Blog :: 02-2014

Why Food Lovers Are Loving Asheville!

The ingredients are local, but the chefs aren't:
Newcomers from all over--Brooklyn, Spain, India--are creating a world-class food scene in this small North Carolina town.

One of the reasons Asheville's outsiders give for their relocation to town is the scenery: Clouds comb out like low smoke over the mountains, the hills like tired, mossy stones. I decided that after visiting three breweries in one afternoon, it was time to get outside. Chef Katie Button admitted that, though everybody is theoretically excited about the outdoors, none of the town's restaurateurs ever have time to leave their kitchens.

At the tapas restaurant Cúrate (Spanish for "cure yourself"), Button understands how one could visit Asheville and stay inside: In her three years in town, she admitted, she's barely left the kitchen. The raspy-voiced former neuroscientist, who's been getting "cute as a" for as long as she can recall, was born in Conway, South Carolina. She trained at El Bulli in Roses, Spain; her husband and business partner, Félix Meana, grew up in Roses, where, as an 18-year-old, he opened a bar that became a hangout for El Bulli's staff. When the couple decided to open an authentic tapas bar in the US, Button was still working in Spain while Meana was launching a restaurant for chef José Andrés in Los Angeles. Button's mom suggested Asheville. Meana moved there (having never seen the place), and a year later, Cúrate was serving what's probably the best pluma Ibérica a las finas hierbas--a feathered loin cut infused with rosemary and thyme--outside of Catalonia.

Meana was a little worried about being treated as an outsider in the South, but he soon found that pretty much nobody in Asheville is actually from Asheville. This isn't anything new. The town owes its monuments to visitors gone native: In 1895, George Vanderbilt used his railroad fortune to create the Biltmore, a self-sustaining high-country redoubt for an artistic soul grown weary of city distraction. Eighteen years later, E.W. Grove, chronic hiccups sufferer and medicinal-tonic magnate, established the Grove Park Inn as a mountain refuge from industrial toxins.

Perhaps some recent arrivals come for the recuperative benefits of the mountain air, but most of the people I talked to came for the vibe. The most common description of the town's ambience is "funky," which was borne out by even the briefest stroll around. In the town square was something called the Rural Academy Theater--really an empty stagecoach where actors perform. Nearby, a local artist painted to music in front of an audience.

A better metaphor than funk, however, might be ferment. Asheville has one of the country's premier beer scenes, as evidenced by the breweries I visited, including the newest, Wicked Weed, with its great open-vat fermenter, and the local favorite, Green Man, known for a hop-forward IPA and a lively tasting room. Then there's the new factory at French Broad Chocolates, where owners Dan and Jael Rattigan start with cacao beans that have been fermented to their specifications in Costa Rica and Peru. Theirs is a fully functional bean-to-bar operation; using some Internet pictures and PVC piping, they hand-built a machine that separates the nib from the cacao bean shell. They are also committed to supporting the local food community. The Lapsang souchong they use in one of their chocolate bars, for example, comes from the tea shop down the street.

Jacob Sessoms, chef and co-owner of Table, the eight-year-old restaurant credited with helping to usher in the new food era, likes to say Asheville was into local long before local was the fashion. The townspeople demand to know where their food is coming from, he says, and more than 90 percent of his menu is from the region. His dishes taste like the Old South via Brooklyn, where he lived and worked for a few years. He garnishes his Bloody Mary with a crisp strip of maple bacon and pickled okra, for instance, and serves his oxtail ragout on a johnnycake waffle. It's hard to miss Brooklyn's hyper-artisanal influence in even his simplest dishes, like an appetizer of house-cured coppa with pear and mascarpone cheese served on a house-made bagel. (And even the snobbiest New York City bagel connoisseur would concede that it isn't at all a bad bagel.)

Also at the forefront of Asheville's food movement is the four-year-old Cucina24, where chef Brian Canipelli fries grouper collars in a buttermilk batter, like chicken. Another important figure is David Bauer, of the bakery Farm and Sparrow, who uses heirloom grains native to North Carolina. He hails from Milwaukee via the Twin Cities; the brick oven in his garage was built by a friend from New York; and he imported the stone mill in his shed from Austria. His rye bread, sold in mahogany-colored bricks at farmers' markets throughout the area, uses the local, colonial rye to deliver the earthy flavors of the Tirol. Meanwhile, Sessoms has just opened The Imperial Life, a cocktail and charcuterie bar, because all the like-minded restaurant transplants needed a spot to hang out together after their own places closed for the night.

These chefs are certainly into the concept of local, but it's a specific brand of local, one that prizes the immigrant imagination as much as the tailgate farmers' markets. Prime examples of this are Meherwan and Molly Irani, who opened the new MG Road, a stylish basement bar below their Indian street-food joint Chai Pani. Their cocktail menu combines Indian flavors with whatever local ingredients are on hand. The gin fizz relies on Indian Kewra water, a floral essence evoking jasmine, and the Desi Daisy balances Herradura with lemon, garam masala (toasted and ground from whole spices) and house-made cardamom bitters.

In the end, what's quintessentially local in Asheville is a kind of shared resourcefulness: Most chefs use the same accountant, and their mushrooms come from the same foragers. They've had an impact on each other, too. For instance, Button wanted to make an esqueixada, a traditional Catalonian dish of salt cod crudo on a tomato puree with sweet onion and black olive. But she'd heard about some good trout from an up-country fishery, so she used that instead. Cúrate's exquisite esqueixada de montaña ("of the mountains") has the smoky lightness of the highland rivers set off against Mediterranean flavors.

The Iranis were so impressed with the taste of this dish that they put the same smoked trout on the bar menu at MG Road (with mango on puri crackers). Button was delighted, and felt as though she'd repaid a debt to Meherwan: He'd previously suggested that she give up her spice mixes and instead toast whole spices, and he'd even given her a lesson in his kitchen. These chefs may be new to town, but they've built a community. They're locals now.



Asheville Restaurants Black Book

Green Man Brewery
Photo courtesy of Green Man Brewery.

Green Man Brewery

At Green Man, one of Asheville's more established breweries, the tasting room is a local hangout where visitors eat pretzels and watch the brewers work. 23 Buxton Ave.;

Photo © Jennifer Altman.


