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Lem’s Story

Located in the heart of West Knoxville across from Franklin Square is one of the most unique shopping environments in Knoxville. After traveling the world, two native Knoxvillians have decided to return to their Smoky Mountain roots in launching Uncle Lem’s Mountain OutfitterS. The store evokes impressions of an age gone by – a time of honesty and simplicity, with its rustic interior of reclaimed barn wood and cedar posts – while providing shoppers with the best equipment and apparel for a modern encounter with our beloved Smoky Mountains or destinations beyond.

Uncle Lem Ownby was the last lifetime leaseholder to reside in the Smoky Mountains. Lem passed away in the early eighties and has never been commemorated by the Park, and so brothers Lee and Kevin Hill have decided to build the identity of their store around their great great uncle’s persona. Uncle Lem lived his entire life in Elkmont keeping bees and living off the land. Lem became famous for the tales of his simple wisdom and indifference to politicians and Supreme Court Justices who trod up Jake’s Creek to meet the mountain sage. Living most of his life blind, Lem became one with his mountain landscape attributing this as the secret to his almost 95 years of vibrant living. Once when asked what he credited his longevity and vitality to, Lem responded, “I lay it up to the honey.” When Lem passed away to the surprise of many he donated his entire life savings to support underprivileged children at the Tennessee Baptist Children’s Home. What surprised so many was not Lem’s generosity but the size of the contribution that has grown to be a fund currently over $70,000. Years of simple living and selling honey to hikers translated into a blessing for the children Lem and his wife Mimmie were never able to have for themselves. 

Brothers, Lee and Kevin are proud to bring this quality locally owned store to their hometown. This is a local store with deep roots in the region and a real love for the community. Part of the vision of the store is to develop a charitable contributions program from every sale targeting regional youth charities. Instead of taking from the community Uncle Lem’s will be giving back, just like the namesake who never sought fame but nonetheless in his simple mountain living attracted actors, politicians, and world travelers to his humble mountain home.

A few brands you’ll find at Lem’s

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