~ Custom Leather Accessories, Artisan Foods, Sustainable Outdoor Gear, Plant-Based Skincare and Cocktail Kits + Local Maker Spotlights ~
In a Blue Ridge Mountain city whose inspiring backdrop has long influenced creatives and entrepreneurs to live their dreams, the maker culture in Asheville, N.C., continues to generate some top-notch products tied to most every facet of the destination.
From the award-winning culinary scene and beverage industry, to the innovative arts community, to immersive outdoor or wellness offerings, authentic goods made with care and craft in the Asheville area are available this holiday shopping season for those looking to put a dent in their gift (or wish!) lists. Think small-batch mustards with a kick, wine from America’s most-visited winery, sleek pottery, gifts that give back, easy-to-pack hammocks or at-home spa treatments!
Plan ahead for your Black Friday, Small Business Saturday or Cyber Monday shopping, and find that special – truly one-of-a-kind – something for the “hard-to-buy-for person” in your life.
Whether perusing shelves in person or scrolling online from home, share some mountain magic with loved ones (or consider a much-needed personal pick-me-up) with the below curated list of ideas and experiential elements from this corner of Southern Appalachia – a reminder of what Asheville adventures await.
TRAVEL INSPIRATION FOR YOUR HOLIDAY GIFT LIST – SHOP ASHEVILLE FROM HOME: ExploreAsheville.com/holiday-gift-guide.
- In Blue Handmade: Classic Handmade Leather Tote Bag (Small)
- Residing in a converted-warehouse studio space in West Asheville, In Blue Handmade is dedicated to personalized craft and providing customers with a unique way to express themselves through their leather bags, wallets, guitar straps and more. Each piece is made by hand with top grain cowhides and using only eco-tanned leather. Since the pandemic hit in March, with the purchase of any tote, guitar strap or large pouch, the company donates a portion of sales to Feeding America.
- Benbow & Associates: Serving Platter
- Benbow & Associates, a family-owned-and-operated cabinetry company in the River Arts District, also specializes in custom cutting boards that are produced with local hardwoods.
- East Fork: The Mug
- East Fork is run by Alex Matisse, great grandson of French artist Henri Matisse, and his wife and co-founder, Connie, the chief creative officer and marketing officer behind the brand. They are dedicated to handmade, durable ceramic dishware and known for their simple, clean designs. Their clays come from the American Southeast, and their glazes are formulated and mixed in-house. The company has a “Spread Wealth, Shop Seconds” program to highlight and support nonprofit, grassroots organizations or individuals in Western North Carolina who are working toward racial equity and community reconciliation.
- Oowee Products: Coffee and Multi-Sleeve Beverage Holder
- Offering a wide selection of custom leather items such as beverage holders, coasters, card wallets, key chains and more, their products are handmade in partnership with the Autism Society using natural materials and sustainable business practices.
- Lexington Glassworks: Pair of Stemless Wine Glasses
- Located in downtown Asheville, this studio creates timeless and innovative hand-blown glass pieces and custom lighting, all while inviting guests to sit, watch and enjoy a craft beer.
- Paul Taylor Sandals: Card, Bi-Fold or Passport Wallet
- Give your or a loved one’s neglected passport some love this holiday season. Handcrafting leatherwork including wallets, bags and custom-fitted sandals since 1965, Paul Taylor Sandals also has one of the largest collections of vintage belt buckles in the country.
- Viola Spells: Flower Neck Piece
- After completing her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, Viola, who grew up in Asheville, started Zenobia Studio and began making crochet wire jewelry, reminiscent of her mother’s lace curtains and her grandmother’s doilies. She gives the pieces a contemporary feel using beads, crystals, amber, wood and gemstones, symbolizing the multitude of emotions in every woman’s life. Her work can be found in the online store of the Asheville Art Museum, which has reopened with its renovated and expanded state-of-the-art new building.
- Rachel Elise: Waxed Canvas Wristlet
- Founded in Texas in 2008 while owner and maker Rachel Aughtry was earning her degree in fiber art, Rachel Elise soon relocated to the Blue Ridge Mountains, where all RE bags are designed, printed and stitched. Operating out of a home studio, RE’s line of waxed canvas, handprinted canvas and Kantha cotton bags, clutches and pouches can also be found in stores around Asheville and throughout the country.
