Thinking BIG

These ladies did, and they won big bucks. Meet the winners and finalists in our VERVE-aciously Big Idea Business Plan competition, a partnership with AdvantageWest.

by Jess McCuan . portraits of Kara Errickson by Matt Rose

It was nothing if not a tall task. On April 1, we started with a digital “stack” of more than 40 business plans. There were plastic recyclers, jelly makers and a DIY dogwash. Pam Lewis at AdvantageWest helped us whittle the stack to ten, and then four judges had the toughest job: pick the best business plan of all.

The winner? Kara Errickson, creator of Skin Food, an all-organic skin salve in nifty recycled packaging.

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Posted on Tuesday, May 31, 2011 at 06:06PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | Comments1 Comment | References2 References

Living Proof

Life has thrown this moonshiner a few curveballs. This month, she rolls out WNC’s first legal white lightnin’.

by Melanie McGee Bianchi . portrait by Shawn Ehlers

Want her recipe for moonshine? Too bad. She’ll never tell. Troy Ball didn’t spend years winning the trust of close-lipped mountain natives for nothing. Their secret moonshine stills (and even more secret recipes) are a fierce source of hereditary pride around Western North Carolina. For a Texas real estate developer who’s relatively new to the area, acquiring such secrets has taken some extra effort.

But now that she has the recipes, look out. Later this month, Ball will collaborate with Highland Brewing Company founder Oscar Wong to offer Western North Carolina’s first legal white whiskey, aka moonshine, under the name Troy & Sons.

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Posted on Tuesday, May 31, 2011 at 06:04PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | Comments2 Comments | References7 References

100 Percent Cotton

Who’s Cleaster Cotton? A multimedia artist who just rolled into town and is showing off new “contemporary primitive” work at Pink Dog Creative this month.

by Ursula Gullow . portrait by Anthony Bellemare

She’s only been in Asheville since last fall, but Cleaster Cotton already has her hands in some buzzy projects. When she arrived from Atlanta last October, the longtime art educator landed a residency teaching art to kids through the Asheville City Schools’ TAPAS program (Teaching Artists Presenting in Asheville Schools). Recently, she started up her own afterschool art program at the W.C. Reid Center, and this summer, she’ll teach art to kids who can’t afford summer camp at the YMI Cultural Center in downtown Asheville. This month, she’ll also show off large-scale paintings at Pink Dog Creative’s grand opening show on June 11 and 12. That’s a Studio Stroll weekend in the River Arts District, so the event should be bustling. “People have felt my desire to not just come and take from a community but to bring what I have to a community,” Cotton says.

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Posted on Tuesday, May 31, 2011 at 06:03PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | Comments1 Comment | References12 References

Making Tapas at the Top

Starstruck foodies will eat up this restaurateur’s pedigree.

by Melanie McGee Bianchi . photos by Matt Rose

Having trained at the world’s greatest restaurant, under a chef as well known to the dining elite as Paula Deen is to fried Twinkie fans, Katie Button might be excused for having her head stuck in the culinary clouds. Instead, she expresses an earthy appreciation for WNC’s specialty agriculture, praising the excellent lettuces at Jolley Farms and the subtle sweet honey varieties offered by Wild Mountain Apiaries.

Those ingredients, and countless more, find their way into the Spanish tapas at Cúrate, a simmering new “it” spot on Biltmore Avenue in downtown Asheville. A family restaurant run by a handful of recent New York City transplants—Button, her fiancé Felix Meana, and her parents Ted and Elizabeth—Cúrate is not the first joint in Asheville to do the high-end, small-plate thing. Button mentions such groundbreaking eateries as Zambra and Enoteca: “I’m so grateful to [the chefs there] for introducing the concept,” she says.

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Posted on Tuesday, May 31, 2011 at 06:02PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | CommentsPost a Comment | References9 References

Hat Tricks

Not quite a milliner, she does make hats look like a million bucks.

by Jess McCuan . photos by Matt Rose

If Asheville is the Paris of the South, Simone Bernhard wants to be its Coco Chanel. And if you run into her on the street, you’ll notice a resemblance. Bernhard, who moved back to Asheville this spring from upstate New York, is often bedecked in blacks, whites, vintage hats and strings of beads reminiscent of the famous French designer. Dressing well isn’t just something she does. It’s an activity that represents her most deeply held beliefs. “Life is too short to say—‘God, I wish I’d worn those fishnet stockings today,’” says the 48-year-old, who grew up in Asheville. “Tomorrow, you might get run over by a bus, and you will be sad you didn’t wear those fishnets. It’s important to present a persona that expresses who you are—regardless of the status quo.”

