By Sandra Barnes
When customers walk into MTN Merch in Biltmore Village, a large, friendly dog ambles toward them with casual aplomb. Cash, a 140-pound Leonberger, is the PR person for the shop, said owner Greg Vaeth of his canine companion.
“He is a rock star dog,” he said.
If Cash is taking a break in between greetings, Vaeth always tells people coming into his store of the dog’s presence. As fond as he is of Cash, Vaeth knows that not everyone is a dog lover. And he wants customers to enjoy his shop that is filled with offerings of local and regional products.
Vaeth and his wife, Danielle, recently celebrated the two-year anniversary of the store they created to capture the spirit of Asheville.
“My wife and I started this business because we thought there was a niche,” Vaeth said. “We try to provide unique, creative products that have an Asheville vibe … We want to create an experience that is really cool.”
Looking around the displays in the shop, Vaeth points to the varieties of goods that are produced in the Asheville area and Western North Carolina. Among selections is pottery created by Cathey Chet, scenic photography by Stacy Redmon, sugar body scrubs crafted by Duana Foster and Franco’s FIREWALKER Hot Sauce, which is handmade in small batches.
MTN Merch also offers a large selection of T-shirts with local designs, as well as mugs, cups, soaps, shampoo, leather goods, spice blends and greeting cards. Jars of local honey stacked on tables include flavors of wild blackberry and sourwood.
His store is not just for tourists, Vaeth remarks.
“Most of our business is local. It’s connected to the community at a really high level,” he said.
“We do tons of business-to-business,” Vaeth adds. “We do products for everyone from breweries to charities to athletic stores and janitorial services.”
MTN Merch also sponsors and participates in local events such as the Brewgrass Festival and the Leaf Festival, Vaeth notes.
“Everyone is very locally oriented and supportive of local businesses,” Vaeth said. “They want their neighbor to succeed and do whatever they can to help make that happen.”
Like many others who come to Asheville, the beautiful mountains and outdoor recreational opportunities drew the Vaeths to the area.
“My wife and I hike, paddleboard, camp and backpack,” he said.
Cash also is an outdoors canine that accompanies the couple on 10-mile hikes and rides on a stand-up paddleboard.
Vaeth notes the changes in Asheville since he and his wife arrived several years ago.
“When we came, the market was crashing,” he said.
But now, the secret is out and the area is booming in terms of growth, Vaeth remarks.
“The Internet has exposed how great Asheville is,” he said.
The location of Asheville also has opened it up to tourism and growth, Vaeth adds. People can drive here in less than five hours from large metro areas such as Charlotte and Atlanta.
Vaeth grew up in Western New York state, but has lived all over the Eastern seaboard, he says. After the manufacturing company he was working for was sold, he and his wife moved to Asheville and decided to launch MTN Merch.
“There are a lot of transplants here, so it seems that it is an Asheville thing,” Vaeth said. “We all want to live here, and we are all proud to live here. That makes a huge difference in the hospitality that you will find here.”