Shopping in Asheville
Asheville, like most cities, abounds with antique stores and shops. Probably the two best areas for antique shopping in Asheville are the Biltmore/South Asheville area, with more than a dozen shops and antique malls, and the North Lexington Avenue area of Downtown. Swannanoa River Road near Biltmore has several large antique malls/barns, including Antique Tobacco Barn (75 Swannanoa River Rd., South Asheville, 828-252-7291; www.atbarn.com), in a former burley tobacco warehouse, with 77,000 square feet of antiques and junque from 75 dealers. ScreenDoor (115 Fairview Rd., 828-277-3667; www.screendoorasheville.com) has about 100 vendors in 30,000 square feet. Biltmore Village has several upscale antique shops. Downtown, check out antique shops along Lexington Avenue, Walnut Street, Rankin Avenue and Broadway Street. However, a couple of the longtime antique malls in this area have closed or relocated.
Art and Crafts Galleries
If you’re a gallery junkie, Asheville is paradise. There are dozens of art and crafts galleries Downtown and in the River Arts District. See the Arts chapter for information on art and crafts galleries.
Bargains and Thrift Stores
Asheville Food Truck Lot (51 Coxe Ave., Downtown Asheville), next to the main Asheville Redefines Transit bus terminal, is a permanent spot for food trucks selling inexpensive food at lunch and dinner. Vendors vary, but you can get Vietnamese, Indian, Lebanese, Mexican, Korean, sandwiches, soul food and other eats. A few vendors stay open late, especially in summer. Food trucks also make appearances, on a rotating basis, at other venues including the Bywater bar, Wedge Brewery, Pisgah Brewery and elsewhere.
Discount Shoes (1266 Brevard Rd., Asheville West, 828-667-0085) attracts shoppers from far and wide for its huge selection of name-brand boots and shoes at discounted prices. This warehouse-style, self-service store usually has large, wide and narrow sizes often not available in regular stores. Not every pair of shoes is a bargain, but there are many deals, and the selection is truly huge. Next door and owned by the same people is Country Casuals (1255 Brevard Rd., 828-667-9776) with discounted Carhartt work and outdoor clothing.
Enchanted Forrest Boutique (235 Merrimon Ave., North Asheville, 828-236-0688 and 1800 Hendersonville Rd. South Asheville, 828-274-1591; www.theenchantedforrest.com) is an upscale consignment shop specializing in designer label apparel and accessories for women. If you’re lucky, you find brands like Prada, Gucci, Hermes, Louis Vuitton, Michael Kors, Fendi and Armani.
Consignors get 40% of the sales price, or 50% if they take their loot in store credit.
Goodwill Industries Retail Store (616 Patton Ave., West Asheville, 828-771-2192; www.goodwillnwnc.org) has several outlets in the Asheville area, but this one, in a former Lowe’s store, is huge, and it was renovated and expanded in late 2012. Along with the usual used clothes (displayed by size), appliances, furniture and such, it has a section of new, never-used items.
Habitat for Humanity ReStore (31 Meadow Rd., South Asheville near Biltmore Village, 828-254-6706; www.ashevillehabitat.org) is one of the best Habitat stores you’ll see. It’s been recently redone and has a large selection of furniture, antiques, housewares, appliances, sporting goods and electronics (no clothing).
Lulu’s Consignment Boutique (3461 Hendersonville Rd., Fletcher, 828-687-7565, www.ilovelulus.net) is the biggest consignment shop in the area, with 6,000 consignors in 13,000 square feet of space. Lulu’s has name-brand clothing, furniture, shoes and lots more. It doesn’t accept many low-end brands or a number of items such as exercise equipment, real fur, knives or guns. Many items are available only seasonally. If the item sells, consignors get 40%, the store gets 60%.
Tanner Outlet (214 Fashion Circle., Rutherfordton, 828-287-4205 and 119 Broadway, Black Mountain, 828-669-5117) has clothes for professional women (mostly the Doncaster brand) at very serious savings.
