High Country Press

Story by  Sam CalhounThousands of High Country residents and visitors are now more hip, funky and sophisticated thanks to Keith Neaves’ Neaco in Blowing Rock. Neaves’ retro and metro home décor store turns 13 this year. Photo by Sam Calhoun

From the moment you walk into Neaco, located on Main Street in Blowing Rock, you know you’re in one of the most unique shops in the High Country. Jazz is playing on the CD player, and although it sounds at first like typical dinner party music, you realize it’s a remake of “Walk Like An Egyptian” from the 1980s. Funky lamps illuminate display tables attractively set with martini and wine glasses of all shapes, sizes and colors. Hip sculptures are beside illuminated fake pussy willows, and picture frames, from the funky to the sophisticated, dot the walls next to affordable art prints that would turn any drab décor into retro and metro.
If the upscale boutiques of Blowing Rock’s Main Street are the refined elders of High Country shopping, then Neaco is the funky, sophisticated and hip younger child that is popular with all age groups.

Welcome to Neaco Hip Home Décor, purveyor of contemporary and funky accessories for all occasions. Owned by Keith Neaves, Neaco turns 13 this year and is celebrating its 10-year anniversary of operating in Blowing Rock.

Neaves is an Ashe County native and attended ASU where he received a degree in business marketing. After working in Greensboro, Charlotte and Raleigh for five years after college with Dun and Bradstreet, a credit reporting agency, Neaves moved back to the High Country in 1992 and took over ownership of Grapevine Music, then called the Record Depot. When Neaves took over the business, he and the previous owners moved the store back to downtown Boone on King Street. Neaves had wanted to own his own business throughout college, so the purchase was a dream come true, as well as a sound business decision because at the time, Grapevine was the area’s only music store. Business was good, but Neaves was dreaming of a new business.

In 1995 at the Shops at Shadowline in Boone, Neaves opened Neaco.

“I was antsy to do something different,” said Neaves. “I wanted to open a store that carried something different—something that people didn’t have here.”

With an eye for fashion, what’s hip and what’s funky, Neaves started attending international gift buying shows in New York City and Atlanta, picking out rare and unique home décor products for his store.

From barware to artwork, from lamps to sculptures, from music to picture frames, from fake flowers to doormats, from playing cards to sophisticated drinking games, Neaves stocks Neaco to the brim with items to make any house cool and hip. By ordering some items in bulk, Neaves is able to keep his prices reasonable and within reach for all his clientele.

After 2.5 years in Boone, Neaves moved Neaco to 1081 Main Street in Blowing Rock in 1998. Business boomed at the new location.

“There’s nothing like [Neaco] in Blowing Rock or the High Country,” said Neaves. “It sticks out. It’s unique in this area.”

By 2001, Neaco was pulling in enough profit that Neaves was able to sell Grapevine Music and focus his attention full time on Blowing Rock.

Neaves runs the store with the help of two part-time employees, one of whom is his mother whose 1960s glamour shot adorns all of Neaco’s advertisements.
Neaco is popular with Blowing Rock tourists, especially those from Charlotte, the Raleigh-Durham area and Florida. On weekends, Neaves sees young, hip couples from Charlotte perusing his wares, and his store is also popular with the local gay population. Neaves boasts plenty of regular customers—some who even call to have him blindly send them new music from his growing jazz CD collection—but he sees very few college students and Boone residents.

“I try to keep the store’s selection fresh and interesting,” said Neaves who attends gift shows all over the country on an annual basis, “and I try to greet everyone like I know them personally. I like chatting with people, getting to know where they’re from; I’m interested. And I think this is a fun place with fun items, and I try to keep it fun with the music, which helps business.”

Neaves stays abreast of what’s new in jazz recordings, and his music section is a testament to that fact. As the previous owner of Grapevine Music, Neaves loves the fact that he can now carry the music he wants to carry instead of the music he has to carry. The result is a store that turns customers onto quality music, and a music selection that is constantly evolving.

Recently, Neaves has been focusing on bringing more upscale and sophisticated products into the store. The changeover is proving successful as Neaves just completed his most lucrative Fourth of July weekend ever—no small feat considering that 2007 was Neaves’ best year ever for sales.

“I’m very grateful to the area and the locals for allowing me to be here,” said Neaves. “I’m thankful for the positive response I’ve had. I work hard to keep the shop cooler and fresher so as not to let my customers down.”

Neaco continues to impress as it enters its 13th year in business. Home Accents Today magazine ranked Neaco as one of its top 50 retail stores in the nation for 2008, and a couple of years ago Southern Living featured Neaco as part of its Girls’ Getaway Weekend feature.

