Asheville NC: Shopping’s Unique!

Man with Didgeridoo, Asheville NC

If you’ve followed my blog in the last week, you know that my husband and I traveled to Asheville, NC over the Memorial Day weekend specifically to check out Tupelo Honey Cafe, a restaurant coming to our town — Knoxville, TN!  (Can’t say enough about their Southern fresh cuisine and lively, personal service!)

After our bountiful brunch at Tupelo’s, we strolled downtown Asheville in search of unique shops that were open.  If you haven’t been to Asheville, let me tell you that unique is not hard to find! And that’s why we love going there.

First thing to catch our eyes were these adorable little onesies in the window of Spiritex, 61 1/2 N. Lexington Avenue, an organic apparel shop with clothing made within 120 miles of Asheville! 

OK.  I know infants can’t wear these very long.  But how fun to dress ‘em up, add a cute cap, and take pictures for the relatives !

Baby caps from Spiritex

It was fun just buying something from Graceland (Yes, that’s her name)!

Graceland’s parents loved Elvis, she said!

Malaprop’s at 55 Haywood Street is celebrating its 30-year anniversary all this month with specials and speakers — their website lists all the June events!

This store is one of the best indies we’ve seen, thanks to people like Martha who keep the displays fresh and the parade of authors coming to read and sign.

Martha posts new events for the 30th Anniversary Celebration at Malaprop’s

We loved the  carefully arranged displays and interesting titles — like this one!  We had to read some of it on the spot!

Regional books and books of local interest — like self-sufficiency/farming — lined the shelves.  Malaprop’s thrives on finding books that readers in the Asheville area are interested in taking home.

They really believe in — and showcase — local community interests. 

I loved seeing this Mom reading to her little one right there in Malaprop’s!

Down the street at 51 N. Lexington Avenue, Nest Organics offered a compost maker (under-sink size) in their window. Nest Organics sells non-toxic and environmentally friendly products for babies and children, home goods, and Savvy Rest mattresses — customizable organic bedding!

Composter at Nest Organics

Gaea Gifts61 N. Lexington Avenue, sells organic t-shirts like this one with a VW bug right out of the 60s!

VW Bug t-shirt from Gaea Gifts

Cornerstone Minerals, 52 N. Lexington, offers agate obelisks,  tumbled stones, fossils, and these lamps that cast a soft glow through the storefront window.

Salt lamps from Cornerstone Minerals

And Write On, 28 N. Lexington, has a wide array of unique cards, small gifts, stationery, and hand-made papers for wrapping gifts.

Hand-made paper for sale in Write-On

We walked into Kress Emporium, 19 Patton Avenue, pleased to be greeted by familiar art — from Knoxville artist Cynthia Markert! I had seen some of her early works — women reminiscent of the flapper era — painted on boards in downtown Knoxville.  But here was a display of paintings, prints, cards, and one-self portrait — paintings in golds, purples, browns of rarely smiling women — with those engaging stares that almost pull me into their world.

Self Portrait by Cynthia Markert

Kress Emporium is a maze of booths filled with jewelry, pottery, and plants in a jar . . .

Jewelry from a booth in Kress Emporium

and art, too — paintings and hand-blown glass orbs!

Painting by Sandlin Gaither

But this sign stopped us in our tracks:  Zombie Prom.  We had to get closer to see just what was in this booth!

Hat for the Zombie Prom by Simone Bernhard

As we moved in, the owner surprised us by saying, Wait!  I’m bringing in my hats from last night’s Zombie Prom!  Have you got just a minute to wait?  You’ll want to see these! And Simone Bernhard, the designer and booth owner, was right!

I had never seen zombie hats — but here they were!  Simone (Chapeaux by Simone) says she does a lot of research on brains just to get the right configuration!

Original creation for Zombie Prom: Chapeaux by Simone

But there was another sign in her booth that caught my eye: World Domination Through Fascinators — yes, like the fashion accessory that became familiar to Americans during the wedding of Kate and William!  This could be my one and only chance to model a fascinator, so look closely!

Simone and Rusha modeling fascinators!

Since we’ve visited The Mast General Stores in Valle Crucis, NC (original), the one in Boone, NC, and our own store in Knoxville, the one on 15 Biltmore Avenue in Asheville felt homey and familiar with its rugged outdoorsy clothing, camping gear, and old-fashioned kids’ toys!

