January/February 2009

A Many-Splendored Thing

Posted on Wednesday, January 28, 2009 at 02:27AM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | CommentsPost a Comment | References1 Reference

Stranger Than (Science) Fiction - Send in the Clown

by Jess McCuan     .     photos by Brent Fleury

Twelve years ago, Ro Bily was standing in her kitchen when her son noticed she looked “spaced out,” or lost in thought. “I’m talking to Pierre,” she told her son matter-of-factly, though Pierre was not a person but rather a character, a 16-year-old boy who would show up in her first science fiction book, Beyond Light. Two published books and five manuscripts later, Bily, who lives in Asheville, says it was that first “conversation” with Pierre that kicked off her writing career, and she still regularly converses and collaborates with her characters, whom she sees as real and independent. “Sometimes I get the characters into situations and have no idea how to get them out,” she says. “They seem to figure it out themselves.”


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Posted on Saturday, January 17, 2009 at 10:51PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | CommentsPost a Comment | References1 Reference

from G.I. Jane to Interior Decorator

by Jess McCuan     .     photos by Matt Rose

Adrienne van Dooren joined the army at 20, made captain at 26 and served two six-month stints as a White House aide under George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton. After the military, she became a faux finisher. Her book, The House That Faux Built, below, has sold 15,000 copies.Quiet people who want to learn to speak up usually have a variety of options. Assertiveness training, for example. Or a class or two in public speaking. But when Adrienne van Dooren was 20, she thought joining the United States Army would do the trick. (Her mother begged to differ. “There are only two kinds of women who join the army,” van Dooren recalls her mother saying, and neither one was a compliment.) Growing up in Hendersonville, van Dooren, now 49, was something of a tomboy, playing outside and roaming the woods with her brother. She was also petite and pretty with fair hair and skin, a well-mannered, soft-spoken Southern belle. After two years at Montreat College, she went to a job interview where the interviewer told her she needed to learn to be more assertive. So when she enrolled at Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina, she took classes in education and fine arts, but also, surprisingly, its ROTC program. 

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Posted on Saturday, January 17, 2009 at 10:45PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | CommentsPost a Comment | References14 References

Feeding Western North Carolina

by Janet Hurley     photo by Matt Rose

Kitty Schaller has spent her life thinking about food. A Midwesterner whose father managed sales for Kraft’s Natural Cheese division, Schaller graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in food science. She presumed that she, too, would work in the food industry. But she had no idea that, rather than producing food, she would spend years thinking about how to effectively distribute it—and how to change public policy to end hunger in the United States and, ultimately, around the globe. Growing up, she believed food was what held the world together. “If you want people to come, bring cookies,” she says. “It’s the way we get to know each other.” But in her senior year of college, a community nutrition course opened her eyes to the critical role food really plays. “I worked with the visiting nurses in Des Moines and visited families that had nothing—nothing,” she says. “I’d read about that, but I didn’t know what that was like. It was a really profound experience.” 

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Posted on Saturday, January 17, 2009 at 10:39PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | CommentsPost a Comment


by Jess McCuan

photos by Rebecca D’Angelo

Western North Carolinians aren’t exactly in the habit of taking cabs. At least not like New Yorkers are, or even Chicagoans or folks who live in Washington, D.C. But there are several cab companies here, and they employ a handful of women drivers whose on-the-job experiences seem as bizarre and wide-ranging as any big-city driver’s.

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Posted on Saturday, January 17, 2009 at 10:30PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | CommentsPost a Comment | References50 References

Ethical Fashionista

Alia Whitney-Johnson holding jewelry made by Sri Lankan women in Emerge Global’s workshops.Is there anything Alia Whitney-Johnson can’t do? The 22-year-old grew up on a farm in Leicester and will finish her environmental engineering degree at MIT in January. Since most MIT students have tons of free time, Whitney-Johnson decided to start a nonprofit, Emerge Global, out of her dorm room. Emerge Global helps empower young, abused Sri Lankan women by teaching them how to make cool jewelry, an idea Whitney-Johnson came up with after a 2005 visit to Sri Lanka to help clean up after the devastating Indian Ocean tsunami there. For her work with Emerge Global, Glamour magazine named her one of the Top Ten College Women of 2007. Oh yeah—did we mention she was recently named a Rhodes Scholar?  