- Jenny Pickens: Cand-E-laine Dolls
- Artist Jenny Pickens launched a line of dolls, named Cand-E-laine, in memory of her niece Candace Pickens who was tragically killed in 2016. The dolls are made with used, recycled and new materials and can be commissioned to remember loved ones who have passed by using some of their clothing or sentimental fabrics. Pickens hopes bringing these mementos of personal loss or childhood memories forward provides a tangible artifact to promote healing and love.
- Spoon + Hook: The Botanist Board
- Owner Anneliesse Charrington Gormley designs her wooden wares from a deep love for vintage, minimalism, nature and fine craft, striving to create pieces that can also hold significance within one’s story. She uses quality, sustainable wood from local supplier Asheville Hardware and finishes each item with beeswax from Wild Mountains Bees and food-grade mineral oil.
- MAKER SPOTLIGHT: Jenny Pickens is a self-taught artist whose work can be seen across the city, including via the new Black Lives Matter street mural in the heart of downtown and at Noir Collective, a new market featuring local Black artists and craftspeople in the historic YMI Cultural Center. She is the first artist-in-residence for 22 London, an art studio and exhibition space, and is known for her expressive dolls, handmade from sentimental fabrics and recycled materials.
ARTISAN FOOD & BEVERAGE
- Spicewalla: Choose Your Own Essentials Collection
- James Beard-nominated Chef Meherwan Irani personally curates the sourcing, selection and blending processes along with his culinary team. Their FRESH spices can be found in the kitchens of award-winning restaurants across the country. Spicewalla frequently puts out local collaborations, including the new Forestry Camp Smoke Rub with Burial Beer Co.
- French Broad Chocolates: The Asheville Grown Collection
- Dan and Jael Rattigan started their operations in Asheville where they roast, crack winnow, grind, conche and temper chocolate in small batches, from bean to bar (or bonbon!). In recent years, they have expanded with a new, visitor-friendly factory space and creamery. French Broad Chocolates wants to bring out the best flavor that each bean has and encourage a closer relationship with food. This collection is a love letter to their mountain town, sourcing from and celebrating the farmers and producers who contribute so much to the local culinary scene.
- Asheville Bee Charmer: Warm & Cozy Honey Set
- This boutique shop curates a selection of pure, raw honey from across Western North Carolina and around the world. The owners work with local beekeepers in the Appalachian Mountains for their most-popular varietal and local specialty, sourwood honey, and also make their own line of infused honey blends (think vanilla, spicy chai, savory rosemary and "Firecracker Hot"). Honey accessories, skincare products, gift sets and apparel are also sold at their stores.
- O'Yeah! Hot Sauce: O’Yeah! Original Hot Sauce
- Made and bottled in Asheville from local sources, when possible, this hot sauce takes pride in its flavor profile and enhancement – and the fact that every one of its all-natural 24 ingredients contains health benefits!
- FIREWALKER Hot Sauce: FIREWALKER Combo Pack Gift Box
- Committed to handmade small-batch production using fresh natural ingredients, FIREWALKER created a blend of citrus and garlic with a lucid habanero (or, depending on the flavor, record-breaking “hottest pepper in the world,” The Carolina Reaper) kick, providing complex layers and depth to brighten and intensify food.
- Smoking J’s Fiery Foods: Black Mocha Stout BBQ Sauce
- A family-owned-and-operated farm business located in nearby Candler, Smoking J’s Fiery Foods offers barbecue sauces, hot sauces, rubs and salsas. This particular flavor uses beer from Asheville’s oldest brewery, Highland Brewing Company.
- Hickory Nut Gap Farm: Charcuterie Chubs
- This fifth-generation family farm has grass-fed beef and pasture-raised pork and chicken found on many a menu around town and sells products online and through its Farm Store (steps away from their scenic working farm just outside Asheville).
- Lusty Monk Mustard: Lusty Monk Gift Box
- Launched in 2007, Asheville-headquartered Lusty Monk now has distribution throughout the Southeast, in addition to its mustards being found in restaurants and grocery stores across Western North Carolina. These spicy, coarse-ground, small-batch mustards have many fans and quite the following due to their signature kick, with three distinct flavors: Original Sin, “Burn in Hell” Chipotle, and “Temptation” Honey Mustard.
