Can you start a new business ( private cooking classes) in Asheville, nc
February 6, 2013 11:46 PM   Subscribe

I am considering moving to Asheville and hear a lot about how hard it is to make a living there and how over saturated it is already with entrepreneurs. I am in my mid 50's and have been a successful private chef who is now teaching cooking in various small schools and in private homes. I am not thrilled with the northeast weather and thought of Asheville as a relocation spot. Having just visited there it seemed there is a lot of food buzz going on- I know it's a "foodie" town and think I might be able to succeed there. I am concerned about the rising cost of buying a house in the area and that I could find enough work there. Any input?
posted by privatechef to Work & Money (16 answers total)
I have an acquaintance who recently relocated there, she's an entrepreneur also but has a full-time job at the moment. I'm not sure about the status of her business. If I recall correctly her partner is also an entrepreneur. Unfortunately I have no idea how well they're doing.

Here are a couple of links/organisations that hopefully can provide you with more information about entrepreneurship in Asheville:

Small Business Center Asheville
Asheville Chamber of Commerce- small businesses
Sperling's Best Places cost of living calculator
Cost of Living index (fee-based)

Good luck!
posted by faraasha at 3:18 AM on February 7, 2013

It's hard to make a living there, lots of people on food stamps right now. I'd link you to info, but I'm on my cell phone. Also, the weather in the mountains is the worst in the state. Dangerous driving in the winter if you don't have 4x4 drive, humid beyond all hell summers, and bad for your allergies most of the year. Teaching cooking classes is far more likely to succeed than being a private chef because the money mainly comes into Asheville through tourism.

You might consider visiting for a month before moving there just because I'm giving you this advice as a 23 year old who grew up in that area. I always say that Asheville is a fantastic place to visit, but a horrible place to live.
posted by oceanjesse at 6:30 AM on February 7, 2013

I read your other thread and seeing your thoughts on Texas also made me wonder about how great a fit Asheville would be for you. Not because Asheville isn't a liberal place, but because 20 minutes out of town on the way to Asheville from Chapel Hill, there's a giant North Carolina Tea Party bill board
posted by oceanjesse at 6:38 AM on February 7, 2013

Hi there, I have a close relative in Hendersonville, NC which is about 30 minutes away from Asheville. My concern with you moving to Asheville is that I'm not sure that the weather is dramatically different from Connecticut. They get snow, it gets cold. It might be less humid in the summer because of the mountains but I don't know for sure.

That said, the cost of living is definitely cheaper than in the northeast and the general ambiance of the area is different as well. It seems like a mix of young and old, northern and southern. My question is, who do you see as your potential customers? Do older folks moving to the area to retire take cooking classes? Do they cook? Tourists might take cooking classes but they're mostly interested in the Biltmore. If they did take a cooking class, they would likely want something like southern cooking. I don't know what kind of chef you are but I guess I'm saying that fancy French nine course meals did not seem that appealing to people.

I would definitely spend more time there before making a decision. I know lots of people who love the area but it's not for everyone. What about visiting for a month or so? I also don't see a huge reason to buy a house immediately - I'd encourage you to consider renting for a little while just to be sure it's a good fit before getting a mortgage.
posted by kat518 at 6:39 AM on February 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Have you thought about moving to a different country? Why not cater to tourists in the Caribbean for example.
posted by oceanjesse at 6:39 AM on February 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

I wouldn't start a new business, in a new town, without a very strong, existing network. I'd say that you might have better luck checking with restaurants as a "fill-in" chef, rather than starting your own business.

As I'm sure you're aware, lots of chefs are kind of flakey, and/or might want to take a week off to go on vacation. You could hire yourself out as a sub, giving you flexibility to work when you want to, and rest when you don't.

Or perhaps see if you can do catering or other jobs at the Biltmore (which might be more your thing.) This might be a spring-board to offer ad-hoc cooking classes/demonstrations on the side, perhaps as an activity through the Biltmore, which is something they do now.

I'd want to start out with a steady job, with a decent paycheck and perhaps benefits, once you've settled in, you can see about branching out and doing your own thing.

