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Ask Matt ... what's up with these vacant buildings


Q. I have noticed a lot of vacant buildings around the county such as Bon Worth on Francis Road have been vacant for some time. What is going on with these?

  My crack team of property sleuths hit the streets to come up with 10 mostly empty former commercial or industrial buildings. Here is our report.

  1. The bright white Bon Worth building sits high on an eight-acre site on Francis Road easily visible from U.S. 64 East. It has been empty for years but is listed online as an available industrial site although the land is zoned commercial. The 100,000-square-foot. building was once a bustling clothing factory and retail outlet. Old buildings have limited appeal. Brittany Brady, president of the Henderson County Partnership for Economic Development, said that in selecting industrial sites, client needs and the market drive what ultimately happens. Bon Worth is 50 years old. “With so many newer buildings coming online, tenants are often drawn to those,” she said.

  In the mid-1960s Hendersonville native Loren Wells started a women’s clothing empire from the ground up. Bon Worth, known for catering to women over 50, once boasted 300 retail outlets. Shoppers couldn’t get enough of shops’ polyester stretch pants. Wells sold the business in 2013 but it went into bankruptcy six years later. Wells died in 2018 at age 76.

  2. Poplar Lodge at 2550 Hebron Road in Laurel Park was once the restaurant of choice for locals but it closed in 2009 in the depths of the Great Recession. Built in the early 1900s and nestled snugly on Davis Mountain, Poplar Lodge has a stone exterior accented by a long front porch. Today the building is showing signs of deterioration, reflected in county tax records that show that the property has lost a third of its value since the day the restaurant closed. A sign on the property says “for lease – commercial.” We were unable to get a statement from owner Bob Quattlebaum to answer what he thinks the future is of a restaurant that could seat 175 and once had a world class salad bar. With servers and cooks in short supply these days, finding a new tenant may be next to impossible.

  3. The sprawling concrete block Pardee Home Care building at 2029 Asheville Highway was built in 1962 probably as a textile mill. It was later to become the home of Mother Earth News magazine. Former editor Mary Jo Padgett spent six years in the building ending in 1986 when the publication, which once had a million subscribers, was sold. Padgett said the building had a print operation and offices for research and development, marketing and business. Pardee Hospital acquired the building in 1997. Laura Lyda, Pardee Home Care manager, worked there for 25 years until the hospital moved the home care department to a newer facility near the BRCC campus. “I remember that our building was once home to Ruth’s Originals, a cut-and-sew operation, and later there was a body shop downstairs and a carpet company upstairs,” she said. “We had more space than we needed.” Lyda applauded the move to the smaller College Drive offices. “That old building needs major work,” she said. The 31,372-square-foot building has been empty now for about two years. Pardee officials said the hospital has no immediate plans for selling or reusing the building.

 4. Heritage Mall at 212 South Church Street was once home to at least three eateries, a karaoke bar and a nest of small shops. Today only two small business tenants remain in the 85-year-old brick building across from Wells Fargo Bank. “Stuart Rubin wouldn’t sell us the building so we moved to Seventh Avenue so we could own our own place,” said Melody Crawford, who owns Two Guys Pizza. “It was a great building, although it needed some love.” Crawford added that the building has a ghost. “She’s a 1920s lady in a white flowing gown. We think some bad things happened to her,” Crawford said. “We even had her verified by a medium — she’s real.” On Sept. 1, 2020, the Stuart Rubin Trust sold the Heritage Mall plus 20 other mostly downtown properties to buyer HVL Property Holdings LLC. The sale price was about $13 million and the transfer tax alone was $26,258 — a nice payday for the county. “It was the largest property transaction I’ve seen in the eight years I’ve been here,” said Lee King, Henderson County’s Register of Deeds. Some of the other properties in that sale included Never Blue, Renzo’s, Badcock Furniture, the Dugout Taproom and Grill, and the now empty Jane Asher Antiques. Brendan Lynch, who represents the Delray Beach, Florida, owners, said they have “big plans” for the Heritage Mall but are not ready to reveal them.

  5. Every day some 20,000 vehicles pass by the red, white and green Krispy Kreme restaurant at 1911 Four Seasons Blvd. What they don’t see is the shop’s name or its hard-to-resist promo of “Hot Donuts Now.” The restaurant and coffee shop renowned for those hot glazed treats closed last year. The property is owned by Bub Hyder and his company said it anticipates a new tenant in the building with a “recognizable name” in six to eight months. Hyder has had purchase offers but prefers to lease. Founded and still headquartered in Winston-Salem, Krispy Kreme, which operates 1,400 properties around the world, lately has been closing underperforming stores.

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