Chefs will tee up their best for the Masters

Like most great tales, it began like any other day.

Sous Chef Alex Tinsley, 24, was working his usual day in The Gateway Club’s kitchen — chopping veggies, toasting buns, helping to ensure that any food that left the kitchen was perfect or as close to perfect as it could be. Then, co-owner Art O’Neill asked to talk to him.

O’Neill had received a call from a friend who was lining up personal chefs for golfers competing in the Masters Golf Tournament in Augusta, Ga., this April. Unable to work the gig himself, O’Neill asked Tinsley and Executive Chef Daniel Morris, 27, to take the spot.

“Of course, I said ‘yes’ immediately,” Tinsley said.

Both are accomplished chefs in the area and, as luck would have it, golf lovers.

“Daniel and I are both golfers — poor ones at that,” Tinsley said, laughing.

Tinsley and Morris will spend the four-day tournament bunked up in the same house as their assigned golfer — namely British pro Ross Fisher — where they will eat, sleep and breathe the world of golf while hopefully wowing him and his support entourage with their cuisine.

The gig is being coordinated by Horizon Sports Management, a firm that represents professional athletes and lines up any and all accommodations during the Masters, including renting houses in the Augusta area for them to stay in.

The pair will be responsible for dishing up Fisher’s breakfasts, dinners and snacks for the course. They will also organize a large cookout for 50 to 60 people during their stay.

Amid the excitement lingers another thrilling prospect: what if their food helps Fisher clinch the green jacket — one of the most coveted prizes in all sports?

But on the flip, perhaps burnt, side of that idea is this thought: “I’d hate to be the reason Ross Fisher lost the tournament,” Tinsley said.

For chefs, food is more about personal satisfaction, knowing that they have created something both visually alluring and pleasing to the palate. For athletes, it is fuel.

“I think a lot of golfers really are conscious of what they eat and how that is going to make you feel,” Morris said.

The duo is just starting to receive details of what Fisher, who is currently ranked 118th in the world, does and does not like.

“I know that Ross Fisher loves M&Ms,” Morris said, adding that a bowl must be set out in the house at all times.

The menu items will be up to Fisher’s discretion. During the first day, the guys will meet with the golf pro to discuss his gustatory expectations and preferred eats while playing in the tourney.

“If he wants a grilled cheese sandwich and a can of Campbell’s soup, I am fine with that,” Tinsley said.

However, that doesn’t mean that they aren’t prepping their own ideas of what they think Fisher would enjoy.

“I have some things in my pocket that I have done many times,” Tinsley said. Then again, “He might want nothing but granola and lean protein.”

Morris has already started scrutinizing all his culinary concoctions, contemplating whether this or that meal would be a good option to make for Fisher.

“You start looking at everything you do a little differently,” Morris said.

The whole event won’t be work, however. After shopping for groceries and making the meals, Morris and Tinsley will have the chance to walk the course and see some of the game’s greatest players at work.

Tinsley said he plans to walk every inch of the course, if possible, because it could be his only chance, although both chefs are hoping not.

The two compatriots are “crossing our fingers, kind of hoping we can keep going back,” said Morris, who is confident that the notion is possible “as long as we perform like I know that we can.”

“To cook and to be part of this, you’re dotting all of your I’s and crossing all your T’s,” he said.


Going pro

Morris, a Waynesville native, got his start in the restaurant business about nine years ago while studying at Appalachian State University. While in Boone, he got a job at a Japanese Steakhouse.

“I absolutely loved it,” he said.

After he moved back to Waynesville, Morris worked at Laurel Ridge Country Club and The Sweet Onion. At one point, he quit cooking and worked for an excavation company but couldn’t stay away from the culinary arts.

“I realized that restaurants were where I needed to be,” Morris said.

So, he signed up for culinary school at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College. He is now the big cheese at The Gateway Club — and boss of his former boss Tinsley.

Now a sous chef at The Gateway Club, Tinsley was formerly executive chef at Balsam Mountain Preserve, and Morris was his sous chef there.

“I was his boss first,” Tinsley joked, adding that he constantly reminds Morris of that fact.

Tinsley, of Clyde, got his start washing dishes and worked for his family’s Waynesville restaurant, Sunset on Main, which closed when they embarked on the Gateway Club endeavor. His mother, Suzanne, is currently a part owner of and the events director at The Gateway Club.

Principles aside, Waynesville looks to tap a piece of sweepstakes action through hefty fees

If you can’t beat ‘em, then you can at least benefit from ‘em.