In the south you have to find and enjoy your pockets of liberalism. Asheville is as good a place as any for this. (I have Decatur, GA)

Asheville is known to be more expensive than other parts of NC, but it's a lot nicer than CT in the winter. That much, I know.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:51 AM on February 7, 2013

The Triangle area (Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill) also has a great food scene and much better job prospects. The weather is also much, much more temperate - I have a volunteer gig I do in the mountains every April and it always fascinates me how it is still winter there when we've had trees full of leaves here in Raleigh for a month already.
posted by something something at 7:22 AM on February 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Dangerous driving in the winter if you don't have 4x4 drive, humid beyond all hell summers

Wow, I grew up in Asheville too and hardly recognize this description (or others in this thread). We never even had AC, the summers were so mild (very little humidity), and cheered wildly at a dusting of snow because school would definitely be called off. Also, if OP is from Connecticut, spring will come plenty soon in Asheville... I live in NY now and they're at least a month ahead of us every year.

I know cost of living has gone way up and have no idea about starting a business there these days so won't comment on that. But just wanted to say that, climate-wise, I think Asheville would be a nice change from Connecticut. (Hello, Winter Storm Nemo!)
posted by torticat at 7:55 AM on February 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

One more thing, privatechef, if you would consider going back to being a private chef, or supplementing with that, I bet there would be a market. Asheville has lots of retirees and lots of wealth (in certain areas).
posted by torticat at 11:39 AM on February 7, 2013

Seconding the whole 'terrible winters and horrible humidity' being totally wrong. It's the best weather down there.
posted by greta simone at 12:38 PM on February 7, 2013

Maybe you should check out the Pinehurst area.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:57 PM on February 7, 2013

Best answer: You might be asking the wrong question. No, it is not mere semantics because you will never get the right answer to the wrong question.

It isn't, "Can I start a new business?" because if that's your real question then the answer is: you can absolutely start a new business, just about anywhere doing pretty much anything. Not much help, right?

However, if you were to ask, especially of yourself, "What will it take to start a successful (by your own definition) business doing X in Y location?" then you might start to feel the ideas flow.

That's just the start. Every answer should lead to many additional important questions.

Nobody here knows if you can be successful. Nobody knows what that means to you, except you. Only you know if you can do what it takes.
posted by trinity8-director at 8:18 PM on February 7, 2013

Best answer: I mentioned Greenville SC in your other thread. It's down the mountain from Asheville, and its re-vitalized downtown area is one of the best around. Cities and towns across the country come regularly to see how they did it and try to copy them. It's a vibrant place that's up and coming with restaurants and food being a big part of it. Its international population is significant.

It's close to Lakes Hartwell, Keowee and Jocassee and not that far away from Lakes Murray and Greenwood.

Check it out!
posted by JaneL at 10:50 PM on February 7, 2013

I know this might not be what you are looking for, but I would honestly whole-heartedly recommend Knoxville, Tennessee instead. It is (granted, maybe just in my opinion) up and coming, and there is a real dearth of quality food there, and probably a decent amount of demand if you poked around a little. I lived there for a summer in a shared house with roommates and paid $170/month. It is extremely affordable. It is also only two hours from Asheville, and I believe the weather is quite mild in the winter time. It's also got nearly equivalent cultural amenities. And, it's twice the size of Asheville with way less competition.
posted by likeatoaster at 12:51 PM on February 9, 2013

Response by poster: Thank you all for the responses! I am in a look and see mode at the moment and have always worked for myself so I know I would continue that no matter where I go. I cook healthy, organic, fresh food (not rich French) so I am lucky to be able to to be anywhere as this is the food of the moment.
I am with my husband who is in the marine business at the moment so he would need to reinvent himself as well. We are not so sure we both want to do this as we are in our 50's he is actually 60. We are not retiring type of people and have a lot of international traveling under our belt- we would love to be around a multi cultural scene.
It's not easy since we have already lived in all the big cities in USA and are ready for a large town now but want to be around a vibrant mix of things to do and people. But this winter thing is really too much. Great to visit but not for full time living.
So we are looking for a place where there is money so I can teach cooking- like here in Ct. There is enough affluence that people want to take classes and have that extra to spend on it.
We have considerd moving out of the country as he is Dutch so we can go anywhere in the EU and legally work. But things aren't so great there either.
This is the year to find a place and we would rent first anywhere we go before buying just like we are doing here. It's a process but seems to be quite overwhelming as well.
I will look into the Greenville area but am concerned about the demographic- isn't it very Southern in mentality?
posted by privatechef at 5:39 AM on February 14, 2013

I will look into the Greenville area but am concerned about the demographic- isn't it very Southern in mentality?

You say that like it's a bad thing! :)

But I don't think it's as Southern as it used to be. Too many people from somewhere else for that.
posted by JaneL at 8:57 PM on February 17, 2013

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