In the spring of 1981, during the midst of a small recession that gripped the country, my wife, Brenda, and I were looking for a way to make ends meet. Home building had come to a standstill and with three children ages three, four, and five, we were looking for an alternative means of earning a living.
We knew the 1982 World’s Fair would be coming to Knoxville in just a little over a year. There was talk of a room shortage in the area during the fair. This got us to thinking about the possibility of renting cabins to the crowds who were sure to come. Gatlinburg had Ski Mountain, which rented chalets to the skiers and summer guests who visited the National Park. We thought the idea of log cabins in a rustic mountain setting just might appeal to a lot of people. Armed with this dream and little else, we bought a few lots in a development that Brenda’s dad had created called Hidden Mountain.
In October of 1981, Hidden Mountain Chalet and Log Cabin Rentals opened with seven units and a 16’ x 20’ office on a gravel road. With help from a few motels in the area we managed to take in $1,000 per unit that first October. We were extremely encouraged by our modest success and closed our office for the winter to begin building more units to get ready for the World’s Fair traffic the following summer. Some of our family members got involved with the project and we reopened in May of 1982 with about 25 units and four new partners.
Although the World’s Fair did not live up to the expectations of area businesses, Hidden Mountain was well received by the people who did come and stay with us. While the area as a whole did not do well during the time, we still felt encouraged about the possibilities of the Hidden Mountain idea.
After some good old-fashioned horse trading with our partners, Brenda and I once again wound up the sole owners of our dream development. Our dream soon became a nightmare as we realized sometime in late August that the Fair would end in October as well as our income. We personally owned nine homes which we would have to pay for all winter long with no income.
It was during this very bleak time that a remarkable thing happened to us. God began to teach us about tithing. We were both Christians and attended church regularly, but we had never been tithers. We just couldn’t afford to.
We knew God understood. So why was he asking this of us now? We were in extreme circumstances and surely, He, being God, knew that. But He wouldn’t leave us alone. We had all these homes plus our residence in Sevierville and three children to feed with no source of income. Why couldn’t He see that? We tried every argument but to no avail. He wasn’t going away with this idea. His convicting Spirit was overwhelming. A former customer of ours who owed us some money had paid us and God wanted the money. All of it!We knew we should trust His promises, but when you’re looking bankruptcy right in the face, it sure does make it difficult. Finally we gave in. We gave Him the money, asking Him to forgive us. We gave it cheerfully and without regret. We asked for nothing in return. For the first time in our lives we put our total trust in Him.
You wouldn’t believe what happened next. We had not intended to sell the rental units. Because we had no customers it seemed like the only way to survive the winter was to start selling. God was true to His promises. Our rental customers began to ask about the possibility of buying a unit. Before Christmas, we sold every rental unit we had. Guess who got the first 10% of the profit!
Our business has grown from seven units to the resort you see today! We have accommodated guests from all over the world. Our units have changed from very simple cabins decorated from thrift shops to the very finest accommodations in the Smokies, which were decorated by the finest interior decorator, my wife, Brenda. Our goal is to be the best. We want our guests to have the best possible vacation and we will do our part to make it happen. Our three children are now 39, 40, and 42, and it looks like they will be a part of Hidden Mountain for a long time. They grew up with Hidden Mountain and they too, want to see it continue to grow and prosper. We look forward to their ideas and input to keep Hidden Mountain “the premiere place to stay in the Smokies.”
– Butch Smith