Opportunity House offers extended pottery studio hours to members

Press Release
From Opportunity House:

Opportunity House, an Arts & Crafts Cultural Center in Hendersonville, NC is very proud to announce that we will now be extending our Pottery Studio Time.
Are you a potter or do you know someone that is? This is the perfect “opportunity” to get your hands back into clay without the need of an instructor. Our facility has the perfect, fully equipped pottery room for those artists who enjoy working on the potter’s wheel or doing coil and free style pottery work.
We are now offering Pottery Studio Time Mondays, 1-8:30 pm and Tuesdays, 5-8:30 pm, along with Wednesdays 1-4pm.

You must be a member of Opportunity House which costs $40.00 a year for a single person, or $60.00 a year for a couple. You then pay $40.00 per month for Pottery Studio Time. This includes the use of of the potters wheels, a slab roller, texturing tools, trimming tools, clay, glazes and kiln firing.
We also offer an evening Pottery class for those of you that are interested in learning techniques in clay which meets on Tuesday evenings from 6-9pm. The cost for this class is $120.00 for members and $140.00 for non-members.
This class is perfect for all ages so bring the family or a friend!

Feel free to stop in Opportunity House to check out our Pottery Room or call 828-692-0575 for more information.

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WLOS: Henderson Police seek information about armed robbery

From WLOS News 13:

The Henderson County Sheriff’s Office is searching for two suspects after an armed robbery Friday. Deputies say the robbery occurred at 8:57 p.m. at the El Chapulin convenience store at 1726 Old Spartaburg Road in Henderso…

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Eco’s annual heritage tree sale ending next week


(HENDERSONVILLE, NC, January 24, 2014) – Looking for a great way to produce fruits and nuts in your own yard or garden? Look no further than ECO’s annual heritage tree sale! This popular fundraiser is winding down as trees are being sold out. You can still purchase some heritage apple trees, chestnuts, figs, serviceberries, plums, blueberries and persimmons, and paw paws. There is no better way to give yourself or a loved one a gift of WNC’s cultural history than a heritage fruit or nut tree or a hearty, disease-resistant tree.

All trees come in limited quantities and tend to sell out quickly (ECO has already sold out on some varieties). Heritage and disease-resistant apple trees available this year include 16 varieties of semi-dwarf apple trees for your backyard orchard! These 1-year grafts are 3-4’ tall, in 1-gallon containers and ready for planting and cost $25 per tree.

Interested in learning more about growing your own fruits and nuts? Join Debbie Lienhart of Useful Plants Nursery on Thursday, February 6 from 6-8pm at Biz611 on North Church Street during our first Sustainable Living Workshop of the New Year. She will teach you about growing fruit and nut trees in home gardens, including locating, selecting, planting, and maintaining productive trees and shrubs at home, transitioning from ornamentals to edibles, and growing more food in small spaces. Registration is required by calling (828) 692-0385, the fee is $15 per person.

The tree sale ends at noon on Wednesday, January 29, 2014. All trees will be available for pickup in the conference room of the new Biz611 Building on February 8th, but order now to ensure your favorite tree is still available. The Heritage Tree Sale is a fundraiser for ECO. For more information about the sale, call the ECO office at 692-0385 or log-on to www.eco-wnc.org , where you can also learn more about varieties or place an order.

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Ribbon cutting for Hendersonville’s Main Street rehabilitation efforts Oct. 11

City to Celebrate Completion of Main Street Rehabilitation Project

Phase III of the Main Street rehabilitation project, the final phase of an over 4 million dollar investment in infrastructure in downtown Hendersonville, was completed September of 2013. The rehabilitation project began with the re-design and rehabilitation of Main Street between Allen Street and 1st Ave. This 2008 project not only spurred private investment, but triggered the three phase rehabilitation of Main Street’s serpentine design, originally installed in 1977/78.

