On the Lamb

WNC sheep farmers are cheering now that lamb is the new pork.

by Hanna Raskin . photos by Naomi Johnson

Lamb is no longer a euphemism for wimpy shrink-wrapped muttonchops with a side of mint jelly. While the traditional lamb market has been in steady decline since the early 1970s, trend spotters say grass-fed, sustainably raised lamb could help rejuvenate demand for the long-neglected meat. The Conde Nast foodie website Epicurious.com declared lamb “the new pork” for 2010. And while the heyday of Julia Child’s lamb stew may be long gone, the Food Network’s celeb chef Rachael Ray seems to love lamb—from chops to kabobs to Moroccan chili—on her show 30 Minute Meals. Trendy dishes like lamb spring rolls are showing up on big-city restaurant menus, and locally, you can find a lamb T-bone or a lamb ragout at places like Zambra and Table.

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Posted on Monday, June 28, 2010 at 04:54PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | CommentsPost a Comment | References2 References

The Price Ain't Right

Photo by Brent FleuryWhy is it so expensive to live in Asheville? Because Cindy Weeks hasn’t built enough buildings yet.

by Jess McCuan

Cindy Weeks knows her clients well. Probably because she was once one of them. Today, Weeks, 56, is the picture of the polished white-collar professional—well dressed, well educated, pulling up to her North Asheville home in a Subaru. But her life didn’t always look like this. In her mid-20s, Weeks was a single mother with two toddlers, waitressing at an upscale club near a racetrack in urban Pittsburgh. Her four-year marriage had fallen apart, and she was nearly evicted from her home. It was sometime during this rocky period that she realized waitressing simply wouldn’t cut it. She couldn’t survive, much less support her children well. “There is this other world out there,” she recalls thinking. “I need to set my life up so that it works better than this.”

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Posted on Monday, June 28, 2010 at 04:45PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | Comments4 Comments | References1 Reference

Let Them Eat (Sugar-Free) Cake

Five million dollars’ worth, to be exact.

by Jess McCuan . photos by Matt Rose

Kathy Milner is no Betty Crocker. Not exactly, anyway. The 51-year-old native New Yorker does like to cook, and she occasionally bakes. But Milner, who has a degree in chemistry and worked for the chemical giant DuPont, doesn’t see her sugar-free foods business, American Quality Foods, as a celebration of her domestic skills. In fact, it’s more like a chemistry experiment. A lucrative one. AQF, which occupies a 17,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Mills River, ships product mixes to some 6,000 customers nationwide—places like nursing homes, hospitals and casinos—that cater to diabetic and weight-conscious clients. With revenues of $4.2 million last year and projected income of $5 million in 2010, Milner, the president, has turned sugar-free cake mixes into one of the fastest-growing private food companies in the country.

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Posted on Monday, June 28, 2010 at 04:41PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | CommentsPost a Comment | References17 References

Ruth or Consequences

The world is now her stage. For years, it’s been her palette.

by Ursula Gullow . photos by Matt Rose

Kathryn Temple hasn’t always been a professional actor. But in a way, she has been putting herself on display for years, creating introspective narrative oil paintings for more than a decade. The opportunity to act fell in her lap four years ago when she was asked to play a role in the NC Stage production of Live From WVL Radio Theatre: It’s A Wonderful Life. This month, Temple, 37, gets to show off both her painting and her acting skills. She will exhibit a collection of paintings in the lobby of downtown Asheville’s NC Stage Company in conjunction with Ruth, a play that opens July 1 and in which Temple stars as the leading lady.

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Posted on Monday, June 28, 2010 at 04:35PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | CommentsPost a Comment

Seeds of Change

Once a dirty baseball diamond, now a row of cabbages.

Story and photos by Naomi Johnson

For Lucia Daugherty, it’s all about planting seeds—in every sense. She’s sitting among the thriving purple cabbages at Pisgah View Community Peace Garden, which she co-founded and manages with her husband Bob White. Just three years ago, this space at the center of Asheville’s largest public housing complex was an abandoned, hard-packed baseball diamond littered with empty bottles and condom wrappers. Today, it’s a lush urban oasis of vegetables, flowers, and neatly mulched paths with fruit trees and climbing vines.

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Posted on Monday, June 28, 2010 at 04:34PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | Comments3 Comments

The Right Woman for the Jobbitz

After a tragic accident, Anna Warren reinvented herself as a tech entrepreneur. And became someone who could tackle just about anything.

by Jess McCuan . photo by Brent Fleury

Anna Warren has never been a techie. The 41-year-old has never been particularly gadget-happy, nor was she spending an unusual amount of time, as a stay-at-home mom, checking email or surfing the web. “Last year, I didn’t even know the word code. What is code?,” says Warren, who launched a website, Jobbitz.com, last May. “It was a completely new realm.”