Almost a decade ago, chef Jacob Sessoms began creating modern dishes with North Carolina ingredients, like foraged mushrooms and Outer Banks seafood, paving the way for high-end Asheville dining. 48 College St.;

Photo © Jennifer Altman.


Southern Italy meets the Deep South at Brian Canipelli's restaurant. On the menu: handmade pizzas alongside Southern dishes like chicken-fried grouper and collard greens with bacon. 24 Wall St.;

MG Road
Photo © Jennifer Altman.

MG Road

This new lounge serves snacks and cocktails flavored with Indian spices. 22 Battery Park Ave.;

Farm and Sparrow
Photo courtesy of Farm & Sparrow.

Farm and Sparrow

David Bauer bakes with heritage grains.

Photo © Peter Frank Edwards.


Chef Katie Button serves tapas like shrimp with garlic and sherry, and goat-cheese-stuffed piquillo peppers. 11 Biltmore Ave.;

French Broad Chocolates
Photo © Jennifer Altman.

French Broad Chocolates

Chocolatier Jael Rattigan creates beautiful desserts like her tiramisu with homemade chocolate. 101 Fairview Rd.;

Wicked Weed Brewing

Small-batch beers from this new brewery (like a hoppy brown ale and an open-tank fermented saison) are only available at its in-house pub and restaurant. 91 Biltmore Ave.;

About Asheville - One of the Best Places to Live!


Western North Carolina


Foodies, artists and outdoor enthusiasts are drawn to the Blue Ridge Mountains and this best college town. Named America's Happiest City by Self Magazine, the outdoor cafes, street performers and abundant art galleries provide fun ways to play in Asheville. George Vanderbilt built America's largest private home named The Biltmore Estate in Asheville North Carolina. Today, over one million visitors tour the estate annually to see the priceless art, home furnishings and exquisite gardens. The Grove Park Inn is the second most visited tourist attraction designed with fascinating Hansel and Gretel architecture. Sunset views on the veranda of the Grove Park Inn gently fall over the Asheville city skyline providing memorable photo opportunities. The Blue Ridge Parkway travels through the heart of Asheville at an elevation averaging 5,000 feet and is one of the best places to view the fall foliage in Western North Carolina. Mount Mitchell State Park is the highest peak in North America at 6,684 feet clearly visible from downtown.



Asheville North Carolina is a fabulous walking city both day and night and is pet friendly. Ashevillian's are advocates and environmentally conscious people. They are quick to peacefully protest the destruction of any natural resource in the area in Pack Square. The diversity of people who call Asheville home stretches from hippies wearing tie dye clothing to affluent American's decked out in expensive blue jeans. It's hard to distinguish the trust fund babies wearing backpacks from the average Joe.

Over 30 years ago, the leaders of Asheville had a grand vision for the city launching the Bele Chere Festival, America's largest music and art street festival. Art festivals take place year round in the heart of the city including the impromptu weekly Friday night Drum Circle. Just beyond the city of Asheville spreading out in every direction are the best small towns in Western North Carolina, each unique with their own attributes. With Asheville as a Baby Boomer's top choice of where to retire, the 'spill over' cities too are quickly becoming more appealing to folks who don't live in a fast growing city. To the north are the towns of Burnsville and Mars Hill. To the south, Hendersonville and Cashiers. To the east, Black Mountain and Lake James. To the west, Waynesville and Maggie Valley. Let us know if you'd like to receive an Asheville Relocation Package.

If you're searching for where to retire in North Carolina, here are reasons to consider Asheville real estate:


Asheville was named the #1 Best Small City by American Style Magazine for its art influence. The preserved Art Deco architecture, number of working art studios and art galleries have given this mountain city recognition for its creative culture. In fact, the Asheville Arts Council created the City of 1,000 Easels which is a self guided walking tour of art displays in downtown Asheville. The Asheville Art Museum is home to art exhibitions, social events and art classes. The Asheville Symphony Orchestra and Asheville Lyrical Opera present Masterworks and Professional Opera performances year round. The Orange Peel was named by Rolling Stone Magazine as one of the top five rock clubs in America and the club draws headline music bands from around the world. The Asheville Contemporary Dance Theatre and Asheville Community Theatre present professional dance, comedies and dramas throughout the year. The Asheville Community Theater has been voted the Best Theater Group in Western North Carolina. The Montford Park Players are known for their Shakespeare festival Theatre Under the Stars.The Folk Art Center is located in Asheville at mile post 382 on the Blue Ridge Parkway and has an impressive collection of Appalachian art on display and for sale. There are a number of historic museums in the Asheville area to explore.


At an elevation of 2,000 feet, the city of Asheville's average winter temperature is in the high 30k's December through February. The average annual snow fall is about 15 inches. When it does snow in Asheville, the snow quickly disappears from the warm sunshine. May through September, the average temperature ranges in the high 60k's to low 70's. The city is located in a valley with mountains surrounding it in every direction. Asheville experiences four distinct seasons.


Asheville North Carolina is considered a best college town. There are 3 college campuses in Asheville: Warren Wilson College, UNC Asheville and Asheville Buncombe Technical Community College. At the UNC Asheville campus, the Creative Center for Retirement offers over 100 lifelong learning courses designed specifically for mature adults such as classes in architecture, arts and crafts, film, history, language, literature, music, personal development and wellness. In addition to the college campuses, many of the art galleries, museums and local clubs offer more lifelong long classes.


Mission Hospital and the VAMC Hospital are the two primary hospitals in downtown Asheville. Mission Hospital is rated a Top 100 Heart Hospital and is ranked as one of the Top 15 Health Care Systems in the country. Specialties include cancer care, chronic disease management, heart care, genetics, neurosciences, orthopedics, surgery, sleep disorders and weight management. The VAMC also known as the Asheville Veterans Hospital provides quality medical care to more than 100,000 Veterans in Western North Carolina.


The Blue Ridge Parkway is America's Most Favorite Scenic Drive and the parkway passes through downtown Asheville. Hiking trails, waterfalls and scenic outlooks are stops along the parkway. The city is surrounded by more than 1,000,000 acres of protected forest; Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Nantahala National Forest. These large parks provide excellent hiking and mountain biking experiences. There are more than 100 more parks in the Asheville area. Ask us for the 'Year of the Park' brochure providing details about all the parks. The French Broad River flows through downtown Asheville and provides exciting whitewater rafting or fly fishing opportunities in the slower moving sections of the river. The Appalachian National Scenic Trail is accessed just north of Asheville and Chimney Rock State Park to the southeast overlooking Lake Lure. The are a number of private, semi-private and public golf courses in the Asheville area.


