. Spencer, who began his tenure with the Asheville Fire Department in 2009, was looking to create the kind of gear that could last through the toughest days on the job and also offer a nod to firefighters of yore, gear like custom leather radio


| April 2021

straps, suspenders, and turnout belts. These products needed to be practical, durable, and beautiful, carrying forward a centuryold tradition of personalizing and decorating each leather good by hand. "With a focus on longevity of use and durability, our primary focus was sourcing the best-available leathers and hardwares on the market to rise to the occasion," Spencer adds. Working from the basement of their Waynesville farmhouse, Spencer and Courtney began hammering, stitching, and selling their wares; Spencer crafted each item with the details of its use in mind, while Courtney hand-embellished the leather to suit the customer. They began with a few local clients, but after launching their website in 2015, Courtney, who worked as a paramedic at Mission Hospital from 2008 to 2016, transitioned to running the business full time in order to keep up with demand. "After years of medical schooling and creating lifelong

friendships at the hospital, the adjustment to becoming a full-time entrepreneur was no small decision, but ultimately it was one that allowed for the growth of our business and created many opportunities we otherwise wouldn't have had," Courtney says. After sharing their products at fire expositions across the country in 2017, that demand continued to grow, and their Fire Service line—which has expanded to include radio baskets, locker tags, and all manner of loops and straps for connecting the tools of the trade to the firefighters’ gear—is now used around the country. But their journey was not without its trials. Like most newly minted entrepreneurs, Courtney and Spencer had to adjust to running a business and the challenges inherent to such an endeavor, including learning to separate business and home life. “Becoming a business owner and running a business is something neither of us had done before, and we were ok with that,” Courtney explains. “Many mistakes were made, lessons learned, but with the help and guidance of many key people, the entrepreneurial roadmap was clear." By 2020, the brand’s popularity had grown so much that Spencer, too, left his career as a firefighter to help run the business, and Courtney’s brother, Travis, followed soon thereafter. “Seeing the growth of the business, and our inability to pursue that growth, the decision was made to leave the fire department after 14 years of service in varying capacities,” Spencer says. “We knew having an

“Our business principles are simple: pride, integrity, and tradition.” added hand was well overdue, but the challenges of hiring to work within our home was a serious concern and was ultimately one that solved itself! In September of 2020, Travis, a former Marine Corp veteran and logistics and supply specialist, saw the challenges we were facing, and wanted to be a part of the solution." Axe & Awl’s other products, like wallets, belts, and duffel bags, also stand as testament to their dedication to the craft, handmade and designed in their Waynesville home—but that’s changing. Last year, the Axe & Awl team began the process of remodeling an early-1900s-era building in downtown Waynesville, joining neighbors Orchard Coffee in the continued revitalization of the neighborhood. “Over the

next couple months, we will be moving our workshop into this space, as well as adding retail within,” Spencer explains. “We plan on offering a variety of daily-use goods called our ‘Durable Goods’ Line, fire service-related goods, apparel, and goods sourced from small makers locally, as well as around the country. We also have plans to host classes with a variety of leather-crafting experiences.” As the business continues to expand its local footprint, the Tetraults have begun to engage more fully in the regional business community, where they’ve found a progressive, supportive network and an abundance of local resources that they now work with on a regular basis. "Several local resources and groups were introduced to us throughout our search for a commercial property, including the Small Business Center at Haywood Community College, the Outdoor Gear Builders of WNC, and state and local entities that are eager to see small businesses flourish,” Courtney says of the local entrepreneurial ecosystem. “It's really a great feeling knowing that our community is so passionate about small businesses and being able to discover the vast offering of business resources both locally and regionally." As for their success, the Tetraults point to their attention to detail, which is evident not only in their products but in their customer service experience. “Our business principles are simple: pride, integrity, and tradition,” Spencer explains. “While most of these correlate strongly with the American Fire Service, it is the core to our customer service experience and the foundation to who we are. Every item we create, every customer we interact with, we take immense pride in both the processes to achieve the final outcome, as well the customers' feedback. We always look at unique situations from multiple viewpoints to ensure we are maintaining a level of integrity in both how we interact with individual customers, as well as how we interact with fellow businesses. Traditionally, we find value in good old-fashioned customer service—the type of service that makes our customers feel cared about, their decisions and purchases are made from an educated place, and the ability to pick up the phone and openly communicate is always an option for us." The business also leans fully into its digital experience. As a brand that began online, Axe & Awl is a digital native, and that is evident in their user-friendly website, vibrant social media presence, and video narratives. A look at Axe & Awl online feels like getting to know Courtney, Spencer, and Travis personally and taking an insider’s look at their craft. So while Axe & Awl Leatherworks is a name that outlines the brand and its products, it’s not really fair to say that it captures everything about the business—in fact, it’s just the beginning. April 2021 |


DR. BEN AIKEN (LEFT) consults with a patient in one of Lantern Health's comfortable exam rooms.


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Frontier How Lantern Health’s Direct Primary Care Model Is Changing the Landscape of Healthcare



Picture This:


t’s Saturday night, and you notice your small child is coming down with something. He’s been lethargic all day, but now he’s started to spike a high fever, and you aren’t sure whether he needs immediate care. The last place on earth you want to be is in an emergency room or an urgent care, especially if warm soup and Tylenol might be a better solution. Normally, you’d fret over the right choice: scratchy seat and a sick kid in an ER, or roll the dice and wait ‘til morning. But you don’t have to pace around or fret over which path to take. Instead, you Facetime your doctor.

What Is Direct Primary Care? Lantern Health is a direct primary care (DPC) facility located in downtown Asheville. DPC isn’t new, but it’s gaining steam as a newly popular form of personalized medicine. The idea, in brief, is that patients pay an annual or monthly fee to have nearly unlimited access to their primary care physician. That access goes beyond in-person visits: phone calls, texts, e-mails, or Facetime calls are all perfectly normal. With DPC, you get all the benefits of traditional primary


| April 2021

care (bloodwork, vaccines, the ability to visit a practice when you’re sick), but with less hassle and more latitude. Don’t want to come to the office? No problem. Need a basic x-ray? That’s covered, too. Would you like to spend more than 10 minutes with your physician per visit, going over the finer points of your needs and concerns? If so, you’re speaking a language in which Dr. Ben Aiken, the founder of Lantern Health, is fluent. “The way we have grown to receive primary care is: You establish a doctor, and if that doctor takes your insurance plan, then you go see that doctor. And really the only way that doctor gets paid is if you go in person,” Aiken says, remembering his own experience in a practice like this. He perches on the edge of a chair in an exam room, furnished with a sofa rather than an exam table, and talks about how the traditional primary care system has created an unfortunate expectation. “Once you're seen in person,” he continues, “that doctor sends a bill on your behalf to your insurance company and hopes to get paid some amount of money. But what that has led to is a hamster wheel effect of primary care: an average of eight to ten minutes per appointment with doctors generally [having] to see somewhere between 25 and 30 patients a day to keep the lights on. And it becomes this volume game.”

LISA VARNO, integrative health coach, engaging with a pediatric patient.

This explanation will ring true to most Americans with insurance who’ve been rushed through an appointment with their primary care physician in order for that likely overscheduled doctor to make it to their next appointment. Most people can probably identify with the quiet frustration that happens after looking at the wall clock in a waiting room and noticing that you’re now 45 minutes past your appointment time, which you scheduled weeks ago and have taken off work to accommodate. Even if the doctor in question is providing extra care for a patient who might need it (and, if it were you who needed it, you’d be deeply grateful for the added attention), it’s difficult to make those allowances when it feels like you’re being inconvenienced. Even worse, it means the doctor is often too aware of the clock, knowing that an appointment running over means a lobby full of unhappy patients who will all want their fair share of time, too. And anyway, how can you really get to know someone in an appointment that short? Aiken, a young, slender man with brown hair and clear-framed glasses, laments that this is the way healthcare has come to be in the United States. He’s not critical of his fellow physicians; instead, he’s empathetic toward their stretchedthin schedules. His criticism instead is of a system that forces their hands. He agrees that time is of the essence in a practice, but he sees time (and its literal and figurative value) differently. “Thirty minutes is our shortest appointment time, and 60 minutes to 90 minutes is our average annual appointment time. We really get to know the ins and outs of people. We take care of their families, [know] what influences their decisions, and feel like we've known them for a long time after one appointment. Hopefully they feel that sense of trust and connection with us,” he says earnestly. This is the new frontier: Customized medical care with personal relationships and a deep understanding of someone’s history. Pricing is available on Lantern’s website, but here’s an example: A couple with no children would pay $140 a month (much less than most insurance plans), and the costs bundle themselves the more patients are added. A Lantern plan includes, at no extra cost, so many benefits and elements of holistic care that are beyond the scope of a normal primary care practice, like access to a mental health counselor, April 2021 |


a behavioral coach, pediatric care, and basic obstetric care (prenatal care comes at a slight added cost). Having that kind of well-rounded relationship with patients, and the accountability that comes along with it, breeds real-life results. “We have three patients who we’ve diagnosed with diabetes who, through work with us and through the coaching team here and changes in their lifestyle, are not even prediatbetic anymore,” Aiken says proudly. He is matter of fact, but his voice

A Lantern plan includes, at no extra cost... access to a mental health counselor, a behavioral coach, pediatric care, and basic obstetric care. is brimming with energy and eagerness to share—to evangelize, in the best sense—the possibilities of new methods of care. He continues about his now not-diabetic patients, rightfully proud: “And we never touched a medicine.” To achieve those results, it takes a village. Lantern Health is comprised of three doctors, two nurse health coaches, and an integrative health coach who are all committed to achieving the best results for their patients. Aiken is adamant that the success of the practice (and it has been incredibly successful) hangs on


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the quality of the team, continually shifting the spotlight to his colleagues rather than himself. But you don’t get Lantern without Ben Aiken.

Dr. Ben Aiken Aiken grew up in the Chattanooga area and attended the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill for undergraduate studies. When you get to sit with him, it comes as no surprise that DPC ended up as the perfect fit: He’s an international studies major with a business minor, grandson of a general practitioner, the son of an architect mother, with high-level attention to detail and a side interest in infectious disease. His brain is a curiosity machine, and he speaks in thoughtful, nutrient-rich paragraphs replete with information but easily digestible. And yet, he almost wasn’t a DPC doctor—or at least, not right away. “I was actually planning to go work for an organization called Partners in Health in Haiti and was about two weeks out from moving there for a full year,” he recalls. After orchestrated kidnappings in the area to which he’d planned to move, the organization stopped allowing Americans to dispatch. With the project put on hold for an undetermined amount of time, he took a job in research at Chapel Hill, and then got his master’s of public health, also at Chapel Hill. Interestingly, within that graduate program, he spent time on the other side of the island on which Haiti sits, the Dominican Republic, furthering his interest in international affairs and developing countries, infectious disease, and water treatment issues. After he earned his master’s degree, he walked across the street, literally, to medical school in Chapel Hill. He knew he wanted to head back to the mountains to complete his last bit

of medical school and ultimately landed at Mountain Area Health Education Center (MAHEC), a clinical program based in Asheville that offers family medicine, obstetrics/gynecology, and dental residencies (among others). After graduating his residency, he partnered with MAHEC to open a clinic in Swannanoa, which has since closed but landed him squarely on the radar of a very important person. “I was actually just under a year into that, and I was approached by the CEO of Mission at the time, Dr. [Ronald] Paulus, about trying to help them do something different. I spent all of my elective time as a resident with anybody who would have me, looking at new models of [primary] care.” Here, he pauses to ask the then-hypothetical question that would ultimately change his life: “How do we do it differently?” Dr. Paulus had the same question. He sought Aiken out after seeing his excellence on display at MAHEC, where Aiken was chief resident. “He was someone who was innovative but grounded, and someone who didn’t want the status quo to perpetuate. He was enough of a risk-taker without being reckless,” Paulus, now president and CEO of RAPMD Strategic Advisors in Santa Monica, California, says. “He was our first choice.” The practice would be called Avenu Health, and Dr. Rachel Hines and health coach Amy Rose, RN, also came on board. The concept was the same as it stands today: Direct, personal primary care for their patients. Aiken speaks fondly about the experience of the six months he took setting up the practice, gratefully acknowledging how much autonomy he was given in the process. Avenu opened its doors in 2018 on Asheville’s South Slope, a hot area downtown, with the practice situated directly across the street from Asheville Brewing Company and at a walkable distance from restaurants and lofts. A month into Avenu’s life, Aiken was called into an emergency meeting and fielded the biggest curveball of his career.

Standing On the Cliff “I was told that Mission’s healthcare system [was] going to sell to HCA [Hospital Corporation of America],” he remembers of that meeting. Though Avenu was able to see its launch through and continue as they’d planned for the first few months, they knew a change was looming. Says Aiken, “All the leadership, which was immensely important in terms of launching something as radical to a traditional health model as [Avenu], left or transitioned. So that kind of buy-in from the top, which was so important, went away.” HCA is a behemoth, operating 211 hospitals across the country and in the United Kingdom. Mission Hospital is one of their largest and most lucrative systems, with a net patient revenue of $1.2 billion. HCA is incredibly successful at what they do. Unfortunately, direct primary care isn’t something that falls under that umbrella. Despite sending “high-powered people” who were impressed by Avenu, HCA ultimately decided they were going to shift away from primary care and told Aiken they planned to close his year-old practice.

Meet the Lantern Team Dr. Rachel Hines Founding member and family medicine doc. Received her MD and master’s of public health at UNC. Completed fellowship in obstetrics and has delivery permissions at Mission. Dr. Kate Rasche Family physician and chief resident at MAHEC in residency. Interested in public and rural health and mental health’s impact on general wellbeing. Amy Rose RN and health coach. BA in Psychology from UNC Chapel Hill and BS in Nursing. Has worked in oncology, pediatrics, home health, and cardiology. Lisa Varno Integrative health coach. Originally a music teacher with a master’s in music education, Lisa received training at Duke Integrative Medicine and UMASS Medical School. She now focuses on yoga, meditation, and integrative health coaching.

April 2021 |


DR. RACHEL HINES connecting with a patient via the online platform Spruce.


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Aiken found himself presented with a series of options. He began interviewing for jobs, consulting mentors, and taking a hard look at what his life would look like if he walked to the edge of this cliff with the practice he’d poured himself into. “It was ultimately a passion decision,” he says. His voice is still

So he did what every innovator who’s succeeded has ever done: He stood at that cliff’s edge and built himself a parachute. measured, but charged with the memory of what must have been an equally terrifying and thrilling prospect, as he approached the kind of heart-thumping precipice that reminds you you’re alive. So he did what every innovator who’s succeeded has ever done: He stood at that cliff’s edge and built himself a parachute. “I asked them, ‘Would you sell it?’ And they said, ‘Yes.’ So I bought it from them at the end of January [2020]—we became independent.” Here, he heaves an energized sigh, as though talking through the story made him relive it all over again. Lantern Health, the rebranded Avenu, launched in early 2020, an ominous time in global history and an even more precarious one for the healthcare community at large.

“It was about four weeks after we had started fresh as Lantern and finalized things that COVID-19 really started to hit,” he says. A month into a new business is a shaky time for any founding member, but add a global pandemic in your field, and it was an especially cruel twist of fate. Or it might’ve been, if Lantern hadn’t been uniquely poised to handle what everyone else had to learn on the fly: providing their services via Zoom call.

Lighting the Way Lantern’s rebranding focused on the idea of lighting the path forward, and it turned out to be a more prescient idea than they’d originally known. With telemedicine becoming the new normal as COVID-19 ravaged the country, Lantern was ready to take on the challenge. In fact, 60 percent of their patient interaction took place virtually even before the pandemic. Aiken says, in the digital age, if you can stick with a Zoom or Facetime appointment, why not? “If you feel terrible, where do you want to be? You want to be in your bed at home. And if you have the ability to video in to your doctor from underneath the covers to have a conversation—well, why not start there?” he explains. “If we have to test something, we’ll have you come in. A great majority of the time, we don’t have to. We can just listen to your story. And now, with the ability to write prescriptions that can then be delivered to your doorstep—I mean, that’s the totally ideal scenario.” His patients, both individuals and company contracts, agree. About half of Lantern’s patients are individuals, but half are local businesses who offer personalized healthcare April 2021 |


for all employees. Lantern’s clients include both large and small locally owned shops, from a three person watchmaking team to a retirement community with about 400 employees. One such group is Katie Button Restaurants (KBR), the team of dynamos responsible for Cúrate, among others. Liz Button, the chief impact officer at KBR, shared what the experience has been like for her employees. “The ability to call a doctor 24/7 and receive a response within minutes is pretty phenomenal,” she says. “All of our DPC doctors take their time in getting to know and understand each person's health history. In any given ‘normal’ year, this direct access and communication is important; however, during COVID-19, it's been vital.” In the restaurant industry in particular, keeping both her customers and the people on her payroll safe and healthy has been of paramount importance. “Each day, all of our employees are required to complete a health screen through an app,” she continues. “If experiencing any symptoms, our process dictates that they immediately reach out to their DPC to consult on whether or not they should get tested and/ or quarantine. Employees have found this to be a more streamlined, cost-effective, and simple process than to visit an urgent care facility, which would be the alternative for many of our employees.” Even more striking is that the revolutionary access to doctors is just one of the many ways Lantern is doing things differently. Walking into the practice, it isn’t immediately apparent that you’re in a doctor’s office. Comfortable couches and a stocked kitchenette in the lobby (designed so Lantern’s team can showcase healthy meal prep) give a more comfortable, casual feeling; the space is still neat as a pin and orderly, but less clinical than you might imagine. This is where Aiken and his team’s attention to detail really shines.


