Pandemic Portrait Project: A Beloved Downtown Asheville Landmark…

WNC Native & Award Winning, Professional Wedding & Family Portrait Photographer, based in Asheville, NC documents the living history of the families living in her community as well as the social and economic impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic in this popular tourism destination, nestled in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

I can still remember feeling so hip and cultured and…special when my mama brought me over the mountain to pick out a pair of shoes from Tops for Shoes in Downtown Asheville in the 1990’s. Coming from a small, rural town about 30 miles east of Asheville, it just felt so glamorous to drive into the ‘big city’ to get a ‘fancy’ new pair of shoes! I can remember returning to school and showing those shoes off to my classmates who also thought it was super rad that I got a pair of shoes from that big shoe store in Asheville!

Tops is a beloved downtown Asheville landmark that’s been around for 60 years!!! Tourists, Locals, Celebrities, touring Comedians and Musicians alike LOVE this place. We all hear the whispers in the streets whenever a famous movie star or musician visits Asheville and they’re always seen trying on shoes Tops for Shoes! Locals tend to steer away from a crowded downtown during peak tourist seasons — which is every season now-a-days but we will all head into downtown for a trip to TOPS #amiright !?!?

As part of my Pandemic Portrait Project, I had the opportunity to photograph Alex Carr and his wife, Lauren a couple weeks ago outside of their neighboring shops downtown and I got to speak with them a little about how this COVID-19 Crisis has affected their downtown small businesses and Alex and I chatted a little about how the affects of this crisis will ripple and will continue to affect his (3rd generation) local, family owned business years after “this is all over”….

During our conversation, I learned about some of the logistics of owning a small business, with employees, in downtown Asheville. There’s the employees to think about first and foremost, who even when the shop is allowed to re-open (by the way, they re-opend this past Saturday!!!) business will obviously be much slower for a while, with all that tourist traffic gone and people unsure of when or how to emerge from their homes to support our local businesses again… slower business means, not enough hours for employees who because they’re technically “working” again are no longer eligible for unemployment, despite fewer hours because of slower business… see where I’m going with this!? Then there’s the issue of the huge investment tied up in all those shoes that Alex and his team need to move!

So what can we do to support this beloved Asheville institution during these hard times!???

We can make the trip downtown (while the streets are empty & parking is plentiful) and buy a pair of spring/summer shoes!!! Hell, buy a pair for the whole family! 😉 As a community, we LOVE this store, clearly. It’s been here for 60 years…Obviously, we love this store. They opened their doors this past Saturday (with proper social distancing / safety measures in place) so get on down there ASAP! I know I am headed there this week for a pair of these beauties (as seen on their instagram!) LOL 😉

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A note from Alex:

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Hi, I’m Alex Carr, the 3rd generation owner of Asheville’s Tops for Shoes. Our doors have been open since 1960, but like so many other downtown Asheville businesses, we’ve been forced to shut down due to this tragic pandemic. We’re currently doing everything we can to keep Tops for Shoes up and running as we navigate this time of crisis, and are determined to reopen our doors so we can continue to serve this community like we have for the last 60 years. You can support us at and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Please support your local businesses and let’s keep Asheville thriving!

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