According to Yelp, there are almost 500 restaurants in the Asheville area and 40 of them are rated four to five stars. Asheville is considered a foodie hotspot because just about every type of cuisine can be found in Asheville. In 2010, the city was named Beer City USA, home to a large number of tasty microbreweries. As a walking city, there are more than 200 stores and boutiques to shop and explore in downtown Asheville without needing a car. Big box stores like Belk, Sears, JC Penney and Dillard's are located at the Asheville Mall and the Biltmore Square Mall. Asheville has weekly Tailgate Market featuring locally grown organic produce and homemade items. Voted America's Best Vegetarian-Friendly Small City, the 38,000 square foot WNC Farmer's Market in Asheville provides a large variety of fruit and vegetables to the region.


Asheville homes for sale average in the $200k's. Urban downtown condominiums are a popular choice because the city is an easy walking city and best college town. The city of Asheville is located in Buncombe County. The 2012 estimated real estate tax millage rate is .009 per $100 which is the highest tax millage rate in the area supporting Asheville's growing infrastructure. Visit our library to learn how to calculate real estate taxes in Asheville. The crime rate per City Data for 2011 was 348.20, slightly above the national average. If you're searching for Asheville real estate or where to retire in North Carolina, there are a number of neighborhoods in the area we find of interest.

On Starting Anew in Asheville

Written by Matt Frazier

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Happy so far: The family outside our new home in Asheville.

I'm writing this post from my brand new chair at my brand new desk. In my new office in my new home, in Asheville, NC.It all feels a bit weird, but in an exciting kind of way, just as this entire move has felt.

When we told our friends and family that we were moving eight hours away, to a small city in the mountains of western North Carolina where we didn't know anybody -- and without one of the standard reasons, like a job, that generally causes a move -- the responses varied pretty wildly.

Some people thought we were crazy. Some were sad (and of course, so were we to leave them).

But a few people told me how inspiring they thought it was that we would move so spontaneously, and not because we had to, but simple because we wanted to.

And that's why I'm writing this post about our move, and about Asheville. Not just to explain our reasons for moving, but to (I hope) inspire others who feel stuck where they are but are afraid to make a change.

You'll see that it's not terribly far off topic for No Meat Athlete, either -- as far as vegeterian- and vegan-friendliness goes, Asheville beats any other city I've ever visited.

From Baltimore to Asheville, via San Diego

2011 was the first year that I did any considerable traveling. I went to Austin, Portland, Cape Cod, Boston (twice), San Francisco, and San Diego, and discovered that the world -- actually, the country -- had a lot more to offer than did Bel Air, Maryland, the nice, suburban town outside of Baltimore where I grew up and had moved back to a few years after college.

And so we decided that we'd move. Maybe not permanently, but since running a business online affords us a lot of geographical freedom, it seemed a shame not to try living somewhere other than the default option before our son reached school age and we'd want to settle down.

The funny thing is that we were within one day of signing a lease on a place in San Diego, after several weeks of planning the move. But two things caused us to abort that plan at the very last minute:

  1. The pain of moving our two-year-old son 3,000 miles away from his grandparents, and of being so very far away from our friends and family.
  2. The cost -- we discovered it would take $10,000 just to get out to California, before even considering the higher cost of living.

Why Asheville?

Just two months ago, I hadn't heard of Asheville more than a couple of times. I knew it as a funky, hippie-ish city somewhere in North Carolina, and one that consistently showed up in those "Happiest Places to Live" lists that magazines and websites post every so often.

But the night we changed our minds about San Diego, Asheville was the first place I thought of as an alternative. (By this point, the idea of staying put after so much planning and anticipation wasn't one we were willing to consider.)

Two days later, I was in the car driving to Asheville, on a dual mission to check out the city and find a place to rent if it felt right. This was immediately following a 20-mile run, so I can't say it was the most enjoyable ride I've ever taken, but my mom came with me and helped out with the drive and finding a place. Thanks Mom!

It took a day for me to come to understand what it was about Asheville that made people so happy, but sure enough, I did.

The next day, I found a place to rent, and we signed a lease and made it official just two days later.

So far...

Here's what we love about Asheville so far, in our first week of living here:

  • The local food scene is amazing. Besides tons of farmers markets and a few co-ops, there are local producers of all sorts of things, even tempeh and kombucha. And lots of beer -- Asheville has 11 breweries and has been named Beer City USA three years in a row.
  • It's extremely vegetarian- and vegan-friendly. I'm not exaggerating when I say I think it's even more so than much larger cities like Portland, Austin, and San Francisco. Granted, I've only explored these cities for a few days each. But a major difference I've noticed is that here, although there are plenty of all-vegetarian restaurants, even in the restaurants that aren't specifically vegetarian there are always several options for us on the menu. Some even have special vegan menus. And the servers have all been very helpful and have even reminded me when I ordered something that is non-vegan (caramelized onions on pizza, for example).
  • We live in a quiet, woodsy neighborhood that's very hilly and great for running, with a park right behind our backyard. And we're only a mile from downtown, a combination I never thought I'd find anywhere.
  • There are street musicians all over the place. Not just playing guitars, but also violins, banjos, cellos, basses, harmonicas, drumsets, trumpets, accordions and even crazy stuff like saws. My son, who is obsessed with music, absolutely loves this. If only they would play Weezer covers for him...
  • Everything is eco-friendly. Pretty much every restaurant recycles and composts, and any coffee I've gotten to-go has come in a special, compostable cup. (I won't pretend to know why this is better than recycled paper, but I imagine it is.)
  • Lots of dogs. They're even allowed in some stores and restaurants, and there are tons of pet-centric businesses.
  • There's a thriving arts scene, and lots of nationally-known artists, bands, comedians, and authors come through this relatively small city (80,000 people or so). Chi Running author Danny Dreyer and well-known vegetarian cookbook author Deborah Madison will be in one of the bookstores this month. And if I knew more about art and read more fiction, I'd probably recognize a lot more of the names.
  • We're surrounded by some serious mountains! We went for a drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway this weekend, and within 10 minutes we had some amazing views. And of course, there are lots of trails for running and mountain biking, but we have yet to explore any of them, other than a tiny one that's a just quarter mile from our house.