Main Street north of 1st Ave has been rehabilitated over the past 3 years and has included upgrades to infrastructure above and below the street surface. New water lines, storm water systems and electrical infrastructure were complimented by enhancements to the existing pedestrian environment including outdoor seating areas, reduced crossing distances at many intersections, increased sidewalk widths, additional parking and the introduction of additional public art within the district. These public investments have driven private investment with nearly three-quarters of a million dollars flowing into the district between July 1, 2012 and June 30, 2013. This corresponds with a $1.4 million dollar increase in commercial property values within the district, a 2.8% increase overall.

The City of Hendersonville will be hosting a ribbon cutting to celebrate the completion of the Main Street rehabilitation and to dedicate “Mountain Memory” on October 11th at 4:00 pm. We cordially invite you to join us to celebrate this milestone in downtown Hendersonville’s history.

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Local tech duo debut encrypted ‘superphone’

Two local tech entrepreneurs are about to make waves in the realm of digital security and mobile technology with the debut of the Quasar IV, an encrypted “superphone,” which will allow users to securely exchange messages and store information away from prying eyes.

For more than two years, Hendersonville-based Kendall Weaver and Shane Remington have been working on the Quasar project — flying to and from Taiwan and San Francisco to meet with the core team responsible for creating the cellphone.

“We’re trying to emphasize ‘superphone’ as opposed to smartphone,” says Weaver of the souped-up cell’s abilities. “It’s more cutting edge than most of what you’ll see.”

Remington is more blunt: “This phone will operate just as a normal Android 4.3 phone … but it’s way beyond the other phones out there. In fact, the features are better than Samsung 5 and iPhone 5.”

The phone looks sleek and sturdy, boasting a 5-inch, 1080 high-definition screen, gorilla glass and waterproof shell. It’s also compatible with other smartphones and comes unlocked or jail-broken (meaning you don’t have to subscribe to a phone carrier to use it). Remington explains it will run on an Android 4.3 platform utilizing their own proprietary Quatrix software, which will act as an encryption blanket.

“Quatrix is a layer that runs on top of Android that protects Android from intrusion,” says Remington. “It also protects your identity, and there are tools within Quatrix that will allow you to encrypt all of your conversations and everything you do on the Web.”

Weaver serves as chief software architect of the highly secret and secure QuaOS and explains how it works: “You turn on your phone, there’s Android, then you press a button, you enter a password, go through some login steps and then you have this whole brand new suite of applications that exist in their own private little world — that are fully encrypted.”

Other technical specs include a quad-core 2.3 gigahertz processor, 3 gigabytes of memory and 64 or 128 GB of encrypted local storage. Weaver says one of the coolest components of the new phone will be its dual rear 13-megapixel cameras. These cameras simulate augmented reality, which integrates technology into real-world environments — an example would be holding a smartphone up to the night sky and having it point out the constellations. 

“We’ll be the first cell phone that’s capable of proper augmented reality, including multiple cameras to be able to capture everything with a realistic depth of field,” explains Weaver. “If an object moves behind another object, it has the ability to track that, as opposed to current [models], which try to identify what’s in focus with one camera. It’s like two eyes — it gives you that perspective.”

QSAlpha, the company making the phone, launched an Indiegogo campaign Sept. 17 to move the first 5,000 phones into production. Up until now, Quasar has been self-funded. The project will have 30 days to raise a formidable $3.5 million goal, which, if met, could be a communications game changer. Quasar IV will retail for $785, but the first 350 people to contribute $495 will also qualify for one.

Remington emphasizes that communications sent from a Quasar phone to a nonsecure (non-Quasar) device will not be encrypted. However, the phone should start people thinking about how to protect their digital identity. “With everything that’s going on right now, with the NSA and PRISM, this is a really good way to protect yourself and your business,” adds Remington.