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You won’t see blood pressure cuffs or needle disposal containers on countertops or mounted to the walls. All the normal trappings of a check-up are in each exam room, but tucked away to allow for what Aiken identifies as the most important part of each appointment: conversation. They’ve gone out of their way to get rid of the stress that sometimes comes with seeing your physician (a real phenomenon called “white coat hypertension,” wherein a visit to a doctor’s office causes patients to appear to have high blood pressure when they don’t). Stepping on a scale while any number of strangers shuffle by, carrying a cup of your urine down a hallway, having your blood drawn across from another patient—anything that puts patient privacy and comfort at risk are eliminated completely. “Once you’re here, you come to your room, and we come to you. We check your vitals in here, we draw your blood in here-little things, but it makes the difference,” Aiken says. And you won’t sit on an exam table listening to fluorescent lights buzz overhead. Instead, natural light streams through the frosted exam room doors. There’s even a beautifully organized closet of over-the-counter prescriptions, where patients can buy medications at the same price they would at a pharmacy, without the extra trip. Aiken designed the space with the intention of having the healing process start from the minute you walk in the door. Lantern’s winning combination of a caring touch and constant innovation means that it’s gained steam with individuals, families, and businesses alike, so it’s no surprise that Lantern Health was one of Asheville’s 15 fastest-growing businesses of 2020, according to Venture Asheville’s Venture 15 Awards in February 2021.

What’s the Catch? If DPC sounds too good to be true, it’s understandable. There are so many benefits that you might find yourself asking, “What’s the catch?” The truth is, the only catch is the price tag, if you can call that a “catch.” DPC is an added cost on top of insurance, but in this case, the phrase “you get what you pay for” has a positive connotation. A family of four would pay $230 a month for Lantern’s services— that’s with no copays—and their membership includes much that would otherwise be outsourced. Each member of the family would get a 60-minute annual appointment with their physician, sameday and next-day appointments for chronic or acute care, and the option for health coaching, which includes weekly check-ins. What would normally be cause for an urgent care visit (like stitches, a basic X-ray, or a flu diagnosis) is also completely covered at no additional cost. Chronic disease management, like Aiken’s success stories about his formerly diabetic patients, is a part of the deal. And it’s important to know that family medicine looks at healthcare a bit differently. For example: A single mother of young children would normally see her own primary care physician, an OB/GYN, and make regular visits to a pediatrician. If she were a patient at Lantern, however, she could have all her health needs met in one building: Birth control counseling and placement, regular gynecological screenings, wellness visits, and pediatric care for $165 a month (including the memberships of her two children). Aiken is proud to address and care for what he refers to as roughly “80 percent of somebody’s needs” within the four walls of Lantern’s office, for both insured and uninsured patients who see him. But what about the other 20 percent?

“Let's say you're uninsured and you need an ultrasound of your heart—an echocardiogram,” Aiken offers as an example. “We've got a cash price arranged with a local cardiology group. That price is going to be a tenth of what it would cost if you did it through insurance. We recognize that 20 percent of care is going to happen outside of these walls. When it does, we want to be your quarterback.” Aiken’s curiosity and genuine care comes through as he discusses how good primary care means true primary care, the actual definition of the words: being the point person as a physician for your patient’s wellness and health. In the event of a hospital stay (for example, emergency surgery, chronic illness treatment that requires hospitalization, delivering a new baby), your physician at Lantern plays “quarterback,” as Aiken put it. They Facetime in to talk to your surgeons, making sure that everyone is on the same page with your history, needs, and risks, and preventing medical professionals, who may be ships in the night from one another, from missing important information. This offering alone eliminates the exasperation that often accompanies dealing with the healthcare industry in addition to an actual health problem. Part of what you pay for as a patient is the peace of mind that your physician has taken the time to select specialists who’ll give you topquality care at a rate you’ll know up front. Choosing which specialists get their business is an important piece of the puzzle, because with Lantern’s direct and personal relationships comes accountability—not just for patients, but also from patients. Of his relationship with specialists, Aiken explains, “There’s incentive for us to send [patients] to the highest-quality [and also] the lowest-cost [specialist]. If they want, they can fire us because the relationship is direct. Or their employer is going to come back and say, April 2021 |


DR. KATE RASCHE conducting a virtual patient appointment. ‘Hey, we worked on really creating a really good benefit plan.’ The same is true for our uninsured population.” And what about that uninsured population? Of the half of Lantern’s patients that are individuals, about half of those are uninsured; either they can’t afford insurance and don’t qualify for Medicaid, or they’re rolling the dice. This is where an important distinction comes into play. Some might hear “direct primary care” and associate it with the idea of concierge medicine, often thought of as an escape hatch for wealthy people to evade a broken system, while people who can’t afford insurance premiums are left to languish in the confusing labyrinth that is American healthcare. But Paulus wanted to be very clear about the difference when he and Aiken established Lantern. Says Paulus, “Asheville in particular has a large number of service workers in both the hospitality and restaurant segments, and many of them lack insurance coverage. Some do have insurance, but their deductible is [anywhere from] $5,000 to $15,000. Our thought was, ‘This is actually a big benefit for people who have no insurance or high deductible plans.’ This is not concierge care—this is good care for the everyday person, and it was designed that way on purpose.” In other words, there’s a benefit here for exactly the people critics of DPC might be defending. Uninsured populations often avoid trips to the doctor because those trips are too expensive, meaning that acute conditions can turn into chronic ones that then require even more attention and money. Without insurance, there’s no option to get second opinions or shop around for a doctor who fits your needs, unless you’re willing (and able) to front that cost out-of-pocket. Through Lantern, urgent care costs are covered, and being referred out to specialists where a pre-arranged cash price has been set is a preferable alternative to spending a potentially bottomless amount of money on out-of-pocket costs. Plus, with the kind of thorough, whole-patient mentality at a DPC practice, they’d likely catch and address anything they could prophylactically. Aiken recommends his patients stay on their insurance plans to account for any catastrophic and unforeseen events, but if insurance and direct primary care together aren’t financially viable, there’s certainly something to be said for considering the exclusively DPC route.

The Path Forward “It’s been an interesting lens for us as a team because we were affiliated with the biggest employer in the region, and now we’re totally separate. So I see the benefits of both, but the independence, that local aspect? It’s proven to be really significant,” he says.


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The “local aspect” is big for Aiken, who loves that Asheville and its citizens are hungry for integrative care, wherein diet, mental health, behavior, and internal medicine are all combined to produce a “whole patient” approach. He loves that Lantern

The “local aspect” is big for Aiken, who loves that Asheville and its citizens are hungry for integrative care, wherein diet, mental health, behavior, and internal medicine are all combined to produce a “whole patient.”

“I hope the community [says of us], ‘Wow, they are committed to providing an exceptional experience,’” he muses. “We meet you where you’re at and are happy to help guide you along the way. [We’re] open and flexible and geared toward lifestyle stuff. I hope people see us as an example as it relates to the future of healthcare.” Early in our conversation, Aiken likened consumers dealing with American healthcare to a person walking alone into a dark forest with no map. The system feels at best overwhelming and on its worst days can be actively predatory, sometimes leaving the very “care” out of healthcare. But what if, upon reaching those dark woods, you were met with a warm, helpful guide—one who wanted to learn all about you, to help you overcome the rocky terrain, and to keep you safe during the smooth passes? Lantern is just such a team. In the dark woods of American healthcare, they’re committed to turning on the lights.

has enmeshed itself within the community, buying local coffee every day, providing quality care for individuals and businesses alike, and cultivating their brand to be distinctively Asheville. Asheville is big on hospitality, and so is Aiken.


RALEIGH ASHEVILLE ASHEVILLE RALEIGH (919) 572-2870 (919) 572-2870 (828) 412-5505 (828) 412-5505 210 Street Hampton Woods 210 LaneHampton Woods Lane 9 Reed Street 9 Reed Raleigh, Asheville, NC 28803 Asheville, NC 28803NC 27607 Raleigh, NC 27607 April 2021 |



HISTORIC RENOVATION in downtown Asheville for the Center for Craft, photo by David Dietrich

Form Follows

Function Samsel Architects on Incorporating Sustainability into Your Business’ Foundation

F H Heather hatmaker

is the studio manager at Samsel Architects.


or m fol low s f u nc t ion i s t he architectural principle that states the way something appears should be representative of the way it’s used. Growing up with two parents who practiced architecture, I learned to recognize this principle early on, and I believe it can apply to more than just architecture. Businesses, and entrepreneurs especially, can authentically live the values that are relevant to them. Their form—their brand, the work they do, and the people they hire—should represent their function—the values they hold, the causes they champion, and their mission. While I did not become an architect myself, I was drawn to the local Asheville firm Samsel Architects because I resonated with their purpose and their sense of design. When I joined the firm in 2016, the principal

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architects, Duncan McPherson and Nathan Bryant, were halfway through a ten-year ownership transition. The transition period created an opportunity to mold the business into what they wanted, learning how to build on a legacy while also evolving the brand into something that ref lected them. Working alongside Duncan and Nathan, I have witnessed an intentional commitment to their values, especially sustainability. With new leadership at the helm and a lot of new faces in the studio, Duncan and Nathan identified 12 words that define who we are as a firm and how we want to practice architecture, giving us a solid foundation to evolve the firm together. At the center of those core values is our commitment to sustainability. Sustainable architecture is not new to Samsel Architects; it has been the bedrock of the firm since its founding in 1985. But to us, sustainability goes beyond architecture. We

H understand we are part of a greater system, and we have a responsibility to be stewards of the environment and to the Western North Carolina community. We believe we have a duty to create a positive and lasting impact on our world through everything we do—who we are, how we work, what we design, and how we live. Each of our projects, whether in an urban center or out in the mountains, respects the unique character and history of its setting. Many of our staff and clients chose to live in WNC because of the natural beauty, and we feel a sense of responsibility to preserve these landscapes as we build and rebuild our communities. We are a team of people dedicated to innovative design, but also to cherishing the world around us. We believe being committed to these values in the work that we do can inspire our team. That commitment attracts clients who share our values and in turn can inspire their own families and employees to live in a sustainable way. Our culture of environmental stewardship starts in our physical studio. We capitalize on the inherent sustainability of our walkable downtown Asheville location and push the envelope on reducing waste and the impacts of our operations. Reducing waste begins with being thoughtful about the disposable products we purchase. We purchased reusable plates and glassware for our staff to eliminate most paper products. Instead of bottled water, we have a pitcher of water in client meetings and offer visitors hot tea and coffee. In addition to recycling bins, we also have a few

How and where we build are two of the most important factors that impact the future of our natural environment. It is our responsibility to steer our projects using sustainable principles. compost bins for food scraps or compostable products that are emptied by a local commercial composting group. Each year we generate approximately 80 to 90 percent of the energy we use from solar panels on the roof of our building. Indoor plants, large windows to let in beautiful natural

light, and the building’s original high ceilings create an environment that demonstrates the importance we place on healthy workspaces. We are thoughtful about the ways we use our space and want our commitment to be evident when you first enter our studio. While our commitment to sustainability starts with our own studio, it spills over into everything we design. How and where we build are two of the most important factors that impact the future of our natural environment. It is our responsibility to steer our projects using sustainable principles. This approach ranges from specializing in adaptive reuse and urban infill projects, to designing net-zero and LEED certified buildings. In our minds, the distinction between architecture and sustainable architecture is that there is no distinction. Sustainable design principles are built into our approach to any new project. Beginning with where the project is located, we think about how the spaces will be used and imagine the future of the building 100 years from now. This perspective allows us to consider the lifecycle of the structure and systems through a sustainable lens. We are inspired to be creative with sustainable design solutions when we work with other businesses who want their spaces to ref lect their values. We were asked by Eagles Nest Outfitters (ENO), an Asheville-based outdoor company, to take a dated office building and transform the space into a day-lit, modern office. ENO places a strong emphasis on engagement with nature and wants their office space to reflect these values. Reimagining physical space can be an opportunity to energize the people working in the office. Creating large glass openings or adding skylights brings light deep into a building. Even a building in the middle of an industrial park like ENO’s has opportunities to connect to nature. By reclaiming some parking spaces to create an outdoor gathering space and incorporating live plants and natural materials into the decor, offices become a more inviting place to work. When designing for any client, we also imagine how we would want to live or use the spaces we create. We want to be inspired; we want to feel joy—and so we impart those desires into our designs and into the way that we live. True sustainability includes commitment to each other and our surrounding community. We give back by volunteering our time to public works and probono projects and by donating eight percent of our annual net profits to nonprofit organizations that support and foster causes that are important to our team. We have also elected to shop local, intentionally purchasing office supplies from

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EAGLES NEST Outfitters headquarter's renovation, photo by Todd Crawford

locally owned companies and catering staff meals from locally owned restaurants. WNC is home to so many creative entrepreneurs and talented artists, we can find everything from client gifts to branded t-shirts to the

WNC is home to so many creative entrepreneurs and talented artists, we can find everything from client gifts to branded t-shirts to the office coffee stash right here.

PRINCIPAL/OWNERS DUNCAN McPherson (left) and Nathan Bryant (right), photography by Anastasiia Photography


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office coffee stash right here. Protecting and investing in our neighbors and our mountains is part of our mission. We have chosen to support for-profit and nonprofit organizations that align with who we are and who also value our environment.

No other outdoor cooker can match the quality and versatility of a Big Green Egg. Grilling, Roasting, Baking or Smoking it truly is The Ultimate Cooking Experience!®

136 Weaver Blvd, Weaverville, NC 28787 ✆828.645.8811 1888 Hendersonville Rd, Asheville, NC 28803 ✆828.676.0047 3340 Boylston Hwy, Mills River, NC 28759 ✆828.891.4545 812 Merrimon Ave, Asheville, NC 28804 ✆828.505.3672 10 Westridge Market Pl, Candler, NC 28715 ✆828.527.6468

As a witness to two business owners who lead with their values, I know that the commitment Samsel’s leaders display contributes to our success and speaks to our clients. Over time, Duncan and Nathan have built a firm with a strong sense of purpose, and they have let me in on their vision for a successful company. They ask for input and ideas, allow employees to contribute to the vision, and unite the team by a common purpose. They encourage us to all live according to our values. I think my parents are proud that I am still seeking people and businesses who choose to live authentically and who demonstrate what they are made of through the purposes they serve. I see the choices that are made, the people that are hired, the projects that we take on, and know that we are not only practicing sustainable architecture, but that we are actively reflecting our purpose. Our form follows our function.

NEW LOCATION! NOW OPEN! WWW.7SISTERSGALLERY.COM 119 Broadway Ave, Black Mountain April 2021 |



WEST [ news briefs ]

Great Connection TRANSYLVANIA COUNTY Comporium, a South Carolina company that provides broadband and wireless solutions for television, phone, internet, and smart home systems, was awarded a $2.8 million grant to connect Transylvania County residents living in “the last mile.” Funding comes from the Growing Rural Economies w it h Access to Tech nology (GREAT ) program, which is funded by an allocation from the North Carolina General Assembly. Comporium partnered with the Land of Sky Regional Council to prepare the grant proposal, and Senator Chuck Edwards and Representative Jake Johnson were credited for their work advocating for state funding for broadband. Proceeds will be used to install 105 miles of fiber-optic cable to service over 800 customers. Partnering with the Haywood Electric Membership Corporation, construction is expected to last two years and cost $7 million. Comporium has been in business 126 years as a provider of stateof-the-art communications technologies to communities normally deemed infeasible for large utilities to connect.

So Much within Walking Distance WATAUGA & CALDWELL COUNTIES Blowing Rock had the spotlight in an Online


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Exclusive published by Leisure Group Travel. The village was described as charming and convenient, with friendly, hospitable hosts. There are lots of small places to lodge and unique places to shop. And, for those who aren’t firm believers that small is beautiful, a Tanger Outlets mall is within walking distance. The town is also within walking distance to the rock itself, which got its name because the unusual geology creates air currents that not only boomerang light objects thrown over the edge, they cause snow to drift upward. Vast panoramic views from the rock take in Grandfather Mountain and Mount Mitchell. Tweetsie Railroad was another spotlighted attraction, but getting the most attention was Chetola Resort, recommended for its history, accommodations, amenities, and Timberlake’s Restaurant. Also a short walk from anywhere is the Moses H. Cone Memorial Park, with a historic mansion, lake, Southern Highland Craft Guild store, National Park Service information center, and more.