Waynesville officials are considering joining the growing ranks of towns that impose fees on businesses that operate sweepstakes machines, a recent reincarnation of the previously outlawed video gambling.

“This board has always taken the position that one, these things are illegal; and two, we are not going to tax something that is illegal,” said Waynesville Town Manager Lee Galloway during a long-range town planning meeting last week.

The controversial machines have been through an “Are they? Are they not?” legal battle during the past few years as state legislators continue to try to outlaw sweepstakes machines and as proponents of the contraptions continue to find loopholes in the law.

“We’ve been back and forth on this a number of times,” Galloway said.

However, with no end in sight, Waynesville has decided to jump on the bandwagon. If they are going to exist anyway, why not benefit from them?

“There are folks out there that are going to find their way around (the law no matter what),” Galloway said.

At the same meeting, town leaders were grappling with where they would find money to build a skateboard park. During their talks about the sweepstakes machines, they realized they could kill two birds with one stone.

Aldermen decided to move forward with fees on sweepstakes machines to fund the skate park and other recreation initiatives.

“I think the idea of funding recreational activities would be appropriate,” said Alderman LeRoy Robinson.

The discussion led board members to another question: How much can the town charge?

Maggie Valley and Canton currently tax the sweepstakes machines in their respective towns. Both demand $2,500 for the first four machines and charge $750 for each subsequent machine. Maggie collects $8,250 a year, while Canton makes in nearly $32,000 each year. The town of Franklin makes $10,000 a year.

Galloway said that Waynesville will likely charge similar amounts. But, it could see higher benefits given the town’s larger size and potentially larger establishments.

A sweepstakes poker café opened on South Main in June 2010, and recently, two people have come into the police department asking for permits to start operations with as many as 40 to 60 machines — meaning that the new fee could be a boon for the town.

“According to Canton and Maggie Valley, they are standing in line to register machines,” said Bill Hollingsed, Waynesville’s chief of police.

No machine owners would be exempt from the new tax; no one will be grandfathered in. Waynesville will issue decals, which people can display on their sweepstakes machines, indicating that the device has undergone the proper inspection.

“They (machine owners) will not argue with that,” said Mayor Gavin Brown.


Future up in the air

While the fees could be a boon, it’s unclear just how long- or short-lived the fees could be. The sweepstakes machines could be outlawed, this time for good, once an appeal works its way through the state courts.

The General Assembly first banned video gambling in 2007. It didn’t take long before so-called “sweepstakes” cropped up as an alternative. Lawmakers viewed the sweepstakes as a reincarnation of video gambling under a different name, designed to circumvent the previous ban. So, the General Assembly went back to the drawing board and passed another ban in 2010 aimed at putting sweepstakes cafés out of business as well. But, lawsuits challenging the ban have allowed the games to continue.

“They found one judge in Greensboro, I think, who found one part of the law and said ‘Well, no, maybe this is not illegal,’” Galloway said.

The ambiguity, meanwhile, has left local law enforcement officers caught in the middle and confused about whether sweepstakes machines operating in their counties are illegal or not.

“The video poker law is unenforceable,” Hollingsed said. “It puts us in a bad position.”

Any gambling machine connected to the Internet is caught in limbo, and law enforcement officials cannot fine or arrest their owners without fear of being held in contempt themselves.

“It is very frustrating for us, I assure you,” Hollingsed said.

The only machines that are definitely illegal are stand-alone devices, including the Lucky Seven and Pot O’ Gold, which are not connected to the Internet.

“Those machines are clearly still illegal,” Hollingsed said.

Sagging roof trusses on Waynesville fire station prompt lawsuit

The town of Waynesville is suing a Hendersonville contractor for negligence in the construction of its new fire station on the outskirts of downtown.

In its complaint, the town alleges that Construction Logic’s work was defective and did not follow the planned specifications for the roof of the fire station.

“The suit is about fixing the roof and who is going to fix the roof,” said Town Manager Lee Galloway.

In early 2007, the town signed a $2.3 million contract with Construction Logic to build the Waynesville Fire Department’s headquarters.

“They were responsible for everything, the roof and the beams and the construction of the fire station,” Galloway said.

About a year after its completion when about 14 inches of snow fell in Waynesville, portions of the metal-paneled roof over the fire station’s equipment room began to sag.

Engineers found several flaws in the construction of the trusses, which hold the roof in place. More than 75 percent of the bolts connecting the trusses were loose, and a majority of the bolt holes at the top of each truss were reamed, according to court documents. All of the trusses were bent at least three-quarters of an inch; one was deflected as much as 2.75 inches, which could cause leaks or other structural problems.

