Asheville Grown and the Asheville City Schools Foundation (ACSF) are at it again! “ In 2012, AGBA and ACSF united to highlight the importance of a thriving local economy to a strong, healthy community. The Asheville Grown Business Alliance had been asked to do a loyalty card, but they wanted it to be more than just a card people could use to receive discounts for buying local. They wanted to do something meaningful,” says Leah Ferguson former Co-Director of the Asheville City Schools Foundation. The Go Local Card, which supports the mission of success for all Asheville City Schools students by funding teacher-led professional development grants, artists in residence, after-school enrichment, and scholarships to graduating seniors, is just that opportunity.
During the month of November, the 2013 Go Local Card will be available for purchase exclusively through Asheville City Schools and online at www.acsf.org and www.ashevillegrown.com. The cost is $15 ($16 online) with ten dollars from every card sale going to Asheville City Schools Foundation and Asheville City Schools. The remaining $5 covers the cost of producing the card and the efforts of Asheville Grown in our community. Beginning December 1, the cards can be purchased on the aforementioned partner websites, Hip Replacements Clothing, and other participating businesses.
The success of this movement is evident as more partners jump on board. This year the Mountain Express will be our Go Local media partner. They have agreed to produce 40,000 copies of a directory of participating businesses for distribution in early December. Each participating business will have a free listing. Mountain Express will also offer discounts for businesses wanting to sign on for advertising in the Go Local Directory.
Franzi Charen of Asheville Grown notes, “This card unites the children in our community with our local businesses in a way that benefits everyone. The messages of multi-national corporations are gaining a stronger foothold in our schools and as a leader in the local movement; we want Asheville to be a beacon highlighting a better way.”
Business Owner and Go Local participant Greg Garrison from The Hop: “Ashley and I love the small business movement and that we live in a place where it can exist. We are more than happy to support Asheville Grown and our public schools by being a part of the card. We see several cards a week and are excited about the potential of it bringing more business as the movement grows.”
We just extended the deadline! Local businesses have the opportunity to sign on to the program until OCTOBER 26th. To do so CLICK HERE.
On Thursday, September 27, our Merry Mobsters staged their second Ca$hMob with Zapow Art Gallery as the chosen target for their mayhem. In the weeks leading up to the event, hints were shared through social media with the plan to … Continue reading →
Lighten Up Yoga, founded and directed by Lillah Schwartz in 1981 is one of the pillars of small businesses in downtown Asheville. Located at 60 Biltmore Ave above City Bakery, her studio specifically focuses on personal attention. Skilled instructors shed light on the art of yoga, allowing you to relieve tension, stress, and pain while focusing on improving your overall health. Featuring a bright, inviting studio space, Lighten Up offers 21 classes seven days week designed to illuminate your path.
Join Lillah and her team of talented instructors for one or more FREE 75-90 minute classes exploring the potential of yoga leaving your mind and spirit feeling a lot lighter.
September 14 & 15 - General classes for every level:
Our devious Ca$hevillains, Asheville’s official cash mob, are planning their second event in downtown Asheville. You’re invited to join them at 6pm on Thursday, September 27th, at the intersection of Page Avenue and Battery Park Avenue near the Wall St. parking deck. This event is being sponsored by the merry pranksters at the Asheville Grown Business Alliance (AGBA).
Based on the idea of a flash mob, the Cash Mob has become a very popular movement in support of local business, spreading to communities across the United States and the world. Asheville’s cash mob group, Ca$hevillains, was created earlier this year by a handful of volunteers with the support of AGBA and the Asheville Downtown Association. The group continues to gain momentum and build excitement within our community.
Ca$hevillains’ goal is to encourage people to go into local independent businesses and spend their money, en masse, to give the business owners an economic stimulus and show our love for our local establishments. The mobs are designed to help businesses grow, while encouraging participants to have fun and meet new people. During the mob, each person is asked to spend $20, meet three new people, and gather at a local watering hole for snacks and drinks at the after-mob party. For an extra surprise, this event will feature live music and we will be serving free, locally brewed beer.
Cash Mobs are created and managed using Facebook groups and Twitter pages. Organizers use the networks to raise local awareness where anyone and everyone is welcome to participate and encouraged to nominate local businesses for future cash mob events. The actual business for the second Asheville Cash Mob on September 27th will be announced the day of the event at the meeting spot and will be in walking distance.
“The idea is to highlight Asheville’s independent businesses and the importance of keeping money circulating in the local economy” said Franzi Charen, director of the Asheville Grown Business Alliance and cash mob organizer. “Our goal is foster the exploration of our community through exciting, creative events.”