Art Critic Takes a Stance BUNCOMBE COUNTY Leadership at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art (the Met) has suggested selling off art to close a $150 million budget gap. This follows the Association of Art Museum Directors’ allowance, in response to the COVID-19 shutdown, of a two-year

window that granted museum members permission to use proceeds from the sale of art for operations. In the past, revenues from deaccessioning could only be applied toward refreshing holdings with more valuable pieces. Thomas P. Campbell, a former director of the museum, said if the museum follows through, it would, among other moral hazards, set a precedent that would disincentivize future donations and, “encourage new debate about assessing museum art collections as fungible assets.” Asheville art critic, historian, and author Tyler Green took things one step further to prevent art museums from becoming “piggy banks for all.” He started a petition, and he collected 21,421 signatures before going public. He said his line of work would be nearly impossible if he had to seek permissions and rights to view and publish facsimiles of works. Green asks why the deficit can’t be paid from the museum’s $3 .3 bi l lion endow ment or out of t he pockets of the billionaires who sit on the museum’s board.

Finding Substitutes Proves Difficult TRANSYLVANIA COUNTY The school boa rd for t he Breva rd Academy voted to use Kelly Ser v ices for substitute teachers and other staff. The school has been holding in-person, socially distanced, masked classes, as well as intramural athletic events, but Director Ted Duncan said it is still difficult to find substitutes during the COVID-19 shutdown. With prevalent hesitations, the time commitment is proving too much of a load for the person tasked with making the calls, in light of their other responsibilities. Adva nt a ges were t hat Kel ly a l ready had a call list of persons who had been vetted. It also handles payroll and other administrative tasks. The downside is the academy would have to pay both Kelly and

54 the old north state

its temps. Duncan said the academy hadn’t signed a contract with Kelly, so a decision has not yet been made about whether the school would continue to use their services after a majority of people feel safe returning to in-person interaction. At the same meeting, the board agreed to spend $9,000 on a partition for the front office.

Addressing Veterinarian Shortage WATAUGA COUNTY Banfield Pet Hospital, a chain with over 1,000 veterinary clinics, most notably in PetSmart stores, has partnered with Appalachian State University (ASU) to train more licensed veterinary technicians. The move was spurred by research conducted by Banfield estimating that by 2030, 75 million pets in the United States will not have adequate access to healthcare. ASU a nnounced Ba nf ield has made a “multimillion-dollar” commitment for the school to set up a four-year degree program online. The program will operate out of the College of Arts and Sciences and prepare students for a career in veterinary medicine that will allow them to assist doctors with things like administering medications and taking vital signs. Graduates of the program will have both a Bachelor of Science degree and preparation to pursue a vet tech license. Chancellor Dr. Sheri Everts described the program as a good fit with the school’s goals of preparing professionals for careers with ma rket dema nd, pa r ticula rly in underserved, rural areas.

Regenerating Credentials BUNCOMBE COUNTY In its 20th year in business, the Green Built A llia nce (GBA) is upgrading its st a nda rds. Founded in Ashev ille, the

nonprofit runs a certification program to encourage environmentally sensitive building practices. Green Built Homes Version 3.0 conforms to current regulatory trends and advances in technology. That is, some housing features considered innovative years ago are now industry standards, and other features have only become technologically or fiscally feasible in recent years. Changes include raising the bar for scoring points for lighting fixtures and rewarding architects that work to unite people with nature. More points can be scored through installing a “balanced” ventilation system, managing water use, and building with nontoxic materials. In addition to updating its Net Zero Energy Ready Certification, it is adding a Net Zero Water Ready Certification. Homes with these and additional certifications will then qualify for the pilot Regenerative Cer t if icat ion progra m. GBA has a lso launched a Regenerative Professiona l Accreditation program.

Consolidating for Compliance CLAY COUNTY All four fire departments in Clay County will be merged into Clay Count y Fire & Rescue. The Warne, Brasstown, and Shooting Creek departments will continue operating, but as stations. Their chiefs will be seated on the fire department’s board of directors and continue working in battalion positions. All current chiefs spoke before the county commissioners expla ining the move was procedura l, with little effect on operations. The fire districts would remain intact with only minor tweaking of boundaries, and the existing automatic aid agreement would continue to allow departments to assist in each other’s territories as necessary. The chiefs said the move has been anticipated for years and would bring fire and rescue

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into complia nce w ith regulations. To spur the commissioners to approva l, they said the Shooting Creek department had been put on probation by the state because depar tments are required to maintain 15 members, each with at least 32 hours of training. Recruitment and retention has been difficult, so converting the little departments into stations of one big department was suggested as a workaround. If the merger is not completed by March 1, insurance rates in Shooting Creek could increase.

More Satellite Healthcare TRANSYLVANIA & BUNCOMBE COUNTIES Pardee UNC Health Care is opening a new doctors’ office in Brevard. Named Pardee Medical Associates: Brevard, the office will provide primary care for all ages. Services include physical exams, prevent ive medicine, ma nagement of chronic diseases, dietary counseling, and behavioral healthcare. Six of its doctors will be practicing family medicine, and a seventh will specialize in osteopathic medicine. A ll prov iders have a lready built a reputation for quality service in Transylvania County. The hospital is also opening Pardee Primary Care: Arden. It will be staffed with six physicians who will provide the same services as are offered by the Brevard office’s family practitioners. Pardee is a not-for-prof it communit y hospital managed by UNC Health Care. The two offices join Pardee’s network that includes three urgent care centers and five other family medicine centers, along with several more specialized offices. The new offices are scheduled to open this month, and they are now scheduling appointments.

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carolina in the west

In Lieu of Billboards HENDERSON COUNTY Friends of DuPont Forest was awarded 100 hours of free public relations and marketing. The service is being gifted from the Stand Up Initiative, which was launched by Darby Communications in 2016 and later reinforced by Status Forward. The program provides free marketing ser vices to nonprof its suppor ting the environment, especially, those serving the underserved. Friends of DuPont will funnel the award toward its Share the Trails campaign, which aims to teach the forest’s approximately 1 million users— hikers, mountain bikers, equestrians, r unners, a nd more—how to “be good guest s” by ha r mon i zi ng w it h ot hers seemingly using the trail in a conflicting way. Da rby will suppor t this through recommendations for social media, web design, and wayfinding. The award is open to applicants from around the country, but its focus is in Western North Carolina. Pa s t loc a l benef icia r ies i nclude t he Collider, Asheville GreenWorks, Friends of the Smokies, MountainTrue, I Heart Pisgah, Bee City USA, Friends of Woodfin Greenway & Blueway, and Nanta ha laPisgah Forest Partnership.

Random Act of Kindness WATAUGA COUNTY Following the Super Bowl, Stephen Colbert, on CBS’ The Late Show, remarked that it wasn’t the big-name advertisers whose stupendous ads aired a few hours before that need help; it’s the sma ll businesses. So “the show” selected one small shop to feature with a “high-octane” video. That shop was Foggy Pine Books in Boone. The video starts with a skydiver, who tells


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viewers the only place to go for adventure is “Foggy Pine Books! In North Carolina!” As he continues to fall, actor Sam Elliott narrates a quickie store tour, and says there’s a drivethru as a lady receives a book through a window via an extended claw—and takes a bite out of it. Elliott says the store has another location, called the internet, and the skydiver continues to fall while shopping on his laptop. Then, Elliott turns the audio over to a satisfied customer, Tom Hanks, for a testimonial. Next, the skydiver crash-lands outside the drive-thru window and asks if Foggy Pine has any books on skydiving for dummies. Hanks sings, “Foggy Pine Books on King Street in Boone, between the Baptist church and the Boone Saloon.” Elliott closes with “Your adventure awaits.” After the spot aired, Foggy Pine’s owner, Mary Ruthless, said the business received hundreds of orders and can now pay its bills.

Two Grand Performances TRANSYLVANIA COUNTY The Breva rd Mu sic Cent er ( BMC ) announced a different kind of performance months after canceling its annual Summer Music Institute and Festival in 2020. The summer tradition, with 100 performances, typically draws over 40,000, and closure would mean losing $4 million in revenue. Still, with safety as its number-one priority, the institute closed before the government required, and they committed to retaining all 15 full-time staff members, with benefits, before any Payroll Protection funding was announced. In June, as the venue sat empty, it came to leadership’s attention that uninsured persons were being asked to pay $200 for testing. The music center responded, partnering with Pisgah Health Foundation and Keystone Labs, and set up BMC Free Drive-Thru Testing for the

uninsured. It soon expanded to perform COVID-19 testing for all citizens, and it remains the only place in the county that tests the asymptomatic without a doctor’s referral. Doing 22 percent of the county’s testing, it had soon detected 161 positive cases and was able to turn those incidences over to the health department for contact tracing. Now, it has partnered with Blue Ridge Health to perform BMC Free Drive Thru Vaccinations. As an aside, the venue is still hoping to reopen in time for this year’s music festival.

Faster Cancer Treatments BUNCOMBE COUNTY GenesisCare’s Asheville location in South Asheville has added an Elekta Versa HD system to its treatments. The system is used on patients with brain or lung cancer and metastases, and it completes treatment regimens in less time with shorter visits. It is able to do so because it delivers hypofractionated stereotactic radiation (HCR) to patients in sessions that last only 15 minutes, a feat that had not been possible before its invention. Stereotactic radiation therapy makes use of three-dimensional computer imaging and an array of precision lasers coordinated to zap only the tumor, while subjecting surrounding tissue to less collateral damage than other techniques. Because the delivery is so precise, larger doses may be administered in a single visit, a practice known as hypofractionated radiotherapy. GenesisCare is a provider of oncology treatments with over 440 centers in the United States, Australia, Spain, and the United Kingdom. It was founded by Dan Collins who, after supporting his father through a terminal illness, was driven to find and deliver better ways for treating patients with more compassion and respect.

Now Wheeling Through Eternity HAYWOOD COUNTY Dale Walksler, the man behind Dale’s Wheels through Time, has passed away. Walksler built his first motorcycle at age 15, started his own store in high school, and opened a Harley-Davidson dealership when he was 22. All the while, he collected. Upon retiring from his dealership in 2002, he moved his collection to Maggie Valley and set up the museum. It earned the nickname “the museum that runs” because driving the vehicles around is part of the display. Not only were live performances available, posts of the vintage cycles in motion were uploaded to YouTube. The museum was open to the public only six months a year to allow time for restoring vehicles and preparing new exhibitions. Even so, it welcomed about 100,000 visitors per year. Walksler was celebrated for his involvement in the community, often donating rare motorcycles for auctions that raised funds for veterans and children. He would even drive kids around the parking lot on his motorcycles. The American Motorcyclist Association Hall of Fame inductee was seen as a national expert and enjoyed spots on a number of television programs. The family has asked that instead of flowers, gifts be provided to the museum to keep it running.

Musk to the Rescue WESTERN NORTH CAROLINA Elon Musk, one of the richest men in the world, via his company SpaceX, has received an $886 million federal grant to deliver broadband and voice to 642,925 locations in 35 states. Of this amount, North Carolina will receive a $17.4 million portion, with most of the beneficiaries located in the southwestern part of the

state. (These grants are independent of the GREAT grants mentioned above.) Charter Communications received even more than Musk, collecting $1.2 billion. Combined, SpaceX and Charter Communications will be spending well over $40 million to deliver broadband to Clay, Graham, Haywood, Jackson, Macon, and Swain counties. Musk will be able to fill in the last mile, where topography and lack of density typically make wireless technologically and fiscally infeasible for providers. He can rise above these obstacles with the funding because in 2018, the FCC approved SpaceX’s proposal to launch 11,943 mini-satellites, 4,425 of which should be in orbit by 2024. The two other top recipients of funding were the Rural Electric Cooperative Consortium with $1.1 billion and LTD Broadband with $1.3 billion.

Cycling for All HAYWOOD COUNTY Asheville cycling enthusiast Seth Alvo has raised well over $200,000 to create a bike park with trails accessible and challenging for all levels. Alvo rides his bike all over the country and then posts videos of his adventures on his YouTube channel, Berm Peak. With all the local interest in cycling, he found the shortage of universal bike parks in the area odd. Parks were mostly for beginners or dangerous, wild, and rugged. He had his idea for a while before seeing an opportunity in the Town of Canton’s announcement that it would create a 448acre public natural area. The property was sold to the Southern Appalachian Highlands Con ser va nc y, wh ich , a f t er secu r i ng conservation easements, will dedicate the land to the town. The town and Haywood County will then develop the land with trails, recreation areas, stream improvement, and park furniture. The first amenity to be constructed will be Alvo’s dream, which will

go by the name Berm Park. Alvo’s fundraiser, which he ran through his YouTube channel, received sponsorships from several bicycle businesses, a non-alcoholic brewer, and a fan of his channel. He has also raised about $4,400 in Patreon subscriptions, which will be used for trail maintenance until a volunteer corps can be established.

Keeping the Hospital Well TRANSYLVANIA COUNTY Mau reen Copelof , l i a i son for t he Tra nsylva nia Count y Boa rd of Commissioners, wanted to discuss an “exodus” of doctors at this year’s first quarterly meeting with representatives from HCA Healthcare and the Dogwood Health Trust. At least ten doctors from Transylvania County and another six from Buncombe County have either refused to renew their contracts or been terminated. As liaison, Copelof tries to get answers to complaints from citizens and hold the hospital’s feet to the fire in keeping its commitments for the community at the time of sale. When Mission Hospital was purchased by HCA, $1.5 billion in proceeds went to the Dogwood Health Trust, which, with Gibbons Advisors, is responsible for oversight of the hospital’s new management. Losing ten trusted and tenured physicians was not, in the eyes of many, going to allow Transylvania Regional Hospital, a member of HCA’s Mission Health, to keep its promise for continuing care with the same levels of quality and availability. Last year, North Carolina’s Attorney General Josh Stein received 30 complaints about HCA’s declining quality of care as well as others about its transparency in pricing, understaffing, and more.

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Photo courtesy the Biltmore Company

Garden VARIETY Western North Carolina’s Public Gardens Delight Visitors All Season Long WRITTEN BY DASHA MORGAN 34

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leisure & libation

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visitor to Western North Carolina in spring will immediately notice the incredible displays of flowering trees, colorful plants, and vividly colored bushes with dainty sprigs of pale green leaves slowly showing their faces on branch ends. As the season unfolds here in the area, “a host of golden daffodils” flutter and dance in the breeze throughout Western North Carolina. Many streets are lined with the lovely Bradford Pear tree with their dainty white blossoms that often fall during a breeze. Bright wisteria bushes are often nearby, accenting the corners with their contrasting golden yellow color. While you can appreciate these shows of color on streets and in yards across the region, their greatest shows can be found in public gardens across WNC.

Biltmore | 1 Lodge St., Asheville, NC 28803 Public gardens—both large and small — invite you to walk their paths and explore the grounds. For longer and more extended walks, you can wander throughout the now 8,000-acre Biltmore Estate, which was landscaped by the renowned Frederick Law Olmsted late in the 19th century. The estate has been an incredible financial boon to this area, bringing approximately 1.5 million visitors from around the world annually (pre-COVID-19) to see the house and gardens. Many movies have been filmed on the estate, including The Swan with Grace Kelly, Being There with Peter Sellers, Forrest Gump with Tom Hanks, Patch Adams with Robin Williams, and Hannibal with Anthony Hopkins. A number of presidents also have visited the estate, including William McKinley in 1897, Theodore Roosevelt in 1902, Jimmy Carter in 1978, Ronald Reagan in 1980, and Barack Obama in 2010. Prince Charles even visited in the summer of 1996 to launch the first American Summer School of the Prince of Wales’ Institute of Architecture. April and May are the ideal months to visit the gardens on the estate, which does have an entry fee (check website for current pricing). Currently, due to COVID-19, timed reservations for entry to the house itself are needed. As one drives up the three-mile Approach Road to the large house—built much like a French Renaissance chateau—azaleas, daffodils, tulips, hyacinths, and crocuses are most probably currently all in bloom. Just as one nears the house, two rows of trees with 13 tulip poplar trees on each side of the entrance have been planted—making that a total of 52 trees. The visitor’s eye is visually drawn to the enormous chateau as they follow this line of trees. As they start to tour the grounds of the Biltmore Estate, a visual feast is about to begin, as they see the artfully landscaped property. If someone participates in other activities, such as hiking, horseback riding, or biking, a variety of historic trees— some of which are state champions, i.e., the state’s largest tree—will undoubtedly be noticed. Along the road near the open fields, striking large sunflowers bloom later in the summer.


