Friday, October 31, 2008

2008 Sky High Growth Award Winners Announced

The Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce, Advanced Business Equipment, and the Advocates for Small Business will present the 2008 Sky High Growth Award to 62 small businesses that have experienced outstanding growth in sales and/or employment over the last several years. These 62 businesses collectively represent over $300 million in sales, over 2400 full-time jobs, and over 800 part-time jobs.

The program was held Thursday, October 30, at the Baker Exhibit Center in the North Carolina Arboretum located off of Brevard Road. The event began at 5:30 p.m. with hors d’oeuvres, cocktails, networking, and special entertainment.

View a slideshow from the event on the Chamber website.

The following companies will be honored as 2008 Sky High Growth Award winners:
  • A-B Emblem
  • Acton Family Chiropractic
  • A.L. Odom Locksmiths, Inc. (2 year winner)
  • American Security Shredding, Inc. (3 year winner)
  • Appalachian Carpet & Textile Cleaning, Inc.
  • Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project
  • Applied Solutions Group, Inc.
  • Asheville Art Museum (2 year winner)
  • Asheville Fence
  • Asheville’s Fun Depot (3 year winner)
  • Asset Protection Network, Inc. (2 year winner)
  • Avista Business Development Corporation (3 year winner)
  • AVL Technologies
  • Bank of Asheville
  • Blue Ridge Pharmacy, Inc.
  • The Brite Agency (3 year winner)
  • Carolina Furniture Concepts (3 year winner)
  • Carolina HR Partners, Inc. (2 year winner)
  • Carolina Mountain Roofing and Construction, Inc. (8 year winner)
  • Carolina Mornings (2 year winner)
  • Charlotte Street Computers, Inc. (4 year winner)
  • ClearPoint Marketing Communications
  • Dynamic Image Marketing Systems, Inc. (3 year winner)
  • Express Employment Professionals (2 year winner)
  • First Restoration Services of Asheville, LLC
  • First Tee Mountain Golf (4 year winner)
  • Ginger Graziano Design Group (2 year winner)
  • Girls on the Run of WNC
  • Go Minis Portable Storage (2 year winner)
  • Grovewood Gallery
  • Haunted Ghost Tours of America, Inc.
  • Highland Brewing Company, Inc.
  • Home Instead Senior Care
  • HomeSource Real Estate and Construction, Inc.
  • HomeTrust Bank (6 year winner)
  • Industries for the Blind (6 year winner)
  • Intellisound, Inc. (5 year winner)
  • i play, Inc.
  • Johnson, Price & Sprinkle, PA
  • Legal Copy, Inc.
  • Mail Management Services, LLC (3 year winner)
  • Mathis Electronics, Inc.
  • McGill Associates
  • The Montford Park Players (2 year winner)
  • More Space Place (3 year winner)
  • Mosaix Group
  • OnTrack Financial Education & Counseling
  • Palmer Wahl Instrumentation Group
  • Phoenix Properties
  • Plasticard Locktech International (8 year winner)
  • Prudential Lifestyle Realty (4 year winner)
  • Pomodoro’s Greek and Italian CafĂ© (3 year winner)
  • Shoji Retreats & Lodge, LLC
  • Smoky Mountain Machining, Inc.
  • Snelling Staffing Services
  • State Farm – Bill Russell Agency (2 year winner)
  • TLC for You, Inc.
  • Website Design Studio
  • David Trout – Mutual of Omaha
  • Woolworth Walk (2 year winner)
  • Yellow Jacket Publishing
  • YMCA of Western North Carolina (2 year winner)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

November Small Business of the Month: Lynne Harty Photography

The Small Business of the Month for November is Lynne Harty Photography near downtown Asheville. Lynne Harty began her business in Asheville as a solopreneur in 2000.

Lynne Harty became a commercial photographer after graduating from college in 1984 in Atlanta. Like many entrepreneurs, Lynne moved to Asheville for the wonderful quality of life. She was hired by Mobilia to create a series of fine art prints which reflected the “look” of Asheville, and a similar series of colorful imagery is now in demand by other cities that are attempting to create or define a special “look” of their own.