Waiting for the wives at Mast General Store!

We checked out their Memorial Day displays and new-fangled Crocs . . .

Memorial Day display at the Mast

only to land in my favorite section — Candy By-the-Barrell! I love how you pick up a basket, grab handfuls of Cow Tales, Slo Pokes, and Tootsie Rolls and have ‘em weighed by the pound!

Barrels of candy ready for pickin’

We smiled at this t-shirt, but we love Asheville just the way it is!

T-shirt at Mast General Store

We passed right by a restaurant — Curate — because we weren’t ready to eat again, but we did a double-take when we saw a young man carving a — what is this? a leg? a ham? Well, we couldn’t resist.  We walked right up to the bar and asked him what that was. Tyler (he introduced himself immediately) told us the name in Spanish and then translated –Spanish ham, fed only acorns — a delicacy that they serve in this tapas bar! Right then, we canceled previously-made plans for dinner and asked for a reservation here! You’ll have to check out my next blog to see how this dinner at Curate — and afterward at French Broad Chocolate Lounge – unfolded!

Tyler shows us Spanish ham at Curate

After all that shopping, walking, and talking, we stopped at Chocolate Fetish, 36 Haywood Street, for one last treat before heading to our B & B! (OK. We have a serious chocolate problem!)

Cases of fine chocolates hand-made on the premises at Chocolate Fetish

Cakes, “Ecstasy Elite Truffles,” and beautifully hand-crafted pieces awaited us. 

Elegantly decorated chocolates

Something new to us was a milk chocolate pistachio frog — literally a hand-size cup of creamy chocolate filled with caramel and pistachios!

Milk Chocolate Pistachio Frogs

We said good-bye to shopping — for that day, at least — passing open-air tables and people reveling in the sights and sounds of Asheville!

Dining outside at Posana’s

The eclectic mix of people and the unique shops contributed to a day like no other, for Asheville is just as artsy and whimsical as everyone says it is!

If you’ve been to Asheville, leave us a note, so we’ll know where you like to shop.  And don’t think for a minute that we wouldn’t have gone into Tops for Shoes . . . if it had been open!  Oh, well. We’ll just have to come back!

Sculpture — Downtown Asheville, NC

About Rusha Sams

Met at University of Tennessee, been married for 47 years, and still passionate about travel whether we're volunteering with Habitat Global Village, combining work at Discovery with pleasure, or just seeing the world. Hope you'll join us as we try to see it all while we can!
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8 Responses to Asheville NC: Shopping’s Unique!

  1. Good post. I’m going through a few of these issues as
    well..

  2. Steve says:

    This post caught my eye since my wife and I LOVE Asheville, NC – especially French Broad Chocolates. It reminds us a little of Charlottesville, VA which, for us, is nearby. We’re heading back in a few weeks, so we’ll have to visit some of the sights that you enjoyed (like Tupelo Honey Cafe)!

    • Rusha Sams says:

      I need to join you on this trip! I’ve heard there are even more good restaurants and places to stay. One B & B recently recommended: Asia. Have fun and send me a line on what you enjoyed!

  3. cmmoxley says:

    Elizabeth: I hope you consider Knoxville, as well. Great downtown, tons of music, wonderful outdoor activities, but a major university and great cultural options like a symphony, opera and vibrant art museum, as well. It’s so close to Asheville, that you should at least take a look. Good luck on your move!

  4. Elizabeth says:

    After reading this post I am happier than ever to be moving down south to the Asheville area. We are looking for a change from NY once the kids complete the school year. Our hopes are to be there in the beginning of July. We’ve visited once and have fallen in love and are simply in need a change!! I would to connect with others regarding their experience of the Asheville Area!!!
    Great post

    • Rusha Sams says:

      Elizabeth, we love Asheville because there are not many towns like this! It’s unique with shops that appeal to all ages and dispositions. There is an openness about Asheville that is truly refreshing. It’s great to go there and just be yourself! Welcome to the South!

  5. Geographic Designer says:

    Cool post! North Carolina rocks. In fact, I just designed a poster for North Carolina. Check it out: http://50statesdesignproject.wordpress.com/2012/06/03/42-nothing-but-north-carolina/

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