Underlying all of this, there's a friendliness and slowness to the city that we're really enjoying. I'm one of the most  laid-back people I know, and yet in the coffee shops here, I feel like I'm the high-strung northerner who can't relax. But there's an acceptance of all different types of people ("It doesn't matter whether you're a businessman or a hippie," as one person told me).

All in all, it feels like this is a place where one can be centered, be creative, and find time to focus on things that really matter.

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Let the Good Times Roll: Asheville on Bikes Throws Bike Love Fundraiser Party!

By Jake Frankel on 02/18/2014 02:05 PM

Down with the cause: Jamar Woods put together a special band for Bike Love that he says will get people dancing. Photo by Morgan Ford.

Asheville on Bikes is on a roll.

Since its birth in 2006, the organization has been a key advocate for a more bicycle-friendly city. And it seems poised for growth as it prepares to celebrate Bike Love -- a fundraiser and membership drive featuring a range of speakers and musical acts.

What began as an informal group of friends who got together to ride in the holiday parade has blossomed into an organization that mobilizes thousands of people to push for education initiatives, bike lanes and greenways. The group is known for doing it in style too: Festive community rides regularly fill local streets with costumed revelry.

But AOB founder Mike Sule says they're just getting started. The organization recently agreed to become a fiscal sponsorship of the Western North Carolina Alliance, a long-established, local environmental nonprofit. Rather than vying to file as its own 501(c)(3), the move gives Asheville on Bikes many of the same legal benefits.

"That work of getting a nonprofit up and going and then managing it would take away from the direct work that we want to be doing in this city," says Sule. "The fiscal sponsorship enabled us to keep going with our advocacy work, providing us with some support and structure and expertise."

The group is also tuning itself up by offering formal sign-ups for the first time, hoping to turn its legions of volunteers and social-media fans into card-carrying members. "We want people to share that pride in the organization with us -- for them to be able to say, 'Yes, I have a membership,'" says Sule. Having hard numbers on file could also make it easier to get grants, he adds. "We want to be able to say who we represent, how many people we represent."

Also on the horizon: The former elementary teacher is hoping to transition from being a nearly full-time volunteer to a paid executive director.

"When I wake up in the morning, I am on Asheville on Bikes. That's primarily what I do," he says. "I really love to work on bicycle advocacy. I want the job."

AOB Founder Mike Sule. Photo by Jake Frankel.

The organization recently joined the Chamber of Commerce, and Sule says an important next step will be seeking out partnerships and alliances with more businesspeople. "I'm really excited to reach out to and work with the business community," he says. "We're going to need members of our business community to make some of the changes."

The group has already received significant support from New Belgium Brewing Co. In fact, brewery officials have often noted that cycling is central to their business culture, citing Asheville on Bike's work as one of the reasons they decided to invest $150 million in a new facility in the River Arts District. Last year, the company flew Sule to its Fort Collins, Colo., headquarters to attend a conference it hosted on bicycle boosterism. "It was awesome," he reports. "I was at a crossroads in terms of where I was going with bicycle advocacy. ... I got some really good advice on what to do."

Sule also wants to build stronger partnerships with Buncombe County and the N.C. Department of Transportation. The county adopted a Greenway Master Plan in 2012 that calls for building roughly 80 miles of pathways. But Sule laments that implementation is yet to even start, saying the plan needs a "champion."

He sees hope in the renewed discussion over the DOT's plans for restructuring Interstate 26 and nearby streets. "I see it as a grand opportunity to advance bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure," Sule says. "We all need to be pushing for a bridge that connects downtown and West Asheville via biking and walking infrastructure."

Party with a purpose

At Bike Love, Sule will be joined by a range of multimodal allies from the Land of Sky Regional Council, Asheville Design Center, Friends of Hominy Creek Greenway and New Belgium, which will all deliver presentations on a variety of projects and aspirations. Each speaker will have 20 slides and 20 seconds to talk about each one, "So it's designed to be informative and engaging, but also fast and furious," says Sule.

Then musicians will take over the stage.

A special group of local notables called Jamar Woods and the Broken Spokes is hoping to get everyone's gears cranking with a variety of live dance covers, from Aretha Franklin to the Jackson 5. "We'll be playing music from a mixture of time periods -- some modern, some older -- soul, funk, rock, music that gets people moving, gets people dancing," says Woods, who's best known locally as the keyboardist in The Fritz. "We're definitely a group that's schooled in the art of improvisation, so there will be be some of that too."

He'll be joined on stage by his bandmates from The Fritz -- Jaime Hendrickson on guitar and Mike Evans on percussion. Drummer Joey K and bassist Rob Geisler, who play in several local bands, including The Business, round out the group. "Basically," says Woods, "I handpicked some of the best musicians in Asheville."

Woods also performed at last year's Bike Love event as a keyboardist in Jim Arrendell and the Cheap Suits. And he says that coming back is more than just another gig. "I'm a supporter of Asheville on Bikes. It's always good to play for such a worthy cause," he says.

Another repeat performer who believes in the mission is Marley Carroll, who will close the night with a DJ set that's sure to have the crowd bouncing. A longtime local favorite, Carroll has been garnering well-deserved national attention in recent months from the likes of Pitchfork and Rolling Stone for his latest album, Sings. He also happens to be Sule's former housemate.

"Asheville on Bikes generally happens in my living room where I'm hunched over my laptop, so Marley lived in the thick of Asheville on Bikes for years," Sule recalls with a laugh. "The poor guy would come home from the end of his day and walk into an Asheville on Bikes meeting. They're not the quietist of meetings -- there's lots of passion."

He adds that he's very thankful to have his friend's support: "Our crew loves to dance, and Marley brings the party."

It's a party with a purpose, says Sule, who hopes Bike Love and the evolution of his group will continue to help build "a groundswell of support for active transportation improvements." The group's mission of "cultivating the culture of urban and commuter cycling through advocacy and celebration" has "really become a community endeavor," he adds.

"It's a result of the passions of the cycling community. And I've been sort of like the tender of that fire, and sometimes the agent of acceleration to push it." Bike Love is Saturday, Feb. 22. Presentations begin at 8 p.m. and music starts at 9 p.m. $15 advance/ $20 day of show.

Asheville, NC Locals in The New York Times!

