Uncle Lem’s Outfitters
Hit the Trails in High-Quality Gear
The promise of Uncle Lem’s Outfitters is simple: good people and good products.
Knoxville is surrounded by a wealth of beautiful mountains and rugged trails, but a limited number of local outdoor sporting goods stores. When Kevin Hill and his brother Lee opened Uncle Lem’s Outfitters in West Knoxville in 2010, however, they created a brand that would be recognized eight years later as the best sporting goods speciality shop in town.
The Hills named their store after an East Tennesse icon and relative: “Mountain Sage” Lem Ownby, the last leaseholder in the Great Smoky Mountains. “We wanted to make sure people knew that we have deep roots in East Tennessee, so we decided to name it after the one iconic thing that most clearly communicates that relationship to East Tennessee,” Hill said. “That is our great-great-uncle Lem.”
When Kevin bought out his brother’s share, his wife Cheryl took a more active role. The outdoor enthusisast community was growing rapidly and business boomed. In just under 8 years, Hill had the opportunity to open two new locations. The first location, which opened on Sevier Ave in 2017, was a passion project for Hill. “I’m a big fan of South Knoxville; I live in South Knoxville. I really wanted to put my money where my mouth was in terms of supporting and encouraging development and growth in South Knoxville.”
The second location, Pigeon Forge will open later this year. “A unique and wonderful piece of property became available, that we were able to purchase,” Hill says. They hope to open the new location by Christmas and plan to create a series of outdoors adventure experiences for Pigeon Forge customers.
Uncle Lem’s is based in Knoxville and built on community support. “You don’t have that kind of growth and support if the people don’t like you,” Hill said.
So why do the people of Knoxville love Uncle Lem’s? “Experience is going to be directly related to two key factors: who your staff are and what your products are,” Hill says.
The people of Uncle Lem’s are the face of the company. Each one, Hill says, has his or her own unique strengths and in their respective specialties. “All of our staff have great people skills, and all of our staff have great product knowledge,” he says. Hill trains staff members to work together to provide the specific information each customer needs. “It’s about creating a good balance for them to back up and support one another.”
Uncle Lem’s competes with online giants and national chains by curating a smaller selection of only the highest caliber products. “In the day of the Internet, there’s no way brick-and-mortars—especially local shops—can compete with the vast array of product choices that exist online,” Hill says. “Our goal is to service people who don’t want to be overwhelmed with choice. They want good choices, but more importantly they want to have the benefit of true expertise so they end up with the right product for their needs.”
At Uncle Lem’s, quality products combine with customer rewards. “Lem’s Loyals” receive text messages about great deals and new events—not to mention, customers who show those texts at checkout will receive extra discounts. The store also offers free shipping on orders over $49, and a satisfaction guarantee.