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Photo courtesy the Biltmore Company

Photo courtesy the Biltmore Company

Throughout the year, many events are scheduled at the estate. This year, from April 1–May 27, Biltmore Blooms will take place. Highlighted by thousands of tulips and daffodils in the historic Walled Garden and across the estate, there will be beautiful centerpieces and table decorations inside the house. Biltmore Gardens Railway in the Conservatory pays homage to Biltmore’s founder, George Vanderbilt, who was born into a well-known railroad family. His grandfather Cornelius “Commodore” Vanderbilt spent his life building an empire based on shipping and railroad concerns. In addition, unique outdoor sculptural works by environmental artist Patrick Dougherty, known as “Stick Man,” will reside in Antler Hill Village starting April 1. Renowned worldwide for his monumental creations, Dougherty weaves saplings and branches into intricate artworks, fashioning whimsical forms ranging from gigantic snares and cocoons to sculptural interpretations of notable buildings. Over the years, a number of events have been held to highlight the beautiful gardens in the various seasons. In 2018 large-scale glass sculptures by Dale Chihuly were placed throughout the Italian Garden and Walled Garden, as well as inside in the Winter Garden. Incredible floral displays were created on the South Terrace of the Biltmore House where more than 100,000 colorful plants were

artfully placed to show a Flower Carpet. In 2009 one design was the classic French Fleur de Lis pattern; in 2010 the pattern was taken from a set of 1880s stained glass windows by artist John La Farge that was on display in Antler Village. During the Christmas season, Biltmore House follows many fine, long-standing traditions, such as raising and then decorating the 35-foot Fraser fir Christmas tree in the Banquet Hall, small musical events, organ music humming tunes that can be heard throughout the house, and the Candlelight Christmas Eve celebrations. When walking through the Biltmore Estate property, there are signs to a number of beautiful garden areas, some formal and others informal. The Rose Garden, the Azalea Garden, the Conservatory, the Walled Garden, the Winery Beds, the Italian Garden, and Alley Gardens all have many unique, unusual plants. In the Rose Garden you can find over 200 varieties of well-labeled roses, as well as the English roses which have been propagated by the renowned David Austin and are known for their extraordinary fragrance. The Azalea Garden is a tribute to Chauncey Beadle, an avid azalea collector and horticulturist hired at Biltmore in 1890. He later became the estate superintendent. On April 1, 1940, in the glen in the valley below Biltmore’s Conservatory and Gardens,

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Frederick Law Olmsted Next year gardeners and horticulturists will be celebrating Frederick Law Olmsted’s 200th anniversary (1822-1903), who landscaped the Biltmore Estate. He is considered one of the most influential landscape architects in the world, in the same category as someone like Andre Le Notre of France in the 17th century and “Capability” Brown in England in the 19th century. Olmsted is said to have managed to change the thinking of George Vanderbilt and convince him to install a more relaxed garden with a long-winding approach to the house, rather than a formal European garden as seen at Versailles. Frederick Law Olmsted became considered the “father” of American landscape architecture,after he and Calvert Vaux won the contest to design New York’s Central Park in 1858. As a prolific writer, he outlined his approach to design with ten major principles and timeless aesthetic theories, which have greatly influenced the profession today. Olmsted left his imprint on many projects—certainly here in Western North Carolina with the Biltmore Estate — as well as many greenways, parks, the U.S. Capitol, and universities (including Cornell, University of California at Berkeley, and Bryn Mawr College, amongst others). In Boston he created the Emerald Necklace, a chain of urban parks with special retreats and connecting neighborhoods with bridges and pathways. In fact for the past few weeks, the bridges have been lit from dusk to 9PM with a soft emerald green glow. Here locally Olmsted is known as the landscape designer hired by George Vanderbilt for the then-125,000-acre Biltmore Estate. Olmsted was responsible for suggesting the sustainable operating model based on managed forestry and agriculture. In various positions as Biltmore's landscape manager, landscape curator, and landscape and forest historian, Bill Alexander devoted 40 years, most of his professional career, to the dedicated research, documentation, and preservation of Olmsted's design of the estate's historic gardens, grounds, and forests. He has authored a number of books on this subject, such as The Biltmore Estate Gardens and Grounds, published in 2014, and The Biltmore Nursery, a Botanical Legacy in 2007. Since 2000, Parker Andes as director of horticulture has led his team of expert horticulturists, gardeners, arborists, and groundskeepers in the maintenance and preservation of the estate's landscaped areas. As director of horticulture, Andes is responsible for maintaining the natural beauty of the estate and its historic authenticity. Another article featuring Olmsted can be found in the July 2020 issue of Capital at Play. 38

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Photo courtesy the Biltmore Company, by Rachael McIntosh




Edith Vanderbilt Gerry and Judge Junius Adams, then Biltmore Company president, unveiled a marker that memorializes Beadle’s lifetime of faithful service and incredible gift of his thousands of American azaleas to Biltmore. The soaring glass conservatory, with tall, arched windows, looks out into the terraced butterfly garden and a terraced,

The Arboretum has hundreds of botanically diverse plants found in the Southern Appalachian Mountains scattered throughout the property. walled garden beyond, which is filled with flowers that are changed for each season. The conservatory is home to an amazing array of tropical plants—lavish, fragrant orchids, all sorts of palm

trees, bromeliads, birds of paradise, and exotic tropical plants. The walls themselves around the conservatory are covered with espaliers (plants trained into flat two-dimensional forms).

The North Carolina Arboretum 100 Frederick Law Olmsted Way, Asheville, NC 28806 Another large public garden well worth discovering and visiting is the North Carolina arboretum. Admission is free, but there is a parking fee for non-members of $16 and some ticketed events. The Arboretum has hundreds of botanically diverse plants found in the Southern Appalachian Mountains scattered throughout the property. The Arboretum, like the Biltmore Estate, has had and is having an extraordinary influence and financial impact on Western North Carolina. Here, there are well over 400 acres with garden exhibits, special events, and hiking and biking trails. Currently a sculpture show, Wild Art, featuring 18 works by local and national artists, is situated throughout the grounds and gardens and will run until September 26.


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The Arboretum has many specialized exhibitions, plant shows, special horticultural speakers, and traveling exhibits, like Making Scents: The Art and Passion of Fragrance and Wicked Plants. There are interesting educational programs for adults (some online and some on-site) and many programs for children, such as Discovery Camps for rising 2nd through 7th graders in the summer and ecoExplore, where badges can be earned. Since its beginning in 1986 and under the leadership of George Briggs since 1987, the arboretum has grown considerably—with many architecturally impressive buildings, distinctive gardens, and impressive garden ornaments, accessible parking areas, and trails for walking, hiking, and biking. Of course, there are permanent gardens with well-labeled plants, interesting expositions, programs, and events. There is a Quilt Garden, which incorporates a unique interpretation of traditional quilt block patterns with plants outdoors. Designs change every two years, and plants are changed out quarterly with the seasons. In 1997, a Heritage Garden was established devoted to Southern Appalachian culture and craft. The garden showcases plants associated with broom-making, basket-making, hand papermaking, and natural dyes, as well as medicinal plants used as botanical remedies historically and today. There is also a National Native Azalea Collection, a woodland garden with azaleas representing nearly every species native to the U.S., along with many natural hybrids and selections. In 2005 the arboretum established a Bonsai Exhibition Garden with 50 species at the time but over 100 species now. These unique specimens must be carefully manicured and are considered works of art. There is a

Stream Garden which demonstrates a stream-side plant community. Aquatic plants, such as the water lily, baby tears, and water hyacinths, can also be found at the new outdoor Willow Pond.

The Arboretum’s Economic Importance The North Carolina Arboretum is an affiliate of the University of North Carolina System and its mission is “to advance the state’s future by creatively connecting people, plants, and places through education, design and economic development." The vision of the North Carolina Arboretum is to redefine the arboretum concept as central to education and place-based economic development. Under the leadership of executive director George Briggs, the arboretum has become a boon to economic development in the area. He and his staff have developed a number of successful programs for fundraising, such as Winter Lights, the popular holiday light show whose participants now come from all 50 states, as well as from other countries. More locally, household memberships this year have grown dramatically, with many exhibits and learning opportunities through adult and youth classes. In June 2000, Briggs organized and brought the first World Botanic Gardens Congress to Asheville, held at the Grove Park Inn. The congress was attended by about 1,000 delegates representing 30 international botanic garden associations and 42 countries. A policy framework for plant conservation worldwide was ratified and has now been formally adopted by about 500 institutions. As climate information is important to all aspects of the economy, Briggs has also worked closely with the leaders of the former

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National Climate Data Center, now the National Centers for Environmental Information, and NOA A in forming and managing a Cooperative Institute for Climate and Satellites

Because of the area’s storied botanical diversity and legacy of plant use for natural therapeutic purposes, the arboretum created the Bent Creek Institute as a means of creating a vertically integrated natural products economic sector. (CICS-NC). Formed in 2008 in partnership with the University of Maryland and NC State University, CICS-NC has secured federal funding approaching $100 million over three five-year

cycles of research, helping to make Asheville a national center for climate science and business. Because of the area’s storied botanical diversity and legacy of plant use for natural therapeutic purposes, the arboretum created the Bent Creek Institute as a means of creating a vertically integrated natural products economic sector. Briggs has chaired that board since its inception in 2009. That effort has now grown into ingredient and product testing, product formulation, and consulting with numerous companies locally, nationally, and internationally.

Smaller Public Gardens in the Area Throughout Western North Carolina, one can visit many smaller unique and interesting gardens: the Botanical Gardens at Asheville, Southern Highland Reserve in Lake Toxaway, Daniel Boone Native Gardens in Boone, and Mountain Gardens in Burnsville. In addition, around the area one can find a host of gardens, that feature a particular type of plant: vegetable gardens, water gardens, rock gardens, wildflower meadows, sculpture gardens, butterfly gardens, topiary gardens, or even fairy gardens.

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WHITE FRINGETREE (Chionanthus virginicus), photo by Dr. Annkatrin Rose in Daniel Boone Native Gardens

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GREAT SPANGLED FRITILLARY (Speyeria cybele), on Stokes' Aster (Stokesia laevis), photo by Dr. Annkatrin Rose in Daniel Boone Native Gardens

Botanical Gardens at Asheville 151 W T. Weaver Blvd., Asheville, NC 28804 In 1960 ten acres were set aside for a native plant garden near the campus of the new University of North Carolina in Asheville. The mission is to dedicate the gardens to the study and promotion of the native plants and habitats of the Southern Appalachian Mountains, one of the most diverse temperate ecosystems in the world. According to Jay Kranyik, who started out as a volunteer, joined the board as the chairman of horticulture, and has been the garden manager for the past decade, “We specialize in native plants of the Southern Appalachians, a region from approximately Northern Virginia to North Georgia. We have policies that do not let us use cultivars or hybrid plants, and instead use all ‘straight’ native species. We have approximately 650 of those species in our collection, of which approximately 80 species are considered rare/ threatened/endangered. We have three trees that are national champions, meaning they are the largest of their type in the United States. We have a NASA ‘moon tree,’ an American Sycamore which was grown from seed that traveled on the Apollo 11 space mission.” Since the Botanical Gardens at Asheville do not charge admission, they have no way of knowing exact visitation, but estimate it to be around 35,000 visitors per year. The grounds at 15 W.T. Weaver Boulevard are usually open yearround from sunrise to sunset with no admission or parking charge. UNCA Police do patrol the property. The garden is managed by a


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separate board of directors (15 people) and small staff of three and numerous volunteers (approximately 50). Although located on UNCA property, the Botanical Gardens receive no operating funds from the university or from local, state, or federal governments. The BCA income is provided by annual memberships, shop sales, class fees, twice yearly plant sales, wedding fees, visitor donations, and several endowments that they draw interest income from. Their annual budget is approximately $170,000.

Southern Highlands Reserve 558 Summit Ridge Rd., Lake Toxaway, NC 28747 Located at an elevation of 4,500 feet, the Southern Highlands Reserve is a beautiful mountain hideaway to explore. It was created by Betty and Robert Balentine, out of their love for the outdoors, nature, and their desire to preserve this property for their citified children and future generations. The native flora and fauna seen as one explores the paths of woodlands of this reserve is breathtaking with its overwhelming beauty. The Southern Highlands Reserve is approximately 120 acres and is divided into two parts: Core Park and Natural Woodlands. The Core Park master plan was designed by W. Gary Smith. If you take the Azalea Walk, you will see an abundance of flame azaleas, Gregory Bald azalea hybrids, trillium, bellworts, and clintononia. The Vaseyi Trail at Southern Highlands Reserve takes one on “a narrow footpath [that] winds under and through the thicket of twenty-foot-tall

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limited memberships now available. visit or call 828-257-5959 for membership information. Photo courtesy Botanical Gardens at Asheville

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VIRGINIA BLUEBELLS (Mertensia virginica), photo by Dr. Annkatrin Rose in Daniel Boone Native Gardens


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Rhododendron Vaseyi, bathed in bright pink blossoms during the spring.” These 120 acres—once slated for development—are now under a conservation easement, and a staff of horticulturists and naturalists research, catalog, share, and care for this slice of the Southern Appalachian landscape. The reserve and research center is dedicated to sustaining the natural ecosystems of the Blue Ridge Mountains. It is a nonprofit private family foundation founded in 2002 with an annual budget of $450,000. Funds are secured through grants, private contributions, admissions, and plant sales. Plant conservation remains one of the center’s leading goals by protecting rare and threatened species of the Southern Appalachians. The Executive Director, Kelly Holdbrooks, was featured in the November 2018 issue of Capital At Play magazine. Southern Highlands Reserve is considered a private garden, which offers tours to the public held the first Tuesday of the month during the growing season, April through October. Private tours and other events are offered each year. All visits require reservations and are guided by docents or staff. There is currently a staff of three and approximately 15 volunteers.

Daniel Boone Native Gardens 651 Horn in the West Dr., Boone, NC 28607 Located in Boone near Horn in the West outdoor drama is the Daniel Boone Native Gardens, which opened in the ‘60s. This informal plant sanctuary has a large collection of native trees, shrubs, and wildflowers that bloom throughout the growing season. Paths lead along the graceful slopes and shaded ravines to feature areas with well-marked posts to indicate paths of interest, such as a reflection pond, fern garden, meditation pond, moss garden with a wishing well, a bog, and a rhododendron thicket. A visitor can see wild cranberries, carnivorous plants, and pitcher plants in the bog. A unique plant often pointed out to visitors is squaw root, which grows from the roots of the oak tree. Most visitors have never seen this plant, which is visible in spring as a green shoot, in summer turns brown, and is black in winter. Dr. David Kline, long-time volunteer, says it is “truly a place of tranquility and restfulness. Witness the large number of students and professors from nearby Appalachian State University who come to take it all in—do photography, practice yoga, or sit on one of the many benches throughout the gardens.” There are massive wrought iron gates forged by Burnsville’s Daniel Boone VI, a direct descendant of the great pioneer and given to the gardens by the Southern Appalachian Historical Association. There is a historic cabin dating back more than a century which is built of hand hewn logs, some eighteen inches wide. This cabin was originally built by Jesse Boone Cragg, a great-great-grandson of Jesse Boone, youngest brother of Daniel, in the wilderness below Grandfather Mountain. It now stands in the gardens for visitors to witness how the settlers lived in a cabin with only a fireplace to cook and handhewn furniture on which to sleep and eat.

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Photo courtesy the Biltmore Company, by John Warner

The creation and maintenance of these gardens is living testimony to what garden club members can do when inspired with a cause. From its inception to present-time, the gardens have been financed completely through monetary gifts from

“As a ‘botanic garden of useful plants,’ one of our purposes is to introduce and promote new useful plants for gardeners, growers, herbalists, and chefs.” garden club members and individual members, in addition to gifts of plants and garden accessories. Special recognition should be given to Mrs. B.W. Stallings, Mrs. P.W. Deaton, and Mrs. Frank Tomlinson, who were charter members of the committee and served continuously from 1959 to 1975. Seasonal events open to the public are the Spring Plant Sale; Fairy Day on July 10, noon to 4PM, with activities for families; and a Photo Stroll in late spring or early summer. The garden is open daily for a donation of $2 for ages 16 and up.


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Mountain Gardens 546 Shuford Creek Rd., Burnsville, NC 28714 Joe Hollis’ Mountain Gardens might be considered a giant step away from the traditional floral garden. For over 25 years, he has been engaged in developing a Paradise Garden, primarily focusing on herbs—Chinese and medicinal. The lush natural beauty of stones with streams winding through his property in a kaleidoscope of colors from the trees and plants can certainly be described as heavenly. This stunning creation of Paradise Garden is on several acres of a mountain woodland near Burnsville and Celo Mountain, approximately an hour northeast of Asheville. Hollis says on his website: “The garden continues to generate projects (I try to ride, sometimes just hang on): this year I will offer a series of workshops, plant walks, garden tours and other events; and the seed business wants to turn into a nursery, offering plants, rooted cuttings, dormant roots, etc. of those species which are difficult from seed; and I would like to dry more of my own herbs (they are so much more vibrant than what’s on the market), and to offer fresh herbs harvested on demand.” He gives all-day ($100) and half-day ($50) workshops and has openings for six full-time, live-in apprentices, as well as parttime apprentices. “As a ‘botanic garden of useful plants,’ one of our purposes is to introduce and promote new useful plants, for gardeners, growers, herbalists and chefs. Areas of special

Largest selection of upholstery fabric in WNC interest include wildfoods, medicinal herbs (native and oriental), health-boosting (tonic, adaptogenic) plants and east-west parallels in botany and pharmacy.” There is a small collection of plants and seeds that can be purchased, which he considers particularly worth growing but are not widely available from other sources, such as Southern ginseng, wasabi, false unicorn root, ramps, leek, and many others. The gardens are maintained by the apprentices from March to October. PreCOVID-19 there were quite a few visitors, many of whom found him via YouTube videos. The garden is open to the public from 10AM–5PM Monday through Saturday, but Hollis suggests a call ahead at (828) 675-5664. Andrew Nugent-Head of the Alternative Clinic, a Chinese medicine and acupuncture clinic in Asheville, says, “Joe Hollis is an institution. He was the early pioneer in the field, which allowed later growers to establish the farms that have become the backbone of our field.”