What she did know was that people in Asheville were looking for work. People she knew were, in some cases, living on just a few dollars—and there didn’t seem to be a good way to connect them with people who had work to offer. Craigslist, sure, but there are always plenty of scams there. The local papers are a good place to find full-time jobs, but Warren didn’t see a good place to post small jobs—things like yard work and babysitting and computer research help. Last spring she gathered up some tech-savvy friends and launched Jobbitz.com, a site where it’s free to post an odd job—say cleaning the gutters or chopping a tree. Since the site launched, Ashevilleans have posted more than 700 jobs, which Warren estimates have generated around $200,000 for the local economy.

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Posted on Monday, June 28, 2010 at 04:32PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | CommentsPost a Comment | References4 References

She's Got Class

VERVE’s style team gets Laura Collins ready to head back to school.

by Mick Kelly . photos by Matt Rose

There’s nothing fancy about Laura Collins’ everyday look. Nor should there be. She spent nearly 20 years in the ministry, 16 of those as a Presbyterian minister. Now, the 47-year-old freelance writer and editor can basically spend most days in her pajamas. “It’s embarrassing, but it’s true,” she says.

This spring, though, Collins decided she needed a change. She signed up for an unusual graduate degree, a masters from UNC-Asheville in liberal arts with a concentration in Climate Change and Society. She wanted to sharpen up her writing skills. But it was really an effort to “sharpen my intellectual edges a little,” says Collins, a single mom with an 11-year-old son.

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Posted on Monday, June 28, 2010 at 04:29PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | Comments1 Comment

Knit Happens

By day, she’ll whip you into shape. At night, she competes in the Knitting Olympics.

by Melanie McGee Bianchi

April Dennis is no drill sergeant. “I am not a yeller,” says the 45-year-old personal trainer and co-owner of The Fire Personal Training Studio in East Asheville. But she can be intense when it comes to her own workouts or helping her clients shed pounds with exercises like boxing, jump rope and kettlebell swings. People appreciate her enthusiasm in the gym. “Afterwards, they’ll say, ‘Oh, I had so much fun… but I’m so sore I can hardly move,’” she says.

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Posted on Monday, June 28, 2010 at 04:29PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | CommentsPost a Comment

Wedding (Photography) Crashers

What’s a wedding photographer to do in a saturated market like Asheville? Join a collective.

by Ursula Gullow and Jess McCuan . photo courtesy of The Nine

It’s high season for wedding photographers. And in Western North Carolina, there are plenty of them. Until 2008, Asheville wedding photographer Regina Holder ran a site called AshevilleBridal.com, and in 2004, there were only 25 photographers registered. In 2008, there were 115. “Every day, you hear of somebody else that’s new in town,” says Holder, who has a degree in photojournalism from UNC-Chapel Hill. “If [a person has] a good eye, they’ll start shooting weddings.”

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Posted on Monday, June 28, 2010 at 04:24PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | CommentsPost a Comment

Brims With Enthusiasm

photo by Anthony Bellemare . interview by Kelly Drake

Name: Christina Latina

Age: 24

What a fabulous hat! You look like you’ve just stepped out of Paris. I’m just on my way to work.

What do you do for a living? I’m a freelance designer and optician in training.

So that’s where you got those great glasses. I have about a million pairs of glasses, one for every outfit.

Any advice about accessories? Less is more.

Who’s your style icon? Diane Keaton, perhaps. She is casual, simple, feminine and sophisticated. I like that.

Posted on Monday, June 28, 2010 at 04:21PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | CommentsPost a Comment

Comfort Creature

photo by Brent Fleury . interview by Kelly Drake

Name: Michelle Kohler

Age: 51

How do you come by your style? I’m a pretty simple person... Really, I just wear what I’m comfortable in.

Any advice for the rest of us? It’s all about your attitude and the way you carry yourself—your confidence.

If you won $20 million today, what’s the first thing you’d buy? I think it would probably be a long vacation with a good friend. Probably to the Netherlands or Germany or Scotland. I’d invest the rest wisely for the future.

Any guilty pleasures? Every woman’s loves: chocolate and good food.

Posted on Monday, June 28, 2010 at 04:14PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | Comments1 Comment

No Strings Attached

photo by Anthony Bellemare . interview by Kelly Drake

Names: Kit Solowy and Toni Craige
Age: both 23

So what are you doing in Asheville? We’re just in town for a while, riding across North Carolina from Murphy to Manteo.

What would ever make you do that? Toni was inspired by a trip she took last summer. She is from North Carolina, and I’m from Michigan. We met up there. She decided to take the trip because you can live someplace all your life and never really see it. I just like to say yes to things.

What has surprised you most so far? How generous people are. We’re not camping at campgrounds. We’re camping in people’s yards. We just knock on the door of a place that looks pretty nice—maybe they have a nice garden or something. People we don’t even know have invited us in to dinner and let us take a shower.

And you play the ukulele? Yes, Toni plays and carries it with her on her bike.