WNC Farmers Market Truck Sheds (570 Brevard Rd., Asheville West, 828- 253-1691; www.ncagr.gov/markets/facilities/markets/asheville/) is the place to go if you’re looking for a bushel of peaches, a peck of hot peppers, pumpkins and corn shocks for your Halloween decorations or a fresh-cut Fraser fir for Christmas. Some truck shed stalls (notably shed numbers 1, 4 and 5) are limited to farmers who only sell locally grown products, while stalls in other sheds others are rented by vendors who re-sell produce from out-of-state. The truck sheds are located below the main retail buildings that you’ll pass first as you enter the market.
Barnes & Noble (Asheville Mall, 3 S. Tunnel Rd., Asheville, 828-296-7335, and 33 Town Square Blvd., Asheville, 828-687-0681; www.bn.com) has locations at the Asheville Mall and Biltmore Park Town Square south of Asheville.
Battery Park Book Exchange & Champagne Bar (Grove Arcade, 1 Page Ave., Asheville, 828-252-0020, www.batteryparkbookexchange.com), in a new location on the south end of the Grove Arcade, has wines by the glass and 22,000 books. “Dogs and their well-behaved owners welcome.”
Biblio.com (P.O. Box 1211, Asheville, NC 28802, 828-350-0744, www.biblio.com) is a large used and rare bookstore based in Asheville that sells only on-line. Established in 2003, it claims to offer 85 million used, rare and out-of-print books from more than 5,000 bookshops. Some sources say it is the third largest used book marketplace in the U.S.
Captain’s Bookshelf (31 Page Ave., Asheville, 828-253-6631, www.captainsbookshelf.com) is the region’s oldest and best antiquarian bookstore.
Downtown Books & News (67 N. Lexington Ave., Asheville, 828-253-8654, www.downtownbooksandnews.com), associated with Malaprop’s Bookstore, has an excellent selection of used and rare books and out-of-town newspapers and magazines.
Firestorm Cafe and Books (48 Commerce St., Asheville, 828-255-8115, www.firestormcafe.com) is a worker-owned café with a small selection of independently published, offbeat books. Update: The Commerce Street location has closed, and Firestorm says it will move to West Asheville in summer 2014.
Malaprop’s Bookstore/Café (55 Haywood St., Asheville, 828-254-6734, www.malaprops.com), in business for more than 30 years, is Asheville’s best bookstore. In many ways, it's what an independent bookstore should be, with many local and regional books and a knowledgeable staff.
Montford Books & More (31 Montford Ave., Asheville, 828-285-8805; www.montfordbooks.com) has some 20,000 used books, CDs, DVDs and vinyl records. There’s also a coffee bar.
Mr. K’s (800 Fairview Rd., South Asheville, 828-299-1145, www.mrksusedbooks.com) says it is the area’s largest used bookstore.
Spellbound Children’s Books (21 Battery Park Ave., Asheville, 828-319-1907, www.spellboundchildrensbookshop.com) is a bookshop with books for babies and toddlers to teens, located inside the ZaPow Art Gallery.
City Lights Bookstore (3 East Jackson St., Sylva, 828-586-9499 or 888-853-6298; www.citylightsnc.com) is a small, comfy bookshop with a good selection of regional books. However, it’s not much like its famous namesake in San Francisco. Next door is the pleasant City Lights Café.
The Fountainhead Bookstore (408 N Main St., Hendersonville, 828-697-1870; www.fountainheadbookstore.com) is in downtown Hendersonville.
North Lexington Avenue (on the north side of Patton Avenue) is the place for small funky boutiques, selling organic clothing, tie-dyed items, beads, crafts and New Age items. Lexington also has some not-so-funky but interesting shops. In fact, many sides of Asheville are represented on Lexington Avenue: subversive hippie, wholesome hippie, hipster, sexy-deviant, intellectual, with its almost self-caricaturizing shops; proudly organic clothing shops; funky resale hipster shops; an intellectual, gritty lesbian bookshop; the artsy; and DYI bead shop. There's even a lingerie store.