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Garden Party The list of public ga rdens to v isit, both large and small, is endless. Small s p e c i a l i z e d g a r den s a r e s c a t t er e d throughout the South. Bullington Gardens in Hendersonville has a Fairy Trail, sure to delight the young at heart. In Cashiers a nd Highla nds, beautiful wildf lowers in a mountain meadow can be viewed at McKinney Meadow and other properties conserved by the Highlands Cashiers Land Trust. The self-taught Pearl Fryar has been cutting and trimming hedges into fanciful shapes for many years, which can be seen in Bishopville, South Carolina, at Fryar ’s Topiary Garden. As the bee and butterfly populations are threatened by pesticides and fungicides, the North Carolina Wildlife Federation is creating Butterfly Highway to help with habitat loss in North Carolina. At the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro, there is the Kaleidoscope Butterfly Garden. These are only a few of the many gardens in the area; hopefully the information provided will entice you to visit them.

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Making It The Ubertaccios Settled in Asheville and Built a Six-Figure Business in Two Years, Learning Plenty of Lessons in Entrepreneurship Along the Way


tony ubertaccio

is the co-owner of Making It Creative and host of the Making It in Asheville Podcast.



hey said, “bring your own jobs,” So we did. In early May of 2019, just three days after arriving in town from Brooklyn, New York, my wife Sarah and I incorporated Making It Creative, LLC, in the great state of North Carolina. Since that day, we’ve used our LLC to run a small marketing business as well as produce our podcast called Making It in Asheville. As we approach our two-year anniversary both in town and in business, we wanted to share some of the strategies we leveraged to quickly make friends, build a community, and—perhaps most relevant to this publication—grow a six-figure business in a town where we knew no one. Whether you’re like us and picked up this copy of Capital at Play while doing some reconnaissance on the town to see if it's right for you, or if you’ve called these hills your home your whole life, we think these lessons will be valuable to you.

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Lessons: Be > Do > Have In episode two of Making It in Asheville, we break down the difference between be, do, and have. We know this is probably the most important distinction for small business owners and folks with an entrepreneurial bent to really understand. “Be” is a state of mind. It’s an essence. It’s the way you show up in the world. You don't need to have an LLC, you don't need to have years of experience, and you don't need to have customers yet to be an entrepreneur. You need to be an entrepreneur. You need to identify as an entrepreneur and therefore do the things that entrepreneurs do. You identify opportunities, solve problems, and create value. In doing so, the results will enable you to have the things entrepreneurs have. In a highly commoditized world, people often get started in reverse, focusing on what to have so they can do and then hopefully one day be.

U If you're looking to get started in a business or level up your current business, I challenge you to sit with this idea and ask who you need to be to get to that next level.

Fear-Setting vs. Goal-Setting Consistently on our podcast we will ask questions about goals and fears. It's our opinion that when getting started, setting goals is often a waste of time. Early in a project, it's almost impossible to know what a good goal looks like. Moreover, most people don't set good goals to begin with. We did a whole episode on setting goals that “M.A.T.A.” (measurable, actionable, time constrained, accountable), which can help you to set better goals. But, all things equal, we think it's better to move forward boldly than it is to have a well-defined goal. And we know of one great way to help inspire courageous action. Instead of goal-setting, there’s a concept coined by Tim Ferriss called “fear-setting,” which is something Sarah and I have done for years now. In short, you get very clear on what the worst-case scenarios look like and what your first steps to remedy the situation would look be. For example: What happens if you fail? What happens if you run out of money? What happens if no one likes you? What happens if a pandemic hits and the whole industry gets turned on outside? What happens if the pandemic lasts over a year? What happens then— what would you do? Once you're clear on the worst-case scenario, it becomes a lot easier to dive headlong into your work. You also realize that your fears are largely unjustified. Have you spent time getting clear on what your worst case scenarios look like yet? If not, block some time to sit

If you want to create revenue quickly and without spending a lot of money, you should start a service business. with this, write down your fears, and write down what you’d do to handle those situations—you’ll be glad you did.

Be Interested (Not Interesting) / No One Cares About You Another lesson that is hard earned is that, even if you're famous or popular, no one really cares about you; they care about themselves, and they care about what you give them. This is not a bad thing, it's just what it is.

The way this shows up for us is that our marketing and messaging has attempted to communicate that the Making It in Asheville podcast is not about us, it's about you. When we first started the podcast, the idea was, “Here's a podcast about Sarah and I trying to make it in Asheville.” Eventually, it grew into, “Here's the story of this guest and how they are trying to make it in Asheville.” Now, perhaps just subtly, the show is, “Here’s a way for you to feel connected to other folks in Asheville who, like you, are just trying to make it.” When your marketing or messaging communicates with "you” language, it's more likely that it resonates with your audience. As podcast hosts, this goes a level deeper. When we're interviewing someone, we have no aspirations to prove to anyone that we are cool, or knowledgeable, or even interesting. Our goal is simply to be interested. When we're interested, we ask better questions, we pull out more meaningful insights, and we create moments of conversation that stick with our guests and our audience. When these moments happen, it's almost certain that our guests and listeners will think, “I’d like to do this again.” Take a look at your current marketing or how you're showing up in your work. Are you making it about you, or are you making it about how your customer will feel and how your clients will improve? Consider revisiting your marketing material and finding opportunities to use the word “you.”

Service Businesses Are Faster/Cheaper If you want to start “making it” as quickly as possible, you're in pursuit of revenue. If you want to create revenue quickly and without spending a lot of money, you should start a service business. There's effectively no barrier to creating a service business, getting started, and charging a client money. The question is, what skillset do you have that is valuable enough for someone to pay for? Your skill doesn't need to be orthopedic surgery or dentistry—and in fact, it shouldn't be. The average person should spend as little money as possible to get started (surgery and dentistry would require some very expensive equipment and education) and prioritize using, flexing, and growing their “pay-me muscle.” To start a product business, you need to buy and/or create physical products. You now have inventory, and you need to try to sell that inventory. It is decidedly more complex to create a physical thing that someone wants and to sell it than it is to describe a service and its outcome and sell it. You can’t easily change your physical product, but you can change the way you describe a service every time you try to sell it.

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column We recommend getting interested in an ideal customer type and asking or identifying where they need help. If you can deliver the help, you're in business. Now you just need to work on getting paid. Whether you haven't started your business yet or if you have one already and are looking to increase your revenue, it's time to consider adding a service to your offerings. If you’re making a physical product, can you do consulting services or coaching to other makers? Where can you create value by just being you?

Align Yourself with Value Creation People don’t buy products or services, they buy stories. People buy the stories they were told about the product/service they purchase. People buy the ability to tell stories in the future about the product/service they purchased. This is why people pay a premium for a strong brand, and this is why you should do whatever you can to differentiate your offerings with your unique brand and stories. When you do this, you're creating, in some small way, a moat around your business. This moat makes it hard for the Acme Corps alternatives, from Amazon and Walmart, to fill the space that you sit in within your customers’ minds. That is the definition of creating value. If you haven't gotten clear on the stories that make your services or

Katherine C Morosani, ChFC®


Financial Advisor


1185 Charlotte Highway Suite I Fairview, NC 28730 828-628-1546

| April 2021

products special, now is the time. Think about who your customer is and what they care about and how you can better provide an experience that has your customer dying to tell the story. When you are able to seed your customer with stories and provide them with experiences that are worth talking about, your business is bound to grow.

Be Consistent Building a brand is more than launching a website or getting a new logo created; it is the aggregate of all the actions and activities that you take in your business that your customer might ever see or experience. What this means is your brand will get better the more work you put into building it. Albert Einstein was to have said that compounding interest is the eighth wonder of the world. We think there is compounding interest in being consistent. If you are working on your business, be consistent in your efforts, your output, the work that you do, and the efforts to improve your skills. In aggregate, your efforts pay interest, and customers and your audience can compound over time. Internally, we like to remember that the best thing we can do to get more listens to our first episode is to put out our next episode. We are constantly thinking about putting our work into the world, so that folks see it and interact with it.

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Where in your work can you focus on output? Where can you control the controllables? It's common to look at metrics like follower count, email subscribers, or views, but you have very little control over those numbers. Find the spaces in your business where you believe being consistent will deliver the highest value, and focus on doing the work.

Do Well to Do Good We are constantly amazed to find that our guests who are doing the "best” in their business are also commonly doing the most “good.” This is something we see as a unique operating value here in Asheville and something that we are prioritizing ourselves. When you are doing well (for clarity, we will define that as making a lot of money in your business), you're able to choose how and where you spend and distribute that money. That means you have the ability to hire folks locally and to pay a living wage. You have the ability to donate meaningfully to local nonprofits, and you have the ability to take on not-for-profit endeavors in your own business. It's our hope that as the city continues to grow and as you build your business, you recognize the power that you wield. The more successful your business becomes, the more power you hold. You can use that power for good, and we hope that you do.

What’s Next for Making It in Asheville In our two years in Asheville, we tried to live into each of these lessons, and we are now using them to inform our futures. Here’s how: 1. Making it in Asheville is now a media company (not just a podcast). 2. We’ve gotten clear on our fears around making this identity change. 3. Our interest in our guests made it clear there was so much more about their stories to share that we would have to change mediums. 4. Today, we’re focused on audio and video creation services. 5. We want to be your destination for hearing, watching, and telling meaningful stories about the people in this community. 6. We’ll begin sharing this work in the second half of 2021 and, like with the podcast, focus on consistent production outputs. 7. It’s our hope that with our growing audience, we’re able to source great partners, sponsors, and/or advertisers so that we can fund these projects, generously pay the local team that produces these stories, and shine a light on some of the smaller organizations in our community. Visit to learn more.

Smart Personal Investing For All Of Life’s Seasons We can: • Help you articulate and formalize your goals • Prepare your retirement plan • Guide you on how to be invested within your employer’s retirement plan • Suggest ways to increase your income in retirement • Help keep you on track and feeling confident

828.274.7844 | Every Investment Strategy Has The Potential For Profit Or Loss.

April 2021 |


The Old


STATE [ news briefs ]

Back to Landfilling Tires SOUTHPORT A Southport power plant commissioned in 1987 was scheduled to shut down March 31. The Capital Power plant was fueled by burning waste like old tires, railroad ties, and coal. With a capacity of 88 megawatts, it supplied power exclusively to Archer Daniels Midland, a manufacturer of citric acid. Residents became activated to lobby for its decommissioning when, in 2017, plant malfunctions resulted in the covering of several residential areas in soot and ashes. Then, in 2019, it came to public attention that the plant had been discharging cooling water that contained boiler ash. Citizens pressured the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality to deny the plant future permits, but the DEQ compromised, issuing only more restrictive permits. For the leniency, the plant was allowed to operate under a special order of consent, which gave it time to remediate environmentally compromising activities. It had also been fined $473,320 for excessive emissions of SO2 and particulates. Then, Archer Daniels


| April 2021

decided not to renew the permit, opting instead for three natural gas boilers, which were permitted January 4.

On the Market Several Days DURHAM John Q. Walker is selling his home for $1.49 million and it got a mention from @ zillowgonewild because it has a concert hall. Walker is a serial entrepreneur whose resume includes co-founding Ganymede Software, which serviced organizations with large computer networks, and founding Zenph, a company that built a synthesizer that sampled notes from recordings of classical masters. The concert hall lived up to his expectations for attracting worldclass musicians who wanted to record the works of the masters of the classical and jazz genres. Walker even traveled to Germany to get ideas from Richard Wagner’s home acoustics. Walker’s concert hall, with three grand pianos, seated three to four dozen. The walls were more than one foot thick and trimmed in cherry and maple, the independent climate control ran silently,

and the chandelier came from a James Bond movie. Artists would book residences, and small audiences could hear them play live. After a successful 20 years, COVID-19 shut everything down; Walker hasn’t been able to use the hall for a year, so he decided it’s time to move on. He purchased the house, without a concert hall, in 2002 for $875,000.

Inventors, Not Investors CHARLOTTE Bank of America’s inventors filed 722 applications with the United States Patent Office last year, and another 444 applications were filed in the bank’s name. This is a record for the bank, which now claims a total of 4,400 patents and applications from its 5,700 inventors working in 12 countries. Its portfolio now includes 724 patents issued or pending in the field of information security. These are for innovations in cybersecurity, biometrics, deepfake detection, monitoring, and the application of artificial intelligence and machine learning for any of the above. Another 502 patents are for online and mobile banking, with several supporting the bank’s virtual assistant, Erica. Erica has been highly-acclaimed for its ability to extract intention from natural language and generate actionable insights. Other major categories of patent awards include fully functioning payment instruments, network management and analysis, data mining, and training tools for employees. Bank of America’s patent total ranks only 108th on the Intellectual Property Owners Association’s annual list for organizations, but it ranks in the top 15 among financial institutions.

Bad Fit for COVID-19 STATESVILLE JCPenney is closing its fabrication center in Statesville. The decision was made as the store exited its In-Home Custom Window

30 carolina in the west

busi ness. JCPen ney w i l l nonet heless continue to support customers who have previously made purchases from that line. It will also still sell a variety of curtains, shades, and blinds, off-the-shelf and madeto-measure, both in-store and online. The closure will be permanent, and it will affect 65 workers, some of whom have options for employment elsewhere in the organization. The fabrication operations took place in a section of one of JCPenney’s distribution centers, which will remain open. Like other big-box retailers, JCPenney had been struggling before it took a turn for the worse during COVID-19 shutdowns. The company filed for bankruptcy in May and was purchased for $1.75 billion by Simon Propert y Group and Brookf ield Asset Management right before the decision was made to exit the in-home window treatment business. For the near term, JCPenney will also continue to gradually close many of its brick-and-mortar stores across the country.

Recycling Concrete NEW BERN Now play i ng at Ca rol i na Concret e Rec ycl i ng is t he Old St a n ley Wh it e Recreation Center. It is joined by the old New Bern Bridge, an old Kmart, and an old motel. All told, over 250,000 tons of concrete are on-location just waiting to be crushed. Owner Kris Brittain runs a concrete crusher that breaks old buildings into chunks of concrete no larger than three inches in diameter. Then, he screens the chunks to remove non-concrete matter and sort the remnants into size groups. Brit tain purchases old concrete from Craven County and private contractors, and the chunks find new life in new buildings and roads. Not only does the business recycle materials, it keeps them out of landfills, which spares taxpayers the cost of purchasing land for another landfill and elected leaders the heartburn of siting one. That said, concrete crushers aren’t exactly

on any top-ten list for boosting property values, either.

Judge Not ROCKY MOUNT Will Kornegay’s pandemic pivot has been so successf u l, he’s t h in k ing of expanding statewide, if not nationwide. Kornegay and his sister, Laura Hearn, had long been unsettled by the fact that 40 percent of agricultural produce does not make it to market because of its size, shape, or complexion. With backgrounds in agriculture and wellness, they first started a company, Glean, which found markets for rejected produce; then they founded Ripe Revival to make high-protein, highnutrition-value gummies out of imperfect fruits and vegetables. Their pandemic pivot was to match a lot of problems that were actually the solutions for each other: “perfectly imperfect” produce not making it to market, families jobless and starving, people afraid to go to the store. The business model for Ripe Revival Market was to keep buying rejected produce and box it for home delivery. In addition to fruits and vegetables, they source meat, eggs, snacks, condiments, a nd beverages from loca l producers. Customers join a subscription, which they can skip or cancel out of at any time without penalty, and each week, they get whatever is in the weekly box for their subscription level. The added bonus is that for every order purchased, Ripe Revival Market donates the same box to a family in need.

Lowe’s Gives Again MOORESVILLE In February, home improvement retail giant Lowe’s announced another round of employee bonuses. This one totaled $80 million, and the bonuses were described as discretionary and a way of saying thank you for continued dedication as essential

70 national & world news

the old north state

workers. They were available for active hourly associates working at the company’s stores and distribution and call centers, and they’re valued at $300 for full-time and $150 for part-time workers. This is Lowe’s seventh pandemic-related bonus, and it raises the total Lowe’s has gifted its essential workers to $1.3 billion. Lowe’s hired over 90,000 staffers during the pandemic to, as CEO and President Marvin R. Ellison says, “help our customers keep their homes safe and functional during these very challenging times.” What’s more, Lowe’s is going to hire more than 50,000 for the spring. Lowe’s pays competitive wages with profit sharing plus options for health, dental, and optical insurance; tuition reimbursement; 401(k) plans; discounted stock purchase plans; and volunteer time off. Last year, Lowe’s donated over $150 million in community support, most of which was COVID-related; it also donated generously to many wildfire and hurricane relief efforts.

