by Jess McCuan . photo by Brent Fleury
You’ve seen their signs in the windows. And perhaps their T-shirts around town. So what’s up with Asheville Grown? In short, it’s Asheville’s sexiest "buy local" campaign yet. Of course, there’s a serious principle behind any such effort: buying from local independent shops means more money for everyone. Even a slight shift away from big-box stores can make a huge difference in businesses’ bottom lines. A January survey by the nonprofit Institute for Local Self-Reliance found that, in cities with "buy local" campaigns, retailers saw an increase of three percent in holiday sales, compared to only one percent in cities without campaigns. "If inflation is 2.7%, that’s the difference between sink or swim," says Franzi Charen, co-owner of Hip Replacements, a vintage clothing shop on Lexington Avenue. She and other business owners formed Asheville Grown Business Alliance late last year, wearing their shirts every Saturday in December.
Yes, it’s serious business, but it also helps to have really cool shirts. They’re designed by Charen, made of organic cotton, and businesses can put their logos on the back. The whole project may appear effortlessly cool, but it’s the result of careful positioning—Charen and crew wanted a look that was "not too granola, but also not too corporate," she says. Hip, but apolitical. Edgy, but with broad appeal. So far, it’s a smash hit. The group has some 1,500 Facebook fans and they’re selling shirts and stickers like crazy. "It’s a moving mobile message," Charen says. "People will see the T-shirts everywhere and think, buy local. Seriously. They mean it."
Franzi Charen and Caroline Green talk about Asheville Grown at a Green Drinks event at BoBo Gallery on April 16 at 6pm. www.ashevillegreendrinks.com.