Go outside. We'll meet you there.

"God saw all that he had made, and it was very good indeed." - Gen. 1:31

The origin of a lifestyle brand

In many ways, The Good Outside started decades ago as Michele and Stephen Smith began bringing their young children to Lookout Mountain for its beauty and adventure. They would hike the trails at DeSoto State Park, enjoy picnics, marvel at the views from Little River Canyon overlooks, and explore the shops and festivals at Mentone."Listen," Stephen said one day, rolling the car window all the way down as they drove through the park. "Do you hear that? The mountain is speaking to us." They laughed, but there was a measure of truth in his words as Lookout Mountain and a life more centered in nature was attractive to them all.As the kids grew older, the Smith family grew busier. Operating their marketing and communications company kept them running, and time on Lookout Mountain became more scarce. Opportunities to enjoy a hike or a drive around the canyon became even more treasured.Though quieter, the mountain's voice was never silent. In 2021 it grew loud when the couple bought a rustic log cabin perched on the brow of the mountain. Its breathtaking views of the valley and to the distant mountains stretching into Georgia and Tennessee made it the perfect vacation rental cabin, with the couple enjoying it for themselves when they could.A HISTORIC OPPORTUNITY
While adding to their cabin rental business, Michele and Stephen began working with a local real estate developer in 2022 on a thrilling project. In the heart of the charming mountain hamlet of Mentone sat a century-old two-story building that had been home to restaurants, antique stores, bakeries, boutiques, and other shops through the years. Much of the building sat empty, and it was in need of significant renovation. The Hitching Post was an icon of the community, and it deserved to be brought back to life.
While their friend bought the structure and began the restoration, Michele and Stephen developed a vision for the building and recruited tenants to bring a mix of food and retail to the space. It would become a gathering place for the community and an entertainment venue for the region. People would come from miles around to participate in cultural events, meet artists, enjoy great food, and participate in community dances.The Smiths themselves would be tenants, opening Camp Town Mercantile as a place to buy supplies for outdoor adventures, find unique books and gifts, pick up tourist information, and book cabin stays.As renovations neared completion in portions of the building, all tenants were set to meet on Friday morning, February 3, 2023, to share their dreams and nail down details for an opening day.That meeting never happened.WHEN FIRE STEALS A DREAM
Stephen's phone rang late Thursday night. It was the innkeeper from Mentone Bed and Breakfast. "The Hitching Post is on fire," she said. His heart sank. The couple rushed to the scene, a 30-minute drive away, to find fire department crews surrounding the building, dumping tons of water on the mass of smoldering debris to keep the flames from spreading to surrounding structures.
It was a complete loss. The Hitching Post was gone.The couple was devastated, not only at the loss of their personal dream but also at the tremendous loss to the community. They knew what the building meant to the Mentone area, and they grieved for the loss of what could have been.The stress of the fire and its aftermath took its toll. Diagnosed with the rare neuromuscular disease myasthenia gravis in 2014, Stephen was already dealing with worsening symptoms that had once been under control. As 2023 unfolded, his symptoms grew more aggressive. Beginning in April, he was hospitalized three separate times across the spring and summer, in total spending 32 days in the hospital (including four days on a ventilator).A DREAM REIMAGINED
It was during these days of struggle and deep reflection the couple came to realize that their dream for Camp Town Mercantile was not dead. Their love of Mentone and Lookout Mountain remained, and their connection with the outdoors came into sharper focus. Instead of a physical location, they could create an online experience to share their custom designs with an even broader audience. And thus The Good Outside lifestyle brand was born.