In West Asheville, N.C., Bistros Mix With Tattoo Parlors



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Dishes on their way to a table at Biscuit Head. Tim Hussin for The New York Times

Gritty is still an operative description for West Asheville, N.C., a section of this city where pawn shops, tattoo parlors and auto repair shops have reigned. But as Ashevillians move to this side of the French Broad River to escape downtown's escalating rents and tourism, the area has become a blue-collar hybrid with yoga studios and bistros joining longtime establishments along the main drag, Haywood Road. West Asheville has been called the "Worst Asheville," said Jodi Rhoden, who owns a bakery, Short Street Cakes. "So there's a sense of embattled pride and a determination to make it work."


This eclectic venue, part Ripley's and part multigenre performance space, opened in April. Glass cases display such curiosities as Chinese binding shoes and antique mortuary tools. Across the dance floor, the stage hosts everything from live music and poetry readings to comedy.

1045 Haywood Road; 828-575-9299;


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The Oyster House Brewing Company. Tim Hussin for The New York Times

Oysters abound at this brewery, which opened in June. Shells are embedded into the polished-concrete bar. Its signature beer, the Moonstone Oyster Stout, is brewed with 10 pounds of the mollusks per barrel.

625 Haywood Road; 828-575-9370;


West Asheville's indie anchor since 2004, Harvest is that rarest of enterprises in the digital age: an expanding record store. Aficionados make the pilgrimage to search well-curated racks and to drop the needle at listening stations.

415-B Haywood Road; 828-258-2999;


This brunch-centric bistro, open since March, dishes out supremely Southern cat-head biscuits (so called because they are as big as a cat's head) with an inventive combination of farm-fresh ingredients. A self-serve jam bar offers homemade varieties including lime-coriander and fig marmalade.

733 Haywood Road; 828-333-5145;


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The Double Crown. Tim Hussin for The New York Times

This year-old dive, where honky-tonk meets juke joint, feels as if it grew here. Some 40 bourbon choices are displayed on an 1880s pump organ behind the bar, and D.J.'s spin between portraits of gospel singers, photos of Mardi Gras Indians and an altar to Hank Williams.

375 Haywood Road; 828-407-0573 ;

A version of this article appears in print on February 23, 2014, on page TR5 of the New York edition with the headline: Where Bistros Join Tattoo Parlors.

First Annual "Charity: Water" Disc Golf Tournament Event in Asheville March 2, 2014

March 2, 2014


> 50% of the Gross of this Disc Golf Tournament goes to Charity: Water

 (a highly rated charity)

100% of the public funding, including our donation, goes to giving folks clean drinking water around the world in Central America, South America, Asia & Africa.

See a video demonstrating the Power of Clean Water


**A One-Day, 1 or 2 round, event held on a 16 acre private subdivision 7' from downtown Asheville.**


**$10 for One Round & $20 for Both Rounds with Lunch Included in the $20 entry fee. **


** Prizes are NOT tied to score but to your Raffle Ticket being randomly drawn; one Ticket per round played.  You can earn additional tickets (e.g., signing up & paying by Feb. 28th is one way to earn an additional ticket) at the event.   


**The golfer with the Lowest Score for both rounds will get one absolutely, delicious Black Russian Cake which many have said is the best cake they have EVER eaten.**


** Prizes will include at least One Portable Disc Golf Basket, Two Heart Rate Monitors, & assorted other cool prizes with more coming.


**  Contact me if YOU  have any cool disc golf or other prizes you would like to donate or if you are willing to assist with this charity event.


**Contact Chris @ 828-216-3824 or  for more info**


** Directions & Updates coming soon.** 


Chris Tuten, Broker and REALTOR®

Town and Mountain Realty

828-216-3824 (Cell)

828-232-2879 (Office)

9 Unusual Recycled Homes


By: ILYCE GLINK  February 8, 2014, 9: 28 AM

These homeowners take recycling to the next level by living in recycled homes.

Converting airplanes, water towers, even satellite stations into living spaces is no easy task, but it's done all the time around the country. By salvaging these otherwise unusable spaces, unique homes are created frequently!

From churches to missile silos to fire houses, here are nine of the best (and, sometimes, most strange) home conversions out there.




Despite their humble beginnings, barn conversions are some of the more expensive home conversions out there, mostly because the barn is just a shell, so an extensive amount of work must go into making the space a true home. This home in Bryn Mawr, Pa. utilizes the exposed barn beams and rough-hewn hardwood floors. But its windowed entryway, four bedrooms, 3.5 bathrooms, built-in bookcases and gourmet kitchen make it feel more modern.


Water Towers



Most converted water tower homes are located in Europe, but there are a few in the U.S. including this one in Sunset Beach, Calif. The home offers a 360-degree view of the mountains and the ocean and has an aquarium desk, circular fire pit, dance floor and Jacuzzi. The home is now featured as a special vacation rental -- for $600 a night.

Warehouses or Factories



What may be the oldest home conversion trend, the warehouse or factory conversion is fairly common in cities around the country. The Oriental Warehouse Loft building, in San Francisco's South Beach neighborhood, added beautiful, modern spaces into an old warehouse while keeping many of the industrial details intact and the exterior untouched. The building offers units with one to three bedrooms priced at just under $1 million.


Fire Stations



Fire station conversions are fairly common. Fire departments frequently outgrow their old stations as their communities (and even the size of their fire engines) grow, leaving behind a historic building with plenty of space. This 2,500-square-foot San Francisco home, worth nearly $2 million, was converted from a fire house, but it retained much of the original look including the "Commercial Fire Dispatch" sign and the front garage doors.




Believe it or not, this converted commercial airplane home isn't the only one of its kind in the nation. JoAnn Ussery's Benoit, Miss. home was destroyed in an ice storm and instead of rebuilding it, she purchased a salvaged Continental Airlines Boeing 727 for $2,000 and over four months, converted it into a 127-foot-long home for about $30,000 in the mid-1990s. The home has three bedrooms, a living/dining room, kitchen, laundry area and a master bathroom with Jacuzzi in the cockpit area. She's joined in her aviation love by Oregonian Bruce Campbell, who lives in a Boeing 727, and Californian Francie Rehwald, who converted a Boeing 747 into a home in Malibu.