QSAlpha CEO Steve Chao explains in a promotional video that the design and engineering for the phone were inspired by ninja culture. “The essence of digital security is the ability to operate in stealth mode, moving about undetected, leaving no trace in the digital world — the same way a ninja leaves no trace in the real world.” Chao describes the phone as the “ultimate digital defense system” for the “modern-day ninja.”

Who can you trust?

Chao, Weaver and Remington all say they expect pushback from the cryptography community, but that, in light of revelations about the NSA’s domestic surveillance programs and other cyber-security threats, Quasar fills a need that other phones are not meeting.

In fact, since news of the phone leaked online to tech blog Ars Technica, some technologists have expressed skepticism that propriety encryption can be trusted.

“I think this is going to be difficult to gain people’s trust from the beginning,” says Chao. “The entire PKI [public-key infrastructure] camp are going after us — everyone is going to try to go after us. Our goal is to launch a great product. … My message to the community is to throw our code out there. Every new system requires some time to get started.”

He says once they begin production, he will release the documentation, math formulas and reasoning behind their encryption for those who remain skeptical. “This is not just one encryption algorithm, this is a combination,” explains Chao. “It’s not just the encryption, it’s the logic behind it that makes it super secure.”

Questioned about those who would try to break through Quatrix encryption, Weaver quickly retorts, “They can try.”

Adds Weaver, “We think it will do well in corporate environments and government and private sectors.”

 Setting up shop

As they prepare for a busy fall of fundraising and production, Weaver and Remington have no intention of leaving Western North Carolina. Quasar’s headquarters will remain in San Francisco, its hardware production in Taipei, Taiwan, and its augmented-reality team in the U.K. The duo will continue to head up software development in the Asheville area.

Says Weaver, “We feel like there’s a good number of people around here that could benefit from employment opportunities. Primarily, we’re looking to set up shop, see what resources from the community are available and what resources we can give back to the community.”

Xpress profiled Remington and Weaver in July on their free Linux-based operating system called Peppermint OS [“Peppermint O Yes,” July 2013]. The pair explains that as a result of working on Peppermint — they were invited to collaborate on Quasar.

Weaver and Remington swear the phone lives up to the hype. “It’s got an absolutely cutting-edge processor that’s faster than anything you’re going to find from any of the competitors presently [and] more RAM than anything you’re going to find … so we’re feeling very strongly about it.

“I’ve been playing around with bits and pieces for quite some time and it’s mesmerizing,” says Weaver. “You put the technology in the hands of the people and it’s, ‘Whoa,” absolute ‘Whoa.’”

For more info, visit QSAlpha’s website, Indiegogo campaign or Twitter.

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Hendersonville’s Gem & Mineral Show kicks off Aug. 30

From press release:

32nd Annual Gem & Mineral Spectacular Show & Sale
The Henderson County Gem & Mineral Society of Hendersonville, N.C., will be presenting the 32nd annual Gem & Mineral Spectacular Show and Sale Aug. 30-Sept. 2.

The show will be held at the Whitmire Activity Center, 301 Lily Pond Road, Hendersonville, N.C. Hours of operation are Friday-Saturday 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Sunday 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

Show is open to the general public and admission is adults $4. Children under 12 are free.

The emphasis this year is on “Wonders from the Sky”. Examples of mineral items from outer space, such as meteorites, tektites, etc. will exhibited.

Nine dealers will be on hand selling a variety of minerals, gemstones and jewelry. Demonstrators will be on hand showing the art of making many types of jewelry. Exhibit cases featuring minerals, fossils, gemstones, jewelry and items from outer space, mentioned above, will be on display.

Attendees can spin the Wheel of Fortune to win a variety of hobby-related items, or stop by the refreshment area for a bite to eat or drink to sip while taking a break from all the activities taking place during the show. Hourly door prizes will be awarded and at the end of the show there will be a GRAND Prize DRawing for both adults and children.

The show is a Special Event sanctioned by the N.C. Apple Festival.

