Written by Daniel Walton | Photos by Anthony Harden
Flights of fancy in the analog world is the name of the game for this family business.
The Dancing Bear Toys store on Kenilworth Road in Asheville preserves the first money ever earned at the location under the glass of its “toy bar.” Beneath the copies of Codenames and colorful building sets, there rests a dollar bill scrawled over with signatures and a shining, carefully arranged pyramid of heads-up quarters. But beside that cash sits the reason the toy bar is usually covered with boxes for playthings: a collection of business cards bearing the owl logo of the risqué restaurant chain, Hooters.
“You’ll know we’re in trouble when we start taking up the lid of the bar to get more money,” deadpans Dave Evers. He and his family appreciate the irony in transforming a former adult playground into a child’s paradise, but the move made sense. Since buying the toy store in 1993, the Evers family has grown Dancing Bear into a Western North Carolina institution. After opening a second store in Hendersonville in 1997, the family significantly expanded their Asheville business when the old Hooters location became available in 2013. The new space offered over three times the room as their former storefront, which was located just down the hill on nearby Tunnel Road.
As large toy purveyors such as Toys “R” Us and KB Toys have filed for bankruptcy and internet shopping has transformed the retail landscape, Dancing Bear has found a new old-fashioned way to thrive. By combining a philosophy of personal service and imaginative play with the best practices of modern sellers, the Evers have delighted children of all ages for nearly 25 years. And at the heart of it all is what Sarah Evers calls “an upside-down family business.”
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