The engineers who studied the roof declared that it is not a safety hazard. And, it has not leaked.

“But it needs to be remedied and fixed,” Galloway said. The cost of fixing such a critical part of the structure could reach up to $400,000, he said.

The town brought the defect to the Construction Logic’s attention in 2010, Galloway said.

“And, they have never fixed the roof,” he said. “They never indicated a willingness to fix the roof.”

Construction Logic failed to apply the proper standard of care to which all contractors must adhere, according to court documents.

The town has alleged charges of negligence, breach of contract and breach of warranties. Waynesville officials are seeking $30,000 in damages in addition to the cost of repairing the roof and bringing it into compliance with the original building plans.

The company, according to its website, has operations in Hendersonville and Asheville. Neither the company nor its lawyer Brad Stark of Asheville responded to several requests for comment.

Waynesville leaders caught between salt factory and irked neighbors

Giles Chemical pledged last week to do what it could to appease neighbors fed up with intrusive truck traffic on their town streets, but residents maintain the small industry has outgrown its location.

Throughout the day, trucks traveling to and from Giles Chemical to pick up or drop off loads have caused headaches for neighbors. Some truck drivers routinely park their trucks in the road in front of Giles’ Smather Street warehouse, blocking traffic and causing potential safety hazards.

However, all parties involved — including the Waynesville town board — hope “No Parking” signs will help remedy residents’ concerns about tractor trailers, which also end up with their wheels in people’s yards and driveways.

“Keep your fanny off my property,” joked Mayor Gavin Brown as the board discussed posting the new signage.

Town leaders agreed to put up no parking signs along the nearly 1.5-mile stretch of Smathers Street between Plott Creek Road and Commerce Street. That in turn will allow police to ticket any vehicles stopped or idled on the road.

“Cops can make some money off these guys,” said Earl Bradley, owner of Earl’s Automotive on Smathers Street.

It will take the town about a month to post the signs.

In the meantime, Giles Chemical has posted its own signs attempting to corral truck traffic and prevent jams. The company agreed to post such signs last spring.

Signs now direct all tractor trailers to a staging area and instructs truckers to call for questions or further directions.

The hope is that truck drivers will idle in the off-street staging area until the warehouse’s load dock is clear. Giles will then inform the driver when he or she access the dock unimpeded.

The process aims to keep traffic flowing on Smathers Street and prevent tractor-trailers from blocking the road.

“I think that’s a good idea,” said Paul Benson, Waynesville’s town planner. “That’s going to be a hard problem to solve. Honestly, it will continue to be a problem.”

The no parking sign proposal resurfaced as Giles Chemical seeks zoning approval from the town. Giles current zoning classification prevents it from expanding at its current site.

It was rezoned when the town revamped its land-use standards and now wants to be rezoned as commercial-industrial, which would allow for future expansion.

The rezoning was an “unintended oversight,” said Patrick Bradshaw, who sat on the land-use plan review committee.

Heavy industrial technically isn’t allowed in the downtown central business district. Giles’ operations were grandfathered in but can’t expand beyond their current footprint without town approval.

“We simply need our permitted use to be reinstated,” said Matt Haynes, director of manufacturing.


The rezoning conundrum

Giles Chemical will have to wait another couple of weeks to hear whether Waynesville’s Board of Aldermen will approve or deny their request for rezoning, however.

During the meeting, Haynes reminded attendees and the aldermen that Giles, the leading producer of Epsom salt in the U.S., contributes to the local economy.

“Giles has been an honorable and valuable member of this community for a long time,” he said.

About seven Waynesville residents attended the board meeting last week and spoke out against Giles’ rezoning request.

“They have outgrown,” said Mark Yops, a resident of Love Lane, adding that he is “constantly having to wait for the semi-trucks.”

The rezoning would be “more disruptive,” he said.

Earl Bradley, owner of Earl’s Automotive on Smathers Street, said that he must already deal with truckers blocking the road and using his property to back into Giles’ docking area.

“I don’t see it being any different if they get to build more,” he said.

Bradley showed pictures and video of trucks using the street and his parking lot to maneuver into the dock. Bradley said he must often inform truckers that they are not allowed on his property.

“I have to go out there many, many times a day when I should be attending to the business,” he said. “Who is going to control that?”

Part of the problems is that there’s only a small space in front of Giles’ warehouse to make a three-point turn, one that even the most adept truck drivers have difficulty nailing consistently.

“They are trying to put that truck into a match box,” said Peggy Roberts, a Mill Street resident.

The warehouse was built about a year ago, and Giles is still tweaking its procedures, Haynes countered.

