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David Mallett was a pioneer of the downtown Asheville revitalization, opening the Weinhaus at 86 Patton Avenue in 1977. It is Asheville’s oldest beer and wine store.
In 1985, after 8 years of operating the Weinhaus, David Mallett spoke to the Pen & Plate Club of Asheville, of which he was a member, about the current state of downtown Asheville and its buildings. His talk was called Uptown, Downtown, No Town. “Those of us who have lived in Asheville for a long time have witnessed the slow demise of the central downtown area. What was once the central hub of commerce, business and retailing of all sorts has slowly become an inventory of old buildings without tenants, or buildings with first floor shops but with the upper stories vacant.”
Turning to the state of the city’s old buildings, Mallet said,”Lack of elevators, escalators, and multiple exits and parking have doomed most older downtown buildings to a status whereby low rent is the only drawing power for tenants. Also, to complicate the matter, the building codes, as time passes, become not only stricter but vastly more expensive so that it becomes more costly to rehabilitate an older building than to acquire land and build from scratch . . .Yet the majority of the older buildings are soundly built with many, if not hundreds, of years of useful life ahead given the necessary improvements required to make them attractive to tenants.”
Visionary that he was, speaking over 30 years ago, Mallet surmised that, “By far the greatest power the city has is its control over building and renovations of older buildings. And it is this area wherein lies the greatest hope for an active downtown. The real solution for downtown is to either “out mall” the malls or to get people living downtown. . . Many of the nay-sayers will say “who would live downtown?” This is what the city needs and the city has the power to help make it happen. An active, “alive” downtown–not only from 9 A.M to 5 P.M.–but from early in the morning to very late at night is what we are talking about. Not only Monday through Friday, but seven days a week. Can you picture what would begin happening?”
Yes Mr. Mallet, we can picture that! Asheville is grateful to all of the pioneer entrepreneurs who invested their time, money and vision for helping our city to become a beautiful place to live.
David Mallett died November, 2015. The Weinhaus is now a third generation business, operated by David’s son Hunt Mallet and his son John Mallet.
The Pen & Plate Club began in Asheville in 1904. A description of the club as given by Dr. Charles L. Minor is: “The club is just what its title implies–a social body with gastronomic tastes, tinctured with literary aspirations; a monthly gathering of congenial and friendly spirits to discuss a good dinner and listen to the reading of a paper equally good.” The North Carolina Room, Pack Memorial Library maintains the Pen and Plate Club Collection of papers.
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Post by Zoe Rhine Librarian North Carolina Room