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Posted on Saturday, January 17, 2009 at 10:27PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | CommentsPost a Comment | References5 References


by Jess McCuan     .     photo by Brent Fleury

People in any industry can find themselves out of work. Ten years ago, Susan Hopkins, now Asheville branch manager for the international recruiting firm Manpower, was out of a job herself for nearly six months, even though she’d had steady managerial jobs since college. “It was time to re-market myself,” says the Churchville, New York, native who has a dual degree in management and marketing. And that’s exactly what she recommends for anyone looking for work in the current economic downturn. Don’t panic. Take time to retool, spruce up your resume and learn a new skill. “The reality is we’re all going to make it through,” she says. 

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Posted on Saturday, January 17, 2009 at 10:23PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | CommentsPost a Comment | References1 Reference

Business is Just Ducky

by Mackensy Lunsford     .     Photos by Hannah Huff

One reason Sallie Broach’s business has grown into a $2.5 million enterprise is because people love it when their kids look cute. photo by Hannah HuffWho says kids will wear just anything? Kids’ fashion is serious business for Sallie Broach who started her custom kids’ clothing business, Just Ducky Originals, out of her home in Asheville’s Norwood Park in 1980. She worked from home for 13 years, sending out fabric and pattern samples through a network of salespeople who got buyers interested in the clothing at Tupperware-style home parties. Today, Broach has a 10,000-square-foot factory in Alexander, retail shops in Waynesville and Asheville, 30 full-time employees and about 250 sales consultants, all of whom help her business pull in around $2.5 million a year. The business plan has always been simple—use your brain but follow your heart. And remember: people are always happier when their kids look cute. 

 A self-described “creative spirit,” Broach, an Atlanta native, majored in music at Queens College in North Carolina before becoming a teacher. She enjoyed teaching but knew all along that something wasn‘t quite right. “I wanted more freedom,” she says. She had always had an entrepreneurial instinct, and after considering several business ideas, she picked a business that played to one of her talents: sewing.

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Posted on Saturday, January 17, 2009 at 10:16PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | Comments1 Comment

Don’t Even Think About Calling Them Ski Bunnies

by Joanne O’Sullivan     .     photos by Todd Bush 

TWIN PEAK SHREDDERS: Twin sisters Kim Jochl and Krista Schmidinger grew up in Massachusetts and were both members of the U.S Women’s Alpine Ski Team. When they moved to the Asheville area, they brought their sport with them. This time of year, the sight of soft powdery flakes falling from the sky strikes fear into the hearts of some Western North Carolina women: snow day. What to do with the kids all day? Do we have enough bread and milk in the house? But local skiers and snowboarders say, bring it on. Dump on us. How many trails are open? 

In an area (in Asheville, anyway) where you’d be hard pressed to find a woman without a yoga mat in her closet, it’s relatively rare to find one with a pair of skis or a snowboard in her garage. But they’re out there. And while some may ski to keep in shape or for a fun change of pace in the winter, at least a few area women have been serious international competitors. 

Skiing and snowboarding can be intimidating for Southerners who, for the most part, probably didn’t grow up with it and view the sport as some sort of exotic, expensive activity for Northerners or people from the Rockies. “It isn’t engrained in the school system and in family life here like it is elsewhere,” says Kim Jochl, a 1989 junior world ski champion and an eight-year member of the U.S Women’s Alpine Ski Team who’s now the marketing director at Sugar Mountain in Banner Elk. “There’s never really been a ski culture here, but it’s growing.”

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Posted on Saturday, January 17, 2009 at 10:11PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | CommentsPost a Comment | References15 References

For the Love of Chocolate

by Joanne O’Sullivan     .     photos by Rimas Zailskas

ONE SWEET FAMILY: Bill, Sue and Elizabeth Foley of The Chocolate Fetish in Asheville.Words may fail and flowers wilt, but chocolate rarely disappoints, and its aphrodisiac qualities are the stuff of legends. Is there any other food that conjures up such strong feelings of desire, such irresistible urges?

Chocolate lovers are a passionate and, according to a recent Business Week report, increasingly sophisticated lot. Less than a decade ago, most consumers didn’t know a ganache from a gianduja (the former is a smooth chocolate mixture, the latter is a chocolate-ground nut paste blend), but today, they’re demanding chocolate with top-notch ingredients and envelope-pushing flavors, and artisanal chocolate makers in the mountains are stepping in to supply it. 

“It’s not easy to come up with a new truffle recipe,” says Sue Foley who, with her husband Bill, owns Asheville’s The Chocolate Fetish. “Sometimes we’ll go through five different batches to get it right.” Like a love match, a chocolate flavor pairing depends a lot on chemistry.

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Posted on Saturday, January 17, 2009 at 10:03PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | Comments1 Comment | References10 References
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