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First Citizens Bank takes over Mountain 1st Bank in $10 million deal

From Charlotte Business Journal:

First Citizens Bank & Trust will buy Hendersonville-based 1st Financial Services Corp. in a $10 million deal, the two banks announced Wednesday.

Raleigh-based First Citizens will pay $8 million to the U.S. Treasury to repay 1st Financial’s Troubled Asset Relief Program bailout. It will pay an additional $2 million to 1st Financial’s shareholders. 1st Financial is the parent company of Mountain 1st Bank & Trust Co.

1st Financial operates 12 branches in western North Carolina communities through Mountain 1st Bank, with $692 million in assets, $669 million in deposits and $363 million in loans as of June 30. The Mountain 1st branches are in Asheville, Brevard, Columbus, Etowah, Fletcher, Forest City, Hendersonville (two branches), Hickory, Marion, Shelby and Waynesville. With completion of the merger, Mountain 1st Bank branch offices will become First Citizens Bank branches.

Read more here.

From First Citizens’ press release:

First Citizens Bank and 1st Financial Services Corporation Announce Merger Agreement

First-Citizens Bank & Trust Company (known as First Citizens Bank) and
1st Financial Services Corporation announced today the signing of a
definitive merger agreement. 1st Financial Services Corp. provides
commercial banking products and services through its subsidiary,
Mountain 1st Bank & Trust Company.

This agreement provides for the merger of Hendersonville, N.C.-based
1st Financial Services Corp. and Mountain 1st Bank into First Citizens
Bank, which is headquartered in Raleigh, N.C. The announcement was made
jointly by Frank B. Holding Jr., chairman and chief executive officer
of First Citizens Bank, and Michael G. Mayer, chief executive officer
of 1st Financial Services Corp. and Mountain 1st Bank.

The agreement has been approved by the Boards of Directors of all three
companies. The transaction is expected to close no later than the first
quarter of 2014, subject to the receipt of regulatory approvals and the
approval of 1st Financial Services Corp. shareholders.

Under the terms of the agreement, cash consideration of $10 million
will be split between the U.S. Treasury, which will receive $8 million
of the cash consideration in order for 1st Financial Services Corp. to
exit from the federal TARP program, and common shareholders of 1st
Financial Services Corp., who will receive $2 million.

1st Financial Services Corp. operates 12 branches in western North
Carolina communities through Mountain 1st Bank, with $692 million in
assets, $669 million in deposits and $363 million in loans as of June
30, 2013. The Mountain 1st branches are located in Asheville, Brevard,
Columbus, Etowah, Fletcher, Forest City, Hendersonville (two branches),
Hickory, Marion, Shelby and Waynesville. Customers should bank as they
normally do at their existing branches. Pending completion of the
merger, Mountain 1st Bank branch offices will open as First Citizens
Bank branches.

Frank B. Holding Jr., chairman and CEO of First Citizens, said: “This
agreement is a significant opportunity for us to expand our presence in
our home state of North Carolina. We currently have a vibrant branch
network and customer base throughout western North Carolina, and we
look forward to the prospects of building on this foundation in an
important market for us.

“We’ve provided financial services in North Carolina for 115 years,”
Holding said. “Customers value our personal service, our dedication to
soundness and the full range of products and services we offer. We
expect to enhance our footprint in western N.C., establish new
relationships and create an even stronger bank for those we serve.”

Michael G. Mayer, CEO of 1st Financial and Mountain 1st, said: “We
welcome the opportunity to merge into First Citizens. Our companies
have a shared commitment to providing outstanding service and building
strong relationships in the communities we serve. Customers will
benefit from First Citizens’ century-long dedication to safety and
stability, a more robust line of products and a greater overall
capacity to serve their financial needs. It is an attractive agreement
for our company and our constituents.”

