An internationally beloved musician, Claude Coleman, Jr. would often find himself in Asheville while on tour drumming with his band, iconic rock juggernaut Ween. Each time wandering through, he would become more enamored with this region. So much so, Coleman relocated here from New Jersey in 2012.
Upon putting down deep roots—personally and artistically—in Asheville, Coleman found it frustrating at times to find the right space to rehearse his projects. Though the bustling music scene in the city includes the storied Echo Mountain Recording Studio, where were the spots to plant and cultivate musical ideas before one ventured into a state-of-the-art facility for harvest?
For the better part of the last decade, Coleman has been roaming Asheville in search of the ideal property to launch a public access rehearsal studio and multi-use artist space. After several dead ends in their quest, Coleman and his business partner, Brett Spivey, came across the historic Rabbit’s Motel on McDowell Street.
“Oh, it’s so serendipitous, everything about it. It was like the property was waiting for us to find it,” Coleman said. “And when we did, the owners, in a sense, were waiting for us to find them, waiting for the right people to come in and find it. And it happened.”
Though the property had seen better days and was pretty rundown, it was home to the renowned Rabbit’s Motel, a Black-owned establishment that was a source of pride and a cultural meeting hub for the once-vibrant neighborhood that, sadly, has been largely displaced and forgotten in recent decades.
“‘The Block’ in downtown [Asheville] was one of the largest Black-owned business districts in the South. It was identical in so many ways to the ‘Black Wall Street’ in Tulsa, [Oklahoma],” Coleman said. “It’s an important point of pride for other folks to get in touch with [this forgotten history], for young black residents to get in touch with their history here, too.”
Purchasing the property and renovating it throughout 2020, “[email protected]’s” had its grand opening last fall.
“It will be like a super hub. We’re creating a landmark destination that’s going to connect a lot of people to the history of this place, the history of the neighborhoods and all these communities, which is really rich and profound,” Coleman said. “We wanted a jam spot and a place to rock out and work. But, it’s become this mission to create this landmark and to reconnect people to this history, to bring this history into the modern narrative of Asheville, because it’s really missed—it’s been lost and covered over.”
Filled with several rehearsal rooms and backline equipment, the studio will eventually reintroduce a soul food eatery onsite (which once operated inside the motel for over 50 years), as well as other events, workshops, and programs aimed at preserving and perpetuating the arts in our own backyard.
“And with the kitchen [reopening], tourists are going to want to come when it’s up and running. I mean, that’s going to attract a whole other class of people around the area,” Coleman said. “That’ll bring folks from Atlanta, the Bronx, Harlem, or wherever, you know? It’s creating a super destination to appeal to a wide swath of people and a huge cross section of cultures.”
This post is adapted from our annual Welcome to Western North Carolina magazine. Click here to read more online, or click here to request your free copy.