- Poppy’s Popcorn: AVL City Tin
- Providing a variety of sweet and savory selections, Poppy’s Popcorn believes in high-quality ingredients – with no artificial flavors or colors – and using only non-GMO corn. The gourmet popcorn producer also releases fun seasonal flavors throughout the year.
- Imladris Jam: Three-Jar Gift Crate
- This family farm in nearby Fairview (dating back to a land grant from the late 1700s, with several of the old farm buildings, the original springs and tools inherited from previous generations still in use) is fully committed to sustainability and sources 100 percent of the fruit used in its preserves locally.
- Biltmore Wine: Christmas at Biltmore® Wine 2020 Bundle
- An enduring legacy of America’s Gilded Age, Biltmore is the 250-room grand vision of George W. Vanderbilt and America’s Largest Home. Christmas comes naturally here, as the Vanderbilts welcomed their first guests to Biltmore on Christmas Eve 1895. Adding to its accolades, the estate’s winery is the most visited in the country.
- Cookbooks from Asheville Chefs:
- Get a taste of Asheville – and a test of kitchen skills – with one of these cookbooks straight from some of this food town’s favorite restaurants and chefs: James Beard-nominated Chef Elliot Moss’ “Buxton Hall Barbecue's Book of Smoke,” “12 Bones Smokehouse Cookbook” from owners Bryan and Angela King, Chef Shane Heavner and local food writer Mackensy Lunsford and James Beard-nominated Chef Katie Button’s “Cúrate: Authentic Spanish Food from an American Kitchen.”
- MAKER SPOTLIGHT: Kim Allen and Jillian Kelly left their fast-paced “big city life” in Chicago after vacationing in Asheville and falling in love with its vibe as an eccentric mountain metropolis. Born out of a passion for honey, a curiosity for bees, a love of cooking and a desire for community connection, Kim and Jillian opened Asheville Bee Charmer in 2014, became beekeepers, added a second downtown storefront in September 2019 and are working on a mead tasting bar.
- Diamond Brand Gear: Night Tripper
- Diamond Brand Gear’s storied history includes manufacturing the very first backpack for the Boy Scouts, as well as supplying the U.S. military in both World War I and World War II. The company continues to have a focus on reliability, innovation and a sustainable approach, as well as the well-being of its craftspeople and stewardship of natural resources.
- Eagles Nest Outfitters (ENO): Giving Back Hammock
- Known for easy-to-pack and adventure-ready hammocks, this company has expanded its product line of outdoor relaxation gear and continues to embrace sustainability (see maker spotlight below).
- Blue Ridge Chair Works: The Blue Ridge Chair
- This local company produces beautiful, comfortable and portable outdoor furniture using clever design, thoughtful details and the highest-quality materials available, while also embracing the heritage of Southern Appalachian craftsmanship.
- Hunter Banks Fly Fishing: Hunter Banks Clouser Minnow Fly
- Western North Carolina's original, full-service fly-fishing outfitter, Hunter Banks has quite the shop inventory (both at its downtown Asheville location and online), as well as guided fly-fishing trips and instructional programming. The business has several employees that tie patterns for fishing flies in-house.
- MAKER SPOTLIGHT: Started by brothers Peter and Paul Pinholster in the summer of 1999, Eagles Nest Outfitters has grown exponentially from a grassroots company operating out of a van and selling hammocks at music festivals to one that pushes the envelope with innovative products, designing and patenting the very first knotless hammock-suspension system. ENO continues to follow start-to-finish sustainability practices and support organizations that help protect and preserve the environment.
WELLNESS & PERSONAL CARE
- C&Co. Handcrafted Skincare: Basic to Basics | Lavender Gift Set
- Christi Apodaca created this skincare company to provide nontoxic, luxurious products through a chemistry and plant-based approach, with a passion for the purity of the ingredients used in the small-batch production.
- Brother Nature Beards: Holiday Sample Pack | Beard Balm & Oil
- All-natural and organic ingredients, including a touch of locally sourced honey and beeswax from the Blue Ridge Mountains, go into Brother Nature Beards’ line of beard-care products (balms, butters and oils).
- Franny's Farmacy: Hemp Healing Salve
- Franny’s Farm in nearby Leicester, an operation focused on hemp production, expanded in 2018 with the first Franny’s Farmacy Dispensary in downtown Asheville (with franchise locations now opening in multiple states). The business is dedicated to offering traceable, “seed-to-shelf” hemp and CBD health products.
