Unfortunately this great looking beer store was closed Sunday afternoons or I'd have likely picked up some beers for the remainder of our road trip. Though from the window display they had a great selection of Belgian ales I'd have likely stuck with the local beers. Think globally friends, but please drink locally.
What to buy: Beer, what else?
What to pay: Life is too short to drink cheap beer.
Just across from the entrance to the Biltmore Estate, you'll find the Biltmore Village, a 12 square block area of shops housed in converted early 1900-era homes. There are some interesting stores, art galleries and restaurants.
It's a fantastic store for every fan of gifts and handicraft, but not from North Carolina! They have typical gifts you can buy as a visitor to many countries like Columbia, Gauatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Peru, Morocco, Egypt, Turkey, Syria, India and others.
I guess they are mostly produced in say China or Taiwan. Such stores make future travels somewhat less interesting as you know what to except in each country you visit.
What to buy: Exotic handcrafted merchandise for home and garden. I paid attention to items typical for Latin America (alpaca clothing, jewelry, stone gigures, ceramics). At home, in Poland, I can buy mainly some Indian, Chinese, Black African (Kenya) and Arab (Moroxxo, Egypt) decorative items and gifts but it's difficult to find anything from Latin America.
What to pay: Reasonable prices. For Mexican items prices are similar to the first prices I saw in Tijuana. But forget about bargaigning in Asheville :-). It is neither Mexico nor Morocco.
First I saw a very colorful, small, old style carriage put on a sidewalk in front of Beads And Beyond store. It's a strange, weird or creative (choose what you want) store which offers vast variety of beads of different size, material and colours from various parts of our globe including beads from the pre-historic times like the Roman Times and Pre-Columbian Era. There are also earwires, headpins, jumprings, toggles and clasps as well as feathers, feather masks, carving stones and totem replicas. Add some books on jewelry making, goldsmithing, stones, gems and minerals etc. Whatever you think it's - without any doubt - a very unique store.
It's open Monday through Thursday 10.30 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Friday and Saturday 10.30 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Sunday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
What to buy: Whatever you need. I paid attention to some books on jewelry making and beads made of Chinese porcelain.
What to pay: From cheap to very expensive.
Urszula (matcrazy0) - my wife - loved this store. It offers women's cloths, accesories, quilts (bed covers - patchworks) and throws. The shop is full of what most women love to search through. A word of warning for guys: pretty mess and dark interior make good atmosphere for very long woman's stay in this shop. I managed to take tenths photos outside around until Urszula left this store.
What to buy: Well, if you look for classic, elegant costume for business/work choose another store. But if you want something artistic, unusual, unique, or even extravagant but mostly still elegant that's a store for you. Urszula found a pretty spring jacket and hat (it would be hat number over 50 for her :-) but didn't buy them. Add some pretty patchwork quilts and bags.
What to pay: Difficult to point out: from reasonable or even cheap to very expensive. A pretty jacket and hat Urszula found cost some $80 together.
The green and very American advertisement "World's coolest toys" encouraged me to enter and take a quick look into this toy shop. I remember amusing writing inside the shop: "Unattended Children Will Be Sold or Given a Kitten." The interior design of the shop and some toys on stock are unique. I had to think that the store was designed and run by either a hippie or/and a greenpeace activist. The store is open Mon - Sat 9 am - 6 pm.
What to buy: Enviro Depot stocks fun, eclectic, educational toys that seem to draw as many grown-ups as children into their enticing sphere.
What to pay: Whatever you need. Well, I have to say that the choice of various toys for kids of each age is great.
As soon as I saw numerous wigs displayed in the front window in downtown Asheville I entered my first ever wig store. The very friendly stuff made me some good laugh offering me "the Asheville's New Age Hair" - a wig of orange/green hair in a few styles to choose from.
What to buy: Good choice of ladies' wigs, men's wigs and toupees, and hair accessories - for each age, hairstyle and lifestyle :-).
What to pay: Moderately priced store.
This quite large family run store (owners are from Nepal) offers unbelievable variety of small and large items sold to tourists in Nepal, Tibet and India. You need an hour or so to see everything they have on stock: from small stone figures, metal pots, ceramics through handmade jewelry, colorful shirts, vests, hats and Tibetan singing bells to human size wooden and jade figures of Buddha.
What to buy: Nepalese, Tibetan and Indian antiques, artifacts, clothing, art, jewelery etc. I paid attention to some jewelry and Tibetan singing bowls and bells.
What to pay: Some small items are inexpensive (a few $) but larger, jade, handmade figure of Buddha cost over $2,000!
I have never seen store which offers exclusively handmade, leather and custom sandals, and belts made in workskop at place. Some of them displayed in front windows looked great. You choose style, color etc. and order your custom sandals in the shop or by mail (using mail-kit) and they are ready for you in 2-6 weeks time (may be shipped to your place). The store is closed in winter except 2 weeks preceding Christmas.
I was welcomed as a good friend by a very nice shopkeeper. She wanted to show me her workshop but the other customer came to order sandals and she had to care about her. It seems that they have a lot of customers (the telephone rang 3 times during my short visit) therefore I think their quality is top.
What to buy: Leather custom sandals and belts. Also "corrective" or orthotic sandals.
What to pay: Some $250 or more per custom sandals. It's good to have a lot of money in the USA :-).
It's un upclass Irish, Welsh and Scottish import shop which offers elegant clothes for someone who wants to look as Celtic (?) gentelman. They also offer a lot of accesories like belts, ties, hats etc.