A Newish Way to Invest DURHAM Humacyte, a Durham-based biotech company specializing in bioengineering universally implantable human tissue, has enlisted the services of Alpha Healthcare Acquisition (AHA) to go public. AHA is one of about 300 special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs). These companies have no other purpose than to raise funds in an IPO for a company, usually in a particular field of interest for the investors attracted. Funds raised are placed in an interest-bearing trust and must either be spent to acquire a company or returned to investors after a set time, usually around two years, if no acquisition is completed. Two famous companies that went public this way are 23andMe and SoFi. Humacyte’s CEO, Laura Niklason, who will remain CEO, said she preferred the SPAC route to directly participating in an IPO road show because it allowed more time for longer, more in-depth conversations with April 2021 |


the old north state

potential investors. In fact, she interviewed several SPACs before making a selection. Now she hopes to spend the $175 million in proceeds she will get from the acquisition to commercialize two products now in Phase 3 trials and further develop technologies currently in early-stage trials; this will require operational expansion.

Good Prospects LEXINGTON Lex i ngt on Gold, headqua r t ered i n Bermuda, is resuming mining at what is now called the Jones Keystone and Loflin (JKL) area. Located between Lexington and Asheboro, the site combines two mining areas. The Jones-Keystone properties were prospected intermittently from 1852 through the 1960s. It was estimated that before the Great Depression, 5,000 ounces of gold had been mined from the site, and four pits and several shafts remain from the excavations. The Loflin properties are marked by various pits, trenches, shafts, and other mining features believed to be left by farmers looking for winter income during the Great Depression. Now, preliminary drilling and geological analysis have led Lexington to believe modern-day prospecting will be worth the investment. It has signed a contract with an unnamed local drilling company and begun “a campaign” on the Loflin properties. It has also begun aerial geophysical surveys of this and two other gold mines it owns in North Carolina, the Carolina Belle and Argo projects.

Keeping It Going HIGH POINT Fol low i ng t he COV I D -i nduced cancellation of the High Point Market last year, a group of designers started meeting Saturdays to informally discuss how to make High Point a destination for furniture


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enthusiasts year-round. Their idea, which is still in its infancy, was to create a program ca lled Hig h Point by Design (HPxD). Working in partnership with the High Point Showroom Association, the group has gotten 60-and-counting showrooms to open their doors—but only by appointment and during events “until this COVID thing clears.” To qualify as a flagship showroom, a business must meet certain standards of quality, but all members of the public, as well as trade professionals, are invited to enjoy the flagships. HPxD has set up a website with pages for each flagship showing pictures, summarizing their genre, and providing contact information. HPxD is also now hosting casual informal gatherings, like a masked mixer in Verellen’s spacious showroom. The High Point Market is a semiannual event in which design professionals from around the world show and preview the coming season of furniture. Lasting five days, the event hosts about 2,000 exhibitors and 200,000 attendees.

Precision Pays RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK Spectrum Financial invested $2.5 million in Advanced Chemotherapy Technologies (ACT ), adding $2.5 million to the $5.5 million the company raised last November. Funds will allow ACT to begin testing its medical device for treating pancreatic cancer on humans. The device, which is “the size of a quarter,” is implanted inside the pancreas to deliver gemcitabine directly to the tumor with the assistance of a mild electric current. The procedure was developed at the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill with funding from the National Institutes of Health and the University Cancer Research Fund. Preclinical tests conducted by the university showed tumors in mice treated with the delivery system decreased 40 percent, while those in mice treated intravenously grew 240 percent.

ACT licensed the technology from UNC and received a $250,000 grant from the North Carolina Biotechnology Center’s Small Business Innovation and Research program for the clinical testing, which will soon begin on 12–18 patients.

Toy Story GASTONIA Veteran Jimmy Woody had a hobby of collecting toys, which he described as becoming serious in 1996. Having 20 years’ experience in retail, his dream was to have his own toy store, which he launched as Back in Time Collectibles in 2020. He had actually sold action figures as a hobby before, but now the toys that once stuffed a room in his home are displayed in dazzling arrays, with quantities and selections that would give big-box toy stores a run for the money. When COVID-19 hit, fortunately for Woody, hobby expenditures were running countercyclical with the economy, as people stuck indoors were looking for things to do with their hands. They also had lots of time to while away the hours watching cartoons and documentaries about vintage toys on streaming services. The store started with an inventory that was 90 percent from Woody’s own collection, but it has really expanded. And, if Woody doesn’t have a particular toy, he promises to work very hard to locate one. Mixing a brickand-mortar shopping setting with local, knowledgeable, human expertise has so far proven a winning combination.

Pesky Contracts RALEIGH Zoetis, a New Jersey-based Pfizer spinoff specializing in vaccines, medications, and diagnostics for pets and livestock, is suing a former employee and his company for violating terms of engagement. After

leaving the company, Ramin Karimpour founded Mehr Solar Technologies, which he soon renamed Applied LifeSciences & Systems, and performed the same kind of work as Zoetis. Applied LifeSciences & Systems incidentally attracted $8 million in equity financing in 2019. The lawsuit states that, per terms in his contract and severance package, Karimpour agreed to disclose all inventions and discoveries made in fields related to Zoetis’ line of business while in its employ. That is, all pertinent intellectual property should have been signed over to Zoetis. Shortly after leaving the company, court records state, Karimpur f iled applications for testing and treating poultry. Zoetis cites as evidence that Karimpour had developed these ideas while in its employ emails mentioning the patented systems as well as a presentation he delivered. Zoetis sent a letter to Karimpour requesting transfer of the patents, but he did not respond.

106 Sutton Ave Black Mountain, NC 828.669.0075


April 2021 |


TSUGA'S LATEST PRODUCT, the Pisgah Pad, exemplifies the company's dauntless innovation, photo courtesy Meat Camp Media House


| April 2021

In the

Mouth of the Wilson Tsuga Founder Jimi Combs Is Poised at the Confluence of Outdoor Gear Research and Manufacturing WRITTEN BY LAUREN STEPP | PHOTOS BY EVAN ANDERSON

April 2021 |



he headwaters of Wilson Creek are born on Grandfather Mountain’s brow. Emerald and frothing, the stream snakes through 23.3 miles of ashen limestone and spruce fir to the junction of Johns River in Caldwell County. Deemed a National Wild and Scenic River System in 2000, the Wilson is as much a part of Appalachian topography as it's vernacular. In a honey-smooth drawl that stretches vowels like saltwater taffy, High Country natives often describe themselves as being “in the mouth of the Wilson.” Meaning, in a figurative sense, that they have arrived at the genesis of something vast and immense, a force greater than themselves. This hyperlocal mountain idiom is how Jimi Combs describes Tsuga, the Boone-based manufacturing firm he established in 2009. “We are in the mouth of the Wilson, so to speak,” says Combs. “Clients—established companies and startups—are coming to us. We help them design their products, and when it comes time to manufacture their product, we raise our hand again.” To truly describe what Tsuga (pronounced soo-gah) does demands more than a turn of phrase. Because, much like the free-flowing river in Avery County, Combs’ company has ebbed and flowed with the seasons. Initially incorporated to create and sell a canopy system, Tsuga has since adopted a service orientation, filling orders from the U.S. Department of Defense and fledgling tool belt companies, producing anything to “keep the doors unlocked.” But now, after experiencing unparalleled growth, Combs is manufacturing a tight niche in the outdoor industry, one that focuses more on research and design than needlework.

Finding Flow Combs’ business model looked much different a decade ago. After several years spent working as a sewing machine operator and quality control manager at Misty Mountain, a local producer of climbing gear, and later as an outdoor gear sales representative for various companies, Combs decided to pursue a pet project he had been chewing on for a while. The idea was to create a durable tent-like structure from high-end aluminum poles and UV-resistant material. He called it the TS 8 Canopy System and modeled the entire Tsuga brand after this flagship product. Much like the TS 8 wards off the elements, Tsuga, a genus of conifers, affords shelter from the wind, sun, and rain. And yet the TS 8 offered little defense against brutal market forces. “It almost sank us,” says Combs. “It is a very functional piece; it sits on the beach cabana-style, or it can be hooked to a hatchback or truck to become a tailgate-type system. But we just can’t sell the canopy for what it is worth. People are used to the $199.99 Walmart sunshade.” (For comparison, the TS 8 Canopy System sells for $700 today. Each canopy is made to order.) “To make it cost-effective—to win in the volumes game—production may eventually need to be outsourced offshore,” he continues.



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Struggling to pay his $300 lease in a small timber frame shop, Combs decided to diversify. “I started the company as a product when I should have started as a manufacturing service to bring some immediate cash in,” he says. Though hesitant at first, Tsuga started taking custom orders, designing and sewing grill covers and awnings. Combs even accepted odd jobs staining decks, painting chairs, and blowing leaves. Work was work. Some relief came with the advent of Tsuga’s utility collection, a line of bags designed for arborists, power line technicians, rock climbers, and everyone in between. Made from black

“We never pushed our products like we should have because it just takes a lot of money to chase that.” vinyl, the drawstring sacks are big on pragmatism. The L.B.A. (otherwise known as “the Little Bad Ass”), for instance, is a fairly small pouch that rock jocks can load down with climbing chalk and granola bars. Then there is the Small Pole Pig, a heavy-duty bucket with a rigid bottom that is best for those who

are trimming trees or repairing fried power lines. Though a few high ropes course builders ordered utility buckets branded with their logos, interest soon faltered. “We never pushed our products like we should have because it just takes a lot of money to chase that,” says Combs. By 2016 Tsuga was hemorrhaging cash. The business’s downward trajectory kept Combs up at night. Teary-eyed and restless, he accepted that the end might be near. “Six more months and I am shutting the door if there isn’t some shining light,” he told his girlfriend. “We just need something that we can grab hold of.” Soon after, a buddy in Wilkesboro threw out a life preserver. Owning a manufacturing company himself, Combs’ friend had received some military contract work and was struggling to keep pace. He needed help, and Tsuga needed capital. Back against the wall, Combs accepted. “It blew up from there,” he says. Tsuga’s staff soon grew by two people and then three, ballooning until 16 sewers were packed into a 3,200-sq.-ft. space. In part because of Combs’ connections both in and outside of the outdoor industry, custom design work came too. Diamondback Toolbelts, for instance, commissioned the Boone manufacturer to design and produce tool belts, suspenders, and packs. “Our DNA is all over their products,” says Combs. “We rolled them right

April 2021 |


from design into manufacturing. We helped the company get their feet under them.” The collaboration with Diamondback signified a shift in flow. Rather than simply fill purchase orders like a traditional manufacturer, Tsuga could be a turnkey operation: a firm that provides clients with research and development as well as smallbatch production. As a local might say, Tsuga was in the mouth of the Wilson.

Mountain Made It is easy to mistake Combs for a Boone native. He drops his “g’s” and peppers his speech with “y’all’s.” But Combs was born and bred “off the mountain,” as he likes to say, in Aberdeen, North Carolina, a small town an hour south of Raleigh. Growing up, he worked on tobacco farms and imagined he would continue down a related career path. He even pursued a degree in horticulture at Sandhills Community College, but, just six months shy of graduation, he had a revelation. “We would go on these field trips to different companies where alumni had interned, been offered good money, and never left the place,” says Combs. “That was the writing on the wall for me that I was going to be in my 20s, married with kids, overweight, buried in debt, and not getting to do what I wanted to do.” The Piedmont boy had always felt drawn to Western North Carolina. As a kid, he spent many summers at Tweetsie Railroad and winters at Appalachian Ski Mtn. “That is where the mountains got in my blood,” he says. And so, when Combs asked himself what it was that he truly wanted to do, the Black Mountains in Boone answered. He wanted to hike, ski, and bike those soaring granite faces. He wanted to abandon a destined future of financial security and creature comforts to live in the High Country. “I decided to look for a job in t he mountains. A fter I found one ma king snow at Hawksnest Ski Mountain,” now Hawksnest Snow Tubing and Zipline, “I got withdrawal forms and went around to all of my professors. Then I went home and


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Singletrack Study Keeping the lights on amid a global crisis is stressful. Fortunately, outdoor recreation helps Combs keep his cool. After work, he often loads up his Santa Cruz—the Cadillac of bikes—and bounces down Pisgah service roads. It was after a rowdy ride on 21 Jumps or Schoolhouse Gap—Combs’ memory fails him—that he noticed a slight indentation in his bike’s carbon fiber frame. After a short reconnaissance mission, he pinpointed the culprit: his tailgate pad. For those unfamiliar with the product, a tailgate pad is like a big, cushy nylon vest that drapes over a truck’s tailgate. When a rider puts their bike in the bed, the pad’s straps and anchors keep things from moving around, protecting both the bike and the vehicle—in theory, at least. The open cell foam in Combs’ tailgate pad had started breaking down, leaving just a thin layer of fabric between the truck and his Santa Cruz. As a bonus, the pad had rubbed the clear coat right off his tailgate. Not satisfied with solutions on the market—many of which cannot be used in conjunction with backup cameras—he devised his own. The result is the Pisgah Pad—a compact product that connects to the bike’s downtube rather than the tailgate. “The average truck sells for $55,000 today, and the average mountain bike sells for $2,000. This pad protects your investment because it doesn’t slide around,” says Combs. “We used this cool fabric that really grabs on and a mixture of thick foam and rubber.” Ergonomic hooks are also available for added protection. Tsuga will roll out the product in the coming months, though a select few customers are already reaping the benefits. While testing the pad, Combs relied on the folks at Industry Nine, an Asheville-based manufacturer of bike parts, for feedback. Other diehard riders weighed in, too, testing out the product on some of Pisgah’s rockiest, muddiest service roads. Unlike Combs’ store-bought pad, the Pisgah Pad has yet to rub carbon fiber raw or snap a derailleur (a much-needed mechanism that assists in shifting gears). “That’s one of the best parts about living in Boone—you can create and test outdoor gear on the same day,” says Combs. “You have a lot of like-minded people who will knock your door down to test your gear.”

Photo courtesy Meat Camp Media House April 2021 |


broke the news to my folks,” Combs remembers. “I told them I was wasting my time and their money. Of course, their jaws hit the floor, and they told me I was on my own and not to call them unless I was upside-down in a ditch.” On a winter day in 1987, just hours after dropping out of college, Combs packed his car and moved to Boone. By 7PM, he was making snow on the slopes, and the next morning, he

Impressed by the kid’s gumption, Moomaw walked Combs back to a sewing machine, showed him how to position the needle, and then said to come get him when the bobbin ran out. was fast asleep in a hotel room-turned-efficiency apartment. The lodging was low-key, but Combs instantly clicked with a neighbor a few doors down, another 20-something who was also living modestly in the name of outdoor adventure. The pair soon started rock climbing together, literally learning the ropes as they went along.


| April 2021

Combs remembers he and his friend would make the ninemile trek down NC-105 to Valle Crucis just to look through the windows of Misty Mountain, a local producer of climbing gear. Mouths salivating and wallets empty, the two would ogle at the climbing packs, harnesses, and chalk bags, hungry for gear as well as a chance to create it. “We were always like, ‘Can you imagine working for a place like this?’ We just didn’t even feel worthy,” Combs laughs. But in 1991, a sewing machine operator position at Misty Mountain opened up. Hoping to step away from his winters making snow, Combs met with owners Burton Moomaw and Woody Keen. They asked about his sewing experience—absolutely zilch—and told him to come back in two weeks. Combs knew they were giving him the runaround, so he came back in two days. When Combs walked through the door, Moomaw just looked at his nonexistent wristwatch as if to say, “Why the hell are you back so soon?” To which Combs, a flatlander desperately vying for a shot, replied: “Man, just give me a chance.” Impressed by the kid’s gumption, Moomaw walked Combs back to a sewing machine, showed him how to position the needle, and then said to come get him when the bobbin ran out. Half an hour later, Combs walked his product over to the quality control station where Keen sat. “I threw it down, and Woody looks at it and then looks at me. And then he says, ‘You’re freaking hired,’” Combs recalls, chuckling. “That started my career in the outdoor industry.”

April 2021 |


Stitch in Time Combs spent almost seven years with Misty Mountain, first as a sewing machine operator and later as the quality control manager. In the late 1990s, he left to become a sales representative for various outdoor retailers like Teva and Hi-Tec Global. Around 2001 he caught wind of a sales rep opening with Black Diamond Equipment, an internationally-recognized provider of climbing, skiing, and mountain gear. Combs applied, doubting he would make the cut. “But lo and behold, they picked me,” he says. Working with Black Diamond was a dream come true. Whereas in the past, selling products was “like pushing a wet rope,” Combs was now getting paid great money to clinic mountain biking, ice and rock climbing, and hiking equipment with clients. He had full benefits and all the gear he could ever want. There was just one problem: He lived on the road. “My son was ten, and I knew I was missing out on opportunities with him. He would start to ask questions like, ‘Where are you going, Dad? Are you leaving again? Are you getting on a plane?’ He was worried,” says Combs. “I just knew I was going to wake up one day and he was going to be 20 years old, and I wouldn’t know him.” And so, for the second time in his life, Combs purposefully forwent financial security and creature comforts. He left Black Diamond and nabbed a job with a local company that developed high ropes courses around the country. All the while, Combs’ idea for a canopy system ate away at him. He spent evenings in his basement sewing up prototypes, a hundred at least. “It was like, cook or get out of the kitchen,” he says. (That is mountain speak for, “Take action or move on, Jack.”) Finally, while building a ropes course in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, in 103-degree heat, Combs decided to branch out on his own. At the time, in 2007, he was sitting free and clear; he was debt-free. Since he had paid off his home and property while working at Black Diamond, he took out a second mortgage to establish Tsuga and bring his TS 8 Canopy System to life. Then the recession hit. “My timing was absolutely impeccable,” Combs laughs.

