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Retail Faculty Engage in Gatlinburg and Clinton Communities

Michelle Childs


Sejin Ha


Ann Fairhurst


Youn Kyung Kim


Retail and consumer science faculty are currently working on two community-based projects: “After the Fire: Small Business Recovery in Gatlinburg” and “Rebuilding the Litter Ponderosa Zoo and Rescue Gift Shop.

Michelle Childs, Sejin Ha, Ann Fairhurst, and Youn-Kyung Kim will aid in the long-term disaster recovery process for Gatlinburg’s small businesses and community. This research assesses challenges that local business owners and managers faced during and after the wildfire in November and December, 2016, by identifying key factors when confronted with disaster survival and recovery. Researchers are developing a short- and long-term disaster recovery plan that can be utilized by small businesses in Gatlinburg and other cities that experience disasters. To identity research participants and small businesses (retail, hospitality, and tourism businesses) in Gatlinburg, the team worked with the Gatlinburg Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.

The findings and the small business recovery plan developed from this project will be shared with businesses and local agencies such as the Chamber of Commerce, Sevier County tourism offices, and Gatlinburg Hospitality Association. Recommendations will be shared with local stakeholders such as the Small Business Administration for effective disaster prevention and management strategies related to small business recovery.

The team is developing a small business disaster recovery strategy which will be used to develop a long-term sustainable small business continuity model encompassing three main stages: preparedness (e.g., pre-disaster plans, disaster management); short-term recovery (e.g., identifying support systems); and long-term recovery (e.g., economic revitalization and funding).

Rebuilding the Little Ponderosa Zoo and Rescue Gift Shop

Last December, the Little Ponderosa Zoo suffered a devastating fire which resulted in the loss of many of their rescue animals, the facilities in which they were held, and their income-generating gift shop. Since then, the number of exotic animals in need of a forever home has steadily increased, so the zoo continues to take in rescues despite their losses.

Lucy Simpson


Lucy Simpson, retail and consumer science internship coordinator, and students in UT’s Strategic Retail Planning course have been working on an experience-learning community project as the zoo rebuilds its retail gift shop. Students applied their retail knowledge to set up a gift store, providing a unique capstone experience.

Since its establishment in 1996, approximately 4,000 animals have been rescued—most of which came from homes that could no longer take care of their exotic pets. The Little Ponderosa Zoo is a nonprofit 501c3 organization which is highly reliant on income-providing sources to care for its rescues and give them a safe, loving, and forever home. A significant portion of the operating costs come from their own fundraising efforts. As such, funds raised through their retail gift shop can substantially contribute to the economic health of the organization.

The new retail gift store has the potential to contribute upwards of $65,000-$100,000 to the rescue’s needed operational funds. By teaching and applying retail knowledge to store operations including employees, the project assists in providing a sustained income-generating retail store.