Tubing rentals are only the start of the plans the owners of Smoky Mountain Outdoor Center in Townsend have for their new business.
SMOC opened for its first day of business on Saturday, June 11. The store offers tubing on Little River, and also sells outdoor equipment.
General Manager Jesse Crisp said they plan to add more outdoor activities in the near future.
“We started with tubing because that’s what we know, but my specialty’s fishing, so by fall we’d like to have fishing guides and hiking guides,” said Crisp, who graduated from Maryville College in 2015 with a degree in outdoor recreation.
“We would like to be a year-round business. Most businesses in Townsend are seasonal,” he said. “We would like to be open at least 10-11 months of the year.”
SMOC has seven employees, and is currently hiring to expand its staff. Owner Tommy Presnell said they already exceeded their original business goal for their first week of business.
“We’ve got a bigger plan if this does well,” Presnell said.
Presnell said they hope to expand into the adjacent lot along Wears Valley Road and build an entire outdoor park with attractions like a kayaking center, possibly a ropes course, a coffee shop and more.
“This is only the first phase of what we plan to do with the Smoky Mountain Outdoor Park,” he said.
Most of all, they want to offer a destination where people can enjoy a day near the Smoky Mountains, he said.
“We want people to be able to experience the Smoky Mountains, and for families to spend some quality time together,” Presnell said. “When you’re out on the river, there are no cell phone distractions for an hour or two.”
Store sells outdoor products
SMOC currently sells Yeti, Kavi and Eno products, and plans to offer additional brands in the future. The store also has a display of hiking books, calendars and guidebooks from the Great Smoky Mountains Association, and a portion of sales from those items are donations to the GSMA.
The owners are still finishing a snack shop located behind the main store. Once it’s ready, they will sell snacks and have a seating area with picnic tables where people can relax after taking a trip down the river.
SMOC uses Aire brand river tubes. The “Rocktagon” is an octagonal-shaped tube that is covered with a canvas shell and has a mesh floor.
“These tubes are designed with this river in mind,” said Justice Bell, assistant general manager. “This river is rocky, it’s low at some points.”
While circular tubes can rub and drag on the rocks, the Aire tubes skirt over rocks and have fewer snags, Bell said.
SMOC is located at 209 Wears Valley Road. It is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week.