Houseboats are nothing unique, but a houseboat that no longer functions as a boat is a rare find. Nonetheless, ingenious homeowners across the country have salvaged old boats and turned them into homes. Some are just houseboats, stuck on land while others, such as the Benson Ford in Put-In-Bay, Ohio, are converted from a real boat. The boat was stripped of its engine and settled into an island in Lake Erie. It has a six bedrooms, sitting room, living room, dining room, kitchen bar area, garage and laundry room over four floors.



Shipping Containers



Branching off from the small home movement, converting shipping containers into homes or offices has become a bona fide movement. Whether using just one or dozens of stacked shipping containers, designers and architects around the country have transformed these humble vessels into elaborate homes. This home in Flagstaff, Ariz., used five recycled ocean-going shipping containers in a crisscross pattern that opens to an atrium space.





Old brick schools have become a popular residential conversion lately. Through population shifts, budget cuts or rebuilding efforts, thousands of schools across the country are shut down and left abandoned. Savvy developers have bought up these buildings for their strong bones and converted them to artists' lofts, apartments and condo buildings. The Oak Street School Lofts in Buffalo, N.Y. feature one-bedroom apartments, including the original chalkboards, though they have been painted over.



Old Government Buildings


Old Government Building

Decommissioned missile silos, former army barracks and even old prisons have been converted into homes, apartments or hotels, but perhaps the most unusual government building conversion is the Jamesburg Earth Station in Carmel Valley, Calif. The satellite dish, originally commissioned by the Kennedy administration to send and receive messages from space during the Apollo 11 moon landing, was converted into a 21,000-square-foot home in the mid-2000s.






Keep Winter Pests Where They Belong: Outside

Daily Real Estate News | Wednesday, February 05, 2014

With record low temperatures and accumulating piles of snow driving people into the comfort of their cozy homes, it's a good time to remind your clients and customers that it's never too late to make sure they don't have unexpected company as bugs and other pests look for shelter as well.

Advice site recently reminded its readers to protect against four different kinds of infestations: spiders; mice, rats, and other rodents; attic critters such as squirrels and raccoons; and bugs that nestle in firewood.

A partial solution shared by the first three problems is making sure that all points of entry are sealed, from tiny cracks to holes in the roof. Once that's accomplished, Lifehacker says, stringent cleaning should vanquish problem spiders. Rodents can be dissuaded from settling in by making sure they can't find any food; along with cleaning, storing food properly in containers vermin can't claw or gnaw into will help avoid attracting them. "Cleaning the kitchen, putting away pet food, and keeping dry food in sealed plastic containers all help to ensure any rodents don't find a buffet," says Lifehacker writer Eric Ravenscraft.

Before sealing points of entry for larger animals on the roof, conduct an audit to make sure none have entered yet; you don't want to trap them inside. Humane traps can be used for bait and release strategies. Once you're confident the house is clear, you can seal the roofs's cracks and vents.

Finally, if your customers keep firewood handy, remind them to keep it on a raised plastic platform away from the house. Storing it under sheets of plastic can help keep insects out and might even raise the temperature under the plastic to a level they can't survive in. As your clients bring in firewood, they should inspect it for infestation. Many bugs can settle into firewood, but termites are an obvious first indication of infestation.

With these guidelines in mind, your clients should be much closer to a distraction-free winter with only the approved residents of their homes.

Source: How to Manage Your Winter Pest Problem,

Asheville NC Real Estate Recovers (somewhat) in 2013!

Real Estate Recovers (somewhat) in 2013

February 2014


Written By Bill Fishburne

So, how's the real estate market? Realtors hear that question at least twice a day. For the past five years, from early 2008 through the end of 2012, the answer was generally depressing. The economy went from great to "oh my gosh" and the realty bubble popped big-time.

Now, things are better. Much better. 2013 was the best year since 2007 with more than 7,289 homes sold. In 2007 a record 7,772 homes were sold through the Western North Carolina Regional MLS system. The average price back then, however, was $278,799 and a sales volume of $2.166 billion was recorded.

So are we back to 2007 levels? Not by a long shot. The average sales price for a house throughout the area in 2013 was $229,986, an increase of just 4% for the year. MLS dollar volume will be just over $1.676 billion when all the last-day transactions are recorded.

Still, compared to 2012 and the other bust years, buyers have come back into the market and sales are up significantly. In 2012 the entire MLS sold only 6,127 units at an average price of $221,579. The two prior years, 2010 and 2011, sales didn't even reach the 5,000 unit mark. But comparing 2013 to 2012 shows unit sales increased 19%.

Buyer's markets exist whenever the available inventory in any price range exceeds a six month supply. Below that level it is a seller's market. A scarcity of inventory means that new listings that are nice homes, well priced and well maintained will receive offers immediately upon listing. Sometimes there will be multiple offers and sometimes the offers will be higher than the MLS price.

We saw some of that in 2013 in certain price ranges and, in particular, in the Asheville market. MLS data shows we have entered 2014 with just a 7.8 month supply of homes throughout the region in every price range up to $200,000. In Asheville there is just a 3.8 month supply between $50,000 and $200,000.

Prices in our region increased a modest average of 4% in 2013, following on the heels a very slight increase in 2012. Buncombe and Henderson counties both saw 5% increases in 2013. Buncombe's sales volume, however, shot up 23%. At the opposite end of the spectrum Transylvania County saw an 8% reduction in the average price, from $255,048 in 2012 to $233,886 last year. Transylvania also recorded just a 6% increase in unit sales. The mitigating factor in this regard is that Transylvania is a relatively small market with just 485 homes being sold vs. more than 3,400 in Buncombe. That also helps explain why the Brevard Board of Realtors late in the year decided to merge into the much larger Asheville Board. With low sales and just 154 members, Brevard was on the verge of becoming unviable as a separate business entity. It made good business sense for them to find a merger partner.


Transportation and the inconvenience of commuting to and from Asheville/Buncombe County no doubt helps justify the $26,000 price differential buyers are willing to pay in the region's largest city. Also, no other community can match Asheville's variety of neighborhoods, wealth of cultural resources and vibrant downtown. Those factors draw people whether they're working or retiring.

Asheville, as always in Western North Carolina, is at the center of it all. It is the junction point of two major Interstate highways, the location of the regional airport and the undisputed economic capital of the region. The city's River Arts District is a significant attraction for tourists who have already seen the Biltmore Estate and are looking for something unique to take home. Of course, that could be one of more than 100 local craft beer offerings; but since there are too many brews and not enough time, we modestly suggest they just buy a house and stay

Another key factor in pricing is the size of the house. All things are not equal. Asheville has more commerce and industry, by far, than any other city or town in the area. This means more jobs, more younger people, more young families, more children, and a need for larger houses.