Check out the beautiful new banner in Tops for Shoes window! For over 60 years and 3 generations, this family has been pouring their love into Asheville. Many thanks to Bob, Emily and the Carr family for believing in our town for so long.
A public meeting will be held tonight, Tuesday, July 17 to hear additional input on certain aspects of the proposed Downtown Business Improvement District. The meeting will be held at the Asheville Civic Center Banquet Hall from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. Information gathered will be provided to the BID interim board and Asheville City Council.
The meeting will provide opportunities for citizens to give input on concerns raised at the City Council public hearing on June 12. Input will be taken on all aspects of the proposal with a special interest in gathering input on the proposed Board of Directors structure and Ambassador program. The meeting will be a drop-in format at the end of the business day to be accessible to a variety of stakeholders.
For more information on the Business Improvement District, email Sasha Vrtunski at email@example.com or call 828-230-1271. Two of Asheville Grown’s steering committee members have been working with the BID management committee and interim board for over 2 years and our organization stands in support of this process. For more information, links to the official documents and our thoughts followed by a lively discussion click HERE.
When Emöke B’Racz, owner of Malaprop’s, travels and visits other bookstores, she is looking to get a feel for the store and the town as a whole. This naturally flows from her business “spirit” that inextricably connects Malaprop’s and Asheville. It is her intention that Malaprop’s emulate and enhance the energy of Asheville’s community, without which Malaprop’s would not exist. The vision to which B’Racz has always remained true is that Malaprop’s has to be good enough for her and for Asheville.
B’Racz believes in fostering a culture, “This is not a football game or a competition. If you want slavery, then go to corporate.” She believes in fair trade which many do not. Simple is good; do not gouge your customers or your employees. She remains open to feedback from everyone and is willing to make changes that make sense and reveals that because Malaprop’s is a small store, changes can be made in a ‘skinny minute’. Her management approach is not one of supervision. Instead, she prefers to hire well by looking for the person with the talent she needs, then turns it over to them entrusting them to do their job. This approach is obviously working for Malaprop’s since she has only had to ask 4-5 people to leave her employ in 30 years of successful business. This frees B’Racz up to do the things she loves most which include placing book orders, rearranging the store to keep things fresh, and interacting with the customers.
As one of over 1500 independent bookstores in the country, Malaprop’s is one of the most renowned nationally. This is easily attributed to B’Racz’s approach to business and the joyful testaments of her customers. She happily shared with me that there is growing interest among younger people in the spirit and energy that independent bookstores offer. This is demonstrated in the fact that 55 new indie bookstores have opened in the country over the past year. Exciting news for indie bookstore fans to say the least!
Employees are happy working at Malaprop’s with the sense that they are a part of something greater. B’Racz fosters this sense of community with her protective and caring attitude towards those who work for her. I recall walking into the store shortly after the announcement that a large chain bookstore was coming to town. Expecting to find things feeling tense and chaotic, it was a delightful experience to find things calm, centered and functioning as usual. B’Racz’s explanation for this is, “We are nothing but energy. That makes us somewhere people want to be. If you only keep an eye to the money and worry, the energy will not be good. You must keep doing what you are doing and cultivating the good feeling people come here to enjoy.” And that’s what makes Malaprop’s everyone’s favorite Indie bookstore…in the world!
You think its hot now? Join us on Sunday July 8th at the Asheville Art Museum for The Big Crafty summer 2012. In the tradition of the community bazaar, The Big Crafty is a lively celebration of handmade commerce, featuring local food, beer, toe-tapping tunes, and the fine wares of select indie artists and crafters. They’ve been voted 3 years in a row as the Best Arts/Crafts Fair in the annual Mountain Xpress readers’ poll.
We’ll have a booth set up and will be selling shirts, stickers and the Love Asheville – Go Local card. In addition, many of the vendors at this event will be offering special discounts to card holders! Come say hi.
Stu Helms of Cheesy Graphics is the local business owner we are highlighting this
month. This is the first in what we hope becomes a series of personal interviews with inspiring entrepreneurs in our community.
Living in Asheville for the past 7 years, Stu has built his business making
original illustrations and designs for numerous local businesses as well as
businesses outside the Asheville area. His art has evolved from the earliest
days of drawing cartoon characters, while watching Saturday morning
cartoons, to underground subversive designs in the 80’s and 90’s, and
ultimately into his current designs with a retro, sassy, alternative edge. If you
live in Asheville, there is no doubt you have come across his designs more
than once with clients such as LaZoom, Jack of the Wood, Adorn Salon, and Asheville Pizza and Brewing, just to name a few.
