Having lived in Asheville for the last 8 years and been a part of this wonderful community for so long, it is with a bit of heartache that I deliver this news: by June 30th of this year of 2011, Blue Barnhouse will be relocated to my hometown of Wilmington, North Carolina.
Below are my feelings about my time here in Asheville, but if you want to skip to the "why" and "what it means for the immediate future" and "what kind of events will you be having before you leave," click here.
I remember the day I first came to Asheville to scout out a new home for Blue Barnhouse. It was early September of 2003, my son Toby was almost 2 years old. I moved here from San Francisco, and arrived dressed in shorts with a T-shirt and a hoodie. I remember a chilly wind coming in as dusk settled and being like "Holy shit it's cold up here." Soon a house in West Asheville was procured, my fledgling letterpress shop was run in the basement, we made many wonderful friends and started sinking our roots into the community.
The original members of the Blue Barnhouse Asheville crew pose at a rocking party in our studio basement.
Alot has happened since we carved our niche in this little mountain town--Blue Barnhouse has seen alot of growth and many transformations as a business, and we've had the pleasure to work with so many people (mostly artists & writers from both local and abroad) who have been a part of our very talented crew.
This was the original studio. It's changed about a million times since then.
In 2005 we partnered with Bookworks to buy 428 Haywood Rd and our studio settled into the sweet little niche of stores that were popping up on the east side of I-240. Back then there was practically nothing in that area in terms of shopping and dining- I believe it was Harvest Records, Ship to Shore, Bookworks, Blue Barnhouse, & the Gas Up (I should also mention the B&B Pharmacy and Image420.) There was alot of crime happening when we first settled in, hookers and drug dealers were working the corners, cars got broken into, I watched arrests happen from my store window at least once a week. But in a very short time the east side of West Asheville was cleaned up and beautified, and soon the sidewalks were populated by young baby carriage pushing folk; slowly but surely more businesses that the area was starving for started popping up. We now have our own little island of great shops, bars, and restaurants--and most importantly: Izzy's coffee! It's amazing that this little neighborhood has turned into a slice of walkable heaven in such a short time.
This BBH classic is one of the 50 original card designs we made for Bele Chere.
It was in the summer of 2006 that BBH was generously offered a free booth at the Bele Chere festival- something that changed our business in a really dramatic way. We didn't have anything to sell, so we decided to make some greeting cards. I think we were pretty wasted when we came up with the card designs, trying to make each other laugh-- we weren't trying to make normal greeting cards, we didn't really know anything about them.
Once we set up our booth and put out the cards, we were cracking up the card browsers all day long. The never-ending laugh fest was a street festival phenomenon best described by one of our minions as being "like a mini-show at the Apollo every fifteen minutes." We sold a lot of cards.
To our surprise, our amateur foray into selling these cards wholesale to boutiques and stationery stores was met with instant success. Since our debut at Bele Chere we have produced more than 400 products, we've been in more than 20 trade shows in 6 different cities, we work with 17 sales reps, and we are carried in more than 400 stores in the U.S. and Canada. In these 5 years we have sold hundreds of thousands of cards and probably have 3 times that number in stock, and every single one of them was printed by hand.
This was dumb luck. Not my plan. I feel like it was part of the entrepreneurial zeitgeist that was happening in this neighborhood and the more localized zeitgest that happened within the walls of this studio, where writers and artists could have fun, joke around, create shit, and actually make a living at it. This is all we do now, and it's hard work but we have a good time doing it.
I am really thankful for the people who worked so diligently to get this greeting card machine moving, there are too many of you for me to even attempt to count. I am thankful for the huge amount of support and love we have received from the city of Asheville and the community of West Asheville in particular. I'm pretty sure Blue Barnhouse couldn't have happened the way it did at any other time or in any other place. And for that I owe Asheville everything. Thank you, Asheville. Thank you, thank you, thank you, from the bottom of my heart.
brandon & the kids at blue barnhouse
*I wanted to keep my letter to Asheville in its own post. Read on for details about what's happening at Blue Barnhouse in the immediate future.
**If you want to relive how we spent our time here in Asheville, you should poke around this blog, and you can check out our flickr account for pictures of our Asheville adventure.