Currently, Lynne has a show featuring some new directions in her fine art work at Mobilia on Haywood St. in downtown Asheville. Lynne donates many of her art prints for fund raisers for a variety of organizations. The Chamber has been the recipient of her work and has featured her photography on the covers of several issues of the Asheville Magazine.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Asheville receives high rankings from National Geo Traveler

I wanted to let you know that Asheville fares well in the Fifth Annual Places Rated Survey by National Geographic Traveler that rates the sustainability of special places around the globe. We ranked in the top 50 globally, 9th among the US destinations included, and 1st among NC rated destinations. I've posted links to the list and to the specific comments of the judges. The article which appears in the November/December edition of National Geographic Traveler is also posted below.

Historic Places Rated: Introduction

Photo: Cesky Kumlov, Czech Republic

Text by Jonathan Tourtellot

Photo by Massimo Ripani/SIME

It's time travel of a sort. You know the feeling. In rural Vermont, you walk into a country grocery store, the screen door slapping shut behind you, and you've stepped back 80 years. Walk the streets of Verona, Italy, and you step back 800—if it weren't for all the tourists, that is.

In this, our fifth annual destination-stewardship survey, we look at how well historic destinations are withstanding mass tourism, neglect, and wrecking balls—as well as the more subtle threat of overplaying the past, where a place ends up embalmed as a lifeless museum or Disneyfied into a cute parody of its true heritage.

For this year's survey, conducted by the Society's Center for Sustainable Destinations, we chose more than a hundred historic places around the world. We then asked an international panel of 280 experts to evaluate the destinations based on our six criteria (see About the Survey). This being a destination survey, we skipped living museums and stand-alone sites and chose only populated communities possessing a historic character, district, or dominant site. The score for each place is the average of the panelists' ratings, accompanied by a sample of comments they posted in the course of the survey. We also skipped some destinations we'd rated in previous surveys.

Austria's Wachau Valley and Welk Abbey got top honors with a score of 88 for excellent preservation of both landscape and structures. Surprising to some might be one of the best U.S. ratings: a 78 for Columbus, Indiana, renowned for its modern architecture.

Lowest on the survey, Colorado's Central City scored only 34. Panelists agreed that behind its historic facades the town had lost its soul to ranks of gleaming slot machines. Suburban sprawl takes a toll, too. Charlottesville, VA, and Harpers Ferry, WV, have decent scores (72 and 67 respectively), but the greater "Hallowed Ground" countryside of which they are a part does not—45—due largely to rampant development.

Luckily, such failures are exceptions. Many U.S. destinations score well—Charleston, SC, Port Townsend, WA, Red Wing, MN, Asheville, NC. Some owe their success to downtown revitalization programs like Main Street, a well-respected initiative of the National Trust. In other cases, like Charleston, the citizenry as a whole has developed a sincere interest in protecting the character of the community.

In the end, people make the difference. No surprise there. A homegrown sense of stewardship, along with the support of caring visitors, is what will secure the future of our pasts.

Traveler and the National Trust for Historic Preservation

We publish these annual surveys in part to promote public discussion and action in support of destination stewardship. We encourage communities to take measures that will, in effect, raise their scores, and so become even better places to visit and live. In an unprecedented move, therefore, we are pleased to be working with Preservation magazine, published by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, to help show why some U.S. places do well, others not so well, and what can be done about it.

Go to, and you can read Preservation's in-depth online profiles of five U.S. towns selected from this survey. You can also learn about Trust programs, such as Main Street and Heritage Tourism, that help communities make the most of their historic assets. For your own visits, check out the Trust's Historic Hotels directory at

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Chamber Member Interviewed by AP appears in Forbes

Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce member, Angie Heidenreich, owner of LuLu's Consignment Boutique in Fletcher, N.C was recently interviewed by the Associated Press and the piece landed in Forbes.


Thrift shops thrive amid economic downturn

COLUMBIA, Mo. Forget about the outdated notion of thrift shops as the refuge of the working poor, the down and out or the vintage fashion hipster. In these troubled times, the powerful lure of a secondhand retail bargain is attracting a whole new breed of customer.

The Salvation Army and Goodwill Industries International, the nation's two largest charitable resale organizations, report year-to-date sales increases of 6 percent to 15 percent.

