It was one of our toughest assignments yet: pick ten Western North Carolina women—just ten—who have interesting, newsworthy or otherwise noteworthy projects coming up in 2010. We started out with a very long list. (And we very much appreciate everyone who sent ideas our way.) To the women who didn’t make our list: keep up the good work. It was encouraging to hear about so many of you getting grants, starting new businesses, taking on big jobs and projects or otherwise shaking things up in our community this year. The ten women we selected are quite a diverse crew: a blogger, a publisher, a rock club marketer, two philanthropists, two artists, two politicians and a hospital administrator. Some are well known, others less so. Some are veterans in their fields, a few are just getting started. They’re not your typical power players. (Okay, so a couple of them are.) But they’re all powerful in different ways, and for very different reasons. They’re cool. And hot. And bound to make a splash in 2010.

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Posted on Friday, February 5, 2010 at 03:07PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | CommentsPost a Comment

High Fidelity

A radio DJ lives her life in a spin cycle.

by Jess McCuan   .   photos by Brent Fleury

It’s a dream gig for a music junkie. Ashley “Bad Ash” Davis, 26, rolls out of bed at 9 and drives to the Asheville FM radio station 105.9 “The Mountain,” where she spins her favorite hard rock tunes. Zeppelin. Deep Purple. Aerosmith. Then Davis, a self-described “party girl” who’s been deejaying since age 19, drives to Asheville’s 98.1 “The River,” where she plays tunes by local bands like Soulgrass Rebellion and The Enemy Lovers. Then, if it’s early enough, she’ll head out to hear live music and hang with her friends. “I’m not turning on Bad Ash,” she says of her in-your-face, bad-girl radio persona. “I call it my alter ego, but it’s really mostly me.”

DJ duty isn’t always a party. Guitarist and singer-songwriter Laura Blackley, who hosts two shows on the Isothermal Community College station WNCW, has a one-year-old daughter and helps run a six-acre farm. Some days—after she milks the goat, of course—she makes a two-hour round trip from her Candler farm to the station in Spindale, where she puts in a ten-hour shift producing, among other things, Local Color and Southern Sirens. That’s in addition to playing about five gigs a month with her newly-formed band the Swayback Sisters, plus occasional solo shows. But being a radio DJ gives her a different kind of butterflies than performing on stage. “I love being on the air. I love this job,” she says. “You learn something about a different musician every day.”

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Posted on Friday, February 5, 2010 at 02:54PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | CommentsPost a Comment

Out on a Limb

If you see a tree on and Asheville street, chances are, Susan Roderick had a hand in planting it.

by Mick Kelly   .   photo by Matt Rose

Susan Roderick has been greening up Asheville for more than a quarter century. She’s never taken a horticulture class, but Roderick, who has been executive director of Asheville GreenWorks (the former Quality Forward) for 27 years, thinks about plants and trees around the clock. And her degree in journalism has helped with her efforts to lobby the city and other entities for more aggressive environmental requirements. “I want to set it up so that if [someone] changes a lightbulb, they have to plant trees,” she says.

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Posted on Friday, February 5, 2010 at 02:51PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | CommentsPost a Comment

Sharp Shooters

In a new ladies-only pool league, you can learn to out-hustle The Hustler.

by Maggie Cramer   .   photos by Anthony Bellemare

Vicki Catalano has news for you. “The days of The Hustler are way over,” she says with a smile as she looks out at some 60 women occupying nearly every table on a recent Sunday at Fat Cat’s Billiards in Arden. She’s referring to the 1961 movie staring Paul Newman and Jackie Gleason in which pool-hall America is shown as a “merciless, macho world.” In part to the film’s credit, there is a stereotype about the sport: that it’s a dirty, backroom guy’s game. But that has started to change.

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Posted on Friday, February 5, 2010 at 02:46PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | CommentsPost a Comment | References7 References

What Price Organic?

Ashvilleans will pay a premium for organic products. Right?
An entrepreneur gambles on $29 hairspray, and our panel of experts weighs in.

by Jess McCuan   .   photos by Brent Fleury

Just a few short months ago, Rebecca Hecht could have thrown up her hands and become a pineapple farmer. Really. Her family grows tropical fruit on a small farm in Hawaii, and even though she and her husband are only in their 30s, they could have more or less scrapped their Asheville life and headed to the beach. “It was tempting,” she admits. But moving to Hawaii would have felt a lot like giving up. And Hecht, a self-described “free spirit” who landed in Asheville in 1995 with a backpack, has worked too hard to make Adorn—a downtown salon that, in seven years, has grown from two employees to ten—into the hip downtown destination that it is. “I still love Asheville,” Hecht says. “Hawaii would almost be like retirement. I just felt like I was committed to what I was doing.”

So last year, at what was arguably a low point in the current long recession, she took a chance. She borrowed around $35,000 from her father-in-law and her mother and moved Adorn from Lexington Avenue into a bigger, higher-profile space downtown. The new shop, in a College Street storefront near Tops For Shoes, opened last October and nearly doubled Adorn’s space. With its high tin ceilings, huge front windows and airy, elegant interior, the new shop, Hecht says, was “everything I ever wanted my salon to be in the first place.”