Among other places check out Vintage Moon, with gorgeous handmade clothes and aprons and elegant lacy vintage items; The Honeypot, a vintage, hipster shop with some handmade items; Hip Replacements, like The Honeypot, but even more hipster; Chevron Trading Post and Beads; Downtown Books and News (see Bookstores, above); Natural Home and Dobra Tea, with a Czech heritage and a great selection of teas along with sweet and savory snacks.
Not funky, but one of the great old-school Asheville stores, dating back to 1952, is Tops for Shoes (27 N. Lexington Ave., Downtown Asheville, 828-254-6721; www.topsforshoes.com), with a huge selection of adult and children’s shoes, helpful clerks and a friendly atmosphere.
Groceries and Supermarkets
The major chain supermarket in the Asheville area is Ingles (2913 US Hwy. 70 West, Black Mountain, 828-669-2941; www.ingles-markets.com), a publicly held regional chain with more than 200 stores in the Southeast. It was founded in Asheville 1963 (the first store was on Hendersonville Road near Biltmore) and is still based in the Asheville area. The largest and most appealing Ingles stores locally include those in North Asheville (915 Merrimon Ave.) and on Tunnel Road (29 Tunnel Rd.)
Bi-Lo, Go Grocery Outlet, Food Lion and Harris-Teeter are among other regional chains with outlets in Asheville. Publix opened in South Asheville in 2014. Walmart has several Supercenters with grocery sections in the area, plus a Sam’s with bulk food items. Costco long has been rumored to be opening in Asheville, but so far that hasn’t happened. Target stores also sell some groceries.
Among the organic and gourmet groceries in the Asheville area are Earth Fare (66 Westgate Parkway, West Asheville, 828-253-7656, and 1856 Hendersonville Rd., South Asheville, 828-210-0100; www.earthfare.com), founded and based in Asheville and now with about 30 locations in the Southeast and Midwest; Fresh Market (944 Merrimon Ave., North Asheville, 828-252-9098; www.thefreshmarket.com), a publicly held upscale supermarket chain based in Greensboro, N.C. with around 130 stores in 26 states; French Broad Food Coop (90 Biltmore Ave., Downtown Asheville, 828-255-7650; www.frenchbroadfood.coop), a local store specializing in locally grown organic foods and other products, open to the public although co-op members and co-op workers receive discounts; and Greenlife (70 Merrimon Ave., North Asheville, 828-254-5440; www.wholefoodsmarket.com), though now owned and operated by the Whole Foods chain, remains immensely popular. Whole Foods has a second store in Asheville, a 35,000 sq. ft. location on South Tunnel Road across from the Asheville Mall; this store, operating under the Whole Foods name.
Trader Joe’s (120 Merrimon Ave., North Asheville; www.traderjoes.com), the chain of neighborhood groceries with nearly 400 stores in 33 states, finally opened here in 2013. Better years too late than never, we guess. The rumor mill has it that the chain is also looking at a location in South Asheville. Fresh Market, Greenlife, Harris-Teeter, Go Grocery, Ingles and Trader Joe’s are among the groceries on “Supermarket Mile” on Merrimon Avenue.
Amazing Savings (121 Sweeten Creek Rd., South Asheville, 828-669-898; 45 S. French Broad Ave., Downtown, 828-255-8858; and U.S. Hwy, 70, Black Mountain, 828-669-8988) does have some truly amazing bargains on food items, although you have to look carefully at the expiration dates.
If you must go to a mall, the only one in Asheville worth a trip is the Asheville Mall (3 S. Tunnel Rd., East Asheville, 828-298-5080; www.asheville-mall.com), a large regional mall with one million square feet of retail space, more than 100 specialty stores and Belk, Sears, Dillard's and JCPenney as anchors. The Barnes & Noble bookstore here is the largest one in the state. Be forewarned that Tunnel Road traffic can be very bad. Asheville Outlets (800 Brevard Rd., Asheville West, 828-667-2308; www.shopashevilleoutlets.com), formerly Biltmore Square Mall, successfully converted to an outlet mall format after a series of developers/owners were unable to make it a success as a regular mall. It now has about 75 manufacturer outlet and other retail stores. The other “malls” around town, such as Westgate, River Ridge, Southridge and Innsbruck Mall, are essentially just strip shopping centers.
