It occurred to me that I often mention downtown shopping and downtown Asheville in a single breath. But what does that word mean, “shopping”? Where are the shops? What are the shops? Who and when and why are the shops?
Well, to rectify this deficit of information, I’ve come to ask myself where it is that I personally shop when I venture into downtown Asheville. Now I’m going to put all my cards on the table here and say it: I’m not much of a shopper. I think if I could get through life using only hand-me-downs and whatever I fish out of the river, I would.
And yet there are some stores in downtown Asheville where even I, the most parsimonious of penny-pinchers, cannot resist at least taking a look. So then, if I may, I would like to share with you the five best places for shopping in downtown Asheville.
Whenever I visit a new city, I make it my mission to visit their bookstores. They speak to a city’s character, revealing subtle, distinguishing aspects that you may not find in landmarks and popular attractions. It follows then that some of the best shopping in downtown Asheville must be book-shopping.
Enter Malaprop’s. On first entrance you’ll find, on your left, a modest café and a smattering of tables, perfect for meeting up with you friends before launching into the day’s activities or reading a few pages. Speaking of which, with their staff-picks, book club selections and “blind date books,” their covers obscured, I think you will find Malaprop’s takes extra care to curate your book-shopping experience.
Add on top a calendar chock-full of public events—poetry readings, author visits, etc.—and I think you’ll see exactly what Malaprop’s says about Asheville.
What Else is Around? The Twisted Crepe. The Chocolate Fetish. Parking at the Rankin Avenue Garage.
This downtown gallery draws me like a moth to flame. If I’m even remotely in the neighborhood, I make it my business to walk on over. It doesn’t matter if I’m in the market for something in particular. It doesn’t matter if I have cash to spare. I just like to see skilled artists given the space—and the sales opportunities—they deserve.
Whereas some galleries specialize in wall-spanning, haute-culture kinds of art, Horse + Hero is much more down to earth. Almost every member of their intriguing collection of prints, stickers, and original paintings can be fit into a suitcase. And as a result of their reasonable sizes, these art pieces bear reasonable prices.
If you want to come away with your very own slice of authentic, local art, then there’s no better place for shopping in downtown Asheville than Horse + Hero.
What Else is Around? Green Sage Café. Old Europe Pastries. Farm Burger.
I like rocks. Luckily, Asheville—by virtue of lying within the Blue Ridge Mountains—offers me many opportunities to enjoy geological delights. Now for those visiting Asheville, it has been a longstanding problem that they cannot bring the mountains home with them. They can, however, bring back some pieces of mountain.
That’s where Cornerstone Minerals comes in. Their displays stand in the full, color-coded splendor that make gem-shops some of the most undeniably stylish kinds of stores. Besides their raw crystals, Cornerstone also offers a terrific selection of centerpieces, jewelry, and fossils.
I think though, what I most like about this store comes from a single episode wherein the vendor and I got to talking about a fossilized cave bear paw. I don’t remember the details, only our mutual enthusiasm. Its that kind of personal touch that makes it one of the best places for shopping in downtown Asheville.
What Else is Around? McLaurin Parking. Gaea Gifts and Honeypot, both of which you will find further in this article.
4: Gaea Gifts
Finally, we come to the kind of store I would simply be remiss not to mention to any prospective visitor to Asheville: the gift shop. But not just any gift shop. Indeed, to my knowledge, Gaea Gifts has no official website and, in this day, and age, that suggests nothing other than a storefront of prime, unadulterated locality.
Gaea’s spacious interior invites you to circumambulate their many displays of Buddha statues, wind chimes, incense sticks and tea pots. What else can you expect to find? Tie-dyed tees. Scented candles. Prayer flags. I think by now you must get the picture.
Now I know every city has its gift shops, but I do think Gaea has a special sauce you won’t often find anywhere else. For this reason, it must be considered one of the best places to shop in downtown Asheville.
What Else is Around? Bouchon, the French restaurant. Mela Indian. Downtown Books and News.
I’ve been wearing the same selection of near-identical button-down shirts since 2018. That is to say when it comes to style, I’m picky. That is to say, I wouldn’t suggest just any old clothing store to you.
Honeypot hosts an eclectic selection of vintage wear, mainly dating from somehow between the 20s and 80s. At this point, they’re practically an antique shop. For my two cents that’s a good thing: the past had some real nice styles. And what’s more, if memory serves, I bought my resplendent black Scala Yukon hat from Honeypot and it has been my constant companion ever since. For this reason alone, I must count this store among the best places to shop in downtown Asheville.
Now note if you are an individual of especially potent clothes-shopping stamina, Honeypot lies next door to a slew of worthy of ateliers. If you’ve got a mission for Asheville fashion, then Honeypot’s North Lexington Avenue is sure to delight.
What Else is Around? McLaurin Parking. Dobra Tea.
55 Haywood St, Asheville, NC 28801
Horse + Hero
14 Patton Ave, Asheville, NC 28801
14 Patton Ave, Asheville, NC 28801
61 N Lexington Ave, Asheville, NC 28801
Honeypot Vintage Emporium
86 N Lexington Ave, Asheville, NC 28801