- Wake Foot Sanctuary: Natural Bath Salt
- Wake Foot Sanctuary opened its original location in downtown Asheville and provides warm, luxurious foot soaks accompanied by massage add-ons and tea service. Every soak is handmade using apothecary products, soaps, pure essential oils and salts, and the spa also features a gift shop with curated items.
- Asheville Salt Cave: At-Home Self-Care Package
- The Asheville Salt Cave – with massage, energy healing and therapeutic sessions in a Himalayan salt room – recently moved to a new location that offers two caves. On the horizon are plans to introduce Hammam (Turkish bath) services.
- Cleaster Cotton: Bam Bone Yoga Mat
- Cleaster Cotton is a Nubian American contemporary primitive painter and photographer who was born into a large, tight-knit family and raised by Southern parents in the heart of Brooklyn, New York. Her studio is in Asheville's River Arts District. She features a whole line of lifestyle goods with designs based on her paintings.
- MAKER SPOTLIGHT: Frances “Franny” Tacy, of Franny’s Farm and Franny’s Farmacy, has degrees and work experience in forestry, education and pharmaceuticals and became the first female hemp farmer in North Carolina in over 75 years in 2017 when she planted varieties for food and fiber and soon pivoted to CBD. She continues to use her voice to amplify and lift up other women interested in delving into the industry.
SUBSCRIPTION & GIFT BOXES
- Cultivated Cocktails: The Crafty Cultivator Box
- Formerly H&H Distillery, Cultivated Cocktails is a family-owned-and-operated small-batch distillery by Asheville natives. In addition to tours and tastings, its downtown location includes a shop selling spirits, “home bar” goods, mixers and more to create the perfect cocktail.
- Asheville Tea Company: Monthly Subscription Box
- Asheville Tea Company works with regional farmers to blend vibrant, fresh teas with unique flavor experiences, highlighting local botanicals and ingredients. The company just launched a new line of farm-to-teacup craft teas in eco-friendly packaging, inspired by Asheville adventures and telling the stories of the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains.
- Asheville Goods: Beer City Gift Box
- Asheville Goods handpicks a selection of local artisanal products, offering a variety of curated gift boxes containing Asheville-made goodies based on various themes.
- Cúrate Spanish Wine Club
- After years of leading trips to Spain, creating award-winning wine lists and building relationships with wineries and importers, Chef Katie Button (of Cúrate and La Bodega by Cúrate) and husband and beverage curator, Felix Meana, have just launched their Cúrate Spanish Wine Club. Members will receive three bottles monthly, discounts on wines available in their online store and a newsletter with recipes and pairing ideas.
- South Slope Coffee: Three 12-Ounce Bags Per Month Subscription
- Started by a husband-and-wife team and natives of Venezuela who relocated to Asheville in 2017, this company in Asheville’s South Slope district celebrates the beautiful journey of coffee. They purchase sustainable, traceable and environmentally sound green coffee beans from around the world and roast them in such a way as to highlight their best natural flavors.
- MAKER SPOTLIGHT: Jessie Dean, mother of two and an outdoor enthusiast with a professional background in health and wellness, combined her passion for tea, her love for local, farm-to-table products and her knowledge of farming in North Carolina to launch Asheville Tea Company in the fall of 2016. She takes her cues from what is in season and what can be grown in this region to create the company's blends. Jessie has grown the company over the years with an expanded presence, an ever-growing selection of trademark and seasonal flavors and partnerships with local businesses.
- Surrounded by the highest peaks in the Eastern U.S., Asheville is steeped in natural history, winter adventure and cultural legacies—including America’s Largest Home, Biltmore, and America’s favorite scenic drive, the Blue Ridge Parkway (which intersects Asheville at several points).
- Tucked away in the peaks of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville is located in the middle of the Eastern Seaboard (though about as far from salt water as you can get and still meet that definition) and is roughly a day’s drive or less for 50 percent of the nation’s population.
- Asheville and the surrounding Buncombe County is committed to the adherence to safety guidelines during the pandemic. Downtown kiosks remind visitors that North Carolina requires masks indoors and outside, including sidewalks when social distance cannot be maintained. Information on the safety actions of local businesses and shared responsibility of visitors can be found via the “Asheville Cares Stay Safe Pledge.”