Buncombe's profusion of larger homes, old and new, generally means working families who can afford larger homes and want to be close to their work. Last year, 19% of all sales in Buncombe County were homes with four or more bedrooms.

The other communities each have their own charm and attractiveness. Haywood County has become a retirement community with great mountain vistas and, in Waynesville, a unique downtown that is an absolute magnet for folks escaping to their mountain dreams. The mid-summer Folkmoot Festival set for July 18 - 27 in 2014 is an international music festival featuring folk musicians and dancers from around the world performing in the traditions of their native lands.

About five weeks later each year, Hendersonville puts on the region's longest-running street festival when the four day Apple Festival takes over downtown on the Labor Day weekend. It's a family friendly, alcohol-free celebration of just about everything it means to be American and working.

Each local mountain community has its own charm and traditions. All offer mountain environments for those seeking escape from the hustle and bustle of lives lived elsewhere. Hendersonville's serpentine Main Street is a unique, pedestrian-friendly five block area that offers everything from crafts to Irish pubs, jewelry to unique hiking boots and even a very knowledgeable music store where you can learn to play a guitar or a violin


Buncombe County Realtors sold nearly twice as many houses as did their counterparts in Henderson County and nearly half of all sales within the Western Regional Multiple Listing Service were in Buncombe. But Henderson County Realtors were the most productive with an average of 3.87 sales per member vs. 2.86 in Buncombe.


Now, having started this unnecessary controversy, let us hasten to add that sales per Realtor are misleading because Realtor members sometimes maintain their licenses and membership even though they are not actively working in the business. Also, as the market has improved many new, young Realtors have gotten their real estate licenses and joined realty firms in the younger areas of the region, specifically Asheville. It takes time for a new person to find their way and get established. And while Hendersonville Realtors do score high on this chart, the same chart shows that in the past year Asheville's Realtors increased their business five percentage points more than their Hendersonville compatriots.

Finally, there is the entire issue of the housing slump. Are we done with it? Will the economy continue its modest recovery? Will mortgage money and interest rates continue to be favorable enough for non-cash buyers to continue buying homes in our area?

That's a big unknown. Our modest 4% price recovery is less than half the national average of 10.9% according to Clear Capital, a national provider of real estate data. Western North Carolina is a trailer, not a leader. With a high percentage of retirees and second-home buyers, we trail national trends. If the economy is good in New York and Florida, it is probable that many residents of those areas will have the resources to buy homes here. The old saying goes that when the leading markets get a sniffle, Western North Carolina catches pneumonia.

I am loathe to predict what will happen in 2014. While my Realtor side wants to be as Pollyannaish as possible, my dark side has a hidden economic pessimism. Still, the facts on the ground are that markets are doing well elsewhere, the economy is growing and we have many reasons to be optimistic.

So I'll go with that, borrowing lines from Jackie Gleason along the way. First, "How sweet it is" after these long, dismal years.

And second, no matter what the future may be, "Away we go."



A Closer Look at the Phil Mechanic Building in Asheville's River Arts District

By On February 4, 2014



The Phil Mechanic Building, a longtime arts anchor on Roberts Street,  appeared on the front page of today's paper: Longtime owners, Jolene and Mitch Mechanic, have put the studio, gallery and meeting space up for sale.

In 2011, I learned a lot about this creative hive for a profile I did on Jolene Mechanic, an non-artist arts advocate, seen above walking through a dramatic installation in the Flood Gallery. She is a true homegrown hero, and a community-minded spitfire that I enjoyed getting to know.

Her story is intertwined with the Phil Mechanic building, so I thought it made sense to share some of the history of this building, as we continue to follow this story about changes in the River Arts District.

Here's some facts about the building from the story, followed by the full profile below.

  • Once a construction business hub, the abandoned siding and windows have been replaced with painting and pottery. A public library and glass workshop. A fashion designer and biofuel company truck drivers.
  • Another commitment emerged the year they were married: Mitch inherited the Phil Mechanic building. They embarked on a six-year renovation of the space that now houses 17 studios, two galleries and Blue Ridge Biofuels in the basement.
  • "At first, we just rented the studio space, but then Jinx (artist Sean Pace) came to me and said we should start a nonprofit and we could bring in artists from all over the country," she said. "I thought that was such a good idea ... who knew that it would take 80 hours a week and I was never going to get a paycheck."
  • At the same time she was helping artists pursue their dreams at their Phil Mechanic Studios in 2005, she eventually had the time and the money to pursue her dream of a college degree, she said.


In Jolene Mechanic's sharp vision, art becomes more than form. More than material or technique.

It is politics and family. Fear. Love. Future and past. A thing becomes everything.

"Art is the perfect venue for conversation in a trying world," said Mechanic, who owns the Phil Mechanic Studio on Roberts Street with her husband, Mitch, and directs its nonprofit sister, Flood Gallery & Fine Art Center. "I don't want just beautiful things. Give me dialogue. Give me something that's disturbing that makes me think."

Give her brain fodder, not background music, she said. And she'll take it in her ever-busy hands, using it as a tool to transform, challenge minds and honor the hometown that grounded this gypsy soul.

The heart of her vision is the Phil Mechanic, a hive of 50 artists and workers with a journey representative of Asheville's new economy. Once a construction business hub, the abandoned siding and windows have been replaced with painting and pottery. A public library and glass workshop. A fashion designer and biofuel company truck drivers.

Mechanic dreams that the Phil Mechanic's mission of affordable work space and sustainable, supportive spirit can be a model for the rest of the community.

"I want to build a community that gets along and sustains itself," she said. "A community that supports itself and the education of our children. I know I can go into the Phil Mechanic at any moment and say I want to do this program, and the artists will roll their eyes, say 'Here she goes again,' and they will make it happen."

Mechanic, 54, is an arts advocate who isn't an artist, but she's drawn a clear, figurative circle in her life by connecting her past to present. Between cutting-edge gallery show openings, weekly potlucks and movie nights at the buzzing Phil Mechanic, she takes her arts education programs to area community centers like Eliada Homes, or what she simply calls "the farm" of her childhood.