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Posted on Friday, February 5, 2010 at 02:36PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | Comments2 Comments | References10 References

Exercise Your Options

Don't be a gym rat. But do get in shape. Stick with these trendy, playful exercises and you'll never have to set foot in a gym again.

by Maggie Cramer

photo by Rene TreeceHoop Dreams

What: This is hula hooping, but no, we’re not talking about using the light plastic toy you had as a child to shed some pounds. According to Asheville hooping instructor Melanie MacNeil, hooping for exercise is a totally different story. She describes the activity as a form of dance and fitness that involves the full body, not just the waist, and utilizes heavier hoops designed for adults.

Why: “Hooping provides a low-impact cardiovascular workout,” MacNeil says. “It’s fitness disguised as fun.” She notes that hooping has been compared to yoga and Pilates because of its ability to sculpt and define the body.

Where: Beginning and intermediate hoopers can take MacNeil’s classes at Terpsicorps dance studio in Asheville on Wednesdays, and all levels of hoopers can participate in a hoopers’ co-op there on Mondays. For times and more information, visit

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Posted on Friday, February 5, 2010 at 02:26PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | CommentsPost a Comment

Get Back to Your Roots

Don't take these tubers for granted.

by Martha Vining   .   photos by Matt Rose

If the Byrds (and the Bible) are right, every thing has a season. Spring has lettuce and peas, summer has corn and tomatoes, autumn has apples and squash. Winter is the time for root vegetables. Rutabagas, turnips, carrots, parsnips, sweet potatoes, onions, beets, celery root. They are the Ugly Betties of the vegetable world. But these vegetables are hearty and healthy, equipped to make it through so many cold days underground.

Root vegetables are not usually revered like the first delicate green shoots of spring, or the first ripe summer tomato, but they are certainly comforting. Knobby and thick-skinned, they’re made to be mashed, grated, roasted, stewed, deep-fried or pureed. Carrots, parsnips and rutabagas can be left for weeks or months in the proper storage area, forgotten, stored away, covered with straw or buried in sand before cooking.

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Posted on Friday, February 5, 2010 at 02:18PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | Comments2 Comments

House a Mess? Send in the Declutterers.

by Robin Edgar   .   photos by Brent Fleury

Are you a hoarder, surrounded by stacks of to-be-read magazines, mail and bills on every surface? Perhaps you cling to any potentially useful item, from T-shirts you wore in the 1960s to old records too scratched up to play anymore. And you don’t even own a record player.

Even if you aren’t a hoarder or a pack rat, busy women simply don’t do as much spring cleaning as they used to. In 1976, women did about 26 hours of housework a week, according to the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research. In 2005, they did 17. Not a terrible trend, to be sure. But our houses seem to have suffered. For further proof that we’re approaching a 21st century clutter pandemic, look no further than The Learning Channel (TLC), where one show, Clean Sweep, features a team of heroic organizers and cleaners swooping in to save people from their heaps of junk. Another show, Hoarders, on A&E, is about collectors so compulsive they ruin marriages and other relationships and must be removed from their messy houses through kitchen windows.

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Posted on Friday, February 5, 2010 at 02:12PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | Comments3 Comments | References11 References

Samurai Songstress

In her East Asheville studio, Lisa Huang cranks out hits for the Japanese pop charts.

by Linda Ray   .   photos by Rene Treece

Never heard of J-Pop? Most Americans haven’t. It’s the music-industry nickname for Japanese pop music, and in the past two decades, as Japanese music has become more Westernized, album titles there have shifted from Japanese words to things like First Love and Atomic Heart, with many hit songs sung entirely in English. Still, you might presume that Japanese pop tunes would be penned by Japanese artists. Or at least by someone who speaks fluent Japanese. But in the case of East Asheville artist Lisa Huang—who’s written #1 singles for Japanese acts including Crystal Kay, whom she calls “the Japanese Beyonce”—you’d be wrong on both counts.

Huang, who moved to Asheville in 2007, was born in Taipei, Taiwan. Her mother is Japanese and her father is Chinese, but Huang says she barely speaks Japanese and hasn’t visited Japan since she was 12. Timmy Huang, her father, is a notable jazz musician and moved his family to L.A. in 1985, where Lisa stayed for nearly 20 years. “I was surrounded by jazz my whole life,” says the 36-year-old Huang, who started playing piano at age six.

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Posted on Friday, February 5, 2010 at 02:08PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | CommentsPost a Comment | References12 References

What's Up, Doc?

by Jess McCuan   .   photos by Brent Fleury

A sign on the back of her Acura reads: “A woman’s place is in the cockpit.” Driving behind her, you’d probably guess she is a pilot. But you might be surprised to learn that this particular vehicle (which also contains a .38 Special pistol, just for safety) belongs to a mild-mannered rheumatologist, Jill Vargo, who spends her days at the Asheville Arthritis and Osteoporosis Center helping people with their aching joints. By day, Dr. Vargo’s bedside manner couldn’t be gentler, explaining diseases like lupus and gout to her patients, many of them elderly. In her free time, though, she is a thrill-seeking world traveler, having kissed a giraffe in Nairobi, climbed pyramids in Egypt and flown her sleek single-engine plane to locations all over the country.

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Posted on Friday, February 5, 2010 at 02:04PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | Comments1 Comment
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