Moving in

Townsend is transforming visitors into residents

They’re coming. Regardless of why or where, they’re coming.

Some people are moving to Townsend to escape hurricanes. Some are coming to escape high taxes and higher costs of living. Some came from as near as West Tennessee or Georgia and some from as far away as Colorado.

Many started out vacationing here and decided to make it a permanent address.

Candi Rochelle, a broker with Dogwood Realty, said the economy and the weather play a role in who arrives in Townsend permanently. “Definitely, they’re trying to get away from higher taxes and away from really unpredictable weather like the hurricanes in Florida,” she said.

Rochelle said that while the great majority of her clients come from Florida, she does have clients from states such as Utah, Michigan, Ohio, Alabama or Colorado.

Tommy Enos of Woodland Homes said his company is building homes for people moving in from West Tennessee, Alabama, Louisiana, Georgia, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. Before the housing market soured in Florida and made it difficult to sell there, many were selling their homes in Florida and building homes in Townsend, he said

“Twenty-five to 30 percent of the customers we deal with now are out of Florida,” he said.

Richard Way, owner of the Barn Event Center of the Smokies, said he’s seeing a large influx of people from Michigan to Illinois.

“People are finding out how nice this is in comparison to the ‘steel mill’ North. The weather here is better, the cost of living is lower. If they go to Florida, people get tired of hurricane seasons. This is one nice place to live. The secret has finally gotten out,” Way said.

Rochelle said many of those she sees moving to Townsend come just to enjoy life. “They’re reaping the rewards of what they’ve work hard for,” she said.

Rochelle said often people come to the area, drive through and end up in Townsend almost by accident. “They realize this is not far from Pigeon Forge and isn’t far from the airport. I think they appreciate the quieter side,” she said. “You get ready to retire and come from bigger cities, you don’t want traffic and noise and that’s the great thing about Townsend. It’s really its own piece of paradise.”

Often the individuals who become full-time residents start out buying a rental cabin that they simply reserve to use whenever they plan to be in Townsend, and they’ll keep a home elsewhere. “Once they transition up here, they’ll either purchase a bigger place or add on,” Rochelle said.

Some residents go back and forth between Townsend and their homes depending on the season. Rochelle said in one case, three neighbors who lived on the same street in Florida all decided to get second homes in Townsend.

“They all purchased in Townsend and all have rental cabins,” she said.

Enos said those he builds for have made the transition to full-time residency in Townsend.

“The majority of people we build for are full-time residents. We don’t build a lot of vacation homes or second homes. I would say 80 percent of those we build for are becoming full-time residents,” he said.

Way said those who move here often get involved in the community, especially at the Heritage Center.

“They’re joining in down there,” he said. “It’s not their heritage but it’s America’s heritage. They recognize that, and they associate and join,” he said.

Enos some people join the Heritage Center as volunteers but others look for part-time jobs.

“We had a couple last year we built for who have are now very involved at the Heritage Center,” Enos said. “Then some people we build for take jobs just to fill up some idle time, not so much for the money, but just for something to do.”

Rochelle said there is a lot of local fellowship that goes on in Townsend. “I think Townsend is an easy place to make friends,” she said.

Jaimie Matzko grew up in Ohio and her husband grew up in Pennsylvania. They moved from Montana to teach at the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont.

“We moved here because of the Park. We thought we might teach at Tremont and then figure out what we really wanted to do,” she said. “A lot of people who work at Tremont move on. We decided we really liked it here.”

That was five years ago. Jaimie then started Thunderhead Perk, a coffee shop in Townsend. In June she and her husband moved from Tremont to Maryville.

Matzko first learned about Townsend when she interned at Tremont in college, but she often sees potential residents in those who first see Townsend on vacation.

“I see lots of people come here on vacation, then they talk to a real estate agent and they look for property,” she said.

The influx of new residents creates a melting pot of customers, said Matzko. “A lot of my local customers all come from some other place,” she said. “I’ve got a handful of people born and raised here, but a lot of them come here from other places.”

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