September/October 2009

What's The Big Idea?

Posted on Sunday, September 20, 2009 at 09:17PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | CommentsPost a Comment

Meet the Green Reapers

by Janet Hurley / photos by Naomi Jonson


The “green reapers” are (in front) Kim Zorn of the Green Casket Company, Carol Motley of Bury Me Naturally and Caroline Yongue, a Buddhist minister who runs the Center for End of Life Transitions.Organic. Sustainable. Local. Biodegradable. Nope, we’re not talking about the produce at your local food co-op. We’re talking about death. A "green death." A green burial and perhaps a home funeral, one that’s unlike anything you’re likely to see in most traditional funeral homes.

Unless you’re morbid, you probably don’t spend a lot of time thinking about the end of life—yours or anyone else’s. You’ve probably been too busy concentrating on living to consider how your corpse might pollute the earth, for example (or the air, if you’re cremated). That wouldn’t surprise Carol Motley of Bury Me Naturally, Kim Zorn of the Green Casket Company or Caroline Yongue of The Center for End of Life Transitions. The three Asheville entrepreneurs, dubbed the "green reapers" by their supporters, say most people generally don’t want to face the great equalizer. And if they must confront death, they certainly haven’t thought about how to make the process earth-friendly. But these women are out to change all that. They consider themselves part of a national movement that had its first groundswell in California, calling for earth-friendly coffins, caskets, shrouds and other products, and a return to traditional ways of tending our dead.

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Posted on Saturday, September 19, 2009 at 06:59PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | Comments3 Comments | References3 References

Giving it a Tri

by Joanne O'Sullivan / photography by Anthony Bellemare


Even in the world of competitive athletics, there’s a certain mystique around the triathlete. Anyone who can master not one but three sports, then switch between them in a single race, must be a little bit superhuman.

It’s easy to see how that description could fit Debbie LeCroy. By day she’s an investigator, helping public defenders sift through evidence in some of the most high-profile crimes in Buncombe County. By night, she’s a bodybuilding triathlete mother of five, doing 100-mile bike rides up mountains in between loads of laundry and baseball practice. But while LeCroy represents one end of the female triathlete spectrum, more and more women are joining the fray from the other end: casual runners, moderate bikers and noncompetitive swimmers are entering triathlons just for the challenge of it. Holly Jones, YWCA of Asheville’s executive director and a Buncombe County Commissioner (who recently participated in the Asheville Triathlon), says that in fact, most anyone can go from the couch to the finish line in 20 weeks with the right training.

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Posted on Saturday, September 19, 2009 at 06:57PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | Comments2 Comments | References67 References

Handy Ma'am

by Jess McCuan / photos by Anthony Bellemare


They’re not carpenters. Or painters or plumbers or landscapers or builders, though they might do any or all of those things on a job. They’re handywomen. And like handymen, they have skills in a variety of trades and get paid to fix things, often around your house. Karen O’Toole, an Ashevillean who once worked in publishing but has been a self-employed landscaper and handywoman for ten years, put it bluntly: "For some money, I’ll do what you need," she says.

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Posted on Saturday, September 19, 2009 at 06:46PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | CommentsPost a Comment | References45 References

Sky is the Limit

by Cassady Sharp / photograph by Naomi Johnson


It’s a normal morning and you’re en route to the office. You’ve walked this path many times, and your memory will tell you where to turn. On this particular morning, however, the street signs are gone. The buildings and landmarks are gone. The light is gone. There is only the noise of cumbersome buses and fast cars. 

Imke Durre relies on her memory every morning to guide her to a corner office at the National Climatic Data Center off Patton Avenue in downtown Asheville. She embarks on her daily voyage from a Coxe Avenue apartment with the faith that the streets are the same, the sidewalks remain and her building still stands. There are roadblocks, literally, interrupting her commute and rearranging the space in her mind. She crosses these bridges when she comes to them, or rather, she crosses over Haywood when the sidewalk is closed across from Pritchard Park. An obstacle like a sidewalk closure might take Durre several minutes to detect, since it’s her tapping cane telling her what’s in front of her.

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Posted on Saturday, September 19, 2009 at 06:42PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | CommentsPost a Comment | References10 References

The Woman With The Plan

by Jess McCuan / photo by Brent Fleury


Judy Daniel doesn’t have much of a blueprint to work from. As Asheville’s relatively new planning and development director, she holds a controversial city government position in a city where development—especially in downtown Asheville—is a lightning rod for squabbles. The previous planning director, Scott Shuford, resigned in June 2007 after community activists and the City Council criticized him for the way he handled development for two Merrimon Avenue businesses, Greenlife Grocery and Staples. Daniel took the job in July 2008 after 15 years in planning positions in Montgomery County, Maryland, just north of the Washington, D.C. suburbs.

