For some time now I’ve been trying to include items in my collection which came from local stores. By local, I mean Western North Carolina, but mainly the fashion center, Asheville. From its early days as a tourist destination, Asheville has been thought of as a fashionable place, not because the local people were particularly fashionable, but because of all the visitors who came to town with their big city wardrobes.
But from the turn of the 20th century there were more than just dry goods stores in Asheville. Probably the earliest fashionable store was what became Bon Marche.
I can remember what was the last location of Bon Marche in downtown Asheville, but the location I was most familiar with was the Bon Marche located in what was a new idea when built in 1956, a strip shopping center. Called Westgate, at that time it really was at the gateway to downtown. Today, it is just one more bit of urban sprawl, but in the mid 1960s it was still novel.
Every Thursday my family piled in the car after school and work to travel the 20 miles to Asheville for our weekly shopping trip. We always ended up at Westgate because there was a Winn Dixie where Mama bought groceries. While she shopped, my brother and I were allowed to go wherever; just be back at the car by 8. When I was younger, most of the time was spent in the two “dime stores” at Westgate, or in the hobby shop, but as a preteen I discovered the delights of Bon Marche.
They had a great teen department, and the clothes of the mid 60s were so much fun. I found I could spend the entire time just looking and getting ideas for the clothes that I made for myself.
The above label comes from a circa 1957 suit, and I imagine the Resort Shop was gone by the time I “shopped” in the store. But its a nice reminder of one of my all-time favorite stores. Sadly, Bon Marche is no more.
The photos below are 2 postcards in my collection, both from around 1960. The top one plainly shows the sign and location of Bon Marche. The next one is enlarged and it more clearly shows the size of Westgate. The bottom postcard shows how undeveloped the surrounding area was at that time. Cross the bridge (now two bridges) and you were in Asheville. The land directly behind Westgate was bought and developed by Hilton Hotels as a resort and golf course in the 1970s.