Paula Deen to Open $20 Million Restaurant in Pigeon Forge, TN

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Paula Deen’s comeback trail is leading her to the Smoky Mountains of east Tennessee.

The Savannah, Ga.-based celebrity cook announced Wednesday she’s opening a new restaurant, Paula Deen’s Kitchen, in Pigeon Forge, Tenn. A hub for tourists visiting the Dollywood theme park and the nearby Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Pigeon Forge draws about 10 million vacationers a year.

Paula Deen Ventures, a new company launched to manage Deen’s comeback after she acknowledged past use of racial slurs in a lawsuit last year, said it’s pouring $20 million into the 20,000-square-foot restaurant. Earlier this month, Deen’s company announced it’s getting at least $75 million from a private investment firm.

Deen lost four buffet restaurants in casinos operated by Caesars Entertainment last year during the fallout from the controversy.

Check out the press release below for more on Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen:

Paula Deen Ventures (PDV) announced today its first new business “Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen,” a new restaurant and retail operation at “The Island in Pigeon Forge;” a family-friendly real estate project developed by Darby Campbell and Bob McManus, in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Pigeon Forge is the gateway community for Great Smoky Mountains National Park and is the location of the famed Dollywood theme park.

“This restaurant and retail expansion is a ‘sweet spot’ for Paula Deen Ventures”

With a projected design, construction and yearly operation budget of nearly $20 million, the 20,000 square foot Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen, scheduled to open in late summer 2014, marks new expansion of the Deen family’s renowned Savannah, Ga., restaurant and retail operation.

“The Island in Pigeon Forge,” whose initial components opened in 2013, will add significant economic growth to the region, as hospitality, restaurants and lodging are the area’s largest sources of revenue.

In this new venture, the Deen project will join other hospitality and retail leaders such as Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville Hotel and Build-A-Bear, along with a range of retail and dining operations. Also at the development is the Great Smoky Mountain Wheel, an observation wheel attraction reminiscent of the famed London Eye.

“We know that sharing Paula’s love and hospitality with her beloved fans and friends will be a great addition to our new development in Pigeon Forge,” said Campbell. “Together, we can develop Paula Deen retail and restaurants that capture the imagination of Paula’s massive fan base and Pigeon Forge’s huge tourist community,” comments McManus.

Pigeon Forge has more than 10 million visitors a year, and more than 2.5 million people stay overnight in the city.

“This restaurant and retail expansion is a ‘sweet spot’ for Paula Deen Ventures,” says Paula Deen Venture CEO Steven Nanula. “When we met the team at ‘The Island in Pigeon Forge,’ we found an entrepreneurial spirit that was very similar to the passion and drive that fueled the growth of Paula Deen’s restaurant The Lady& Sons which celebrates the beginning of its business with this year’s 25th anniversary,” Nanula said.

Along with this project, Nanula and PDV are exploring additional expansion opportunities in a range of categories in the months to come.

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