Bernhard, like the best Ashevilleans, is a bit of a Renaissance woman. In the late ‘90s, she was an assistant conductor of the Asheville Symphony. She’s led church choirs and done jazz gigs and been a singer in a Motown band. A theatre type, she’s lived in cities all over the country and done everything from opera to impersonations of Dolly Parton. But there’s always been a fashionista in her mix of vocations, and at her last stop, near Buffalo, she had a good bit of success selling vintage hats at farmer’s markets.

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Posted on Tuesday, May 31, 2011 at 06:01PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | CommentsPost a Comment | References1 Reference

Sweet Desires

A candy shop owner writes romance novels that are both naughty and nice.

by Mick Kelly . photo by Matt Rose

In her candy store, you can buy sweet treats in several flavors—like French mint, turtle fudge or maple cream. But her romance novels come in only two flavors—wild and mild—and if you order up a “wild,” better hang onto your hat.

Marcy Gallagher may at first seem to be the bubbly, wholesome co-owner of the Kilwin’s fudge shop on Battery Park Avenue in downtown Asheville. (And she is.) But since a battle with breast cancer a few years back, she’s been coming out of her shell a bit, taking risks that she might not have in years past. She and her husband, Thomas Gallagher, left their six-figure salaries in sunny Florida and moved to Asheville to buy a Kilwin’s in 2008 (the candy shop has more than 70 locations in 27 states). Now, Thomas, an attorney, does pro bono work for Pisgah Legal Services, and Gallagher—who showed up in an episode of the Lifetime channel’s On the Road with Austin & Santino this winter—has become a regular writer for a fill-in-the-blank-style personalized romance novel site,

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Posted on Tuesday, May 31, 2011 at 06:00PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | Comments1 Comment

Keeping Up With Kiki

interview by Jess McCuan . photo by Matt Rose

Name: Kiki Gollwitzer

Age: 41

How long have you been in Asheville? On and off since 2000.

And what do you do? Interesting question. I’ve done all sorts of things. My degree from Cornell is in animal sciences. I signed up to do endangered species breeding and husbandry.

Wow. I wanted to breed endangered babies. I like ocelots.

And what do you want to do with that? I don’t know. I’ve been applying to schools, and I got accepted at one program, at WCU. In the past, I’ve done everything. I’ve been a baby wrangler for Fisher Price. Now, I want to do event planning.

What kinds of events? Someday, hopefully, proper events. Like the Academy Awards. Fundraisers with bigwigs…that’s what I’m talking about.

Kiki’s makeup by Zack Russell of Makeup at the Grove Arcade.

Posted on Tuesday, May 31, 2011 at 05:59PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | CommentsPost a Comment | References1 Reference

Tangled Up In Blue

interview by Jess McCuan . photo by Matt Rose

Name: Lyndsay Wojcik

Age: 29

So you’re in a band called the Swayback Sisters? Yes, you could say I’m one third of it. The other “sisters” are Nikki Talley and Laura Blackley.

Do you travel a lot with the band? Sometimes. I also toured for eight years by myself.

What do you like about being on the road? Rolling the windows down and knowing you’re headed towards something fun. I take back roads.

Do you like blue? I always wear turquoise. I love it. It’s really my color. In some way or another, maybe I’m always trying to get to the beach. 

Posted on Tuesday, May 31, 2011 at 05:58PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | CommentsPost a Comment

Flour Girl

interview by Jess McCuan . photo by Rimas Zailskas

Name: Aubrey Huntley

Age: 23

Do people ever tell you that you look like someone else? Yes. They tell me that all the time. When I’m lucky, it’s Angelina Jolie. And now, the blonde girl [Amanda Seyfried] from the creepy Red Riding Hood movie.

Do you ever try to change your look? I usually dye my hair dark in the fall. I get Angelina a lot more then. My grandma’s been telling me that for years.

Where are you from? I was born and raised in Hendersonville. I like the family-ness of it. There’s always so much outdoors stuff to do. I feel like I know everybody in town.