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Posted on Saturday, September 19, 2009 at 06:39PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | CommentsPost a Comment

Asheville's Ace of Cakes

by Nichole Livengood / photos by Matt Rose 


Tiffany Good (left), Sarah Resnick (upper right) and Bridgette Cannon (lower right) can make cakes in the shape of just about anything. If she hustles, Sarah Resnick can crank out 25 birthday cakes in a week. But that’s only if her customers are taking it easy on her. More often these days, people realize she can handle all sorts of crazy requests, like making a cake that looks like a Pabst beer can or a stand-up microphone or a life-sized hound dog wearing a handkerchief. That’s because Resnick—along with a handful of other accomplished local pastry chefs—has entered the world of high-concept cake baking, and now, there’s no turning back.

Resnick, a pastry chef at City Bakery in downtown Asheville, picked up her first mixing spoon at six years old. The ex-California girl rose up through the culinary ranks of Biltmore Estate’s Stable Café and then the Inn on Biltmore Estate before she landed the pastry chef job at City Bakery. Now she’s made a name for herself as someone who, like the team on the popular Food Network show Ace of Cakes, can make a traditional buttercream cake look like just about anything—from a guitar to an opossum to a kayak to a wizard hat. Her topsy-turvy, three-tiered pink Playgirl bunny-themed cake (complete with bunny ears) rocked the crowd at an 18-year-old’s birthday bash recently. "Not many people want the standard round tiered cakes we had for our birthday parties as kids anymore," she says. It’s all about bigger, taller and, quite frankly, as outlandish as humanly possible.

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Posted on Saturday, September 19, 2009 at 06:24PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | CommentsPost a Comment | References4 References

Painting the Town Mona

by Jess McCuan / photos by Brent Fleury


Of all the funky, colorful art objects in her home, her favorites are the butt prints. Five years ago, Mona Groban’s three children, Joey (now 32), Jamey (now 27) and Mikey (now 30) slathered their backsides in bright paint to create a triptych of tush prints on canvas, which now hang in a prominent spot in Groban’s kitchen. Later, when Joey married Amani, she dipped her derriere in paint as well to complete the diorama. The arty irreverence of the whole affair—the fact that the children would make butt prints, and that Mona would so cherish them—seems to go far toward explaining Mona Groban.

A self-taught artist and entrepreneur who worked for years as a dental hygienist, Groban paints everything she can get her hands on, from cars and cabinet doors to clothes and shoes to the insides and outsides of buildings. She almost always paints objects in bright colors—reds, greens, yellows and blues—and in her signature style: zany and surreal, with swirls or polka dots or zebra stripes thrown in to really make the colors pop. "Maybe it’s a compulsion. I don’t know," says Groban, 55, who splits her time between a studio in Downtown Hendersonville and a colorful country compound in Mill Spring, North Carolina. "Things are just prettier that way."

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Posted on Saturday, September 19, 2009 at 06:19PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | Comments1 Comment | References2 References

A Space of Her Own

by Jess McCuan / portrait by Murray Lee


The kernel of the thought that leads to a piece of installation art can be very abstract indeed. For Luzene Hill, a Cherokee artist who was recently asked to create a work representing violence against women, the process takes weeks and can begin like this: Which object would best represent a rape—corn husks or communion wafers, rose petals or dried leaves? Hill says she can get stopped for hours at such artistic forks in the road, contemplating the shapes and meanings associated with the various items as she walks through the woods around her home in Whittier, North Carolina.

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Posted on Saturday, September 19, 2009 at 06:16PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | Comments3 Comments | References2 References

A Pillar of the Community (Foundation)

by Jess McCuan / photo by Brent Fleury 

Pat Smith’s job is to help people give their money away. "It’s the best job in the world," she says of her position as president of the Community Foundation of Western North Carolina, a 30-year-old charitable organization with around $140 million in assets. Smith, whose corner office in Asheville’s BB&T Building has stunning mountain views in both directions, joined the foundation in 1984 as a part-time accountant. She was named its first full-time executive director in 1990, and that year, the foundation’s assets totaled just over $5 million. Last year, the Community Foundation made some $10.8 million in grants to such causes as improving water quality in Haywood, Buncombe and Madison County rivers and helping public school teachers create hands-on learning projects for their students. One of Smith’s signature projects was starting the Community Foundation’s Women for Women fund in 2005, which earlier this year made $264,000 in grants to local programs aimed at low-income women.

Just because the organization does laudable charitable work doesn’t mean its grants are uncontroversial. In the mid-‘80s, some Western North Carolinians decried the foundation’s first grant to an Asheville Planned Parenthood office. "We received pictures of aborted fetuses and all kinds of letters," says Smith, who notes that the money has always gone specifically toward Planned Parenthood education programs. Last year, the foundation’s Mountain Landscapes initiative, a three-phase project that aims to promote "smart growth" in the seven westernmost North Carolina counties, stirred up longstanding land-use debates. At community meetings last spring, for example, Sylva residents voiced concerns about preserving farmland and appropriate development along ridgelines and steep slopes. Smith says the initiative, still ongoing, has been one of the most complex efforts she’s ever tried to orchestrate. "You can’t put your head in a closet when you’re trying to use the community’s resources for the good of the community," Smith says. "You have to be out there seeing what the needs are and being willing to take that risk."

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Posted on Saturday, September 19, 2009 at 06:01PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | CommentsPost a Comment
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