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Doris Anne Beaulieu posted a blog post

Harnees Racing ( Poem )

Harness Racing ( Poem )Horses pull a two wheeled cart If it breaks you will departPlace a bet before it starts Good wager wins if played smartRiders ready at the gate Fans no longer have to waitAthlete sport with high speed Is a skill you surely needAt times a horse can fall down Sad to see that come aroundLast turn has crowd in a roar We wait to hear close end scoreIf your looking to explore My playlist has so much more…See More
yesterday
Julia Nunnally Duncan posted an event

Julia Nunnally Duncan at The MACA building

October 11, 2014 from 9:30am to 1pm
Julia Nunnally Duncan will be a featured author at the McDowell Arts Council Association (MACA) booth at the Mountain Glory Festival in downtown Marion on Saturday, October 11. Julia will sign her books from 9:30-1 p.m. The MACA booth is located outside the MACA building at 50 South Main Street, Marion.See More
Wednesday
Lockie Hunter posted an event
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West End Poetry and Prose Reading series at West End Bakery

September 13, 2014 from 7pm to 9pm
Join us at West End Bakery for our 1st FREE Fall reading of 2014. This will be a marvelous family-friendly evening of prose, poetry, and storytelling featuring your favorite local Asheville writers. The lineup includes:  Tom Chalmers  Caleb Beissert  Beth Keefauver  Kim Winter…See More
Sep 13
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

The Story of Land and Sea by Katy Simpson Smith

Wounded hearts, changed minds in 18th century Beaufortby Rob Neufeldpublished in the Asheville Citizen-Times, Sept. 14, 2014             As a symbol of hope—or hopelessness—or accommodation (it depends on the story line), there’s nothing like the intelligent woman marooned on a patriarchal, slave-owning Southern…See More
Sep 12
City Lights Bookstore posted events
Sep 11
Sharyn McCrumb updated their profile
Sep 10
Sharyn McCrumb posted an event
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Sharyn McCrumb's Novel "Nora Bonesteel's Christmas Past" at Belk Library, Appalachian State University, Boone NC

October 6, 2014 from 6pm to 8pm
 Scripture cake, book signings, and the real Nora Bonesteel herself. On Oct. 6, ASU in Boone is hosting the book launch for "Nora Bonesteel's Christmas Past" (Abingdon, Oct., 2014) with a program of storytelling, featuring author Sharyn McCrumb and storyteller Charlotte Ross, the inspiration for the character of Nora.See More
Sep 10
Rob Neufeld posted discussions
Sep 9
Rob Neufeld posted a blog post

What will make you go to a history museum?

What attracts you to history museums?I've posted three history exhibits that are currently up in the area--one on the hillbilly stereotype; one of photographs of child labor; and one on African-American education in the area (see news)--and it made me wonder:What would make you go see an exhibit in a history museum?This information would be of GREAT HELP to curators.Here…See More
Sep 9
Spellbound posted an event
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Weekly Story Time at Spellbound Children's Bookshop

September 13, 2014 from 11am to 11:30am
Free weekly story time for ages 3 to 7 (or thereabouts) every Saturday morning 11-11:30amSee More
Sep 6
Spellbound updated their profile
Sep 6
Rob Neufeld posted discussions
Sep 2
City Lights Bookstore posted events
Sep 2
Rob Neufeld posted discussions
Aug 31
City Lights Bookstore posted an event
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Jenny Bennett Returns with a New Novel at City Lights Bookstore

September 5, 2014 from 6:30pm to 8pm
Sylva author, Jenny Bennett, returns to City Lights Bookstore on Friday, September 5th at 6:30 p.m. with her second book, The Twelve Streams of LeConte. The main character of the book lives in Sylva and there are scenes set in downtown, the library and even City Lights Bookstore. Anne Woodrow is on honeymoon in Scotland when fate gives her a slap in the face: right then and there, her new husband falls in love with another woman. Injured and grieving, she returns home alone and conceives of a…See More
Aug 27
Renea Winchester posted an event
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Farming, Friends and Fried Bologna Sandwiches at Available at all bookstores

September 1, 2014 all day
Mercer University is pleased to announce the release of Farming, Friends and Fried Bologna Sandwiches, by North Carolina's own Renea Winchester. This is the second in the Farmer Billy series and Winchester's third book. See More
Aug 26

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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