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Consumer Reports ranks Pardee as one of two top NC hospitals

From Hendersonville Lightning:
Pardee Hospital was one of only two hospitals in North Carolina to receive the highest rating based on a review by Consumer Reports magazine of 27 types of surgeries, the hospital’s medical chief of staff told th…

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Office space: New building seeks tech, green businesses

Photos by Michael Evans Bowen

Among the charming older red-brick buildings that define downtown Hendersonville, a new two-story office has added an entirely different color: green. Biz 611 — with an exterior of towering glass windows, reclaimed brick and earth-toned stucco — houses a fully functional sustainable work environment that has little in common with the typical American office. The owner of the building, former software developer Jonathan Butler, created it as a business incubator for tech startups and green companies.

Butler says he got the idea after serving on the board of the Charleston Digital Corridor Foundation in his hometown of Charleston, S.C. “We reclaimed two buildings that were designed to be business incubators for the ‘knowledge industry,’ mostly tech, but we also had a number of green companies that started up in there, and it has just gone so incredibly successfully,” Butler says of the Charleston Flagship buildings.

In Hendersonville, Butler first purchased the neighboring structure, Landmark Condominiums, several years ago, hiring local architect Ken Gaylord to help renovate the space for a home for his family. After the Landmark’s completion in 2009, there were still two other buildings on the property. Built around the 1950s, the structures had been abandoned for a number of years and had foundation problems.

Considering his options, Butler decided to replicate the Charleston Flagship model, incorporating as many reclaimed materials as possible from those buildings and others — from bricks to furniture to door handles. Start to finish, Butler reports, Biz 611 cost a little more than $1 million to build. Chris Kaselak is the general manager of BlackHawk Construction, the integrated contracting arm of Ken Gaylord Architects. He says the firm had incorporated sustainable building practices into previous projects, but never as many as Biz 611. Wanna Go?
The nonprofit Environmental & Conservation Organization (headquartered in Biz 611) will be giving its sixth annual home tour on Saturday, Aug. 17, from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. The tour will feature Biz 611 and a total of six homes in Henderson and Buncombe County. One house on the tour features an outdoor kitchen and another is a net-zero building — it generates as much electricity as it uses.

The goal, according to intern Katie Finegan, is for people to see sustainable living in practice. She says it’s a bonus to have ECO leading by example in their new office.

“We are walking the walk now. We are an environmental organization, and we can be like, ‘Look, there are solar panels on our roof, and we’re collecting rainwater to flush our toilets, and this is what we stand for.’ It’s completing our mission,” says Finegan.

Tickets are $15 a person; carpooling is encouraged.

For more information on the home tour, visit eco-wnc.org or call 692-0385.

“We’d done parts and pieces,” says Kaselak. “One client would like to do some solar panels, another client wants to do a green roof, but Jonathan’s a little different, where he wants to do as much of that as he possibly can. He, more than a lot of owners, is willing to make the investment in the different systems that actually improve energy impact and environmental impact.”

Inside, the 10,000-square-foot space is flooded with light that beams through two-story glass windows. Solar tubes illuminate the stairwells (so the regular lights are rarely used). Toilets are flushed using rainwater collected through an elaborate rooftop harvesting system. Rather than drywall or sheet rock, a special sandblasting treatment allowed for exposed cement-block walls. Many of the offices are flexible spaces with sliding walls and exchangeable wall panels.

“I think it’s sort of a game changer for Hendersonville and Western North Carolina,” says Gaylord, the architect behind the project. “It’s a completely different approach to creating workspace or office space that doesn’t emphasize the separation and privacy of individual businesses, but instead invites collaboration.”

Gaylord notes that the building does not attempt to hide its green features, or tuck them away in a utility closet. Instead it uses solar panels as awnings and visible cisterns to collect rainwater. He said one of the most overlooked aspects is that Biz 611 is an urban infill.

“We didn’t clear a cow pasture or forest to put up a building and pave a parking lot. We took an existing downtown site that was very tight. That was probably the greenest thing that we did,” explains Gaylord. “We are reusing all the things that create an urban environment — the utilities, the sidewalks, the roads. We’re also lending vitality to the town by doing that.”

