We are kicking off our new "Crush" blog series this week. This series will feature shops, designers, makers and more that we admire. Check out our interview with Whist below!
Whist is a beacon of fun and design in West Asheville, making it one of our favorite shops. The selection of gifts and cards are to die for and Damond and Nora, the superstar husband and wife team behind Whist, are the most likable people you’ll ever meet. They are welcoming, friendly and bright, traits that come through in the selection offered by their playful shop.
Before Damond and Nora put down roots in Asheville, they ran a card and gift shop in Brooklyn, New York for 14 years. In 2013, they were ready for a change and headed South to Asheville to open up shop. They took a chance on the growing area of West Asheville, refurbishing a storefront on increasingly bustling and lively Haywood Road. (If you haven’t been here yet, drop what you are doing and go there now.)
Whist is a breath of fresh air. Each item is hand-selected and curated by Damond and Nora, who have a superior eye. They place importance on carrying a wide variety of unique, fun and thoughtfully designed items. This means that you are pretty much guaranteed to find the perfect gift for the writer, science geek, Eagle Scout, new mother, baby, what have you, in your life. There's also a chance that you'll leave with something for yourself.
Read more about Whist and Nora and Damond below.
Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself, your background, what you did prior to Whist.
Both of us were involved in theater before venturing into the retail world in 1999. At the time, Damond was stage manager for a Robert Wilson theater production in Italy and Nora worked on Broadway at Les Miserables as a dresser.
From 1999 until the summer of 2013, we had the card & gift shop Scaredy Kat in Park Slope, Brooklyn. After many wonderful years we decided it was time for a change, moving it all - home & business - to fabulous West Asheville! Whist opened in the fall of 2013 in our sunny space on Haywood Road.
Q: Why did you decide to start your own business and how did you define what that would be?
We initially opened our store in Brooklyn because Nora had always considered opening up a shop of some sort and we were both trying to figure out career paths other than theater or the corporate world (in which Damond was working part-time).
Whist is a continuation of that long-ago dream!
Q: What have been the biggest obstacles, or most difficult aspects of starting your own business?
With Whist, we’ve been discovering West Asheville’s needs & preferences, card & gift-giving wise, which is an interesting & fun challenge.
Q: What have been your biggest successes?
Really, meeting so many amazing people through our shop!
Q: What is the most valuable lesson(s) you've learned in life or your business journey?
To try to be true to our vision without being blind of other possibilities.
Q: Where do you go for inspiration or trends? Any go-to blogs, websites, stores, or Instagram feeds?
We get inspiration from all around us. There is so much happening visually in Asheville; it’s hard not to be inspired here! Also, because there’s always something beautiful & inspiring from our card & wrap companies, it’s hard to hold back from buying everything!
Q: What's the best advice you've ever received?
Nora: “Have a partner in business. It makes everything so much easier.” Advice from partner & husband Damond!
Damond: “Have a partner in business. There is always someone else to blame.” Advice from partner and wife Nora!
Q: What are your current favorite shop pieces?
We love the 7 Ton mountain view prints we have now in the shop! We're also taken with Seltzer Goods’ ‘Bear Keytar’ tote bag & Kamibashi’s ‘Cleanalina’ String Doll (she’s Nora’s cleaning muse!). Also, we can’t fail to mention our exclusive Asheville jigsaw puzzles (that Damond designed!).
Q: Any favorite Asheville makers, shops, restaurants, bars, etc. right now?
So many choices! The fabulous shops and restaurants within walking distance of Whist: Flora, Get It Kitten, Rhetorical Factory, Harvest Records, King Daddy's and The Walk, The DeSoto, as well as so many others. Horse and Hero downtown is a favorite - it's a great place to see local artist's work for sale.
Oh, and a new favorite is Blackberg Creative in the South Slope - a great place to take or teach a class and purchase some beautiful fabrics!
Q: And, one from left field. If you were a drink, what drink would you be and why?
Nora: a spicy Bloody Mary. Because it’s so healthy – salad in a glass, you know!
Damond: the Salty Dog (fresh grapefruit juice, gin & a squeeze of lime with a salted rim). Fresh, flirty & like a spring breeze - not old and crusty like a sailor!