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Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

AHS football team, first year of integration

Asheville High integration played out on the football teamby Rob Neufeld Part 1 of 2             “We should have had a championship team,” Willie Ray, now a pastor, says about the 1969 Asheville High School football team for which he played on the offensive and defensive lines.            That was the…See More
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Ali Mangkang posted events
Feb 25
Gary Carden commented on Gary Carden's event Gary Neil Carden
"The time of the March 6 performance is 7:30 p.m."
Feb 25
Gary Carden posted an event

Gary Neil Carden at A-B Tech

March 6, 2015 at 7pm to March 7, 2015 at 2pm
WNC Historical Association will sponsor a concert (staged) reading of Gary Carden's play, "The Raindrop Waltz" in the Ferguson Auditorium on March 6th at 7:00 and March 7th at 2:00pm. The playwright will attend the performances and will enter into a dialogue with the audience about the autobiographical content of the play. A-B Tech is on 340 Victoria Road in Asheville.See More
Feb 24
Spellbound posted events
Feb 20
Jerald Pope posted an event

Reading cancelled tonight at Black Mountain

February 19, 2015 from 6pm to 7pm
The reading on Thursday, Feb 19 of David Madden's new book at the Monte Vista Hotel in Black Mountain has been cancelled. It will be rescheduled. See More
Feb 19
Susan Lorraine Norwood posted photos
Feb 10
Jerald Pope posted an event

Madden Reads from Latest Collection of Short Stories at Monte Vista Hotel

February 19, 2015 from 6pm to 7pm
The Black Mountain Authors Guild will present local author David Madden reading from his collection of short stories, The Last Bizarre Tale­, Thursday, February 19, 6pm, at the Monte Vista Hotel. With titles like “Who Killed Harpo Marx?” and “James Agee Never Lived in This House,” Maddens stories range wide over time, geography, and the human soul. In “The Last Bizarre Tale,” for example, a young man witnesses strange behavior involving a corpse that has hung on a hook in a funeral home garage…See More
Feb 9
Michael Hopping updated their profile
Feb 9
Jane Blue posted an event

Earth Week Celebration in Andrews NC at Andrews NC, various location throughout the town

April 22, 2015 to April 26, 2015
A special celebration honoring the local and regional talents of Andrews NC and Cherokee County, featuring author readings and book signings by Gary Carden, Wayne Caldwell, Anna Berenyi and hopefully more authors of Appalachia. Drummings, Native American crafts, Nature walks, Backyard remedies, Native Bees, Animals of the Forest, Country and Blue Grass Music and so much more.See More
Feb 4
Ali Mangkang updated their profile
Jan 28
Ali Mangkang posted an event

Thomas Wolfe Memorial Literary Award at Asheville Renaissance Hotel

February 7, 2015 from 5pm to 7pm
Honoring Author Robert Morgan for his selected work"The Road From Gap Creek". The presentation of the award includes a reading followed by a reception.For more informationSee More
Jan 28
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Jan 27
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An Evening with Barbara Woodall at Splendor Mountain at Splendor Mountain

January 27, 2015 from 6pm to 8pm
Barbara Taylor Woodall was born and raised in Rabun County Georgia. This county touches both North Carolina and South Carolina, so you can already guess it was a special place to grow a child. Barbara wrote about her life as a child and the wonderful people God joined her to as she grew and learned. It's Not My Mountain Anymore tells some of these stories. Barbara will share from her book and from her life, June 6, 2015 at Splendor Mountain.See More
Jan 27
Avery Ray McKinney Jr. updated their profile
Jan 23
City Lights Bookstore posted an event
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David Joy Presents His Debut Novel at City Lights Bookstore

March 6, 2015 from 6:30pm to 8pm
Webster author, David Joy will present his new novel on Friday, March 6th at 6:30 p.m. at City Lights Bookstore.  Where All Light Tends to Go, a staff pick of both Chris and Eon, is set in Jackson County and tells the story of Jacob McNeely, a young man who is in a fight against his fate. “Expertly balancing beauty and brutality, David has written a novel that stays with the reader long after the final page has been read.  Where All Light Tends to Go, though very much an Appalachian tale, is…See More
Jan 22

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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