Against the Grain 8

Asheville Hardware Tells Wooden Stories

Take a stroll down Buxton Avenue on South Slope, and you’re guaranteed a few sights: tourists glugging Asheville brews, a gaggle of hipsters, and a small crowd of gawkers gathered around a certain storefront. That storefront is Asheville Hardware.

The industrial chic facade beckons to passerby; greyed brick, metalled signage and hardy garage doors serve as humble backdrop for the true star. Visible just inside those unpretentious walls are rows upon rows of wood: honeyed hues that seem to shine from within; lumber glossed with lacquer or raw with textured bark; thick slabs of fresh-cut wood and weathered slats slated side-by-side. It’s a vision that calls to the inner woodworker within us all, novice and master alike.

“We supply inspirational lumber,” says Dan Kostin, Operations Manager of Asheville Hardware. From the densely barked and odiferous slabs of local fresh cuts to patinaed and historied planks pulled from dilapidated farm buildings, the wood in Asheville Hardware is inspirational indeed.

But it wasn’t always that way. Originally housed up the hill on Broadway (in the same spot Wicked Weed now calls home), Asheville Hardware began its story as, well, a hardware store. “When Asheville Hardware opened its doors in 2007, we wanted to be a local resource for contractors, woodworkers and homeowners alike,” remembers Kostin. “By 2010, it became clear that, above all, the one thing that each of these communities had in common was the appreciation for wood.” The business shifted subtly and steadily toward wood and woodworking, sliding down the hill to their current 12,000 square foot space in South Slope and simultaneously unveiling and igniting Ashevillians’ passion for wood.

Although “Asheville Woodware” doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, that’s essentially what Asheville Hardware is these days. Given the simultaneously sustainable and artistic nature of Asheville and her residents, it’s no surprise that local wood is the company’s most popular commodity. “A closer look might reveal a more complex and dialectical relationship between the community at large, the natural resources surrounding it, the values guiding the community in its direct interaction with its own natural resources, and ultimately, the aesthetic outcome of that interplay.” It’s a unique type of symbiosis only Asheville could foster. “The wood has a story to tell; there are skilled artisan [here to] tell that story through their craft; and there is a community of craft aficionados eager to hear and see that tale.”

Although we love the heady scent of fresh lumber, what appeals to our old-soul hearts most at Asheville Hardware is their selection of refurbished and rescued lumber. The ancient mountains surrounding Asheville are dotted with aged edifices: sagging porches, crumbling barns, slumped outbuildings. “As certain areas shift away from their agricultural pasts, some structures find themselves with little or no use or value to the landowner,” notes Kostin. 
“If the structural components of the barn or building are sound, someone may choose to deconstruct the building in order to reclaim the lumber.” Or to showcase and sell at Asheville Hardware.

There’s a certain nostalgic appeal to those weathered woods, each grain and splinter invested with a piece of history and someone else’s story. “Every so often we are lucky to get some historical background about the barnwood we receive,” says Kostin. “For example, our last large lot came from the Swan Ponds Farm in Morganton, NC. It was the largest milk cow barn in Burke County built in 1909. Another memorable lot came from a 1840s plantation home in upstate South Carolina. This wood is enriched with its own storied past.”

That’s the kind of past more and more people want a piece of. From Joanna Gaines’ beloved shiplap to shabby chic lines at department stores, that weathered and warm look is becoming more and more popular in design choices. But the authentic, storied pieces available at Asheville Hardware are so much more appealing than some big-box knockoff. “When barnwood is used well, it tells a story. It appeals to the nostalgia of an earlier and simpler aesthetic while providing the satisfaction of a sustainable and responsible use of recycled raw materials,” explains Kostin. “It is unpretentious yet authoritative; rustic yet contemporary. Each board is a little piece of history.”

But isn’t every slat of wood a little piece of history, a grained marker of the passing of time? Every piece of wood in Asheville Hardware—refurbished or fresh-cut—tells its own story and, if you’re lucky, maybe a piece of your story, too.