“As with any new facility, there are issues,” he said. “It is not the easiest maneuver in the world; it is doable.”

Haynes added that as time passes, more truckers are turning into the loading dock without trouble and without blocking the street.

A couple of the residents said they were glad Giles was prospering but that the rezoning and a possible expansion of the Smathers Street location would only add to already existing problems.

“I would love to see Giles Chemical expand and thrive for another 50 years,” Roberts said. But, “things have gotten greatly out of hand.”

The noise generated by Giles’ operations prevents her from using the front rooms in her house as well as her porch, Roberts said, admitting that the company has made efforts to tone it down.

“Please do not rezone this,” she said.

Alderman Libba Feichter compared the dilemma to the Judgment of Solomon, saying it is hard to appease both parties. In the story, two women fight over a child, and Solomon says he will compromise with them by cutting the baby in two.

“Short of dividing that baby down the middle, what do you do?” Feichter said. The decision is “very difficult for me.”

Aldermen Wells Greeley agreed, asking whether a compromise could be reached.

“I have got to believe somewhere there is some middle ground here,” Greeley said. “I’ve got too many concerns from these folks and from (Giles), too.”

Town officials discussed approving a conditional use permit as a happy medium, which would favor both sides. For example, under its current zoning, Giles may operate anytime day or night. However, if the town moves forward with a conditional use permit, Waynesville officials could restrict its hours of operation.

Currently, Giles is only open during the day, Haynes said.

In the end, the board decided to table the request until its next meeting.


Speak out

What: Giles Chemical will hold a public meeting where citizens can address their concerns operations at its current facility and discuss the basis of the rezoning request.

When: 4 to 6 p.m., Feb. 8

Where: Waynesville Fire Station 2 on Georgia Avenue

Folkmoot sculpture must be moved, but to where?

Finding a new home for the Folkmoot sculpture in downtown Waynesville has taken a new turn.

The Waynesville public art commission initially proposed moving the art piece across the street — from its current spot in front of the new town hall to the old town hall.

When the art commission asked the town to sign off on the move earlier this month, however, the town board had a different idea.

The board agreed that the structure must be moved but felt old town hall wasn’t fitting for several reasons. One was there simply is not enough room. The other was lack of visibility to adequately showcase the piece. Plus, the town board expressed concerns that the “disco-ball effect” created by spinning flags on top of the statue would irritate people in adjacent office buildings.

Such complaints by the police department was one of the reasons for moving it in the first place. There have also been occasions when one or more of the flags has fallen off the statue because of high winds that whip by it.

Town board members are strongly considering placing it somewhere on the grounds of the historic courthouse and justice center — a prominent locale for a sculpture celebrating one of Waynesville’s most well known festivals. The art piece features a flowing, banner-like dancer with seven flags that turn in the wind to represent the famed international dance and music festival.

The statue was installed at its current location in 2009 and was created by renowned artist Wayne Trapp.

Giant trucks on tiny street pose headaches for Waynesville neighborhood

Earl Bradley watches from the parking lot of his auto repair shop as a tractor trailer struggles for 15 minutes to align itself with Premier Chemicals’ loading dock across the street in Waynesville.

Bradley has videotaped the trucks for months, with multiple cameras constantly recording the saga playing out on Smathers Street. Despite assertions to the contrary by Premier’s management, Bradley’s videos are evidence of the daily plight faced in the neighborhood.

The delivery trucks park in the middle of the road, block their driveways, tear up their yards, scatter gravel and mud, run over the curbs and generally disturb the neighborhood as they pickup and drop off loads at the warehouse.

“I shouldn’t have to put up with this,” Bradley said. “They’re not a great neighbor.”

Residents and business owners near the small factory have grown so tired of the trucks they have appealed to Waynesville town leaders to crack down on the problem.

Most of the trucks are independent and are not owned by Premier (formerly Giles Chemical), but residents say the company could do more to compel better behavior from the trucks coming and going.

Premier Chemicals employs around 70 people and is the leading producer of Epsom salt in the nation. It has a manufacturing facility in the Frog Level district of downtown Waynesville, as well as a warehouse farther down Smathers Street.

Because Smathers Street is a small, two-lane road, tractor trailers going to and from Premier Chemicals have a difficult time maneuvering. There’s only a small space to make a three-point turn, one that even the most adept truck drivers can’t nail consistently without some luck.

Truck drivers are also forced into Bradley’s private parking lot. The trucks block the flow of traffic and have caused undue wear and tear to his lot, he said.

One day, Bradley went as far as posting a listing of the municipal codes that Premier Chemical was breaking. But, he said they didn’t care.

