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Bill Ramsey posted an event

7th Annual Blue Ridge Bookfest at Blue Ridge Community College

April 24, 2015 at 1pm to April 25, 2015 at 3pm
Authors interested in being considered for the April 24, 25 2015 event at BRCC should visit www.blueridgebookfest.org soon. Click on the author tab on the home page. Complete the application and submit it by e-mail shown there. While there please sign up for our emailed newsletter.This year we will offer free workshops on Friday afternoon for authors and writer panels ( first time) on Saturday. See More
yesterday
Lockie Hunter posted an event
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Juniper Bends 5th Anniversary Reading! at Downtown Books & News

November 7, 2014 from 7pm to 10pm
Come join us on Friday, November 7th at 7PM at Downtown Books and News for our FIFTH Anniversary Reading! The Juniper Bends Reading Series you know and love has been going strong by glittering, flowing, transforming, manifesting and supporting the Asheville writing community and the community of beloved listeners and readers for half a decade and we want you to come celebrate with us.Twelve local writers will be reading, covering a variety of genres and styles. All those who attend will be…See More
yesterday
Malaprop's Bookstore Cafe posted events
Oct 24
City Lights Bookstore posted events
Oct 23
Doris Anne Beaulieu posted a video

Model A's ( Poem )

Model A’s ( Poem ) Vintage cars that are so old Classic beauties with stories told Some with Rumble seats in tow Owners of these want to show Antiques from l...
Oct 23
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Seven new books, Oct. 2014, leading with McCrumb's latest

Sharyn McCrumb’s new book tour; and other productionsby Rob Neufeld Nora Bonesteel’s Christmas Past by Sharyn McCrumb (Abingdon Press hardcover, Oct. 7, 2014, 160 pages, $18.99)            I didn’t receive a review copy, but I can say McCrumb is always a delight and a deliverance.  McCrumb’s new holiday…See More
Oct 21
Spellbound posted events
Oct 15
Jerald Pope posted an event

Black Mountain Authors Get Hungry at Monte Visa Hotel

October 16, 2014 from 6pm to 7pm
The Third Thursday reading this month will feature stories and poems about food. As you might imagine, a whole hungry cadre of writers stepped up to the plate to read. The feast will take place at the Monte Vista Hotel this Thursday, which also just happens to be Fried Chicken day at the Hotel. Yum! Here’s what’s on the menu: Jeff Hutchins moved to Black Mountain in 2008. In his prior life, Jeff helped develop the technology of closed captioning, which is used to make television programming…See More
Oct 15
Rob Neufeld posted a blog post

Cherokee pottery survey Oct 17

Cherokee Museum Presents Cherokee Pottery on International Archaeology Dayfrom press release            The Museum of the Cherokee Indian will present “Cherokee Pottery: Three Thousand Years of Cherokee Science and Art” on Friday October 17 at 2 pm.  This talk is part of International Archaeology Day, sponsored by the Archaeological Institute of America.  It is open to the public free of charge, and is suitable for all ages.             “We are glad to be participating in International…See More
Oct 14
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Conversation with George Ella Lyon

Getting deep with east Kentucky author George Ella Lyonby Rob Neufeld             George Ella Lyon is a prolific writer of poetry, fiction, and plays for all ages; and has emerged from her east Kentucky upbringing with many things to tell the world about Appalachian virtues, including neighborliness, woodland spirit,…See More
Oct 14
City Lights Bookstore posted events
Oct 14
City Lights Bookstore posted an event
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A Look at Climate Change and Mass Extinction at City Lights Bookstore

October 17, 2014 from 6:30pm to 8pm
Charles Dayton and Sara Evans will visit City Lights Bookstore on Friday, October 17th at 6:30 p.m. for a discussion on climate change and mass extinction. Evans will review The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert, a book about the increase in mass extinctions and the impending ecological collapse caused by man’s disharmony with the natural world. Dayton will speak and present slides about the impact of climate change on the ocean’s ecology, which is also discussed in The Sixth…See More
Oct 11
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Book discussions in WNC, October 2014

WNC BOOK DISCUSSION CALENDAR, OCTOBER 2014Wednesday, October 1AUTISM BOOK CLUB: The Autism Book Club discusses “Mozart and the Whale” by Jerry and Mary Newport at Malaprop’s Bookstore/Café, 55 Haywood St., Asheville, 1 p.m. Call 254-6734.MALAPROP’S BOOKCLUB: The Malaprop’s Bookclub, hosted by Jay Jacoby, discusses “Winesburg,…See More
Oct 8
Rob Neufeld posted discussions
Oct 6
James D. Loy posted a blog post

"Loy's Loonies," a new series of zany books

Hi folks:     I am pleased to announce the publication of the second book in my series "Loy's Loonies."  This one is entitled Uncle Moe and the Martha's Vineyard Frackers and here's the cover blurb.     Moe Thibault is a lovable octogenarian who sometimes thinks he’s Jacques Clouseau and who’s convinced he once had an identical twin. While living out his widower’s retirement in upstate New York, Moe is sent an obituary from Martha’s Vineyard with a photo of his apparent Doppelganger, a man…See More
Oct 2
Lockie Hunter posted an event
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Juniper Bends and Topside Press present: Where We're Going We Don't Need Roads at The Crow & Quill

October 8, 2014 from 8pm to 10pm
This fall the best new transgender fiction is going on a road trip! Topside Press authors Casey Plett (author of A Safe Girl To Love) and Sybil Lamb (author of I’ve Got A Time Bomb) will be crisscrossing Canada and the United-States. Asheville is hosting these Topside authors with the help of Juniper Bends Reading Series, and The Crow & Quill. Join us on Wednesday, October 8th at 8 pm to hear the work of these two …See More
Sep 29

Biltmore clothiers talk about the village in its in-between years

Button-downs helped revive Biltmore Village

by Rob Neufeld

See video.