Posted on Monday, June 28, 2010 at 04:09PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | CommentsPost a Comment

Radio Head

The new boss at WCQS has big plans for public radio in Asheville.

by Jess McCuan . photo by Matt Rose

Jody Evans is convinced traditional radio will never die. She was shocked when NPR’s president Vivian Schiller predicted in June that Internet radio would replace traditional broadcast radio within ten years. Yes, people have embraced technology and new media. But will they abandon the old? Evans doesn’t think so. “People thought the death of radio was television, but it wasn’t,” says the 41-year-old native New Yorker. Still, she knows the web is changing radio, and she seemed ready to shake things up a bit when she took the reigns of Asheville’s public radio station, WCQS, in mid-June. Evans started her career as a TV news reporter, spent nearly a decade as programming director at Vermont Public Radio in Burlington and made a brief stop at Austin’s KUT-FM before taking the executive director spot at WCQS. She replaces Ed Subkis, who was station manager for 18 years.

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Posted on Monday, June 28, 2010 at 04:07PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | CommentsPost a Comment

New Ager

Don’t call them old.
They’re in their “third age.”

by Joanne O’Sullivan . photo by Brent Fleury

If you want to retire and play golf, go to Palm Springs or Palm Beach. If you want to dye your hair pink and make pottery, come to Asheville. For more than two decades, the North Carolina Center for Creative Retirement on the UNCA campus has been developing leading-edge programs for seniors, offering classes in everything from silent film to balloon sculpting. In June, Catherine Frank took the center’s top post after a three-year stint as director of Duke University’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute.

First, the buzz was about seniors pursuing an active retirement. Now, in the downturn, people are putting off retirement indefinitely. What’s next? The baby boomers have changed the way we think about things at every phase of life…The expectation has been that in retirement, boomers would reinvent themselves in second careers. The economy has changed the expectation somewhat, but baby boomers have always been creative. I think we’ll see them prove that working in the “third age” can be a positive thing.

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Posted on Monday, June 28, 2010 at 04:05PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | CommentsPost a Comment

So Pushy

With a July 4 preview event and outfits from 12 local designers and 18 boutiques, this year’s PUSH Fashion Show is all grown up. 

by Kelly Drake . photos by Jen Lepkowski

The PUSH Fashion show in July is shaping up to have all the glam of a big city runway but clothes without the designer price tags. “I want to dispel the stereotype that shopping local is expensive,” says Sonia Hendrix, who organized the first PUSH Asheville fashion show last April as a fundraiser for A-B Tech. The first event was a funky, smallish affair in The Garage at Biltmore Village and showed clothing from a handful of boutiques. This year the show at The Orange Peel involves 12 designers and 18 boutiques, plus a “style lounge” for selling accessories. The lineup of designers includes Stina Anderson of Arteries, Alexis Gault of Lush Life, and up-and-comer Stephanie Winger-Geisler. Get ready for Civil War-inspired tail coats made from up-cycled jeans (Anderson), vintage sailor-themed garb (Geisler), and skirts and dresses cut from never-worn vintage fabric (Gault). The style should positively scream “Asheville.” Elisa Jimenez, the New York City fashionista from Project Runway who was the star of last year’s Asheville HATCHFest, will do her signature “spontaneous couture” on-the-spot dress-making performance. July 16, 8pm.. The Orange Peel. Tickets $15 ahead or $20 at the door. www.theorangepeel.net.

Posted on Monday, June 28, 2010 at 03:59PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | CommentsPost a Comment

Editor's Note

Out with the old. In with the news.

VERVE is back, and as you can see, we’re bigger and better than ever. Starting now, we’ll be bringing you VERVE every month, which is an exciting change. It means more opportunities to bring our readers the kinds of stories they love—profiles of Western North Carolina’s extraordinary, ambitious, sassy, smart women. We’re loving the larger format, and we’ve had fun tweaking the magazine’s look and feel.

We’re also excited to start running stories that are more timely and tied to important current local issues. First up: affordable housing. It’s one of the most pressing problems in an area like Western North Carolina, which has beautiful scenery, fabulous restaurants and a lively arts community—but few high-paying jobs and even fewer affordable places to live. When people move in from other cool cities like Austin or Atlanta without jobs or a place to live, they can sometimes struggle. Jill Hawkins moved to Asheville from Austin with her husband John in 2003. “The common thing we heard was, ‘The view is part of the paycheck,’” she says. (see story, page 46). As Hawkins points out, the view doesn’t pay the bills. It’s a theme I’ve heard repeatedly since moving here myself from New York City in 2007.

There’s much more in store for the new VERVE in the coming months, and we hope the magazine continues to delight and inspire you. Please drop me a line to let me know how you think we’re doing.


Happy reading,

Jess McCuan


Posted on Monday, June 28, 2010 at 03:57PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | CommentsPost a Comment