A hardworking foundation

Mechanic spent 10 years of her young life milking cows and devouring the biographies stacked in the library at Eliada Homes. Founded in 1903, Eliada is a nonprofit dedicated to child development, with both residential and day programs for support, treatment and enrichment.

"I like going back there because you try to give back something," she said. Troubled family circumstances brought Mechanic to Eliada in 1968, but she credits that decade of her life with the development of her driving, boundless energy.

"I got a good work ethic," she said. "It was a working orphanage. There was a farm, so we grew vegetables, we milked cows, all that. That work ethic that I learned very young carried through. Everybody looks at me like I am insane that I have this amazing amount of energy. But it's just a work ethic thing."

The calenders hung on the elevator doors in her office are stuffed with red-ink scribbles of her obligations of things to be done. Photographs of the things she has already done -- Reid Center after-school programming, the WNC Youth Outright prom -- frame her reminder of the days ahead.

Her time at Eliada also provided a perspective, an empathy that is articulated in her programming and her provocative art tastes.

"There are thousands, millions of kids who had it worse than I did, and they are out there today making something of themselves," she said. "I had food, and I had clothes, even if they were out of the missionary barrel."

But her dedication to children is not purely sprung from an obligation to repay the giving spirit that guided her upbringing. She uses "amazing" so much when she talks about children it's almost a synonym for young people in her language.

She thinks it's a "hoot" to do her Concept Camps, which teach philosophy through art. She struggles to suspend her joyous laughter long enough to tell the story of how kids identified Socrates and Plato when asked one afternoon.

"They said they knew of soccer teams and Play Doh," she said.

She delights in a child's imagination and believes they can change the world with their vision.

"You can get the conversation started with kids particularly because they have no inhibitions," she said. "They will do things that will astound you because they haven't gotten to the age where someone is pointing at what they are doing and saying, 'That's ugly, don't do that.'

"They just do the most amazing things. And (art and philosophy) teaches them confidence to ask the important questions. And then, maybe, they can grow up, and the world will maybe look different to them than it does to us."

Knowledge quest

Mechanic is a seeker, and her pursuit of knowledge and experience endows her a youthful curiosity. After leaving the Eliada farm to empty a bed for a new child in need, Mechanic traded the only streets she'd known for towns that were just words on a map.

She bought a camper and adopted her fearless four-legged companion, Tarheel, and spent her 20s traveling up and down the East Coast.

She went from Asheville to Maine to Nova Scotia, picking up temporary jobs answering phones and staffing a computer along the way. She ran out of road, traded the camper for a 40-foot cruise craft in Cape Fear and navigated the intercoastal waterways down to the tip of Florida. Tarheel remained her shadow on the boat and until her death 12 years ago.

"I had this little dinghy, and I would take Tarheel on it to the shore to walk her," she said.

After about 10 gypsy years, "I decided it was time to grow up and be a normal, responsible human being, and sold the cruise craft and was going home," she said. "Then a friend from New Orleans called and said I could go home after Mardi Gras. I came home three years later."

A homecoming

In 1993, the pull of her hometown was too strong to ignore, and when she returned to plant her roots, she reconnected with Mitch. He was the raven-haired pool shark she met when she was living next to Good Time Billiards in West Asheville. They befriended each other briefly before her East Coast exploration.

"We've known each other since crayons," she said. "I was working at a law firm at the time. And Mitch and I were hanging out, and I just thought we were pretty compatible. Let's give this a shot. We lived together for 10 years and then got married."

Another commitment emerged the year they were married: Mitch inherited the Phil Mechanic building. They embarked on a six-year renovation of the space that now houses 17 studios, two galleries and Blue Ridge Biofuels in the basement.

"At first, we just rented the studio space, but then Jinx (artist Sean Pace) came to me and said we should start a nonprofit and we could bring in artists from all over the country," she said. "I thought that was such a good idea ... who knew that it would take 80 hours a week and I was never going to get a paycheck."

At the same time she was helping artists pursue their dreams at their Phil Mechanic Studios in 2005, she eventually had the time and the money to pursue her dream of a college degree, she said.

One the eve of her fifth decade, Mechanic enrolled in the philosophy and literature programs at UNC Asheville.

"I was going to school and trying to get the Flood going. It was no sleep for years, I swear. I would finish here, go home and then hit the books," she said. "So when I graduated in 2010, everyone said they thought I would have more time. I use this time to sleep now from 2 to 6 a.m."

Some of the books she used in college line the shelves of the Phil Mechanic library. All of the titles are from Mechanic's personal collection.

"The library was created so that I could have room in my house," she said. "Mitch said it didn't look like I moved out any books, but I told him they were stacked two-deep now, not three-deep."

She reads two to three books a week, always before trying to get some rest. It's the way she turns off, she said, the only way she can escape the book she writes every day. Mechanic keeps a small blue notebook with her at all times to remind her of all the daily duties that she performs without pay.

But there are other rewards.

"I curated a show at Tryon Upstairs Art Space with Larkin Ford," she said. "A couple of woman were talking about one of his charcoal drawings of Jesus having a panic attack. I had to leave and I came back and they were still talking about it 15 minutes later. And I turned to Larkin, and I said, this is better than getting paid."

Jolene Mechanic

Age: 54.

Occupation: "'Deep center field' at Phil Mechanic Studios, or if you prefer, director and co-founder, Flood Gallery & Fine Art Center."

Live in: Beaverdam area, Asheville.

Family: Husband, Mitch, and beloved pound puppy, Gypsy, 12.

Education: Bachelor of Arts, Philosophy; Bachelor of Arts, Literature from UNC Asheville, awarded in 2010.

Favorite book: "Absalom, Absalom!" by William Faulkner. An avid lover of history, Mechanic wrote her thesis comparing this classic with "Gone with the Wind," which was published the same year. "It's not easy," she said. "Get the Cliffs Notes and read it along with the book."

Explore the Phil Mechanic

In addition to its thousands of books on art, literature, poetry, philosophy and children's selections, the library offers free Internet access and two computers for general use.There's also a potluck lunch every Wednesday at noon and a free movie night every Friday at 8 p.m.

For more information, visit or call 254-2166.

For More Information on the Listing Please Contact: Town and Mountain's Own Luiz Leonetti (828) 575-4428

Click This Link For MLS Information: 109 Roberts St- The Phil Mechanic Studios



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