By Dasha Morgan
Asheville – In speaking with many business owners in Biltmore Village the phrase “business is steady” recurs with frequency. No, it isn’t like the good ole days, but customers are coming in and buying— steadily. As restaurants open, more customers arrive and stay longer.
Tourists are there too, mostly somewhat regional, like from eastern Tennessee, South Carolina or Atlanta. And as the Biltmore Estate is now open, there is a steady flow of visitors to see the house and the Downton Abbey exhibit. Happily many are spending time and shopping in the historic village.
Since May stores and restaurants have been opening their doors as they carefully follow all governmental mandates to keep their customers safe. The Corner Kitchen at 3 Boston Way has been totally sanitizing their space, from head to toe and opened Tuesday, August 4th, from 12 to 8 pm — seven days a week, with reservations required.
The restaurant will be operating at 50 percent capacity with a maximum party size of eight people. Known by many as a farm to table restaurant in a relaxed decor, locals as well as tourists will be thrilled to be able to enjoy once again the fine cooking of chef Joe Scully. The menu has reverted to the old classics, including dishes like the delicious fried oyster salad and crispy calamari. Outdoor seating under umbrellas will be available, as well as many tables spread throughout the house—perhaps near the bar, in the sunroom, or even upstairs. This, of course, allows ample space for social distancing.
Williams Sonoma at 10 Brook Street has found that even though there are fewer people in the store, those coming in are buying more. Having to stay home has put an emphasis on a desire for more delicious meals. There is a demand for better utensils and the right accessory and/or gadget for the job. Williams Sonoma had a zoom cooking class, featuring cast iron cooking which included a pineapple upside-down griddle cake. The Biltmore store has been open since May with limited capacity and has normal hours, 10-7 Monday through Saturday and 12 to 5 pm on Sunday.
The Well-Bred Bakery at 6 Boston Way in Biltmore Village reopened in May from 9 until 4 with mostly take-out. They offer their delicious bakery items and flavored coffees—with a full array of breakfast pastries, desserts, cookies, as well as many salads and soups for breakfast and lunch. Now seating is available in the patio courtyard outside as well, after you place your order at a counter outside. A server is there to help with your order. It should be mentioned that the Well-Bred Bakery in the Weaverville area has been open for some time with a brisk take-out menu and some delivery service.
The cheerfulness of Lilly Pulitzer® fabric, clothing and accessories at the Palm Village store at 1 All Souls Crescent attracts many. Customer capacity in the store is only 10 people, but all seem mindful of social distancing. Anna Rowley, Store Manager, finds tourist traffic “steady,” and is grateful for business on social media. Staying at home has meant her customers want more lounge and leisure wear, such as leggings, tunics and knit dresses. Bathing suits are even selling well, in spite of many swimming pool restrictions still being enforced. Lilly’s carefully crafted Chilly Lilly adult and kids face masks sell out quickly. The company has donated thousands of masks in the iconic prints to health workers and first responders. With three in a package, these colorful masks start selling for $48. These masks are anti-microbial, fabricated with UPF+50 and wicking material and have adjustable ear straps.
Sherrye and Anthony Coggiola, owners of The Cantina restaurant at 10 Biltmore Plaza, mentioned that they have been adapting on a weekly basis. She put it that ”we do what we gotta do,” and it has been a challenge on many levels. The Cantina opened June 4th, Thursday through Sunday, 11 am to dark, with socially distanced seating inside and additional seating outside. They have just added 5 tables to the lawn area and have a new bar breezeway where orders are taken. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Coggiolas have been very generously providing their staff with weekly food boxes for their whole family. Happily, the need has diminished somewhat now. So, they are now contributing significantly to the local organization, MANNA Foodbank. This week they will be contributing another $4,000 to that worthy organization. Overall, Sherrye said, “This will make our contributions to date nearing 1/2 a million meals, and (we are) excited to hit that milestone.”
Sarah Marshall of the New Morning Gallery at 7 Boston Way also finds business “steady,” since the store re-opened in mid-June. Their handmade selection of unique decorative items, all made by American artisans, are a strong tourist draw. However, she finds their customers really want cheerful, whimsical items— with pottery and jewelry as their best sellers. The neighboring high styled clothing store Bellagio just reopened for business July 30th.
Little by little the stores and restaurants in Biltmore Village have found ways to comply with government regulations, keep safe from the COVID19 virus, and yet open up to customers. Visitors can explore and enjoy themselves, as restaurants and retailers open up for business.