Celebrating Black-Owned Businesses in Asheville, NC
By Aisha Adams
Nestled in the scenic Blue Ridge Mountains at the confluence of the French Broad and Swannanoa rivers, Asheville sits as the largest city in the most western part of North Carolina. Asheville is most known for its award-winning restaurants, eclectic style and surrounding lush forests.
But Asheville’s rich tapestry of Black culture has also shaped this unique community. We invite you to further experience Black Asheville by supporting – and visiting – Black-owned businesses in Asheville.
Learn more about some of these amazing entrepreneurs and their stories below.
Meet Asheville’s Cake Lady
Asheville Cake Lady is a local, Black-woman-owned custom cake shop whipping up southern desserts daily and customizing cakes for weddings, birthdays and any other events upon request.
A local baking class led founder and Asheville native Shana McDowell to a career in being one of Asheville's top cake creators. Already well-known in town for her “Shana’s Shortbread Cookies,” McDowell enrolled in the baking class to learn some new skills for designing her sweet treats. The instructor challenged her to work with cakes instead. Shana began handing out her cakes made in class each week to friends and family and pretty soon, her cakes were known across Asheville.
Indulge yourself with Shana’s freshly made banana pudding: a traditional version with Nilla wafers and another with her famous shortbread cookies which started it all. Or, snag one of her carrot cakes or signature Strawberry Crunch Cake – a three-layer cake with cheesecake in the center!
Visit: Open Tuesday-Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. with a variety of delicious desserts to meet your sweet treat needs. Also available daily at the WNC Farmer’s Market.
Visit Asheville’s First Black-Owned Coffee Shop
Located in Asheville’s River Arts District, Grind AVL is a coffee shop, event space and coworking space that uses coffee as a unifier to connect business owners to the greater Asheville community.
“Historically, coffee has brought individuals and cultures together,” explained J Hackett, co-owner of Grind AVL. “It has been the glue that pulled business colleagues to negotiation tables and friends to discussion tables. It's a warm reminder of the connection that comes when people exchange ideas and concepts.” Aside from serving coffee and delicious pastries, Grind AVL serves as an incubator and gathering space for Asheville’s Black Wall Street, an initiative to support Black entrepreneurs. Every Saturday, Grind hosts the Black Wall Street Marketplace where visitors can meet local Black entrepreneurs and discover a variety of specialty goods and services.
Inside Grind, you’ll uncover the history of Black businesses in Asheville through a montage of historical photos dating as far back as 1835. “We are a curator of the history of Black businesses here in Asheville,” Hackett said. “We have lots of pictures and references. You’ll be able to come here and see and hear stories.”
Visit: Open Monday – Saturday, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., and on Sundays, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Black Wall Street Marketplace occurs every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Get Pampered by Ms. Asheville 2016 at Asheville Pro Lash and Healing Spa
Asheville Pro Lash and Salon is owned and operated by the dynamic mother and daughter team of Trina Gragg-Jackson and Kahlani C. Jackson.
Trina, a beauty expert for more than 30 years, and daughter Kahlani, former Miss. Asheville 2016, teamed up to provide the local Asheville wellness scene a makeover. Their company Asheville Pro Lash and Healing Spa is the perfect place to relax and enjoy luxury spa services. Aside from salon services, they also offer manicures, pedicures, facials, waxing, lashes and much more in a beautiful environment. “We recognize that beauty isn’t just skin deep,” said Jackson. “We cater to the whole client. Aside from salon and spa services, we also offer licensed therapists who help our salon/spa clients maximize their full potential.”
Visit: Open Tuesday – Saturday, from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Call or book online to make reservations.
Connect with the Noir Collective on Asheville’s Historic Block
Noir Collective AVL is both a boutique shop and art gallery located in the historic Black business district referred to as The Block, previously home to more than 150 Black businesses in Asheville.
The collective is a network of wellness warriors, creative activists, social justice visionaries, cultural keepers and peace makers. Offerings include everything from skincare items like shea butter, soap and facial products to jewelry, clothing and original art, prints and cards – all designed or created by African Americans. Much like Grind AVL’s mission, Noir Collective is focused on bringing people together. Joy Maat, a collective member explains, “Noir Collective is more than a convenient shop for personal goods; it also serves as a culturally enriching gathering space to celebrate our past, the present and to strategize our future, especially economically.”
Visit: Open Wednesday – Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
To learn more about the history of Black Asheville, we invite you take a personalized Hood Tour with Hood Huggers International or check out Yourba Life to learn more about the 200+ Black businesses in Asheville.
Meet Local Artists and Counselors Heather & Ashley Tolbert
“I always thought that to help others or to help myself I had to speak up verbally; that verbally was the only way to be heard. I was wrong. My art is my voice.” Local artist Heather Tolbert, co-owner of From the Ashes Cultural Arts & Counseling, LLC, explains the inspiration behind the art on their healing-inspired merchandise. Sisters and founders, Heather and Ashley, are Licensed Clinical Addition Specialists, and their mission is to celebrate, educate and empower diverse people from all walks of life towards cultural pride and community unity through substance abuse counseling, facilitation,and the magic of art. Using an expressive red, black, green and yellow Phoenix, which traditionally symbolizes healing and transformation, as their logo, the pair sells shirts, bags and other locally-sourced souvenirs at Noir Collective, GRIND’s Black Wall Street Marketplace and other community markets. “I want to show that through expression you can find yourself and heal,” Ashley Tolbert explains.
Visit: You can find them at both GRIND’s Black Wall Street and at The Noir Collective.