And how long have you been working at West First Pizza? I’m now the pastry chef. I started working with Scott [Unfried] at Flat Rock Village Bakery when I was 15. The thing I’ve learned from him is: keep it simple, and be humble. He’s not out showing off. He’s been the owner for a long time now, and he’s still bussing tables and sweeping floors. Whatever you do, don’t get the chef ego.

Posted on Tuesday, May 31, 2011 at 05:57PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | CommentsPost a Comment

Right on the Money

An accountant who keeps it casual tries on a power suit.

by Mick Kelly . photo by Matt Rose

You’d be amazed how difficult it is to find a power suit in downtown Asheville. It’s not that no one is wearing one. You see several suits on the street. But the power suit isn’t what Asheville’s funky downtown boutiques are known to sell, and when we wanted a suit for accountant Leah Noel (who happens to be six feet tall), it took a few days.

Why a power suit? Noel, an Asheville native who started her own accounting firm in 2009, has been looking to glam up her image a bit. She’s 33 and has always been trim and youthful-looking. (“I still get carded,” she says. “It’s nice to look young, but in the business world, people don’t take you seriously if they think you’re a kid.”) While she’s open to working with any client, she’s lately found a niche working with entertainment clients—doing books for the Asheville Afro-pop band Toubab Krewe, for example, or the filmmaker Chris Bower. None of this requires her to dress up. In fact, she often wears jeans, khakis and t-shirts to work. (Also, her business development director David Smith reports, Noel says “dude” a lot.)

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Posted on Tuesday, May 31, 2011 at 05:56PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | Comments3 Comments

Sometimes, Love Hurts

It may be the big month for weddings, but beware: love and lust can both go wrong.

by Susan Reinhardt . photo by Rimas Zailskas

It’s June. The month when so many hundreds of thousands of women around the country get hitched. Those who are enveloped in love, cherish it. Feed and fan that passion as if it were a fire that could go out on a moment’s notice. This month’s queries from readers show what happens when love—and lust—are doused like an oxygen-starved flame. First, we hear from a man in the midst of a nasty split.

Q I am in the middle of getting divorced and would like your thoughts as to how I might have seen my marriage turning into a landfill a little sooner than I did. The first clue might have been that, for almost a year, my wife would go to an “art gallery opening” every Wednesday night. I found a couple of things a little suspicious about that. First of all, my wife dressed like she was going to a biker bar to try and start fights. Her jeans that looked spray-painted on should’ve been a red flag, right? The other hint should’ve been that, although Asheville is pretty artsy, I’m pretty sure that 50 galleries didn’t open in 2009.

When I sheepishly asked her, “Are we drifting apart, honey?” She answered as only she could. “What was the first clue, you idiot? I want a divorce.” That was two years ago and we’ve been unable to agree on anything since. I thought divorce was easy. I thought you just hired a couple of lawyers, filled out a lot of papers, made lists of property and apologized to your parents, who said, “We never really liked her anyway.” What do you make of this?
- Wounded in Woodfin

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Posted on Tuesday, May 31, 2011 at 05:55PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | CommentsPost a Comment

VERVE Heads to the Farm

Join us this month on ASAP’s Family Farm Tour.

by Jess McCuan . photos by Naomi Johnson

We’ve written about so many women farmers and food producers in the pages of VERVE. Now, it’s time to take a closer look at these virtuous local ladies who know (among other things) how to get their hands dirty. A handful of staffers will load up a VERVE-mobile on June 25 and take the Family Farm Tour, an annual program of the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project. The self-guided driving tour this summer includes a record number of farms—41, according to ASAP—and 18 of them are new additions to the circuit. During the weekend of June 25 and 26, many farms offer tastings and samples, and you can often pet goats and feed chickens or watch piglets root in the dirt.

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Posted on Tuesday, May 31, 2011 at 05:54PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | CommentsPost a Comment

Weathering Heights

An Accenture consultant switched gears, and now fights climate change with facts.

by Janet Hurley . photo by Matt Rose

Forget candy-coated almonds. If you were a guest at Jenny Dissen’s wedding in 2010, you got a tree as a favor. Not surprising, considering that the ceremony was one of the first large weddings to be held at the NC Arboretum and the bride is the director of climate literacy and outreach at the Cooperative Institute for Climate and Satellites in downtown Asheville. Dissen is all about climate literacy for everyone—whether it’s through executive-level training or digital gaming. Or, as it were, by coming to her wedding.