Stu’s initial approach can best be described as a ‘community minded
business plan’ since he designed for anyone and everyone for free. His
philosophy was simple, “Get your work out there, do what you love to do,
people will see your work, and then eventually you get paid to do what
you love.” This approach led to work with Last Gasp Comic Publishing
and many other opportunities until he went independent and started
his own company, Cheesy Graphics with ‘Val Vida’ as the truckstop/
waitress spokesmodel. This characature has a fascinating story behind
it involving Stu and an encounter with a renown cheese company which
eventually involved the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. To see Stu’s
amazing graphic art and read about the story, check out his website HERE. You can also view his most recent work on the
new menu at MamaCita’s and our very own cash mobsters, the Ca$hevillians.
Understandably there is a lot of skepticism around the proposed downtown Business Improvement District. Many are concerned about how raising property taxes would affect the downtown, potentially increasing the cost of living and doing business as an independent small business owner. Some share our fears, knowing the absence of ordinances preventing major chains or corporations from moving into downtown, we fear that creating such a tax district will drastically change the downtown we invested our lives in and love. At the very least, there are concerns that the BID will sterilize our organic and lively culture and have the authority to privatize public space. However, we have worked on both the BID management committee and interim board in order to understand the implications of this proposal. Please read on if you’re concerned and want to know more:
In a climate where downtown Asheville is experiencing significant growth both as a tourist destination and an influx of people choosing to live here, we have to be prepared to manage this growth. The city provides downtown with a baseline of services, but there remain challenges and issues that the city cannot or will not solve for us. Much of a BID’s power comes from its ability to carry out projects over an extended period of time being somewhat insulated from the changing whims of politics. The proposal would bind city government to maintain its current level of total spending on downtown. Through extensive research the committee resolved that assessment dedicated to a BID can offer a potential solution to help the city help us.
A BID is a rare instance of a self-directed tax in a private/public partnership where we have the power to solve our problems with our own money. Residents will have places on the board and are encouraged to participate and voice their opinions on where the monies are directed. With the arrival of more tourists and people using this town and often abusing it and leaving (without participating in our community) we do need to manage our town for ourselves and keep it safe (or make it safer) for people who work and live here. Since the late 1990′s there has been no unified management of downtown. While there have been many individuals willing to donate their time and skills towards the betterment of our downtown, there is a way we can harness this energy without relying solely on a few dedicated citizens. We believe a BID has the opportunity to bring creativity and entrepreneurial skills to enhance the public services and solve complex municipal problems more effectively and efficiently.
Key points about a BID:
It will create a critical dialog among property owners, businesses and residents that leverages as much as $800,000 to the strategic benefit of all downtown. It allows the ones who are dedicated to this city, experienced the roller coaster and have fought hard to get us to where we are today to manage the growth in a smart direction and to have a say in how the city participates. The actual BID (non-profit with a board of directors who are stakeholders) will be in full control of the entire amount. The BID will not be made up of absentee owners or investors.
We have had Steve Ha from WCU conduct a study that conservatively estimates that a BID will result in an additional 5% retail sales increase and a 2% property value increase per year. This easily negates the .07/$100 value of property proposed assessment in addition to opening up potential for more jobs and economic activity downtown and as the largest economic engine in WNC, further benefiting our entire region by expanding the pie for everyone.
It has the potential to learn from the over 1,000 cities nationwide (50 in NC) with successful BID’s best practices and mistakes and to allow Asheville to be a beacon of smart, long-term planned growth instead of being beholden to the haphazard short-term economic choices of a few.
In addition, as Asheville becomes more desirable and popular large corporations are eyeing downtown as the next frontier. We have seen downtown and urban areas across the nation change drastically for the worse with the encroachment of chain stores and formula businesses. At this point this is mainly up to property owners as to who they choose to lease their space to. Though a BID cannot prevent this from happening, we can see the inherent value in fostering a dialog among business owners, property owners, residents, the city and non-profits that focuses on smart sustainable growth by reinvesting our own wealth in our home and for a future all of us want.
We would like to see the BID accepted for the initial trial period of 3 years with a clear set of goals and stringent public accountability in addition to assessing performance indicators across all sectors of our downtown community. We also would like to see the city’s baseline services be ensured and publicly monitored. Lastly, in contracting services out, we would strongly encourage the BID hire locally, guarantee a living wage and utilize primarily locally owned independent businesses. Comments welcome.