High Gear The recession forced Tsuga to grow legs. To keep afloat, the company had to become more than just a purveyor of canopy systems and utility bags—it needed to evolve into a full-blown textile manufacturer. And so, Combs accepted military contract work and collaborated with Diamondback Toolbelts to design and produce a line of products. But today, a decade later, Combs is making plans to once again evolve. To an outsider, the need for a new business model seems nonsensical. In 2018 the company grossed $78,000, while in 2019 and 2020 that figure jumped to nearly one million dollars. So why change something that isn’t broken? Because, as Combs explains, Boone is one of the hardest places to make it as a traditional


| April 2021

Photo courtesy Meat Camp Media House

manufacturer. As a college town, the cost of living is much higher than in places with a history of manufacturing. While the average home price in Hickory, for instance, hovers close to $150,000, the average home price in Boone is nearer to $260,000. According to Combs, the High Country just can not keep up with manufacturing like the Foothills and Piedmont, where companies can pay lower wages and, in return, make more products for less money. Tsuga does, however, have a not-sosecret adva nt age: Appa lach ia n St at e University (ASU). A five-minute drive away, ASU is a collegiate beacon for students who want to get outside and shred singletrack, solve boulder problems, and ski fresh powder. These same kids are also soonto-be engineers, industrial designers, marketing gurus, and business masters who, in a mere four years, will be knocking on Tsuga’s door looking for jobs. “We do have some really good talent,” Combs explains. “But that talent isn’t going to sit at a machine and stare at a needle for eight hours a day. They would bring more value to branding, designing, development, and other higher-level tasks.” A nd so, Combs is reor ient i ng h is business to better suit the labor pool. More labor-intensive ma nufact uring jobs are now being outsourced to TPS, a partner agency in Burlington, and other companies associated with the Carolina Textile District (CTD), a member-driven organization focused on reintroducing textile manufacturing to the Southeast. This “business brokering model,” as Combs calls it, frees up Tsuga staff to balance traditional manufacturing with research and development. In return, they can fill large-batch purchase orders while also working with clients to design products and create prototypes. “We are in the mouth of the Wilson,” Combs says again. “It’s about time we get off the hamster wheel of production and return to our roots as a brand.”

April 2021 |


Brick and Mortar Building a brand—or revamping an existing brand— means building a better website, a better social media presence, and a better facility. In July 2019, Tsuga moved from a cramped 3,200-sq.-ft. office to a 10,500-sq.-ft. warehouse on George Wilson Road in Boone. The leased space has since become alive with the sounds of Juki sewing machines and an Eastman fabric cutter. Still, Combs is thinking bigger. He wants to establish a new facility that is much more than four walls; he envisions a space where clients can be immersed in the research and development process, but also wined and dined. “We want to entertain clients for three or four days,” says Combs. “You show up, we give you a tour and eat lunch, and then we start business. When 5PM hits, we go hiking or mountain biking. Then we come back that evening, sit around the fire, and start building relationships. We just don’t want a revolving door of clients.” From his time as a sales rep with Black Diamond, the flatlander knows that a handshake goes a long way. Clients want to be looked in the eye and called by their first name. They also want to create a product quickly. Typically, outdoor retailers wait 12 to 18 months to get a prototype in hand. Tsuga wants to turnkey products in just days, delivering a tangible by the time clients board their plane. Combs is working to secure a five-acre plot in Boone for the facility and would love to break ground in the coming months. “But with COVID-19, I’m not so sure,” he laments. Since last March, Tsuga’s staff have been a bit preoccupied, to say the least. With personal protective equipment flying off the shelves, CTD saw an opportunity to provide communities across the Southeast with needed products while keeping textile workers employed. With that in mind, CTD designed a physician-approved mask, as well as a pipeline for producing them. In spring 2020, Tsuga joined a dozen other Southeastern manufacturers in sewing PPE. During that time, Tsuga cut about 40,000 masks per week and sewed up about 7,000. “When the pandemic hit, we had to re-gear and reorient the ship,” says Combs. “There was an opportunity to keep everyone with paychecks, and we took it.”

Gaining Ground Pandemic aside, Combs is hopeful that he can soon make Tsuga a household name among outdoor enthusiasts. But the Piedmont boy is not one to forget his humble roots. “When I first started my business in 2009, I would talk at schools and tell students that I had been working at the


| April 2021

company for 20 years because I started paying my dues in the outdoor industry in the 1990s,” says Combs. “I had to starve. I had to be hungry and frustrated. I had to get in there and network. Things didn’t always go well, but that was okay. I learned.” Learning from his experience with the less than profitable TS 8 Canopy System, he has yet to cut Tsuga completely loose

“I had to starve. I had to be hungry and frustrated. I had to get in there and network. Things didn’t always go well, but that was okay. I learned.” from contractual manufacturing work. “It is a cash cow for the business,” he says. Combs is also designing the new facility knowing that, at any point, Tsuga could lose steam. Another

recession could hit. Demand for custom products could drop. A competitor could move in. With these uncertainties in mind, the building will double as a potential venue space that could be rented out. “We grew quick, and we’re just trying to hold on to that pony, but I don’t want to put all my eggs in one basket either,” he says in that distinctive mountain vernacular, salted with idioms and sweetened with drawl. Half an hour away from the Tsuga warehouse, Wilson Creek runs cold and wild as an early spring snow dusts Grandfather Mountain. Locals identify with the Wilson because it, like so many of us, has humble beginnings. The stream originates on Calloway Peak as a meandering runnel before gaining ground. It soon flows flat out, leaving an indelible mark on the landscape of the High Country before, without pause or resistance, becoming something else entirely—the Johns River. And so, when Combs says he is in the mouth of the Wilson, he recognizes the significance of the path he is bound to carve. But he also recognizes that everything has the potential to change some 23.3 miles down the road.

With most of life’s little daily worries like home and yard maintenance and housekeeping taken care of, you’re free to focus on your total health – body, mind and spirit. The beautiful setting, wonderful new friends, and newly discovered interests keep you engaged, active and happy! Call to schedule a visit and discover a holistic approach to a joy-filled retirement at Deerfield. Asheville, NC 800-284-1531 April 2021 |


Updates For


NATIONAL [ news briefs ]

Some Racket AUGUSTA, MAINE Who even knew moose hunting was a thing? Apparently, the tens of thousands who enter Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife’s annual Moose Permit Lot ter y each yea r do. A ll a re competing for about 3,000 permits. To participate, applicants must meet standard criteria and purchase a “chance” for $15, or a bundle of chances at a discount.

prefer, the state holds an auction for only ten permits. To participate, parties must submit sealed bids by mail with payment of a nonrefundable $25 bid fee. Applicants must also select which week they will be hunting, each week being assigned to a specific area of the state. Moose hunting season does not begin until fall, running from September 27–November 27, with October 30 being Maine Resident Only Day. Winners still have to purchase a permit, which limits hunting to one moose.

Like everything these days, there is also a bonus points game. The bonus points give applicants more chances, but they


will be forfeited if compliance with rules for purchasing the points as scheduled is not maintained. For those who would

su rgeon, ha s pat ent ed a s yst em for protecting seniors who want to continue an active lifestyle from falling. From 1970 to 1998, he treated too many fall-related injuries in his line of work in Minnesota and Virginia, and so he had been trying to find a solution. Davenport concluded early that falls could not be prevented, and so he focused on how to break them. His idea, the Saf-T-Vest, was to create a vest, not much different in appearance than a lightweight down vest, with airbags. The airbags would be equipped with a gyroscope and accelerometers, which would be calibrated to the user’s normal motions in order to detect an uncontrolled fall, which would trigger a microprocessor to deploy the airbags. A patient in corporate illustrations of their deployment bears a strong resemblance to the Michelin Man. Davenport has been working with his son and other engineers at the Mesabi Range College and University of St. Thomas. Before going to market, they’re looking for grants to support the refinement of methods of preventing accidental deployment and improve timing to make sure def lation initiates before the wearer hits the ground.

Jay Davenport, a retired orthopedic

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Ambitious Sequestration ALDEN, IOWA Summit Agricultural Group has collected enough buy-in to announce plans to form a multistate carbon sequestration program. Summit is just one of 20 ethanol plants that will be capturing carbon dioxide (CO2) from the fermentation of corn, liquefying it, and piping it to North Dakota for underground storage in ten wells. The project, Summit Carbon Solutions, calls for the creation of a $2 billion pipeline network, with the ethanol plants feeding their liquid CO2 into a 24-inch grand trunk. The exact route of the pipelines has not been announced, as negotiations for rights of way have yet to begin. The destination in North Dakota has not been announced, either, but prior research by the Plains CO 2 Reduction Partnership, which includes the University of North Dakota’s Energy & Environmental Research Center, surveyed the state for locations where it would be safe to store carbon. North Dakota was selected both for its favorable geography and regulatory climate. While the project would be the largest carbon capture project in the world, annually keeping 10 million tons of CO 2 out of the atmosphere, Justin Kirchhoff, president of Summit, is still open to signing on additional ethanol plants.

Responsible, Responsive Growth PORTLAND, OREGON Entrepreneur magazine inter v iewed Jaime Schmidt to share tips on how she turned her hobby, over the course of seven years, into a nine-digit sale to Unilever. It all started when she took a course on making shampoo. She then applied what she learned to making other nontoxic personal care products, which she sold at farmers’ markets and street fairs. In

the beginning, she says she didn’t have a passion for personal care products; she was making them because it was easy. The status quo was working fine until she started making deodorant. She received so many letters from people wanting to be able to buy it off-the-shelf, she started pitching Schmidt’s Naturals. She said it paid off not to be particular about finding a designer niche; the deodorant was sold at Whole Foods, Nordstrom, Walgreens, and Costco. Schmidt avoided investors, preferring to control her vision for her company and grow naturally, to follow demand, look for trends, and pivot responsively. In the beginning, she did not seek out a mentor, although in retrospect she thinks that could have helped. Instead, she was highly active in the give-and-take of Portland’s active entrepreneur/maker community.

“Elvis Has Left the Building” GREENBELT, MARYLAND Origin Wireless raised $14 million to commercialize its WiFi sensing concept. Prominent investors included Verizon Ventures and The technology senses changes to ambient electromagnetic fields in a room and has been applied to smart home automation as well as detecting home brea k-ins, fa l ls, a nd disruptions in breathing. Origin converts existing internet-of-things devices into sensors. By monitoring a space’s composite electromagnetic field, Origin provides comprehensive coverage unavailable with cameras. It doesn’t even need hardware like cameras or sensors that take up space and feel intrusive. Origin’s Remote People Monitoring (RPM) monitors the fields of, for example, an elderly parent living alone, without the need for them to wear a pendant or have cameras invading their privacy. When abnormalities are detected, alerts, such as, “Mom has been in the bathroom 20 minutes,” will be sent to the caregiver. The

54 the old north state

national & world news

technology can also be used like a GPS to give updated directions accurate to within one centimeter or to track the whereabouts of expensive equipment.

Sad All Around NATIONWIDE A settlement has been reached between 47 states, five territories, and the District of Columbia (the complainants) and McKinsey & Compa ny. The at t or neys gener a l claimed opioid abuse had burnt holes in their social services and public safety department budgets, not only for medical treatment and intensive rehabilitation, but for all the crimes committed by persons desperate to feed their addictions. They charged McKinsey was employed by Purdue Pha rma, who reta ined the ma rketing company for 15 years to, in the words of North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein, “design marketing plans to help it sell more pills to more patients at increasing potency for longer periods of time.” The settlement included a $573 million payout to be divided among the complainants a nd used mos t ly for t reat ment a nd rehabilitation programs in hard-hit areas. It also resulted in McKinsey agreeing to refrain from serving in any capacity as a consultant on opioid-related matters. Last October, Purdue, which had by then filed for bankruptcy, settled with the United St ates Depa r tment of Justice for $8.3 billion and consented to be restructured as a trust under government control. Other large companies, like Johnson & Johnson, McKesson, and Walmart, are involved in civil suits over the same issue.

Vet Your Investors ROME, ITALY In a semiannual report to parliament, Italy’s Anti-Mafia Investigation Directorate warned the pandemic shutdowns have

April 2021 |


national & world

been, and will continue to be, conducive to mobster exploitation. The mafia was described as having reinvented itself to mirror a business enterprise. While the criminal element is still intact, it is seeking to expand into new markets and diversify its portfolio. Today, instead of applying coercive measures to extort “protection money,” mobsters a re more likely to appear on the scene as angel investors, more often than not using drug money, and slowly power their way into majority ownership. This technique is now common in the restaurant sector, where businesses are struggling, and in the healthcare and climate-conscious industries, where business is booming. A nother area of concern is the $250 billion Italy is expected to receive in pandemic recovery funds from the European Union. Italy has been careful to screen large infrastructure contracts, which have historically been awarded to mafiosi. But now, with so much money going to so many projects in so little time, the state doesn’t have the resources necessary to apply all those screening measures.

Theme Park Stores Didn’t Transfer Online SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA Fry’s Electronics closed all 31 of its stores overnight. The closure was reported as unannounced, but The Verge reports shoppers knew how to read the signs. Fry’s went into business 36 years ago as a “onestop-shop for the high-tech professional.” The store had a cult following among techies, each store designed bombastically, inside and out, with a unique theme like ancient Egypt, Texas oil, or 1950s sci-fi movies. In an official statement, corporate representatives explained their method of shutting down was designed to do the least amount of harm to customers, vendors, landlords, and employees, while maximizing payouts to creditors and stakeholders. Industry analysts credited Fry’s failure


| April 2021

to pivot to online shopping as rapidly as the competition as catalyzing its demise. Even before COVID-19, shoppers noticed a sense of desperation. It started with offers to match any online price and degenerated into adding a children’s toy aisle, As Seen on TV items, and even perfume. Then the shelves weren’t being stocked at all. Vendors started selling only on consignment, most full-time positions were cut, and complaints abou nded about u n k nowledgeable employees and long return lines.

No Carbon, But… WORLDWIDE The shipping industry is turning to ammonia to help meet a goa l, set by regulators at the International Maritime Organization (IMO) of the United Nations, of reducing carbon emissions 50 percent by 2050. Several research projects are currently underway to figure out how to fit today’s maritime vessels with engines that burn ammonia. Finland’s Wärtsilä is testing a marine combustion engine in Norway, Germany’s MAN Energy Solutions is partnering with the Korean shipbuilder Samsung Heavy Industries to create an ammonia-powered oil tanker, and Norway’s Equinor is developing a ship that would run on ammonia fuel cells. Researchers for University Maritime Advisory Services and the Energy Transitions Commission estimated meeting the IMO’s target will cost $1 trillion, and totally decarbonizing the shipping industry would take almost another trillion dollars. The combustion of ammonia emits no carbon, and it is easy and inexpensive to make available. On the flipside, inhalation of elevated levels of ammonia can lead to cerebral dysfunction and death, and the nitrous oxide products of its combustion are considered pollutants. These drawbacks, however, are considered manageable.

Rolling Together AKRON & FINDLAY, OHIO Goodyear Tire & Rubber has entered into an agreement to acquire Cooper Tire & Rubber Company for about $2.5 billion. The deal will expand Goodyear’s offerings, rated for original equipment and premium replacements, by adding more mid-priced tires and capturing more of the light truck and SUV markets. The merger will also increase cash flow by eliminating duplication, reduce Goodyear’s tax payments, and help sales in China. In business for over a century, Cooper was the fifth-largest tire manufacturer in North America, employing about 10,000 in 15 countries. Its brands include Cooper, Mastercraft, Roadmaster, and Mickey Thompson. Goodyea r was founded 16 years earlier, and, along with Bridgestone, Michelin, and Continental, it was rated a top-four tire manufacturer worldwide, employ i ng about 64 ,000 i n 2017. It s brands include Goodyear, Dunlop, Kelly Spr i ng f ield, Doug la s, a nd a host of brands sold uniquely in other countries. Combined, Cooper and Goodyear did about $17.5 billion in sales in 2019. Goodyear plans to finance the acquisition with debt, and the deal should close later this year.

Success Was Incidental NEWBURGH, NEW YORK Stronger U, a diet coaching company, has over 32,000 clients in 50 countries; in 2019, it grossed over $7 million, giving it a three-year growth rate of 830 percent. Ow ner Mi ke Doeh la had a ca reer in huma n resources, but he thought he might like to go into the fitness business. He tried running a gym out of his garage, but he couldn’t invest enough in time or equipment to compete with what was already out there. In the meantime, he realized he was spending a lot of time researching nutrition and posting about

it online, shunning fads in lieu of hardcore textbook data. He found people liked that, and then a couple asked if he would be their diet coach. He gave a talk at a gym, and all eight who showed became clients. Then people started seeing his clients’ results, and they wanted to join. Doehla kept his day job until he realized he was making more in a month coaching than in a year in HR. Growth was 100 percent through word of mouth, helped a little by a promo that gives members 12 weeks free for every five referrals. Doehla says each healthy client is a walking billboard for his company. He didn’t have a business plan or worry about money; he was only trying to help people.