“They’ve got municipal codes that they break everyday,” Bradley said.

It is not just Bradley who has had problems with trucks on his property.

James Haney, who lives on Smathers Street, said that the trucks have used his driveway to maneuver as well and also ran over his flowers. And, although the company promised that changes to its loading dock would help remedy neighbors’ concerns about truck traffic on Smathers Street, Haney said Premier did not keep its word.

“Everything they said they were going to do, they didn’t do,” Haney said.

Premier Chemical takes in and ships out close to 10 loads each day, according to Matt Haynes, the company’s director of manufacturing.

Bradley said that he did not know off the top of his head how many trucks stopped at Premier each day, but that it is more than 10.

Mayor Gavin Brown said Premier Chemicals is an important industry to the town, providing much needed jobs. Unfortunately, it is not easy for factories and neighborhoods to coexist in close proximity, he said.

“That is a historical problem. We have heavy industrial right against residential, and there is going to be friction. There always is,” he said.

Brown said there are things Premier Chemical could do to be better neighbors, however — mainly telling its truck drivers to alter their habits.

If Premier schedules its trucks better, the traffic would be staggered and wouldn’t have to park in the street, sidewalks and people’s yards, Brown said.

Brown said the town could also help out by passing some specific parking and traffic laws for Smathers Street. After a few weeks of the town’s police officers enforcing the new traffic laws, it should send a message to the truckers and to Premier to figure out a better way.


Sign oversight

Neighbors will ask the town board at its meeting this week to post “no parking” signs on Smathers Street and penalize the company when it breaks municipal codes, such as driving over sidewalks and tearing up neighboring yards.

In fact, residents were promised nearly a year ago that the town would install “no parking” signs, but they have yet to appear.

Waynesville’s planning board voted at a meeting last March meeting to post no parking signs along the street, setting the stage for police officers to ticket offending trucks.

“I think that would take away about half the complaints we get about Giles,” said Town Planner Paul Benson.

However, because of an oversight, the issue did not reach Waynesville’s Board of Aldermen until this month. The planning board had said yes, but the request for the sign was never kicked up the ladder.

“It just got lost,” Brown said.

The no parking sign idea resurfaced as Premier Chemical seeks zoning approval from the town that would allow the company to expand in the future. Heavy industrial technically isn’t allowed in the downtown central business district. Premier’s operations were grandfathered in, but can’t expand beyond their current footprint without town approval.

For now Premier wants to add a 3,000-square-foot storage shed on the backside of its main building. But the zoning change the company is seeking could open the door for additional future expansion as well.

However, residents are concerned that Premier will expand on top of them.

“We need manufacturing. We need the jobs, but we want people to not suffer,” Benson said. “It’s a balancing act.”

The Waynesville Board of Aldermen will have a public hearing on whether to put in the “no parking” signs on Smathers Street and the change in zoning.

Waynesville welcomes a new bakery

Waynesville is getting its Main Street bakery back, but not just any bakery.

City Bakery, a well-known café and bakery with two locations in downtown Asheville and a successful wholesale product line, will move in to the space formerly occupied by Whitman’s Bakery. The community mourned the loss of Whitman’s as a beloved local institution that anchored downtown Waynesville for decades but is now rejoicing the arrival of City Bakery.

“It is just amazing. People are jumping up and down literally. We are blown away by the excitement in this town. Just blown away,” said Jeff Smith, who will manage the Waynesville location along with his wife, Megan. “I know what a need there is for a bakery and café like this.”

Megan, 35, and Jeff, 41, both live in Waynesville not too far from downtown. Their miniscule commute is a serious perk given the hours bakery managers typically have to rise in the morning.

“We are no stranger to what kind of grind it will be and we are OK with it,” Jeff said. “Megan and I is who you will see day in and day out.”

Megan’s parents are the owners of City Bakery. She has worked for the family business in the past, running both of their Asheville stores.

Pat Dennehy, the owner of City Bakery, said he constantly heard from customers and friends wanting the family to open a Waynesville store.

“When I see people I know around town they say ‘I love you guys. When are you coming to Haywood County?’” Dennehy said. “We wouldn’t be doing it unless we thought it would work.”

Be forewarned: Waynesville isn’t just getting a bakery. City Bakery does a booming café business, serving up healthy but scrumptious sandwiches, wraps and soups for lunch, plus stellar breakfasts.

“We have a cheddar scallion biscuit with bacon, egg and cheese,” Dennehy hinted.

