From Used Cars to Brew Pubs: The Changing Face of Coxe Avenue

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Sears Roebuck & Company, 40 Coxe Avenue, Photo by M. Rosenberg circa 1948. NC Collection Pack Memorial Library

E.W. Grove ‘moved a mountain’ to build the “New” Battery Park Hotel and the Grove Arcade. The mountain of dirt filled a gully running south of Patton Avenue to Southside. The newly named Coxe Street first appeared in the City Directory of 1923.

The following year the street name was changed to Coxe Avenue. The only addresses in the City Directory were for E.W. Grove Investments, the Mountain City Laundry, and Leander Smart. And none of the three had any number until 1925. The laundry was at 207-13 and Mr. Smart lived at 37 approximately where there is now a small parking lot.

The following year the street name was changed to Coxe Avenue. The only addresses in the City Directory were for E.W. Grove Investments, the Mountain City Laundry, and Leander Smart. And none of the three had any number until 1925. The laundry was at 207-13 and Mr. Smart lived at 37 approximately where there is now a small parking lot.

Grove’s vision of the future acknowledged the growing importance of the automobile on city life. The width of the new street was wider than the old, narrower city streets of downtown and easily accommodated parking on both sides of the street.

By 1926 nine new businesses on Coxe Avenue were auto-centric: Webb Motor Company, B&B Motor Company, Standard Oil Company (a filling station) and Sawyer Motors. Mountain Laundry was still in business. Car sales required some legal work so P.M. Wilson’s notary office located there as well. Today’s businesses on Coxe Avenue are a mix of breweries, restaurants, and a growing number of galleries and art spaces. A couple of the old auto dealership buildings have been converted into living spaces.

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Asheville Citizen Times, 1936

By 1936 there were 18 auto related businesses as well as the Handy Sandwich Shop on Coxe. In 1946 the stark cream and red Greyhound Bus Station dominated the upper end of the avenue where the post office stands today. There were 24 auto-related businesses on the street. A modern Sears Roebuck store was built in 1948 opposite the now vanished bus station where the post office stands today.

The postwar 1950’s were boom years on Coxe. Conveniently located loan offices and insurance companies were added to the mix. The Tiny Tavern opened on Coxe in the early part of the decade, which would fit right in alongside today’s business model. In 1956 the peak number of 32 auto-centric businesses were operating. Two new car lots opened specializing in the lucrative used car trade.

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From left to right:1955 Chevrolet, VW, 1957 Ford, 1956 Ford, and 1955 Chevrolet. 1958 calendar business card for Robinson Bros. Motor Co., NC Collection. 

Robinson Brothers Motor Company was located at 133-140 Coxe Avenue, conveniently near M & J Finance. Raleigh W. Robinson of Candler (and later Alexander) was president of the firm.

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Asheville Citizen Times,  May 1962

Robert Lee “Bob” Ledford began selling cars in 1952. He opened Bob Ledford’s Used Cars, Incorporated at 185 Coxe Avenue in 1956 just down the street from Robinson Brothers. In tune with the times his catch phrase was in every advertisement. In the early 1960’s Bob Ledford’s Jamboree appeared on WLOS. It was a must see between 5 and 6 pm on Saturdays. The popular show—featuring local talent—was viewed in several neighboring states expanding his advertising reach.

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Front row 1958 Chevrolet, 1956 Ford. 1958 Cadillac, 1957 Ford, and 1956 and 1958 Thunderbirds. The back row is populated with cars from the early 1950’s. 1959 calendar business card, NC Collection

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Asheville Citizen Times, 1964

Starting in the mid-60’s auto businesses began deserting Coxe Avenue. In 1986 there were only 16 and in 1996 a scant 11. Ledford moved his business and sold mobile homes at 1186 Patton Avenue in 1975. About the same time Asheville’s third Ingles was built on the corner. In the early 1980’s he diversified into RV sales and moved further out Leicester Highway with an RV and Marine sales lot across from Eliada Home where a shopping center now stands.

100 years from now it makes one wonder if Asheville’s citizenry will bemoan the disappearance of breweries, distilleries, and other businesses as the street-scape on Coxe inexorably evolves.

 

Posted by Terry Taylor, Friends of the NC Room board member

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