A couple of other mallish places you might consider are Biltmore Park Town Square (1 Town Square Blvd., South Asheville, 828-210-1660; www.biltmorepark.com), a mix-used community with a 15-screen movie theater, Biltmore Grande, some chain stores including REI, Orvis and Barnes & Noble, a Hilton hotel and a number of chain restaurants, plus apartments and condos. The Grove Arcade (1 Page Ave. Downtown Asheville, 828-252-7799; www.grovearcade.com), originally built in the 1920s as an one of the first enclosed malls in the country, is now more for visitors than locals, but it has a nice selection of restaurants around the exterior, many with sidewalk seating, and a few interesting shops inside, along with apartments and offices.
The Asheville area is home to dozens of tailgate markets selling organic and natural produce, crafts, jams, jellies and other homemade foods and other items.
The Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project or ASAP (306 Haywood St., Downtown Asheville, 828-236-1282; www.buyappalachian.org) maintains a complete list of tailgate and farmers markets in the region.
Among the larger Asheville tailgate markets are the following. Some markets close in winter or have reduced hours.
Asheville City Market (161 S. Charlotte St., Downtown Asheville, Sat. 8-1; winter location atrium of Haywood Park Hotel, 46 Haywood St., Sat. 10-1)
Asheville City Market South (2 Town Square Park, Biltmore Town Square, South Asheville, Wed. 10-3; winter location, 28 Schenck Parkway, Biltmore Town Square, South Asheville, Wed. 11-3)
French Broad Co-Op Wednesday Tailgate Market (70 Biltmore Ave., Downtown Asheville, Wed. 2-6)
Montford Farmers Market (36 Montford Ave., Montford District, Asheville, Wed. 2-6)
North Asheville Tailgate Market (Parking Lot C, University of North Carolina at Asheville, North Asheville, Sat. 8-noon)
West Asheville Tailgate Market (718 Haywood Rd., West Asheville, Tue. 3:30-6:30).
The most meaningful souvenirs and mementos from Asheville are locally and hand-produced items, including crafts, art, books and food. Of course, if you have a personal hobby, you may want to look for local items that relate to your hobby or interest.
At or near the top of the list for souvenirs has to be crafts. The Asheville area is a nationally known center for crafts, especially pottery and ceramics, woodworking, basketry and fabric crafts such as quilts. You’ll want to start your search either at some of the Downtown Asheville craft galleries and malls, or at the studios and galleries the River Arts District. See the Arts section of this guide for comprehensive information. You can find collectible pottery starting from around $25 to $50, though some pieces sell for much more. Asheville and the surrounding area, especially near Penland School, has literally scores of talented potters, including many whose work is known nationally and is in museum collections.
In the Downtown galleries and River Arts District working studios also are many examples of hand-made wood crafts, both furniture and functional and decorative small pieces. Many are made from local cherry, maple, hickory, oak and black walnut woods.
Hand-made quilts have become highly collectible in recent decades. Prices often run into the thousands for fine examples of completely hand-made and antique quilts. The Folk Art Center on the Blue Ridge Parkway is a good place to begin looking at quilts, but some crafts galleries Downtown also have fine quilts. The Asheville Quilt Show, in its 31st year in September 2013, is held at the WNC Ag Center (1301 Fanning Bridge Rd., Fletcher, 828-687-1414; www.mountainfair.org), across from the Asheville Regional Airport. The Asheville area has about two dozen fabric and quilting shops, some of which can refer you to local quilters. The Asheville Quilt Guild (www.ashevillequiltguild.org) is an organization of more than 300 local quilters. The national Alliance for American Quilts (www.allianceforamericanquilts.org) is based in Asheville.