Now 33, Dissen was born in India, moved to New Jersey at age 8 and to Waynesville at 13, where, she says, falling in love with nature was easy. She and her parents spent plenty of time hiking in the mountains. It was on a family excursion through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park that she first made the leap to an awful awareness. “The view was obscured by pollution,” Dissen says. “I felt hurt. I felt this wasn’t right. I knew we (humans) were the problem.”

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Posted on Tuesday, May 31, 2011 at 05:53PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | CommentsPost a Comment | References6 References

Face Time

See the Faces of Asheville project in the River District this month.

by Mick Kelly

In 2005, Jen Bowen saw her community changing and new she wanted to document it. By 2007, she had carved out the time and resources to start photographing hundreds of Ashevilleans, both longtime residents and a crew of newcomers. “I’ve lived in Asheville for almost 20 years,” says Bowen, now 29. “I wanted to document the people who had been here, and I also wanted to see why the transplants were newly calling this their home.” Her documentary project, Faces of Asheville, which first opened in 2009, will be up for viewing again most Saturdays this month in an open commercial space in Asheville’s River Arts District. The collection includes some 350 portraits. Bowen, who ran for Asheville City Council in 2009, will apply for a $10,000 arts grant through the state this fall that would let her double the number of portraits. A new mom, Bowen says she’d start shooting again in June of 2012.

The exhibit will hang in the Glen Rock Depot, 372 Depot Street, Suite 40, next to The Magnetic Field, in Asheville’s River Arts District. Open from 10am-4pm on June 11 and 12, and from 12:30pm-4:30pm on June 18 and 25. To learn more about the project, check out

Posted on Tuesday, May 31, 2011 at 05:52PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | CommentsPost a Comment

See Katherine Run

A company, that is. A busy New York City executive reinvented herself and co-founded a company about a new way of running.

by Michele Bryan . photo by Matt Rose

In 1987, at age 27, Katherine Dreyer had an awakening that changed her life. After a simple meditation exercise one afternoon alone in her apartment in New York City, Dreyer awakened a deeper part of herself and began living more consciously. She grew up near New York City and started climbing the career ladder early like her father, an advertising executive. By her mid-20s, she was an advertising VP with HBO Video, a division of Time, Inc. But after that afternoon epiphany, she started meditating regularly, eating healthier and exercising, all of which improved her sense of wellbeing. “Suddenly, a notion appeared to me that there was a different way of approaching things,” she says. “New York was extremely focused on the individual getting ahead for monetary and power purposes… The realization that came over me was that I could make different choices… Literally, the next day, I felt different.”

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Posted on Tuesday, May 31, 2011 at 05:51PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | CommentsPost a Comment

Editor's Note

At certain points, it feels like everything is starting to hum.

Lately, I’ve been lucky enough to stand close to some hummingbirds, so everything around me was literally humming. But things are also humming along at VERVE. We’ve been able to host or participate in some amazing events recently. In late May, I had the opportunity to do a Q&A with Jennifer Buffett, daughter-in-law of Warren Buffett, at the Community Foundation of Western North Carolina’s Power of the Purse luncheon. Later this month, I hope you’ll join me for a panel about storytelling at the Type-A Parent Conference, a project of the powerhouse Asheville mommy blogger Kelby Carr. The conference runs June 23-25 at the Renaissance Hotel in downtown Asheville.

On June 25, the VERVE staff will load up a car and take the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project’s Family Farm Tour, which runs all weekend. ASAP’s annual self-guided driving tour of Western North Carolina farms is a great way to see local food producers and sample their wares. The day promises to be eye-opening, tasty and nothing if not a wholesome good time. This year, there are a record number of farms (41) on the circuit, many of them run by women. See our story on page 20 for details.

We’ll have more exciting events in the works later this summer, too. Once moonshiner Troy Ball starts giving tasting tours in June, we’ll stop by Highland Brewing Company in East Asheville to try her ‘shine (see page 50). As a friend said recently, it’s the season for getting together. We hope to see you soon, and that things are humming along for you, too.


Jess McCuan


Posted on Tuesday, May 31, 2011 at 05:50PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | CommentsPost a Comment | References1 Reference