The Better Bedder Bidder MANDEVILLE, LOUISIANA Nit a Ga ssen a nd Judy Schot t were selected to pitch their invention on ABC’s Shark Tank. Schot t was a n at torneyturned-chief operating officer working out of New Orleans with a typical distaste for making beds. After searching high and low for a solution, she called her lifetime friend, Gassen, for help. Gassen was then selling insurance but has since quit her day job. Together, they developed the Better Bedder. It’s an elastic band that overlaps the vertical surfaces of a mattress. They describe it as a giant headband. Any sheet can be tucked down bet ween the bed and mattress for a clean, modern look without having to scoot furniture and lift the mattress. Gassen made the prototype in 2018, after which the duo looked for a regional manufacturer before settling for one in Algiers. On the television program, three sharks went into a bidding frenzy before Lori Greiner, the Queen of QVC, cast the winning bid of $150,000 for an 18 percent interest in the company. The exploit also earned the product a lot of exposure and free advertising.

Fresh as a Daisy RAMAT GAN, ISRAEL One day, Obed Halperin was fined for failing to pick up his dog’s droppings. This inspired him to turn to his friend, serial biotech entrepreneur and university professor Obed Shoseyov, t o i nvent something better than the poo bag routine. Shoseyov was stumped until Halperin suggested chemical incineration. That led the two to launch Paulee CleanTec, named for Halperin’s dog, Paulus. While Paulee CleanTec was founded with the broad goal of creating sustainable and feasible means of managing excrement, the chemical incineration technology is called the BioLizer system. It can convert half a ton of fresh manure into pathogenfree, potassium-rich fertilizer, which can be stored between fertilizing seasons or taken to market. The company received a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Reinvent the Toilet Challenge grant in its early years, and Doral Infrastructures just invested $2 million to develop and commercialize the technology. The BioLizer system is now being piloted for use on livestock farms and in slaughterhouses, and a demonstration project has just been set up on a kibbutz dairy farm.


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EVENTS Due to frequently changing schedules, it is advisable to confirm dates and times with the venues before attending the following events.

locomotive that takes families to a Wild West theme park made several attempts at reopening, only to fall under the COVID-19 hammer. This year, prospects at reopening are so great, the Easter Bunny has been booked for a three-day photo-op stint. Packaged pricing is available. » General Admission: Adult $52, Child (2-13) $33, Infant FREE » 800-526-5740 »


MARCH 3, 10, 17, 24

Cook Smart, Eat Smart Virtual Cooking 11AM-1PM | Zoom NC Cooperative Extension

Nor th Ca rolina Ag Extension agents will teach skills handy for riding out the pandemic like an Epicurean. » FREE » 828-697-4581 »

APRIL 1 – MAY 27

Biltmore Blooms

Consult website for times The Biltmore House | One Lodge Street, Asheville The extensive gardens were designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, otherwise known as the father of A merica n la ndscape architecture. An online calendar posts what’s currently in bloom. Enjoying the grounds is included with admission. » Consult website for pricing

Partner Marketing Made Easy 2-4PM | Zoom Mountain BizWorks

Derrick Duplessy will help set participants’ enterprises up for simplified online, personto-person sales. » Preregistration: Pay what you wish over the $5 minimum


Storytelling Saturdays

2-4PM | Dougherty House at Mystery Hill | 129 Mystery Hill Lane, Blowing Rock Storytellers continue to entertain open-house style for socially-distanced park visitors. » General Admission: $26.95, Accompanied Infant (0-2): FREE » 828-264-2792 »

65th Annual Easter Sunrise Service

Last year, the historic, narrow-gauge steam

Enjoy a spectacular sunrise over Lake Lure livestreamed into the warmth and comfort of your own home via Chimney Rock’s Facebook page. A nondenominational

| April 2021

APRIL 5-29

Sweetie Pies Recipe Challenge

Deadline 5PM April 29 Swain County Cooperative Extension 60 Almond School Road, Bryson City

This is a touchless, tasteless pie contest. To enter, one need only snail-mail a photo of their dessert pie to the Swain County Extension or post it on the extension’s Facebook page, and email the recipe along with the pie’s story. Pies will be judged on the photograph, uniqueness of the recipe, how delicious the recipe sounds, and, of course, the story. » FREE »

7AM | Virtual Chimney Rock State Park




Tweetsie Railroad Opening Day

10AM-6PM | Tweetsie Railroad 300 Tweetsie Railroad Lane, Blowing Rock

» 828-625-9611

» 828-488-3848




» 828-253-2834

» 800-411-3812 »

progra m w i l l celebrate renewa l a nd redemption with a small service.


The State of the Small Business

1-2PM | Webinar | SCORE Nela Richardson will discuss economic actuals and outlooks with special emphasis on the labor market. » FREE » 828-271-4786 »

APRIL 6, 13, 20 & 27

Dulcimer U at Home

7-8:30PM | Zoom Western Carolina University Office of Professional Growth and Enrichment Dulcimer U has moved into the Zoom for spring and summer. Players of all levels can find skill-appropriate courses. The class with the earliest start date is Chords and Melodies with Irma Reeder; other courses

will open on a staggered basis through August 3. Each course meets three or four times for a total of six hours. » Registration: $150 » 828-227-7397 »

APRIL 9, 16, 23 & 30

Spring Wildflower Hikes

10AM | Buckeye Recreation Center 1330 Pine Ridge Road, Beech Mountain


Beech Mountain Parks & Rec staff will guide a show-and-tell hike featuring what’s blooming.


» Tickets: $3

APRIL 7, 14, 21 & 28

Walkie Talkies

11-12AM | Deep Creek Picnic Area 2431 West Deep Creek Road #2027, Bryson City This active, socially distanced social is supported by the Swain County Center of the North Carolina Agricultural Extension. Nordic walking poles are provided upon request. » FREE » 828-488-3848 »

Road in Saluda. Call for details about gear. Pre-registration is required.

» 828-387-3003 »


Socially Distant Lake Spring Cleaning

9AM-5PM | Lake Adger Boat Ramp State Road 1138, Mill Spring Participants get to paddle around, scooping and dredging stuff that doesn’t belong in the river. A Green River cleanup will be taking place simultaneously, departing from Fishtop Access, 2302 Green River Cove

» 828-692-0385


Appalachian Experience: Mounds, Towns, and Sacred Fires

6:30-7:45PM | Zoom | Swannanoa Valley Museum & History Center Dr. Ben Steere, a professor of anthropology teaching at Western Carolina University, will talk about the cultural significance of historic Cherokee sites like Kituwah, Nikwasi, and Cowee. » Pre-registration: $12 » 828-669-9566 »

April 2021 |




LitCafé: John Ehle’s The Road

6-7PM | Zoom | Western North Carolina Historical Association

Steve Little and Dr. Richard Starnes will host a discussion of Ehle’s 1967 fictional book about the construction of the Western North Carolina Railroad in 1880. On the 17th, a follow-on railroad history hike will leave from Old Fort at 10AM. Preregistration is required. » Tickets: Zoom $5, Hike $20 » 828-253-9231 »


Composting at Home

3-4:30PM | Zoom Bullington Gardens

Craig Mauney will discuss bins, content, and management for optimizing garden soil enrichment.

A naturalist will interpret whatever happens to be blooming along the moderately rated Hickory Nut Falls and Four Seasons trails that day. A shuttle will be provided for the return trip, but taking it is optional. Preregistration is required; space is limited. » Tickets: Adult $25, Youth $15 » 828-625-9611 »


Cabin Fever Spring Craft Show

9AM-4PM Smoky Mountain Event Center 758 Crabtree Road, Waynesville Over 35 vendors will show handcrafted items in a 3W’s set ting. The event is organized by the Blue Ridge Artists & Crafters Association.

» FREE » 828-271-4786 »


Celebration of Science – Dr. Shyni Varghese 6-7PM | Zoom | The Collider

This is the third in a series of five seminars featuring special guests who discuss how their line of work is impacting STEM. Varghese is a professor of biomedical engineering, mechanical engineering and materials science, and orthopedics, now teaching and conducting research at Duke University. » FREE

» FREE to wander

» 828-254-6283

» 954-593-0108



» Admission: $12

APRIL 23-25

» 828-698-6104




Spring Veggies, Fruits, and Berries

6:30-8:30PM | Zoom | Henderson County Agricultural Extension This segment in the six-part home gardening series will be led by horticulturist Steve Pettis. He’ll cover basics like site preparation, soil types and enrichment, plant selection, and pest deterrence. » Pre-registration: $10 per person per class » 828-697-4891 »


Naturalist Niche: Spring Wildflowers Walk

9-11AM | Chimney Rock State Park 431 Main Street, Chimney Rock


Three t urbo-cha rged executives w ill discuss trends proving successful for small business regeneration following the initial COVID-19 shutdown.

| April 2021

Staying Safe in a Challenging World – A Guide for Travelers

1-2PM | Zoom | Blue Ridge Center for Lifelong Learning Because simple problems can go terribly wrong when dealing with regulations in other countries, international traveler Jonathan Tetzlaff will share tips and tricks for staying safe, mostly drawn from personal experience. Difficulties discussed will run from common crime and health risks to the greater issues of the day. » Pre-registration: $15

Neave Piano Trio

7:30-9PM (Fri, Sat), 3-4:30PM (Sun) Asheville Chamber Music Series Virtual The three musicians have played, together and solo, at prestigious events around the world and now serve as the faculty ensemble in-residence at the Longy School of Music of Bard College. For the chamber’s season finale, the program will feature works by Louise Farrenc, Rebecca Clarke, and Cécile Chaminade. » Donations: appreciated » 828-575-7427 »

» 828-694-1740 »


What the Most Successful Businesses are Doing 1-2PM | Webinar | SCORE


Crucible Glassworks’ Garden Gallery

10AM-4PM | Crucible Glassworks: Glass Studio and Gallery 60 Clarks Chapel Road, Weaverville

Glassblowers demonstrate how they create their f irst-rate objets d’art, outdoors in a 3W’s environment. Their pieces are available for sale in the gallery on-site or via Etsy. » FREE to wander » 828-645-5660 »


Printing with Botanicals

10AM-4PM Tryon Painters & Sculptors 78 North Trade Street, Tryon

Lori Loftus will teach how to transfer plant pigment to paper or fabric using the steam method. Materials will be supplied, but students may bring their own. Space is limited. » Preregistration: $115 » 828-859-0141 »


Nature at Night

7:30-9:30PM | Chimney Rock State Park | 431 Main Street, Chimney Rock A naturalist will interpret whatever hikers may encounter going down the moderately rated Hickory Nut Falls Trail that night. Dress for night hiking. Pre-registration is required; space is limited. » Tickets: Adult $25, Youth $15

arboretum’s Bonsai Exhibition Garden. The April, May, and June sessions are still on sale. » Tickets: $10 per person per class » 828-665-2492 »


Advanced Birding Identification

8AM-2PM | Grandfather Mountain 2050 Blowing Rock Highway, Linville This is one field course in a summer series produced by the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation. With deference for uncertainties, it will cover nuances in bird identification, such as seasonal plumage, habitat, and ways to differentiate look-alikes. » Pre-registration: $60 » 828-737-0833 »

MAY 1-2

Build & Remodel Expo

10AM-6PM (Sat), 11AM-4PM (Sun) WNC Agricultural Center 765 Boylston Highway, Fletcher About 100 vendors typically participate in what is billed as the largest show in its class for Western North Carolina. It’s a one-stop shop for locating or discovering products and talking with experts in technology, construction, and design.

» 828-625-9611

» Tickets: $10


» 828-299-7001 »


Bonsai at the North Carolina Arboretum: More Than Meets the Eye

4-5PM (Thu) | Zoom The North Carolina Arboretum

Curator Arthur Joura has been leading a six-part lecture series that discusses the ancient art of growing tiny trees and plants and how it has been applied at the

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.

April 2021 |


one last thing

TRADING in TOURISM Tourist Shops Hock Souvenirs to Western North Carolina’s Visitors and Contribute to the Economy—Even During COVID-19 WRITTEN BY SHAWNDRA RUSSELL & EMILY GLASER You likely already know that tourism is big business in Western Nor th Ca rolina. In Buncombe Count y a lone, the industr y contributes $3.3 billion to our local economy and supports some 28,000 jobs. While that likely brings to mind restaurants and retreats, tour guides and outdoor adventures, there’s also a smallbut-mighty contributor to the industry: tourist shops and brands. Selling souvenirs like stickers, hoodies, mugs, and local merch, these stores generate some $468 million in visitor spending annually for Buncombe County (about 21 percent of the overall $2.2 billion spent in 2019). While these brands and storefronts traditionally capitalize on the foot traffic of curious visitors looking to show their Asheville and Western North Carolina pride, in 2020 they turned more than ever to the worldwide web to help them sell their goods. Ready to rep’ your local pride or stock up on gifts for your favorite out-of-towners? As tourism returns to our region, these shops will be booming, and you can check ‘em out and shop local in person or online.

Bryson City Outdoors 169 Main Street, Bryson City Co-founder Ben puts his ample design experience to good use in sketching plans for the outdoor business’ booming in-house line. In fact, the Bryson City gear—WNC themed stickers, hats, shirts, and more—makes up some 25 percent of the company’s gross sales.

Nature Bound Co.

Sold in 26 cities www.natureboundco.comYou can shop by city for some unique Asheville stickers and postcards, and they also offer apparel and headwear inspired by their favorite local landmarks. You can find their goods at REI, Second Gear, Nantahala Outdoor Center, and DD Bullwinkel’s, too.


| April 2021

MTN Merch

22 Lodge Street, Asheville, and online Selling all things Asheville, this local tourist shop is a destination for the usual themed gear as well as locally made goods, like Oowee koozies, Brother Nature Beards products, and Firewalker hot sauces.

Mount Inspiration 32A Biltmore Avenue, Asheville Organic and recycled apparel for outdoor lovers, thrill seekers, and free spirits alike, this company’s founder dreamed up the company while hiking the Appalachian Trail.


Online and wholesale only Inspired by the founder’s grandfather, Dr. Amel Menotti, this whimsical shop sells apparel, accessories, and home decor with an emphasis on giving back with specific tees and stickers where a percentage of profits goes to support various charities.

Chimney Rock Village

Main Street, Chimney Rock, and online Some dozen shops line the Main Street of Chimney Rock Village, selling old-fashioned and kitschy Appalachian souvenirs from woodhewn storefronts. It’s the perfect destination for kiddos, who will revel in the bins of polished stones, miniature taxidermy, and themed toys.

High Country Souvenirs

707 W King Street, Boone, and online If you’re a fan of the higher elevations, this is a store for you. Boonebranded merch, like tees, sweaters, and stickers, as well as App State gear, can be found in this local shop.

Get to know Gary Parris The financial advisor who wants to get to know you, too. Gary may be a new member of our First Horizon Advisors team, but he’s not new to Asheville. Born and raised here, he graduated from UNC Asheville with a degree in Economics. He’s been in the financial services industry for more than a decade and holds his Series 7, 66, 63, and North Carolina Life, Health & Sickness, and Long-Term Care/Medicare licenses. Gary enjoys building long-lasting relationships with his clients. To him, that means getting to know who they are and what they want to accomplish both professionally and personally to create sustainable, long-term success.

Gary Parris 828-251-7319 office 1751 Hendersonville Rd Asheville, NC 28803

Insurance Products, Investments & Annuities: Not A Deposit | Not Guaranteed By The Bank Or Its Affiliates | Not FDIC Insured | Not Insured By Any Federal Government Agency | May Go Down In Value Insurance Products and Annuities: May be purchased from any agent or company, and the customer’s choice will not affect current or future credit decisions. First Horizon Advisors is the trade name for wealth management products and services provided by First Horizon Bank (“First Horizon”) and its affiliates. Trust services provided by First Horizon. Investment management services, investments, annuities, and financial planning available through First Horizon Advisors, Inc., member FINRA, SIPC, and a subsidiary of First Horizon. Arkansas Insurance License #416584. Insurance products are provided by First Horizon Insurance Services, Inc. (“FHIS”), a subsidiary of First Horizon. Arkansas Insurance License #100102095.First Horizon Advisors, Inc., FHIS, and their agents may transact insurance business or offer annuities only in states where they are licensed or where they are exempted or excluded from state insurance licensing requirements. First Horizon Advisors does not offer tax or legal advice. You should consult your personal tax and/or legal advisor concerning your individual situation. ©2021 First Horizon Corporation.

April 2021 |


You’ll See Our Signs Everywhere.

Besides our office and yard signs, you’ll see signs of our agents helping thousands of buyers under incredibly competitive conditions. When you see something you love, you’ll need to act confidently because homes are going under contract in a matter of days.

According to independent surveys, 98% of our clients reported their agent did an excellent job negotiating on their behalf. With many properties selling in a matter of days, having an experienced agent on your side will be the difference.

(866) 858-2257 Burnsville | North Asheville | Downtown Asheville | South Asheville | Fletcher | Walnut Cove | Hendersonville Lake Lure - Rumbling Bald Resort | Lake Lure | Saluda | Downtown Brevard | South Brevard | Waynesville


| April 2021