Local store honors family member and Great Smoky Mountains mountaineer

When Lem Ownby passed away in 1984 at the age of 94, it signaled the end of an era. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park was established in 1934, and in the process of designating land for the park, there were a handful of residents who weren’t interested in moving. Lem made a deal with the government in a lifetime lease to stay on his Elkmont property. He sold honey to keep a quiet, modest living.  Even after his wife, Mimmie, passed away, Lem wasn’t interested in relocating.

Fast forward to August 2010. Ownby’s great-great-nephew, Kevin Hill, opened an outfitter in Cedar Bluff and named it after the true mountaineer. Inspired by Uncle Lem’s fervor for the outdoors and focused on providing customers with exactly the gear they need, Kevin staffs the store with enthusiasts and carries the tried-and-true brands.

“You can be overwhelmed with choices,” Kevin says, “but my job is to be a personal consultant. Our staff needs to reflect our customers. We have to have the knowledge and be relatable.”

As a father of five under age 10, Kevin knows something about life in the wild. His past is full of whitewater rafting trips and rock climbing excursions, yet Kevin keeps to short day trips since his family is still young. Whether one goes to Uncle Lem’s Outfitters for an adult-sized Osprey pack or a collection of versatile water shoes for a few kids, the service and knowledge are the same across the board.

“It’s better to come into a place and talk to someone who’s used this stuff,” he says. “I won’t sell gear I wouldn’t use myself.”

Our staff needs to reflect our customers. We have to have the knowledge and be relatable.

Uncle Lem’s Outfitters

9715 Kingston Pike, Knoxville, Tennessee, 865.357.8566, UncleLems.com