App takes you where Black Mountain is

New app to tell the stories of WNC, Black Mountain and beyond

Fred McCormick

Throughout its history the charm of Black Mountain has beckoned visitors from all over the country to the town, but it's the story of the place that builds the connection.

But the collective story of the town is actually a tapestry of tales told by the people that live, work and play in Black Mountain, and a new app is making those stories more accessible.

UGoTour is the result of an idea that came to founder and president Paul Hedgecock when he moved to Western North Carolina with his family, giving the app a story of its own.

"I have a big family," Hedgecock said. "So we move to Western North Carolina and we're trying to explore the area. We saw a sign that said that said 'Historic Downtown Saluda,' and I thought it was interesting that so many downtowns in the area are historic. So I pull out my phone and all I can find is lists. Nothing that reaches out and grabs me and builds a connection."

So the serial entrepreneur did what has come naturally to him over the past decade.

"There had to be an experience that was interactive and engaging that actually enhanced your trip, as opposed to dominating your trip," he said. "(UGoTour) is a tool that does more than just index things and make lists, which is unfortunately what most travel apps do. We wanted to make experiences."

Hedgecock says the free app, which is available on iTunes and Google Play, operates as a "tour guide in your pocket," by telling the story behind the destination. And with tours ranging from Asheville's "urban trail," to the scenic byways of Nantahala, Black Mountain's stories are now starting to appear on the app.

The StoryPoints feature on UGoTour currently provides audio narration for several tours in the town. Many of the stories, which offer and in-depth look into dozens of locations, are told by local business owners.

The Red Rocker is a stop on the 4-hour Little Town that Rocks tour, which features a growing number of stops. The text tells of the inn's two TripAdvisor certificates of excellence, but it is owner Jenny Bowman's audio narration that draws in users of the app with a touching story.

"My favorite story is probably not something you'd expect," she says before a general description of the Red Rocker plays on the app.

Bowman goes on to tell the story of a married couple that made reservations to stay at the inn years ago. The wife arrived on their scheduled date with her daughter, after her husband passed away prior to the trip.

"On Friday they arrived," Bowman recalls. "On Saturday afternoon we got a delivery of a huge bouquet of roses and the husband had sent them for his wife. Of course he was gone but when we realized what was going on there wasn't a dry eye in the house. All of our guests were just crying and celebrating the love that was."

Brett McCall, the StoryPoint producer for UGoTour, lives in Black Mountain, which he says is a great place to find "powerful" stories.

"The StoryPoints include pictures as well as some text, but the real story is in the audio narration," he said. "We keep those stories small while making them strong to enhance the user's experience."

The story of The Junction, also known as the McKoy building, tells of the owners' desire to create a collaborative feel in the office space above Que Sera and Tayloe's Oyster Bar when remodeling the 125-year-old structure. The text reveals the historical significance of the building and how it went from being unoccupied for decades to its current state.

Sweet! on Cherry Street is billed as "an old fashioned candy shop" on UGoTour. Sydney McDougald, who owns the store with her husband Walt, is a fan of the StoryPoints feature.

"It lets people know more about you and your business," she said. "I think it's really a benefit for business."