In novels and movies, the neighborhood grocer is a familiar character. In February, Asheville welcomes two new specialty foods stores whose proprietors hope to be real-life community shopkeepers.
During the first week of February, chef Brian Ross will open Dough on Merrimon Avenue. On Tuesday, Feb. 12, he's throwing a grand opening party. And in Woodfin, a few miles up the road in the Reynolds Village development, Livi's Pantry will open quietly around Wednesday, Feb. 6, says owner Missy Culver.
Both Culver and Ross know their neighborhood. Culver, who co-founded Luella's in 2007, lives in one of the lofts above her new store. “I like the idea of a walking community where you live, work and shop in the same spot,” she says. “It's easy.”
Livi's Pantry stocks an array of natural foods and home supplies in addition to gourmet items, beer, wine and local products. “I sort of picture it as a combination between a convenience store and a natural foods store,” Culver says. “People will be able to get their eggs and their milk and also some specialty cheese, wine and toilet paper if they need it.”
Self-serve coffee and tea as well as house-made grab-and-go meals, soups and sandwiches will all be available for take-out or dine-in. The shop includes a cozy lounge with sofas and Wi-Fi as well as a few café tables.
Dough has a similar model. The layout includes space for shoppers and diners,. Sandwiches on house-made bread and other light fare, as well as draft beer, are available to eat on the spot. Shoppers will find plenty to keep them busy, including specialty flours, cured meats, fresh seafood, prepared foods from the large kitchen, pastries and imports.
Ross lives just down the street from his new shop, so despite all its modern architectural flare — the polished-concrete floors, wall-to-wall windows and jauntily angled roof — there's an old-school quality to Dough. Ross hopes to nurture that feeling with an emphasis on service, cooking classes, group dinners and special-order products.
He plans to cultivate both a slow-paced shopping experience and a bit of bakery buzz. “We'll be baking in the oven all day long, and you can see people working there,” he says.
Dough is also a casual cooking school. Ross, formerly a chef at the Biltmore Estate and the Richmond Hill Inn as well as an instructor at L'Academie de Cuisine, will teach classes on technical topics, such as knife skills and pickling, as well as recipe-based sessions that focus on soups, seafood, pizza and chocolate desserts.
Ross got his start in just such a cooking school, where he washed dishes in exchange for the chance to listen-in on classes. He hopes to set up a similar program at Dough, in which volunteers would work in exchange for vouchers for merchandise and instruction. “You never know: we could have a volunteer that turns out to be the next [big thing],” he says.
Dough, 37 Merrimon Ave., will be open seven days a week. For more information, visit doughasheville.com or see the store's Facebook page. Livi's Pantry, 41 N. Merrimon Ave., will open Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. For more information, visit livispantry.com or the shop's Facebook page.