Call of the Valley: Dawn Wilson on pigeons and the transformation of Black Mountain

Shelly Frome
Call of the Valley
Dawn Wilson said word that Dripolator would be opening was one of the things that drew her to Black Mountain.

Drawing on her ventures in real estate, on the zoning board and as treasurer of the Center of the Arts to name a few, Dawn Wilson reflected on the changes she’s noted in Black Mountain over the past 30 years.

It all started when the builder of their house in Charlotte went bankrupt, an opportune time to move arose and the town of Black Mountain had a position open in her husband’s chosen field.  

“Plus I had a list,” Wilson said. “The place had to have an auto parts store because I did all the maintenance on our cars, a church and a good school for our two little girls. There was no coffee shop however. But when a lady told the Chamber of Commerce she was opening a Dripolator, that clinched it — home, work and a coffee shop.”

At the same time there was a small Ingles Market located near a little old lady’s place who sold kindling for fireplaces and kept pigeons. After she died, Ingles bought the land, but pigeons are still there near the McDonald's. Wilson claims if you throw breadcrumbs, the pigeons still will come.

Back then she had a choice of only three four-bedroom homes. The realtor suggested they buy the one they hated the least and remodel it. The one they chose enabled them to knock out the north side of the house, add windows and gain a view of the Craggy Mountains. But there was another drawback. All the shopkeepers on Cherry Street would close down after Christmas, go to Florida and return at Easter. Which didn’t leave much to do, except everyone they met invited them to attend their church which made the Wilsons feel welcome.

“I also remember driving around the Blue Ridge Parkway or going hiking and never seeing another person," Wilson said. "And the kids would ride their pony up to the Taco Bell drive-in as an adventure or up to where the Settings is now on Route 9. To go out to eat, we went to Asheville. There was little or no traffic then. If you pulled up to the light at the corner of Broadway, you would recognize everyone who had stopped at the crossroads.”

It all began to change a few years later when she became an assistant to the developer of the Cheshire project of an abandoned tennis camp after she helped him get the covenants and restrictions revised. Now she was on her way after previously looking up lien laws and bankruptcy during the debacle in Charlotte and awarded a “friendly foreclosure” enabling them to purchase their present property.

Dawn Wilson said Black Mountain "has become what I initially envisioned."

“Being involved with Cheshire solidified my love of startups and entrepreneurship," Wilson said. "I wound up working for Mountain Bizworks helping dozens of clients go from developing their plan to reality. And then went on to become a full-fledged realtor because to me, every deal is like a new business. I just have one goal — to get this house bought or sold, to make things happen. Then I just move on to the next project. Because of my background in psychology at the University of Colorado, what I do requires a well-paying social worker and marriage counselor. Couples bicker over what house to buy and need to come to terms with what their real goals are. People say to me ‘I’m really not like this’ faced with the hardest things people do — move.”

Eventually she noted that Asheville got too big and buyers started looking at smaller places as an alternative. Shop owners stopped leaving for Florida right after Christmas, people wanted to live close to town so they could walk to the post office, shops and restaurants that began cropping up. To accommodate the demand, the Arts Center began offering programs and live theater venues, the White Horse developed stellar live music offerings, the Lake Eden Arts Festival began featuring crowd-pleasing attractions and on and on it went.  

“In addition, the Chamber of Commerce keeps attracting people from far and wide so that the town has become what I initially envisioned. Everything I wanted is here,” Wilson said.