While the City Bakery menu clearly has items that cater to the adventurous tastes of their urban Asheville customers — like apple chutney and brie on focaccia and tempeh reubens — Waynesville actually has pent up demand for a specialty bakery and café.

“I think it is time,” Jeff said. “They are ready for this kind of menu.”

There’s one thing missing from the City Bakery menu, though, that Jeff says he plans to create, in part to pay homage to a favorite Whitman’s mainstay.

“I’m working on the right pimento cheese recipe,” Jeff said.

Pimento cheese isn’t the only thing Waynesville’s location can take credit for when it comes to City Bakery’s menu. Watch out Asheville: here come donuts.

Whitman’s was perhaps best known for its donuts, but they take special equipment and lots of space to make, something City Bakery’s stores in Asheville don’t have. Trucks that come to Waynesville baring bread will return back to Asheville with donuts made here.

City Bakery will employ 20 to 30 people with plans to open by March.

The interior of Whitman’s is currently undergoing a facelift. While the 1970s-era blue wallpaper and wood paneling is being stripped, the Waynesville store won’t have the completely urban-look of Asheville stores that feature lots of stainless steel and glass. The older wooden bakery cases are being replaced as well, which the former owners plan to preserve as a keepsake.

Whitman’s was run by the same family for three generations until 2006, when the Howell family sold it. The bakery quickly declined in popularity and lost its standing as a Main Street institution however, and the new owners were forced to close the doors for good two months ago.

Ownership reverted to the Howells, who began looking for a new buyer.

Jeff believes the business Whitman’s formerly enjoyed under its original owners can easily be rebuilt.

“I think people will at least give us a shot, and if we don’t drop the ball, I think we will be fine,” Jeff said.

City Bakery purchased Whitman’s old equipment and is leasing the building. The family has enjoyed working with the Howells to get a bakery up and running on Main Street again, Dennehy said.

“It was a family owned business similar to ours. I like that continuity,” Dennehy said.

All five of the Dennehy’s children have worked for them on and off.

“At one point or another, every one of them has been involved in various capacities of the business,” Dennehy said.


City Bakery’s evolution

Dennehy came to Western North Carolina in 2000 to take the job of general manager at the burgeoning Harrah’s Casino in Cherokee. It was a perfect landing spot after a long career in the casino industry, known for moving its managers from one casino to another every few years.

“Why do people want to retire to WNC? It is a beautiful relaxed area, and the people are wonderful,” Dennehy said.

Finding a home in Haywood County, Dennehy and his wife were exactly where they wanted to be as they headed into retirement — only to find themselves owning a successful trio of bakeries with a growing wholesale side. Since Dennehy was still managing Cherokee’s casino, his wife ran it in those early years.

“She always wanted to have a business,” Dennehy said. “We also wanted a business our children could be involved in.”

The Dennehy’s children were already grown, but all five followed them to the mountains one by one.

Ruth’s brother had started City Bakery shortly before the Dennehy’s moved to WNC. They took over the bakery from him and immediately began growing the beloved neighborhood bakery into a widely known brand in the greater Asheville area.

They opened a separate production facility to free up more retail space in their Charlotte Street location and later opened their signature store on Biltmore Avenue in the center of the Asheville’s downtown heartbeat.

The reason? They simply couldn’t keep up with demand, Dennehy said.

About 75 percent of City Bakery’s business comes from its existing two retail locations. The other 25 percent is wholesale, with their products appearing in 25 restaurants and grocery stores like Earth Fare, Greenlife Grocery and Ingle’s grocery stores in Buncombe.

Jeff hopes to expand the wholesale market in Haywood and other counties further west.

“I know there is potential there,” Jeff said.

It won’t exactly be new territory to him, as he’s worked the past three years in sales for Sysco Food Distributors, the largest food delivery company for restaurants in the region.

Smith plans to tap farmers and the local food scene in Haywood for their produce, following in the footsteps of the Asheville stores, which use local goat cheese, local honey and local roast beef in their menu items as well as local produce.

“I am excited about the tailgate markets and using local folks that actually grow stuff. It is sustainable and local. It is just the right way to go,” Smith said.

A bold fix for South Main Street

Maybe it’s pie in the sky, but the right ingredients could transform South Main Street into a thriving commercial district. A consultant with LaQuatra Bonci has mapped out a new look for the corridor. The plan banks on new-found aesthetic appeal to create a sense of place, which in turn will make South Main a destination drawing both stores and shoppers.

Problem: Dilapidated buildings, shuttered storeffronts.

Challenge: The prospect of new commercial development is hindered by the ugly appearance and asphalt overload.

Solution: “Green the corridor” with street trees and a planted median.

