Friends of Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Great Smoky Mountains Association, two of the national park’s oldest and most productive partners, have shared space at the Sevierville Visitor Center on Winfield Dunn Parkway near Interstate 40 for more than a decade. GSMA has operated a retail space on the ground level, where it offers visitors educational items designed to enrich their Smoky Mountain experience, while FOTS staff occupied office space directly above.
However, the organizations’ roles have transformed over time. One has outgrown its share of the space, while the other has felt the need to scale back, making the next move obvious. GSMA plans to close its retail store by Nov. 1 and Friends of the Smokies will convert the first floor into much-needed additional office space.
“For 12 years GSMA has been helping area visitors plan their Great Smoky Mountains National Park adventures and offering a comprehensive selection of award-winning books and other educational materials in our beautiful Sevierville Visitor Center store,” said GSMA CEO Laurel Rematore. “The volume of this store’s customer traffic has been steady but has never reached the level we had hoped for in this location.”
“While we have greatly enjoyed having GSMA as our downstairs neighbours, we know this opportunity will allow both park partners to more effectively support the park we love,” said FOTS President Jim Hart.
“We are pleased that our former store space will be put to good use by giving Friends of the Smokies more elbow room to do what they do so well,” said Rematore. “GSMA will continue to serve park visitors at its Gatlinburg Welcome Center and 11 other stores in and around the park.”
GSMA plans to vacate its store space by Thursday, Nov. 1. In an effort to make the move a little easier, GSMA is calling on its supporters, not to help them load the moving truck, but to attend a 10 percent clearance sale of all remaining merchandise Saturday-Wednesday, Oct. 27-31.
“It makes sense for us to invite our loyal customers who have enjoyed shopping with us at this location to look for a few deals before we clean off the shelves,” said GSMA Retail Director Dawn Roark. “With the holiday season just around the corner, now is the perfect time to support the Smokies with your purchases of park-related gifts.”
Friends of the Smokies is an official nonprofit partner of Great Smoky Mountains National Park and has raised $62 million to support critical park programs and maintain the Smokies as a crown jewel of the National Park Service. Discover and donate at FriendsOfTheSmokies.org.
Since its inception in 1953, Great Smoky Mountains Association has supported the preservation of Great Smoky Mountains National Park by promoting greater public understanding and appreciation through education, interpretation and research. A non-profit organization, GSMA has provided more than $42 million to the park during its 65-year history.