KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — With the reopening of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park this weekend and families celebrating Mother’s Day, Gatlinburg businesses saw a surge in tourists.

The increased foot traffic led to busy days and high sales, something that was much-needed after many shops were forced to close their doors due to the pandemic.

The Donut Friar was one of the businesses that happily welcomed the increased foot traffic, selling out of their donuts consistently throughout the weekend.

“A lot of customers came back and they told us ‘we’re so happy you guys are reopening, we’ve missed your donuts.’ We’re just happy that we’ll be able to serve our customers after a month and a half of not opening up,” said Evan Ho, and employee at the Donut Friar.

Ole Smoky Whiskey Distillery also welcomed more visitors this weekend. The company had three Sevier County locations close in March. CEO Robert Hall says it was a great weekend for business, but he also acknowledges the work his employees put in to make sure the stores were safe for customers.

“We have what are called sneeze guards all through the retail stores and that’s to protect both our guests as well as protect our employees.” Hall said.

Sneeze guards at Ole Smoky Whiskey Distillery
Sneeze guards at Ole Smoky Whiskey Distillery

New Procedures

Both the Donut Friar and Ole Smoky Whiskey Distillery have implemented new rules for customers and employees to keep them safe.

Plexiglass shields have been installed at registers; employees are wearing masks, and customers must stand 6 feet apart when inside the stores.

Ole Smoky Whiskey Distillery had also started selling its own hand sanitizer. They started making it when the demand for it rose. It is available for purchase online and in-store.