Southern Hospitality


Coloradans find retirement in Rarity Bay a welcome experience

East Tennessee’s warm welcome brought Deb and Mike Held from their Colorado home to Rarity Bay, and it’s why they’re staying.

Married 44 years, Mike and Deb met in college in Nebraska and raised their four children in the Denver area where Mike was a partner in several car dealerships over the last 20 years. Until Deb’s recent retirement, she worked in the school system, banking and accounting. Their three daughters and one son are now grown and raising their own families, which has meant nine grandchildren so far.

Ending up in the Rarity Bay community near Vonore was not in their retirement plan.

“Our plan was supposed to involve a ranch in Colorado,” says Mike Held. In fact, they were already ensconced in a large home on 68 acres of Colorado ranch land. Then a visit to East Tennessee changed everything they thought they knew.

Ron Bills, founder and president of Providence Builders of Tennessee, and his wife Diane, vice president, became friends of the Helds through one of their car dealership partners in Colorado. In 2017, the Billses invited the Helds to East Tennessee for a visit to their home in Rarity Bay.

It was love at first sight. And it wasn’t long before they traded those 68 acres in Colorado for a third of an acre in East Tennessee. “I had to leave my horses and chickens,” says Deb. But she has more than made up for that loss with time spent exploring the Great Smoky Mountains, soaking in Tennessee’s lush landscapes and enjoying the people. Always the people.

“Everyone is just so friendly here, and I think the word is getting out about Tennessee,” she says, laughing. “Even the car rental guy at the airport was friendly and easy to work with.”

“We just loved everything about it,” Mike says. That feeling a high school senior gets when she finds the college campus where she fits, the satisfaction one experiences when the last puzzle piece falls into place — that’s what the Helds felt when they decided to make East Tennessee their home. Working with Providence, the Helds broke ground in January 2019 on their 4,900-square-foot home at Rarity Bay. In November, the couple moved in.

Rarity Bay on Tellico Lake is a gated community in Monroe and Loudon counties, ideally located on the front porch of the Great Smoky Mountains. The community of about 900 homeowners that some residents call a “southern Cape Cod” includes waterfront living with mountain views and amenities that include a country club, championship golf course, tennis and pickleball courts, fitness center, swimming pool, community docks, horseback and hiking trails, and more.

“We totally missed the coronavirus during the building, thankfully,” said Mike. “So that wasn’t a challenge for us. Our biggest challenge was building a house long distance from Colorado.” Though Providence made even that obstacle disappear. 

The “all in one” architect/builder offers special software on its website for clients to get an up-close view of progress right from a cell phone. The Helds took full advantage of it. The couple logged on to the website daily, literally watching their home being built. The software made it easy to work through questions and any design changes.

“I looked forward to getting online every morning just to see what was new,” says Mike.

The couple’s dream for the house matched their vision, with views of the mountains and water. But their initial plan was a bit large for the lot.

“We wanted two master bedrooms in a ranch design with a three-car garage, so we couldn’t keep quite all of it,” he says. “Providence helped us work out a change in the design.”

This new home in a new region of the country meant pretty much starting over in choosing furniture and housewares. But the Helds did pack some special pieces that blend with their nearly all new furnishings.

“We brought with us a rare chicken egg incubator and an antique pie safe that has been in Deb’s family for many years. It’s very much like a hutch,” says Mike. And while they sold their horses in Colorado, Deb brought her saddle to Tennessee. Just in case.

Accustomed to darker wood and more carpet and beams in many Colorado homes, the couple chose white cabinetry in the kitchen and wood floors throughout.

“Diane was always so helpful to show us different styles and advise us,” noted Deb. They chose wood beams in the vaulted ceiling of the great room even though they were not in the original design. The stunning change resulted in a beam that runs down the center and two additional beams down both sides of the ceiling. The massive floor-to-ceiling natural stone fireplace in the great room invites, with subtle colors and tones carried into the kitchen’s granite countertops and backsplash.

This home is designed for gathering and entertaining, creating open spaces that bring people together. The light-filled great room leads out onto their favorite spot. “The tongue-and-groove vaulted screened deck is the place we love the most,” says Mike. The master suite also offers its own private access to the deck.

Throughout the building process, the Helds were pleased with the friendly service they received. “That spirit is Tennessee for us,” said Deb. “From the trim to the granite and flooring, the vendors were so helpful and personal. They took the time to get it right,” Mike says. The design, building and move-in journey have been the perfect recipe for their new life here. Having built several homes before coming to Rarity Bay, Deb and Mike Held say their experience with Providence is the best.

Ron Bills says this is exactly the kind of experience he and his wife want for all their Providence clients. “We love it when a plan comes together. We’re not just putting a house on top of a piece of property. We know how important it is to integrate the design of a home into the land. We wanted to do that with the Helds,” Bills says.

Founded in 2005, Providence is headquartered in the old courthouse in Lenoir City. “We totally gutted the building and completely renovated. The care we wanted to take in redesigning that building speaks volumes about who we are as a company,” Bills says. “The craftsmanship we put in our offices is the same detail we want to go into the homes we build.”

One year after moving in, the house and East Tennessee still feel new to the Helds.

“We’re still in the honeymoon stage,” says Mike. “We love it all—in the community and in our house. Our open great room that takes you to the deck, the bar, bonus room and our master are every bit what we dreamed of.”

Rarity Bay residents welcomed the couple early, offering to help their new neighbors settle in..

“We’re all from somewhere else, and this place and the people are a great fit for us,” says Deb. “I still ask myself why everyone is so friendly. They just are.

“We still think of the Providence team, too. They are respectful, passionate and courteous about what they do—from the painters to the tile team.”

So have they found their forever home?

“Well…maybe not,” says Mike, smiling. 

While their Rarity Bay home is near the water, it’s not waterfront. “We’ve bought a lot right on the lake, actually just a few blocks away, and we’re trying to build a dock right now.”

So, a new home might be in the future. “We’ll see,” he says.

In the meantime, the couple is still discovering the region’s natural resources, including the nation’s most popular park. “We love the Great Smoky Mountains National Park,” notes Deb. “And we’re still exploring – always exploring.”   

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