With attractions like the Great Smoky Mountains National Park; Ober Gatlinburg; University of Tennessee athletics; and Dollywood; hundreds of hiking trails and fishing areas; a seasonably mild climate and as much shopping as one could ask for, it is no surprise that East Tennessee has become a popular tourist destination in the Southeast.
While much of the region’s tourism can be attributed to these well-known, popular attractions and amenities, there are some “under the radar” places that are peaking people’s interests across the country and having a positive impact on East Tennessee’s tourism industry. One of those is Smoky Mountain Harley-Davidson (SMH-D) in Maryville, Tenn.
When Scott Maddux opened Smoky Mountain Harley-Davidson dealership more than 11 years ago; he envisioned a place where his passion for motorcycles and music could come together. Little did he know, the 60,000 sq. ft. vacant Lowe’s home improvement store building he purchased, near the gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains, would become the tourist destination that it is today.
Since its inception, Smoky Mountain Harley-Davidson has been a different breed of motorcycle dealerships. From its proximity to “The Dragon,” the popular and internationally famous 11-mile, two-lane, 318-curve mountain pass along the Tennessee-North Caroline state line; the modern rustic design of its expansive showroom; to its vibrant music venue and restaurant known as The Shed Smokehouse & Juke Joint, located on-property and featuring live shows every Saturday night; both riders and non-riders have helped transform the dealership into a regional landmark and social hangout.
There’s a unique vibe at SMH-D that rings of East Tennessee, and it’s being noticed by tourists from all parts of the country who make the dealership a key stop on their visit to East Tennessee each year, regardless of whether they ride a motorcycle.
“From the day we opened our doors, we’ve tried to create a real sense of community here,” says Scott Maddux, Owner of Smoky Mountain Harley-Davidson. “To us, it’s not about selling motorcycles. It’s about promoting a certain lifestyle and helping people experience the freedom and kinship that only comes from being a rider. I think people appreciate that.”
As an extension of this commitment, Smoky Mountain Harley-Davidson has developed a free program called Rider Guest Services, which is designed to assist group ride planners interested in visiting East Tennessee with recommended riding routes and preferred lodging, dining and entertainment options.
Here are some additional facts and figures that speak to Smoky Mountain Harley-Davidson’s potential impact on East Tennessee tourism:
• Visited by riders from all 48 contiguous states and around the world.
• More than 200 musicians have performed on the stage of The Shed, including Blackberrry Smoke, Jason Isbell, Sturgill Simpson, Kentucky Headhunters, John Hiatt, Drive By Truckers, and Leon Russell, among others.
• Served as the rally point for more than 100 charity/community rides.
• The list of celebrities that have visited SMH-D includes: Rusty Wallace, Bill Francis, David Keith, Little Big Town, Kyle Petty, Albert Haynesworth, Phillip Fulmer, Herb Brooks, Bruce Pearl, and multiple NASCAR drivers.
• Set the Guiness World Record in 2006 for the “World’s Largest Simultaneous Motorcycle Burnout” with 213 participating motorcycles.
Today, Smoky Mountain Harley-Davidson is the top Harley-Davidson dealer in Tennessee and is considered one of the top dealers in the Harley-Davidson network for sales, service and merchandise. What started as one dealership with 25 employees has grown to a family of three dealerships and three retail stores proudly serving East Tennessee with 250 employees and locations in Maryville, Pigeon Forge, Kodak, Gatlinburg, US-129 The Dragon and the Cherohala Skyway.
SMH-D is just one example of the many “hidden gems” that are impacting the region’s tourism efforts.
To learn more about Smoky Mountain Harley-Davidson, visit www.smh-d.com.
About the Author: Chris Goodrich
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