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Your Perfect Shopping Day in Asheville—A Local’s Perspective

Every time I bring up shopping, I feel obligated to preface with something along the lines of “Now I’m not much of a shopper but…” And yet, the fact is I’ve come back to the subject time and again. I’ve done my fieldwork. So now I question: maybe I am much of a shopper.


Maybe my impulse to denigrate this subject is merely an instinct born from long boyhood hours of waiting around department stores, bored and baffled by the intricacies of modern commerce.


But those days are long gone. I’m a man now. A man with money (sometimes), and all the times a need for fairly-priced antique furniture, second-hand shirts, and nifty gifts for my non-Ashevillean friends. 


I have a new take on shopping. I’ve turned over a new leaf. And if you’re here in Asheville, looking for a deal, looking, in fact, for some of the very best shopping my hometown has to offer, then you're in luck. Here I’ve distilled decades of experience into a comprehensive shopping day schedule, hitting five of the best stores in Asheville, complete with eating recommendations. Enjoy, and may your pursuits yield great wonders.


best shopping in Asheville - wine glasses
Image from Wix

Right off the bat we’ve got one of Asheville’s best kept shopping secrets, hidden in plain sight on the way out of the famous Biltmore Estate.


Fact is, most people just have so much gosh dang fun at the Estate itself that by the time they’re headed out, one final stop is the last thing on their mind. And so they glide on past the Gate House, unaware of the great shopping they’re missing out on. 


But not you. You know better. Here in the Gate House, you can find everything from Biltmore-branded aprons to Biltmore-branded wine. Upstairs, they’ve got a stock of collectibles from their most recent past art exhibitions and special events. In effect, even if you can’t quite make it to one of the Biltmore’s yearly showcases, you can still get the merch from it, and at a discount too. 


I myself am the proud owner of a magnet depicting da Vinci’s weird little wooden tank via this scheme, and with luck, you can be too. And did I mention they do wine tastings? Well, they do. 


All in all, it's a great first stop on your shopping day in Asheville. Even better: you don’t need to purchase entry to the Estate to get to this special little gift shop. Just head towards the entrance, and turn left into their parking lot. 


Add-Ons: The Biltmore Estate, would be an obvious one, but keep in mind you’ll want a full day to accomplish your visit there. Otherwise, a coffee and patisserie at Well-Bred Café, just down the street in historic Biltmore Village, makes for a great interlude in your shopping journey.


best shopping in Asheville - antique store
Image from Unsplash

I would be remiss not to include a representative of Asheville’s ancient and well-respected antiquing contingent on your shopping schedule, and so, I decided to go with one of the biggest and best in the game: the Antique Tobacco Barn.


Located north and east of the Gate House, down a stretch of Swannanoa River Road well-known for its antique stores, the Tobacco Barn fills out more than 70,000 square feet of showroom with one-of-a-kind pieces just begging to be brought home and put back to work, or gifted to friends and family. With luck, they will forever wonder where on Earth you found a hand-painted 19th-century windup jewelry box. 


You see, I understand that shopping may not be everyone’s idea of a fantastic day out on the town. Spouses, for instance, may object. Children too; both get bored. My recommendation: let them roam the Tobacco Barn. Let them simply pursue their curiosity, and soon you’ll have the delight to say, “What a great find dear!” or maybe, “Stop running with that shovel!”


Either way, beware the allures of the Tobacco Barn. It's a humongous space, much larger than it seems on paper, and you’ve got three more stops on your shopping day in Asheville. Or you could ignore me and stay in the Tobacco Barn all day. It's your call.


Add-Ons: If you just can’t get enough antiquing, continue down Swannanoa for Altamont Vintage, Miller’s Crossing, and the Regeneration Station across the river. 


best shopping in Asheville - woman in front of art
Image from Wix

Further north still, in the heart of downtown Asheville, you’ll find one of my favorite and oft-mentioned local galleries, Horse + Hero.


My hometown’s long been known as an eclectic place, a strange and wonderful place, and for my money, no other art store in downtown quite encompasses that zing, that je-ne-sais-quoi that makes Asheville such a special place to be. In the words of Horse + Hero, it's got a touch of the neo-Appalachian. 


Horse + Hero is one of my go-to gift shops, especially for people whom I know appreciate a walk on the wilder side. Plus, your purchase supports local artists. Shop like a local, they say. 


Add-Ons: At about this time on your shopping day in Asheville, assuming you started in the early morn’, I reckon it’s about lunch time. Luckily, Horse + Hero’s central location puts you in close proximity to some of my favorite downtown eateries, namely Itto Ramen and La Bodega.


best shopping in Asheville - honey jars
Image from Wix

Stick around in downtown, and you’ll have the opportunity to visit not one, but two of these locally-owned honey stores. I was only going to mention the one location, the one on Battery Park, as it's on the way to the fifth and final stop of your shopping day in Asheville. But the other Bee Charmer is right down the street from Old Europe, one of my favorite downtown bakeries. Decisions, decisions.


I’ve decided to leave the decisions up to you. No matter which store you visit, you’ll be treated to specialized honey tastings, plus a soothing stock of all-natural wax-ware, everything from candles, to soaps, to honey-based salves and balms.


Again, it’s a great stop for gift-shopping, namely for that one product that got me interested in Asheville Bee Charmer in the first place: sourwood honey.


Harvested from bees who pollinate southern Appalachia’s sourwood trees, officials describe it's flavor as “balanced and well-rounded.” One spoonful, and you’ll see why it’s one of their best sellers, and one of the very best ways to bring home a taste of the mountains.


Add-Ons: More coffee is always a good idea! That’s my motto. And yes, I always say it with an exclamation point. Anywho, you already know about Old Europe. As for the Bee Charmer on Battery Park, head north across the street into the historic Grove Arcade, and you’ll find delectable New-Orleans style coffee at Bebettes.


best sopping in Asheville - vintage clothes on racks
Image from Wix

And now, at the very end of your long shopping journey, your quest for Asheville’s best deals and steals, I bring you to my favorite downtown consignment store. 


What is it with Asheville and consignment stores? With the amount of pure vintage merchandise you can find in this town, you’d think the stuff was sprouting from the earth like potatoes. Perhaps it does work like that; I am neither a potato scientist nor a clothing scientist. 


But what’s more likely is that our local entrepreneurs simply have an eye for style, and a waste-not mentality, upcycling and reclaiming unique and fashionable pieces at every opportunity. The result: great clothing at great prices. 


This stratagem is on full display in Sugar Britches. From feet to head, and everything in between, every time I go to Sugar Britches, I come away with a goldmine of awesome vintage wares to wear, putting a pep in my step and a smile on my face. 


And with consignment, you never quite know what you’re going to find. That’s what I call a shopping adventure.


Add-Ons: Bonus round: head west through the Grove Arcade, and across the street to Citizen Vinyl for new and used records, plus up-close and personal tours of the vinyl-pressing process.


Businesses Mentioned

Gate House Gift Shop

(828)-225-1462

Biltmore Estate Dr, Asheville, NC 28803

Antique Tobacco Barn

(828)-252-7291

75 Swannanoa River Rd, Asheville, NC 28805

Horse + Hero

(828)-505-2133

14 Patton Ave, Asheville, NC 28801

Asheville Bee Charmer (Broadway St)

(828)-505-7736

32 Broadway St, Asheville, NC 28801

Asheville Bee Charmer (Battery Park Ave)

(828)-424-7274

38 Battery Park Ave, Asheville, NC 28801

Sugar Britches

(828)-283-0308

31 Page Ave, Asheville, NC 28801

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