The gains are even more pronounced in the private sector. In an industry trade group survey of more than 200 resale and thrift shops, nearly two-thirds of those businesses reported higher sales in 2008 compared to the previous year. The average sales increase: 35 percent.

Consumers "can't change the price of gas. They can't change the price of food. They can't make the stock market go up again," said Adele Meyer, executive director of the National Association of Resale & Thrift Shops. "But they can control the price of clothes and furniture by being a savvy shopper."

The Salvation Army store in Dublin, Ga., located halfway between Atlanta and Savannah, has seen its sales increase by 50 percent this year, said store operator Gary Spivey. The comparative affluence of his new customers is obvious.

"We're seeing a lot more middle-class and upper-class customers we haven't seen before," he said. "Without even asking, you can just look in the parking lot (at their cars)."

Savers Inc., a for-profit thrift store chain based in Bellevue, Wash., has had a 10 percent growth rate, said chief executive officer Ken Alterman. The company now has 220 Savers and Value Village stores in the United States, Canada and Australia, and expects to open 25 new stores in each of the next several years.

According to Alterman, 75 percent of the company's customers are college educated, with an average income between $50,000 and $65,000. Thirty percent of its customers have household incomes exceeding $100,000, he said.

Some of the chain's most successful stores are in Redmond, Wash., home to Microsoft; the high-end waterfront in Victoria, British Columbia; and the Hawaiian island of Oahu.

"We're in these beautiful neighborhoods, and the stores just thrive," Alterman said. "We hold up well in this economy."

Widespread economic turmoil and personal financial struggles aren't the only factors driving the increased interest in resale retail, experts say. A growing "green" ethos among American consumers has also propelled the industry.

"People are really savvy now," said Angie Heidenreich, owner of LuLu's Consignment Boutique in Fletcher, N.C. "With consignment you make money, you save money and you recycle. It's a no-brainer."

Heidenreich opened her consignment store - which essentially serves as a middleman for customers who want to buy and sell clothes - in November, 2006. Sales increases of nearly 100 percent forced her to more than triple the store's size to keep up with demand.

"We're getting more people in who probably wouldn't have stepped in the door," she said. "It's more acceptable now than it was in the past. The image of thrift stores were kind of grungy, dingy places. Now some of them are like boutiques."

In the Missouri college town of Columbia, both Goodwill and The Salvation Army report recent sales increases of roughly 25 percent.

April Hayes, a 28-year-old legal secretary, has shopped at the Columbia Goodwill store for six months at the urging of her mother and sister. During a recent weekday lunch break, she combed the store's racks in search of business attire.

"I've gotten addicted," she said. "You can pay $2 or $3 for the same thing that would cost you $400 at the mall."

The surge in thrift store sales has its downside, though. The Salvation Army reports a dangerous decline in donations. Just as consumers are now more likely to buy secondhand goods, they are also less likely to get rid of their used clothing or furniture.

"We rely heavily on consumer culture," said spokeswoman Melissa Temme. "People are finding that the couch can last a little longer. The suit, while it may not be perfect for this year's fashion, is fine."

Money earned at its thrift stores helps fund the agency's adult rehabilitation program. So while administrators are thrilled at the growing revenue, they also fear an inventory shortage.

"At some point it's going to come to a head," Temme said. "If donations continue to stay down, we're going to lack items to sell."

As a result, The Salvation Army is rolling out a national ad campaign in January - the first in its 128-year history in this country.

New customers aside, thrift shops continue to attract a devoted cadre of bargain-hunters. Now that more traditional shoppers have been exposed to the secondhand market, its boosters don't expect that renewed interest to taper off anytime soon.

"People always love a bargain," Meyer said. "Nowadays, it's just more necessary."

Copyright 2008 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Meals on Wheels needs more wheels


Meals on Wheels is Looking for a Few Good Men and Women!

Meals On Wheels of Asheville and Buncombe County is currently looking for volunteer drivers to deliver meals to the homebound elderly. Volunteering is easy and does not require a huge commitment of time. Delivery of a route typically takes 1 to2 hours and volunteers can choose to deliver once a week, once a month or on an as needed basis. Deliveries are typically done between 10 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. leaving the rest of your day open for other things!

Read the full story at :