It’s been a long hot summer, possibly the hottest I can remember here in East Tennessee. With way above our average temperatures for much of the year, it has certainly been warm here in the Gatlinburg area. Even up in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park it has been toastier than normal during the last several months. Although the heat wave appears finally to have broken its always a good idea to check the weather before you come to town.
Our local tourist economy has also been hot with visitor counts up significantly and most revenue numbers at record levels as well. More visitors equals more income for Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and Sevierville businesses which is good news unless you’re a visitor stuck in one of our infamous traffic jams. New roads like Veterans Parkway and the recently designed ultra flow traffic pattern around downtown Sevierville have helped but the increased visitor count naturally entails more vehicles and this of course means more traffic challenges for our beleaguered roads. Still, we shouldn’t complain because the increased revenues are very much needed and appreciated.
A third (and perhaps the most important of the three) ways that the Gatlinburg area is hot is for retail businesses. When Wal-Mart opened several years ago in Sevierville it quickly became one of THE highest grossing units in Wal-Martâ€™s entire system. That same type of success has been duplicated by Ripley’s Gatlinburg Aquarium, which immediately became the nation’s most visited aquarium. Although the aquarium has slipped to the second most visited after the creation of Atlanta’s fabulous new facility, it still has been a huge win for the Ripley’s corporation. The success parade has been diverse as restaurant chains that open here such as Red Lobster and Olive Garden in Sevierville and the new Denny’s restaurant in Pigeon Forge quickly post record numbers and wish that they had built even larger facilities.
I recently learned about an interesting smaller business that has recorded some real heat of their own in downtown Gatlinburg. Gatlinburg’s Pepper Palace is a Smoky Mountain business success story well worth telling. A few years ago, the proprietors, Craig and Tanya Migawa, originally of Wisconsin, came to Gatlinburg after trying their hot sauce and salsa business idea in other communities with only a limited degree of success. That was before they moved the operation to Gatlinburg, the gateway to the Smokies and benefited from the 10+ million visitors (some say as many as 12 million folks) our area hosts annually.
I spent a little time with Craig last month and had a chance to see their business first hand. Starting with just a portable cart sized operation, their company has enjoyed remarkable growth for the past few years and is now a Million Dollar a year operation with plans to soon grow much larger. Located on the fourth floor of the Mountain Mall at 611 Parkway in Gatlinburg, Craig has gradually moved to larger and more prominent space in Gatlinburg. The Mountain Mall location has been hugely successful and the Pepper Palace is often the busiest store on this level of the mall. With two thousand feet of retail space the store is well laid out and very appealing when viewed from within the mall. Featuring a very unique hot sauce and salsa tasting bar the Pepper Palace is also not surprisingly one of Gatlinburg’s largest Pepsi Cola accounts. (Folks have to have a lot of water and soda to wash down all that hot sauce!). Craig and Tanya have now franchised and trademarked their growing business and are already working on the opening of a second location in Myrtle Beach, SC at the fabulous Broadway at the Beach development there. While the grand opening of the new store is planned for around April 1, 2008 we have a bit of an inside track on this new Pepper Palace location. One of our office’s buyer specialists (and our personal friend) Dan Ehlert, will be the owner and operator of this first franchise store. While we will miss Dan and his sweet wife Debbie we know that this is a wonderful opportunity for them and wish them all the best. The South Carolina pilot store will be 1,000 square feet and will offer the same tasting bar and wide selection of hot sauces. With Danâ€™s commitment to customer service and Debbieâ€™s partnering in this undertaking, Iâ€™m sure that they will succeed. Craig and Tanya have plans for units in other tourist areas and although we donâ€™t feel led to leave the real estate business the Hawaii franchise location does sound sort of interestingâ€¦
If you have a great business idea or would like to find a larger space for your business that is already benefitting from our Smoky Mountain economy, please contact us! We will be glad to give you professional advice so that you too can enjoy our Smoky Mountain lifestyle and the success this area makes possible. For more information, email me at Jeff@Gatlinburg-Homes.com.