Baskets, especially those made by Cherokee craftspeople, are another highly collectible category. Fine modern and antique examples of basketry can cost many hundreds, even thousands, of dollars. Qualla Arts & Crafts Mutual (645 Tsali Blvd., Cherokee, 828-497-3103; www.quallaartsandcrafts.com) displays and sells museum-quality work in baskets and other local Native American crafts.
Asheville has many fine artists working in all mediums. Local galleries display and sell their works. See the Arts section of this guide.
Local mountain foods are another excellent idea for souvenirs of Asheville. Consider locally made jams, jellies, preserves and canned vegetables. Local honey is another great souvenir, especially the sourwood honey found in few areas except Western North Carolina. Sourwood honey is very light in color and has a delicate taste. Sourwood trees typically bloom in late June and July in the mountains, so the sourwood honey flow shows up in July. Be sure to buy from a reputable honey producer or retailer, as other light honeys, such as black locust (which is produced by honeybees in May), is sometimes passed off for sourwood. Because of its rarity, sourwood honey costs more than most other honeys, retailing for around $20 a quart. The WNC Farmers Market (570 Brevard Rd., Asheville West, 828-253-1691) is a good place to buy sourwood honey, along with many locally put up jellies and vegetables. Oates Produce and Haw Creek Honey are two commercial beekeeping operations that sell at the WNC Farmers Market. Also visit local tailgate markets, usually held weekly at various locations around Asheville. (See Tailgate Markets above.)
If you’re a gardener, Sow True Seeds (243 Haywood St., Downtown Asheville, 828-254-0708, www.sowtrueseed.com) has more than 500 varieties of heirloom, open-pollinated, GMO-free and organic vegetable, herb and flower seeds, some of them unique to the Western North Carolina area. The retail store is usually open weekdays 10-4 (hours may vary seasonally). Sow True Seed also has paper and online catalogs.
For local and regional books, check out Malaprop’s ((55 Haywood St., Down Asheville, 828-254-6734, www.malaprops.com), or one of the other bookstores listed above.
Local beers, wines and liquors are other items to consider taking back home. Look for local craft beers and wines that may not be available in your hometown. Biltmore is by far the best-known winery in the region, producing some 140,000 cases a year, but there are many other small local winemakers in the mountains. Beers and ales from Pisgah, Wedge, Highland, Green Man and Wicked Weed are among the most interesting local brews. Moonshine is produced legally at least two local distilleries. The larger, Troy and Sons (12 Old Charlotte Hwy., 828-575-2000, www.troyandsons.com) distills and sells legal moonshine made from locally grown heirloom white corn. For more information see the Beer City and the Wineries and Distilleries sections of this guide.
Local gems and minerals also make good souvenirs of your trip to Asheville. The area has many gem mines where you can dig or pan for precious and semi-precious gems. Some are tourist traps, and some are not. For the best choices, see the rock hounding section of the Sports and Asheville Outside section.
If you’re a baseball fan, check out the souvenir shop at McCormick Field, (30 Buchanan Place, Downtown Asheville, 828-259-5800, www.asheville.tourists.milb.com), home of the Asheville Tourists minor league team (a Single A affiliate of the Colorado Rockies.)
Photographs of your trip help bring back memories that last forever. You’ll find amazing photographic opportunities on the Blue Ridge Parkway, in the Great Smokies, on the Biltmore Estate, in Downtown Asheville and all over the Western North Carolina region.
All content copyright © Lan Sluder except selected photographs used by permission and brief quotations or other fair use text, which are owned by the copyright holder.
We have made every effort to confirm the accuracy of information on this website, and in the Amazing Asheville book and ebooks, but travel information is subject to frequent change, and no warranty is made, express or implied. Please notify us of any errors or omissions, and we will attempt to correct them as soon as possible. All opinions expressed are those of the author, Lan Sluder, unless otherwise noted.