Problem: How many lanes?

Challenge: The wider the road, the more land that gets lopped off the front of adjacent properties. The resulting lot could be too small to fit anything on. But too few lanes may not support future traffic should it increase substantially.

Solution: Two lanes, except the 0.4-mile stretch in front of Super Walmart between Allens Creek and Hyatt Creek.


Problem: Unfriendly for pedestrians

Challenge: Pedestrian activity can be a magnet for commercial revitalization.

Solution: Create a pedestrian boulevard by installing cross walks, sidewalks and bike lanes.


Problem: Traffic passes through without stopping on its way from point A to point B.

Challenge: South Main lacks a sense of place, giving motorists no reason to slow down or to see South Main as a destination.

Solution: An entrance feature, such as public art piece, to set the stage, along with pedestrian scale lighting and benches.


Problem: Intersections

Challenge: Stoplights require extra turning lanes for cars to queue up in while waiting for the light to change, but the extra turn lanes mean more asphalt and run counter to the street’s new character.

Solution: Use roundabouts instead, which do double duty as a convenient U-turn spot, since the street would have medians preventing left turns in and out of businesses.

Consultant takes bull by the horns in South Main master street plan

South Main Street is a mess.

That’s the message from a consultant hired by the town of Waynesville to develop a revitalization plan for the struggling artery.

The consultant spent six months studying South Main and developing a master street plan. The challenges are great, based on the less-than-flattering language that peppers his report: deteriorated condition; not economically healthy; dilapidated structures; no distinct image; scrubby patches of overgrown and unattractive weeds; seldom pedestrian traffic; high vacancy rate.

Sometimes it takes an outsider to deliver such blunt news, Waynesville Town Planner Paul Benson said. Locals come to accept the status quo, and may not realize how bad it actually looks. Besides, the slow decline of South Main happened over decades, making the changes less noticeable until it became a blight on the town.

SEE ALSO: A bold fix for South Main Street

Many South Main property owners salivated over the coming of Super Walmart and Best Buy, putting their lots and businesses on the market before the big-box development had even broken ground. Four years later, they are still waiting for the land rush, wondering why Applebee’s hasn’t come knocking yet.

The answer is because South Main Street simply doesn’t look good, according to Rodney Porter, the corridor consultant who works for LaQuatra Bonci in Asheville.

“One of the challenges to this corridor is how do we make the road itself more accessible and pedestrian friendly. The other is how do we address the economic downturn of this corridor,” Porter said.

Luckily, the solution happens to be one and the same, he said.

“If you can design a road that is pedestrian friendly you can generate a more successful corridor,” Porter said. “A simple change of image will provide a new address for economic investment.”

The same elements that would make the road attractive to pedestrians — sidewalks, curbs, street trees, crosswalks, benches, a landscape median — will make it attract to commercial development, Porter contends.

“Pedestrian traffic is a critical ingredient to revitalizing a corridor,” Porter said. “It is critical to have this corridor be inviting and provide a sense of safety and welcome.”

Failure to do so could forever sentence South Main to its destitute status, according to Porter’s assessment. Traffic on South Main Street has actually declined over the past three years, according to traffic counts taken by the DOT shortly after Super Walmart opened and new traffic counts taken by Porter’s team.

“More people are actually going around South Main Street to get to Walmart. They are just hopping off the exit,” Porter said.

They aren’t being drawn to South Main, and instead opt to hop on and off the adjacent highway to get to Walmart. Until South Main’s appearance improves and lures more traffic, new businesses won’t be motivated to follow suit, Porter said.

“Until you set the stage with a new road coming in, there is no incentives for redevelopment along that road,” Porter said.

Benson agrees with the premise: make the street attractive and inviting, people and businesses will follow.

“It needs to be a more attractive environment,” Benson said. “That will be a key to promote retail activity.”

It will take more than throwing in a row of trees along the road and putting in sidewalks, however.

The road itself is missing many of the bare essentials. It lacks curbs, with parking lot after parking lot morphing into the road. The net result: a giant plain of asphalt.

Porter said South Main’s character is defined by the “overwhelming presence of parking lots.”

In the quest to bring renewed life to South Main, the middle-class neighborhoods of Hazelwood will be critical, according to Porter.

“The lack of users on South Main Street has in part contributed to the dereliction of the corridor,” Porter said. “The adjacent residential population is no longer devoted to the commerce on South Main Street.”

Benson agreed on this point as well.

“The idea is to connect with the neighborhoods, to make it easy for those folks to walk or ride their bike or drive to the corridor. A lot of it is based on a complete street concept that all users should feel comfortable on the corridor, not just the cars and trucks,” Benson said.


