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Uncle Lem’s Outfitters to open a store in Pigeon Forge

PIGEON FORGE — With the purchase of Pigeon Forge’s former tourism office at 2450 Parkway this past July, Knoxville-based Uncle Lem’s Outfitters is set to open its new location there in November.

  uncle lems outfitters
Outfiited at Uncle Lem's, this couple is enjoying backpacking in the mountains - Image courtesy of Uncle Lem's

Remodeling of the 4,580-square-foot building is underway to retrofit it as a retail store that incorporates a taste of Appalachia, the company announced.

The namesake of the Uncle Lem’s brand is Lem Ownby, the last lifetime leaseholder in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. He was the epitome of a mountain pioneer. Despite being sight-impaired from his youth, he lived off the land, — farming, felling trees, and peddling honey and bear skins. After selling the property to the federal government, he continued to enjoy the 44-acre property until death in 1984 — just ahead of his 95th birthday. By then, he had become a legendary ideal of self-reliance, strength and common sense.

Uncle Lem’s owners, Kevin and Cheryl Hill, endeavor to pay tribute to the memory of Ownby as a regional icon and because he was Kevin Hill’s great-great-uncle.

“Uncle Lem has a special place in the history and heritage of the Smoky Mountains, and we wanted to do our part to preserve his legacy,” Kevin Hill said. To that end, a mission of the store is to support and encourage a love of the outdoors by supplying current and future enthusiasts with the necessary gear.

In addition to offering outdoors gear, Uncle Lem’s owners say they expect to provide the services of hiking, fishing, bicycling, and outdoor adventure guides. Initially, they will be renting out paddle boards and kayaks, with plans to extend into bicycle rentals.

Uncle Lem’s, which has two other locations in Knoxville, has pledged one percent of its Pigeon Forge store revenues for four years to be used for the city's greenways and blueways.

“We are so excited to be bringing the store home to Sevier County. And excited to find a place in Pigeon Forge where we can help new visitors to the region have the same sort of experience that all those visitors for decades had who wandered up on Uncle Lem’s porch,” Hill said.

To reinforce the authenticity of that experience, the Pigeon Forge store will showcase artifacts and storytelling to transport visitors into the past and provide a glimpse of an era gone by.

For those interested in employment with Uncle Lem’s new location, Hill recommends emailing a resume and brief introduction to Currently, the store is expected to hire 10-15 employees in addition to contracted guides.

Published August 30, 2018

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