Outside, a two-story living wall designed by a local landscaper faces the busy traffic of Church Street. As the wall grows in, Butler’s tenants will be able to go outside and pick edible fruits and vegetables from it for lunch. The green wall is fastened to an exterior that incorporated 9,000 reclaimed bricks from the previous building. In fact, Biz 611 has just been selected to receive a Brick Industry Association design award at a reception in September.

Butler’s first tenants have all been hand-selected, including the Environmental & Conservation Organization, a Hendersonville-based nonprofit. Butler calls them his “beta-testers,” to see how the space is functioning. He says he’s now ready to rent.

Biz 611 has about 16 spaces for lease, with five or six already spoken for. Butler has hired a property manager and says rents will run anywhere from $200-$1,100, depending on the size of the office. A large conference area on the first floor can be rented out separately for different businesses or organizations. He also hopes to feature art exhibitions in the main lobby area.

“You want to have events and different reasons for people to come here, but you also want the building to sort of educate in and of itself,” notes Butler.

Gaylord says the building is part of a new wave of office space. “The architecture is supportive and encouraging of interaction between entrepreneurs,” he says. “I think there’s a new movement in this country to realize the best entrepreneurial activity comes from interaction, not isolation.”

For more information on Biz 611, visit Biz611.com or contact Donna Logan of Cornerstone Real Estate at 284-2859. Greenby3 also contributed to this project.

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ECO to hold annual Green Home Tour Aug. 17

The Hendersonville-based Environmental and Conservation Organization is holding its 6th annual Green Home Tour will on Saturday, August 17 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

According to an ECO press release:

This year’s self-guided driving tour includes several new builds with spectacular design features, highly efficient cooling and heating units in new housing, and existing homes with innovative upgrades by the owners. The tour also includes Biz611, a business incubator, demonstrating sustainable commercial construction in downtown Hendersonville. The six tour sites are evenly divided between Henderson and Buncombe Counties.

Aesthetic design and energy efficiency are combined in John McDermott’s home to generate as much energy as it uses – making it a net zero home. Super insulated, geothermal 27 SEER HVAC, and tons of thermal mass contribute to his efficiency. In another home, the walls are constructed with hemp and lime to achieve high insulation values. Reclaimed wood, steel, and window frames from Grove Park Inn are also incorporated into this Buncombe County Energy Star home.

The Green Home Tour will also focus on techniques for greening existing homes. For instance, you can eliminate dark interior spaces with a light tube and cool with a solar attic fan. One home featured on the tour is comfortable without any AC or forced air furnace. These owners have replaced all their grass with edible gardens and wild flowers so they enjoy their outdoor kitchen which reduces the amount of cooling needed to bring down the temperature inside the home from cooking heat.

Energy costs keep rising, but innovative design and construction materials at a Henderson County Habitat for Humanity site will keep costs down to $31 per month for residents. Here is your chance to see inside the walls at their construction and sealing techniques. Also in Henderson County is Hendersonville’s newest building in downtown- Biz611. Just completed in early summer of this year, it was constructed using 9,000 bricks from the former building and other salvaged materials. Forty-four solar panels generate electricity while shading southern exposure. The entire roof collects rainwater that is used in the graywater system throughout the building. Biz611 also boasts a beautiful living wall facing Church Street– a treat you’ll be sure to enjoy on the day of the tour.

ECO’s Green Home Tour is a great way to spend a day enjoying the countryside while viewing some beautiful green homes and picking up some great ideas on how to live sustainably. Tickets for the Green Home Tour will be available after August 1 at www.eco-wnc.org, at the ECO office, and at the Hendersonville and Asheville Visitor’s Centers. For additional information, please call ECO at (828) 692-0385 or email at energy@eco-wnc.org.

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