What’s next?

Porter was hired by the town to develop a proposed plan for South Main Street as a community-driven alternative to another plan devised by the N.C. Department of Transportation.

The DOT plan was less nuanced and more utilitarian. It calls for a wider road with fewer pedestrian features — concrete rather than planted medians, no dedicated bike lanes, narrower sidewalks and more lanes.

The town felt it wasn’t in keeping with its vision for South Main, and that’s largely what prompted the town to undertake an independent master plan.

“This is definitely a more tailored approach than the DOT study,” Benson said.

The town’s independent feasibility study cost $55,000, with 80 percent of the cost paid for with a federal planning grant.

Two community workshops were held to engage the public in creating the plan. Property owners, businessmen, as well as average residents, turned out to voice their vision for the corridor.

The town is now hoping the public will voice its opinions again now that a draft plan is on the table. A meeting to solicit input will be at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 17, at the new Waynesville town hall building.

Porter said “community consensus” is important to the success of the plan.

Based on the feedback, the consultant will finalize the plan before its adopted by the town. The town will then present its plan to the DOT in hopes of seeing the features it wants incorporated.

The DOT has cautioned that its feasibility study of South Main wasn’t intended as a detailed street design.

“It is not the Bible. It is not the final word on what is going to happen,” said Derrick Lewis, DOT road planner in Raleigh overseeing the DOT’s South Main feasibility study. “As a project moves thru the planning and design stages, the number of lanes, as well as the intersection configuration and design are always up for discussion based upon updated information and community input.”

The feasibility study took a broad look at how to best accommodate projected traffic 25 years from now. Details would not be hammered out in the final design stage.

Lewis said the DOT will listen to the town’s recommendations and decide whether to incorporate any of them. The DOT’s feasibility study is still considered in draft form.

“We put it in the holding pattern to see if there are any magic bullets come out of this study,” Lewis said.

Benson hopes the DOT will be receptive.

“I’m hoping he will look at this and won’t have any problem with what we came up with,” Benson said.

Based on a surface reading of the town’s plan, Lewis noticed several design features that may not jive with DOT street standards.



Want to weigh in?

Public input is sought on a plan to makeover South Main Street in Waynesville. A proposal to turn it into a vibrant, tree-line boulevard with pedestrian appeal will be presented at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 17, at the new Waynesville town hall building.

Ideas and critiques from the public will be solicited. To view the plan click here.

Waynesville begins fund drive to pay for historic arch replica

Donations are already rolling in for the Waynesville Art Commission’s latest public art piece, a replica of the historic Smokies’ arch over Main Street, but the group is still looking for donors.

“I am real pleased with the response so far,” said Jan Griffin, head of the art commission.

The art commission has already sent out its first wave of fundraising letters to many of the established local families of Waynesville and plans to mail more letters in the coming weeks. The donations will help pay for a “Gateway to the Smokies” arch, which will be installed in the mini-park at the corner of Main and Depot streets. The original arch spanned Main Street itself for several decades, proclaiming the town as the “Eastern Entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.”

So far, the commission has received about $2,000 in private donations toward a new Waynesville arch that will cost between $5,000 and $6,000.

“We are very pleased with that,” said Griffin. “The interest is very, very high. We’ve got an awful lot of really excited people about it.”

With one possible exception.

Town Manager Lee Galloway received a phone call from Bryson City Town Manager Lee Callicutt a couple of months ago regarding the wording on the arch. The piece will read “Gateway to the Smokies,” a slogan that Bryson City has used on its seal and police department badges for decades.

“He said that he had been directed to pass the concern of the Town of Bryson City on to me,” Galloway said.

Some in Bryson were less than thrilled that Waynesville’ arch would bear their catch phrase. Nothing else came of the concern.

The art commission has created and installed three permanent public art pieces around town during the past few years. The latest addition will be the archway, the second art piece referencing the Smokies in the mini-park on the corner across from the historic courthouse. Already in place is a metal railing with mountain peaks and salamanders.

The art commission premiered its artistic renderings of the arch earlier this fall.

Ed Kelley, who has headed the project, is now taking the sketches of the arch to an engineer who will act as a consultant, suggesting specifically how the arch will be made and what it will be made of.

“Everything has to be very specific,” Kelley said.

Once the parameters are set, the commission will take bids from several area artists and award the project to the lowest bidder.

People who wish to donate to help pay for the arch can write a check to the Town of Waynesville and drop it at the municipal building on Main Street. Donors should note that the money is for the art project in the memo line.

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