I still have some bad habits from countries where bargaigning is a part of daily lifestyle (Morocco, Tunisia, Turkey) and sometimes, especially when I am welcomed very warm by a shopkeeper (it's usual in Asheville!) I suddenly and firmly announce that I only want to look not to buy anything and I finally refuse any help. I should be nicer in this upclass store, it's obvious. The shopkeeper silently stopped to smile and left me alone. Did I harm him? Surely noone want to harm me when I leave any shop with no shopping in Asheville, right? :-)
What to buy: A suit in Celtic pattern (tartan) and a hat. Well, it's not my style but if you need somethng like this...
What to pay: Too expensive!
I didn't like exterior look of this locally-owned store and especially I couldn't afford that terribly dressed woman model sitting on a chair by the shop entrance. They need better designer and more creativity to set up window display as well.
But to my surprise when I finally came in I found great selection of top quality, urban style men's cloths and accesories, more than just suits and sweats. That time I had to think that maybe this store had enough upclass local customers to take care of exterior look.
It's open Mon-Sat 10 a.m. - 5.30 p. m.
What to buy: Men's clothing & furnishings, also - despite the name - women's apparel, wear and accessories.
What to pay: Warning: it's an upscale and expensive store!
This pretty designed store is located in the Stable area next to the Biltmore House. It offers "Biltmore for your home" furnishings and accessories, videos, CDs, DVDs, Biltmore Estate wine, and more.
I liked some great historical books on the Biltmore Estate and Vanderbilt family as well as Biltmore Estate on DVD (over $20).
What to buy: Biltmore wine (white, rose, red and sparkling) but you can't taste it at place. So, if you don't know which wine to choose go first to Biltmore winery to sample the wine in the tasting room. You can buy wine there as well. The price is the same but I saved 10% buying three bottles in the winery.
What to pay: I paid about $9 per bottle of very good white Biltmore wine (Sauvignon Blanc) although some bottles cost over $20. You know, more expensive wine is not always better. I am not a wine connoisseur (yet!). Thus to have a good deal I always prefer to taste wine before puchase. CDs with classic American Christmas songs cost over $15. Generally this gift shop is expensive. T-shirts for adults went at a price of about $20 which is a robbery!
This cool little shop offers sweet food and sweets in small pieces: caramels, chocolate sticks and barks. Yes, they called square, small pieces of chocolate sweets barks. Well, I couldn't understand that "bark" as I related this word exclusively to rough noise made by a dog. Urszula was joking that we would bark after eating these sweets. We didn't. We smiled :-).
I didn't know that "bark" in English was the outermost layer of stems and roots of woody plants such as trees. Anyway, it's an enjoyable name for what I finally bought.
What to buy: I bought what was called "dark pecan bark" and "white pecan bark." It was a square and thick piece of chocolate with pecan nuts. Both were very yummy! Although I liked the dark bark more.
It was my first meeting with pecans and made me a bit "pecan obsessed" during the rest of my Southern odyssey. When I saw this word in the menu I usually ordered it. I didn't know what pecan was and I wanted to check it in Wal-Mart food store in the evening. Well, first I checked how that mysterious pecan or exactly pecan nuts look like in a bookstore :-).
Well, many Americans wrongly think that everyone knows them. In my part of the world there are pecan trees (orzesznik) growing in some parks in northern and western Poland but noone except some specialists in botanics know pecan nuts. They are as unavailable in groceries as for example carp fish in UK (popular in Poland especially for Christmas and regarded as not edible in UK). Well, try to buy popular in Poland sauerkraut in any Wal-Mart ;-). You know what I mean.
So, let me explain for non-American readers. The pecan is a species of hickory (group of a tree species of tough, yet flexible wood which bear globose or oval nuts with thick and bony shell), native to southeastern North America (mainly Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Mississippi). The pecan may live and bear nuts for more than three hundred years. Pecan nuts can be eaten fresh or used in cooking, particularly in sweet desserts but also in some savory dishes. The wood of the pecan tree is also used in flavoring fuel for smoking meats (hickory BBQ).
What to pay: $2.00 (+ NC sales tax, 7% in 2004) per each bark.
I love all these American colorful Christmas shops which are to my surprise usually open year round. They always make me feel like at family home. This one in the Stable area next to the Biltmore House is quite large and offers ubelievable choice of Christmas ornaments and music.
What to buy: I thought about CDs with classical American Christmas songs. There are also numerous charming old-fashionable Christmas ornaments.
What to pay: Well, these CDs cost a lot in my opinion: over $15 for about 30 min. CD. Generally all Christmas ornaments are much more expensive in the USA than in Poland :-(.
I found this store very interesting. It offers books and various items related to the Vanderbilt family (founders and owners of the Biltmore Estate) and their era at the end of the 19th century: paintings, table lamps, clocks and other home decor of that time.
What to buy: I surely thought about some books on the Vanderbilt family but I didn't buy any. Instead I started to read some of them in this store :-).
I got to know one very interesting fact from life of George Washington Vanderbilt II who undertook to have Biltmore House constructed near Asheville in 1888. In 1912 George W. Vanderbilt II and his wife booked passage on the Titanic but canceled due to a premonition of Mrs. Vanderbilt's mother. It was too late for them to get their servant and baggage off the ship; both were lost when the Titanic collided with an iceberg and sank on April 15, 1912. Well, he was not only rich but also very lucky :-). Although soon later he lost most of his assets due to bad investments. He died unexpectedly in Washington, D.C. after an operation for appendicitis in 1914.
What to pay: Over $20 per each book I liked.