Townsend is open for business despite its off-season
The mountain town is the peaceful side of the Smokies with a pulse.
BLOUNT COUNTY, Tenn. — It’s a beautiful afternoon in Townsend with Carmen Simpher, the Little Arrow Outdoor Resort CEO, and Cassie Halley, the Chief Operating and Marketing Officer, giving a tour of the property.
Nestled off East Lamar Parkway in Townsend, the riverfront property has a lot to offer to visitors even though it’s the off-season.
“Townsend in the winter is a whole different town. We are peaceful, but we like to say, ‘Peaceful with a pulse,'” said Simpher, who also serves as the president of the Townsend/Cades Cove Gateway Alliance. “But this time of year, during the winter, it is very peaceful. It’s kind of a hard time for a lot of businesses, but it also gives us a lot of time to do a lot of work.”
People are busy revamping a playground area at the resort this week, on a property that boasts lodging options like tiny homes, cabins and high-end camping known as glamping. The resort’s sparkling pool and hot tub are both heated and open year-round.
“What our busy season looks like here at Little Arrow is, we really start getting busy over spring break here, in March, all the way to Thanksgiving,” said Halley. “If we’re fully booked, we can have a ton of people here. We have activities every single week that we do for our guests. But really, the guests are just here to enjoy the outdoors and enjoy luxury.”
During the off-season, people can get discounted rates for lodging and Halley said people who live nearby should take advantage of the area.
“Townsend is not what it used to be,” Halley said. “I think if you’re from Knoxville, or from the surrounding counties, you might have an idea of what Townsend was, but that’s not what it is anymore.”
Townsend’s strong history is the pulse of Townsend Mercantile Co. a boutique dedicated to the peaceful side of the Smokies.
“My husband’s family homesteaded here back in the early 1800s, and so it’s super special to him,” said Brooke Webb, the owner. “My father-in-law is still alive and he loves Townsend and just wanted to bring that piece of town to him, so he could see me do this.”
Webb sells Townsend-centric items, clothing and homewares.
“We actually had a building called Townsend Mercantile back when (my father-in-law) was younger, and we have this mural over here, and he remembers as a kid going shopping here,” he said.
It’s easy to support Townsend businesses during the off-season by visiting their websites, Webb said. Across the parking lot from Townsend Mercantile is Peaceful Side Social Brewery and Craft Kitchen.
Director of Operations of Oldham Hospitality Houston Oldham runs this property and several other concepts owned by the group, including Dancing Bear Lodge and Appalachian Bistro.
Oldham said he encourages people to visit Townsend no matter the time of year and to consider the advantages of stopping by during the off-season.
“When we get into the slow season, we start thinking about projects around property,” Oldham said. “Sometimes you don’t have the time to fix and to make and to build during the busy season. So when we see slow season comes, it’s actually our building season. It’s when we’re reinvesting in the business.”
He said locals can enjoy the Smokies in a new way during this time period.
“In some ways, the trails are more beautiful, the mountains are more clear,” Oldham said. “And when you are exploring out in nature, you’re able to see so much more than you even realize is there. And so when we focus on tourism in the winter, what we tell people is that you still have all the great amenities that come with being on the peaceful side of the Smokies while having access to the park when it’s totally not crowded, and wide open views and you’re able to see things that you simply don’t see in the summers.”