For the future, Neaves has no plans to leave Blowing Rock or close Neaco. His family is close and he has made many new friends from operating his store. Neaves, though, wants to open a Neaco store in his hometown of West Jefferson in the next one or two years. But he knows that no matter where he opens a Neaco store, it won’t be the same as his store in Blowing Rock.

“I’m spoiled here with the sheer volume of people, “ he said. “It would be a little tough to open another location because Blowing Rock makes it so easy.”

Neaco is located at 1081 Main Street in Blowing Rock. During the summer and fall, Neaco is open from 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Sunday. For more information, call 828-295-0709, 1-877-33NEACO, email or click to



Southern Living Magazine

  Sit outside to enjoy the scrumptious fare at the historic Village Café.
  The easy walking trail along Bass Lake lies within a half mile of downtown Blowing Rock, but it also has a large parking lot so you can drive there if you prefer.
Blowing Rock, North Carolina
This pretty town perched on the rim of the Blue Ridge Parkway seems so ideal that you'll never want to leave. "I ended up moving to Blowing Rock because I fell in love with it on a girls' vacation," an employee says to us as we check in to the Meadowbrook Inn. My friends and I found out just what she means.


Course, spending all the time we wanted shopping was a high priority. Blowing Rock offered more than we could get to in a couple of days. We wandered in and out of dress shops, jewelry stores, and Neaco, which features its own line of greeting cards and funky home decor. We then perused The Bob Timberlake Gallery for something for our husbands. We took a trip to France at de Provence et d'ailleurs.

You don't have to work out like a bodybuilder to get outdoors here, so we strolled down to the Bass Lake walking trail for a 2-mile hike. Another day we explored bits of the 26 miles of unpaved carriage paths that traverse forests at the National Park Service's Moses H. Cone Memorial Park.

Our favorite meal was a lunch of salads and fresh-baked breads in the shady garden at The Village Café. After our facials at Westglow Resort & Spa, we filled a booth at local favorite Storie Street Grille, where we shared toasted ravioli and shrimp scampi.

On our last night, we ended up back in our hotel room with snacks from the Blowing Rock Market & Wine Shop, telling stories and laughing till long after our teenagers had gone to bed back home. Do you think we could just stick around and live here too?

Constance E. Richards
September 16, 2007

BLOWING ROCK - A weekend in the mountain town of Blowing Rock means plenty of fresh air, clear views and mountain trails, but chances are, you'll be plenty distracted with the abundant shopping, dining, festivals and other diversions found in this charming community

Long a refuge from the heat of the lowlands to the south, Blowing Rock has been the summer home for countless families since the early 1900s. The beautiful mountain surroundings, leisurely pace of a downtown flanked by stone churches, and vacation homes large and small have enticed summer visitors equally from the north.

Today, there is an urgency about the town on summer weekends. The energy of old friends meeting and greeting, tourists seeking a bit of sedate hedonism after drinking in the glorious nature of the Blue Ridge, and frequent visitors revving up for the new shopping season - all migrate to Main Street.

Stylish shops

Boutiques aplenty inspire fashionistas of all ages. Libba's, a smart shop for colorful women's clothing and exclusive Creed fragrances, even welcomes lapdogs. Almost Rodeo Drive, a Blowing Rock staple, serves both men and women with attractive summer resort styles for dress and casual.

Southmarke, a self-contained shopping village of sorts with brick walkways and a dozen white-clapboard shops, caters to the whims of well-dressed gents, costume jewelry lovers, and shoe fanatics. There's even a doggie boutique and bakery.

Gift shops seem to appear every other step - many in converted old, two-story homes - offering everything from indigenous North Carolina gems and jewels to candles, books, stationery and crafts.

Regional artistry is well represented with Main Street Crafts Co-op and Gallery. Exhibiting the work of 16 local artists, the gallery showcases turned wood bowls, pottery, stained glass, beadwork, paintings, and ceramics. Beautiful glass craft, handmade jewelry, contemporary wood furniture and accents, lamps, and other inspired handcrafts twinkle in the halogen glow of IAGO.

Combination interior design/antique shops cater to second-home owners who must outfit yet another season. Those who prefer their designs name brand, will enjoy the Bob Timberlake Gallery that subscribes to everything from buttery leather sofas to luggage, prints and paintings to clothing with the Timberlake name emblazoned.

Outdoor outfitters with innovative high-tech fabrics; a gourmet kitchen store; a linen shop specializing in authentic French provincial fabrics; the very funky Neaco design, interiors and gift store; and numerous other specialty storefronts give Blowing Rock a reputation as a shopper's paradise.