Grove Arcade: Asheville, NC’s Living Relic or Forgotten Gem?

The Historical Roots

Ah, the Grove Arcade. A name that evokes a sense of nostalgia for some and curiosity for others. Nestled in the heart of Asheville, North Carolina, this architectural marvel has seen the city evolve around it.

Edwin Wylie Grove, the man behind this iconic structure, envisioned creating a commercial hub that would stand the test of time. Grove, the renowned Grove Park Inn developer, saw the arcade as a cornerstone of Asheville’s commercial life in the 1930s.

However, the winds of change blew hard and fast. With the onset of World War II, the Grove Arcade closed its doors to the public in 1942. The government took over the building, and for many years, its grand halls and elegant shops remained inaccessible to the Asheville community. The arcade became a distant memory, its original purpose overshadowed by its role as a government facility.

But the city never forgot. By the 1970s, a groundswell of local support began to grow, advocating for the arcade’s return to its original commercial glory. After years of planning and extensive renovation, the Grove Arcade reopened in 2002. The city breathed a sigh of relief; a piece of its soul had been restored.

Grove Arcade: The Architecture

Walking into the Grove Arcade, one can’t help but notice the building’s unique architectural elements. Constructed on a slope, the arcade’s designers ingeniously followed the land’s natural topography. This design choice led to unique spaces and changing levels throughout the building, adding a sense of dynamism rarely seen in commercial structures.

The Grove Arcade is not just another building; it’s a symphony of architectural styles. From Gothic to Tudor, the arcade boasts a mix of several defined types that contribute to its unique charm. The marble halls and intricate detailing tell a story, a narrative of a city that values its history and the personalities who created it.

The renovation in 2002 was not merely cosmetic. It was a painstaking process aimed at preserving the essence of the arcade while making it functional for modern use. Today, the ground level bustles with galleries, shops, and restaurants, while the upper floors house offices and luxury apartments. The Grove Arcade has successfully married its historical past with the needs of today.

Grove Arcade
Grove Arcade” by JPott is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The Tenants – Shopping

The Grove Arcade is not just a building; it’s a community. The current tenants, especially those in the shopping sector, reflect this ethos. From sophisticated furniture stores to art installations, the arcade offers diverse shopping experiences. Their local origin sets these retailers apart; each hails from the mountain region, adding a unique Asheville flavor.

Art installations stand alongside American and Italian designer clothing, and locally crafted arts and crafts fill the spaces in between. The variety is not just in the types of stores but also in their products. It’s where one can find a piece of Asheville to take home, whether in a handcrafted trinket or sophisticated furniture.

But the Grove Arcade goes beyond the traditional indoor shopping experience. The outdoor Makers Market is open every day, rain or shine, offering another layer to the shopping experience. From handmade jewelry to local farm products, the market is a treasure trove of local craftsmanship.

Grove Arcade
Grove Arcade” by Frank Kehren is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The Tenants – Dining

If the shopping experience at the Grove Arcade is diverse, the dining options are nothing short of a culinary adventure. Known as Restaurant Row, this arcade section is a food lover’s paradise. The choices are endless, from slow-cooked Southern cuisine to bistro-style charcuterie and even grab-and-go shwarma.

Outdoor dining options add another layer to the experience. These spaces are not just about eating; they’re about immersing oneself in Downtown Asheville’s lively heart and culture. It’s a place where flavors and cultures mix, where every meal is an experience waiting to be discovered.

So, if someone is looking for a culinary journey that cannot be experienced in just one day, the Grove Arcade is the place to be. It’s not just about filling the stomach; it’s about enriching the soul with flavors that capture the essence of Asheville.

The Makers Market

The Makers Market is an integral part of the Grove Arcade experience. Located on the Battery Park end of the arcade, this outdoor bazaar is a haven for artisans. From handmade jewelry and paintings to musical instruments and local honey, the market offers a wide range of products that are as diverse as they are unique.

The market serves as a platform for local artisans to showcase their talents and sell their crafts directly to the public. It’s a place that captures the spirit of Asheville—a community that values creativity and supports local businesses.

Strolling through the Makers Market is like walking through the heart of Asheville. It’s an ideal place to find that perfect gift or to spend a day soaking in the local culture. The market is more than just a shopping destination; it reflects the community it serves.

The Current State and Public Perception

Recent news articles and public opinions about the Grove Arcade paint a picture of a building that has adapted to modern times. Introducing co-working spaces and hosting events like the inaugural Summer Festival show that the arcade is not just resting on its historical laurels but evolving.

However, the question remains: Is the Grove Arcade still relevant in today’s fast-paced world? The answer is a resounding yes. While some may argue that the arcade has seen better days, its ability to adapt and evolve proves it’s far from a dead mall. It’s a living, breathing part of Asheville that continues to capture the imagination of locals and visitors alike.

The Future Outlook

What does the future hold for the Grove Arcade? The arcade is looking ahead with upcoming events like the Roaring Twenties NYE Celebration and the introduction of new tenants. But challenges remain. The ever-changing retail landscape and the rise of online shopping threaten traditional commercial spaces like the Grove Arcade.

Grove Arcade, Asheville, NC
Grove Arcade, Asheville, NC” by w_lemay is licensed under CC CC0 1.0

Yet, if history is any indication, the Grove Arcade will find a way to adapt and thrive. It’s not just a building; it’s a symbol of Asheville’s resilience and creativity. The Grove Arcade will remain a cherished part of Asheville’s landscape as long as the community supports it.


The Grove Arcade is not just a relic of the past; it’s a testament to Asheville’s ability to honor its history while embracing the future. The arcade offers something for everyone, from its architectural grandeur to its diverse tenants and the vibrant Makers Market.

While challenging, the Grove Arcade stands as a symbol of community, resilience, and the enduring spirit of Asheville. So, stroll down its marble halls and become a part of its continuing story.

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