 

            When John William “Bill” Bell Jr., age 28, branched out from his father’s business in Lattimore, N.C. to establish Bell’s College Corner (later, Bell’s Traditionals) in Biltmore Village in 1963, shops on the Plaza were vacant, homes dating from the Vanderbilt era had devolved into low-cost rentals, and current wisdom was “Don’t do it.”

            But Bell knew that his shop was a destination location; and that he had cornered a new market niche.

            “We brought the traditional Ivy League look to Asheville,” Bell said in a recent interview. 

            Gant was the big name in button-down shirts, hailing from Yale.  Bass made Weejuns, which James  Dean wore.  Southwick suits introduced a natural shoulder. London Fog’s raincoats earned an ad on “Mad Men”: “Limit your exposure.”

 

Riding the wave

 

            The merchants downtown had a few of the lines Bell carried, and sensed competition, Bell recounted, “but the word was, ‘He won’t be there long because he won’t make it in Biltmore.’  That made me work harder,” Bell said. Plus, he had “what the young person wanted.”

            The Beatles were just about to make their splash in America.  Kids at Lee Edwards High School, were listening to Patti Page, Jerry Lee Lewis, Fats Domino, and The Drifters.  Many were already wearing the shirts, blazers, and, for women, cashmere sweaters, that their recently graduated friends were donning at Chapel Hill and elsewhere.

            The traditional look—which Justin Timberlake boosts with his recent hit, “Suit and Tie” (his collar is buttonless, but he’s wearing black loafers)—has stayed classic.  Today, Bell’s salesmen dress youths going to interviews (including, Bell tells, his grandson), as well as professionals going to meetings.  

 

Kids on the bus

 

            In the ‘60s and 70s, high schoolers’ needs extended further—to church and to sports. 

            On the day of the interview in the store, Asheville attorney Gene Ellison came in for a suit, and that got Bell recollecting.  “He was a very good basketball player.  In basketball, when you visited another town, they required you to wear a coat and tie” when arriving by bus.

            Jody Anderson, the most experienced salesman in what is now Jos. A. Bank Clothiers (in 1991, Bell became a franchisee of that company), had been a self-described clothes horse at Lee Edwards and Asheville-Biltmore College.

            Shortly before Bell opened his first store on Aug. 8, 1963, Anderson had met him by chance.

            “There used to be a little grocery store across the street—Trantham’s,” Anderson said in the interview.  “They had a little deli in there.  A friend of mine and I stopped in and got a sandwich, and were standing in the parking lot, eating a sandwich. 

            “He (Bell) never met a stranger, and he came up and said, ‘My name’s Bill Bell.  Y’all live around here?’   We said, ‘Yeah, we do.’  He said, ‘I’m thinking about opening a men’s shop across the street.  You got a few minutes?’

            “I was working for my uncle {A.J. Johnson), who had a butcher shop on Sweeten Creek Rd. called Meat Service of Asheville, and he (Bell) asked me, ‘Do you think you’d like to work here part-time?’”

            A few months later, Bell rang Anderson up, as promised, and, Anderson remarks, “That’s why I’ve been in this for 50 years.”

 

Keys to success

 

            Anderson was trained in the Bell customer-oriented philosophy: “If you give them service and the quality they want, they’ll beat a path to your door.”  Quality has meant hand-tailoring, and many customers remember Gus Sedaris, the tailor who’d served a five-year apprenticeship with a master in Greece before coming to the South.

            “He was old school,” Anderson recalls.  “He didn’t want new equipment because he worked with a 20-pound iron—that’s what he pressed with.  The finished product was incredibly beautiful.”

            Many students besides Anderson became part-time workers at Bell’s over the years—and they and their families have become loyal patrons.  In fact, the interviewer in this article is expected and likely to become one, too.

 

Origins

 

            Right from the start, success had come quickly for Bell.  He opened the Carriage Shop for ladies’ sportswear in 1964; and soon after, a shoe store, Pappagallo; the Executive Shop; and several  others.  In 1977, he issued his first catalog, for Christmas; and in 1978, a Spring/Summer one.

            “The cream of the madras plaids is exclusively ours in the enduring blazer by Deansgate,” one entry read. 

            For about 25 years, Bell thrived in a village that had not yet reached its current renaissance, one of the milestones of which, Bell notes, was the city’s restoration of brick sidewalks, and its digging up and resetting of granite curbs.  Various businesses occupied and renovated the historic cottages that had mostly become vacant.

            Now, the Bell Company has fourteen clothing stores from Augusta to New Orleans; and Bell’s sons—John, President and CEO of Biltmore Property Group, the firm founded to develop projects sensitive to architecture, history, and community; and Jeff, Director of Property Management—carry on a tradition that goes back to the first John Bell.

            When Bill had reported back to his father that he’d found a building—the abandoned Biltmore post office—for his first enterprise, John Sr. said, “You got more than you can look after, Bill.”

            A few days later, dad went down to Bill’s College Shop in the basement of the Lattimore general store, and said, “Let’s go to Asheville (because) you’re not going to be happy till I see what you’re looking at.’

            “He was more ready to go than I was.  He’d called the realtor, and we talked to him.  The building was $100 a month, and he said, ‘Well, we’re going to have to put heat in it.  How about $75?’  The fellow said, ‘Yes’; and my dad had cash—he always carried cash.  He gave him money for the first month.”

 

PHOTO CAPTION

Bill Bell (l.) and Jody Anderson (r.) talk about the history of the clothing business in Biltmore Village, sitting in an office of a building being renovated on the Plaza.

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