Asheville – Small business is big business in Asheville. 2016 numbers from the Asheville Chamber of Commerce project that 95% of the city’s businesses have fewer than 50 employees and 86% have fewer than 20. Protests accompany any chain store opening in downtown Asheville. In 2015, an Anthropologie opening on North Lexington Avenue was met with 50 protesters carrying signs saying “UnChain Asheville” and “Keep Asheville Weird.”
The lack of corporate backing that Asheville stores and restaurants are famous for may be their downfall. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to rattle the city’s small business community, as business after business closes permanently.
Asheville businesses close
Well Played Board Game Café is the latest to announce its closure on October 26th.
“Like most small businesses, it’s been an incredibly challenging year for us,” Well Played Board Game Café co-founder Cortland Mercer posted on Facebook. “We navigated the early days of mandated closure and quarantine…and a complete business pivot to add board game rentals–all while trying to keep our staff employed, our customers entertained, and our community safe. Through it all we’ve had amazing support from people and organizations throughout Asheville.”
Many businesses are closing around the six-month mark of the pandemic as debt piles up, with no clear end to the lockdown. Some are pushing for the Senate to approve The Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act (Heroes Act). Following the bill’s passage in the House, Republican senators have called the $1.13 trillion package “unrealistic” and a “partisan offering.”
On September 28th, House Democrats introduced an updated version of the Heroes Act. Added legislation includes support for small businesses through “providing hard-hit businesses with second loans and delivering targeted assistance for the struggling restaurant industry and independent live venue operators.”
Asheville resident Tony Strickland asked local congressional candidates how they plan to ensure that small businesses get financial assistance to keep afloat. Strickland expressed disdain that the majority of relief funds in the past months have gone to larger businesses that may need the money less than mom-and-pop establishments.