For over 50 years, 20 million customers from all over the world have come & gone thru Jim Oliver’s doors, and sampled his delicious Southern Cookin inspired by generations of family cooks.
2010 marked the 50 anniversary for the Oliver family to be in business on Monteagle. Jim Oliver passed away in May 2007, and his adult children, James David and Betsy Oliver are now running the family business. Jim is also survived by daughter Nancy Oliver.
JIM OLIVER was born and raised in the hollows of the Tennessee Mountains, about 10 miles from the present location of the Smoke House in Monteagle. The community is known as ‘Payne’s Cove’, and everybody there in those days worked cutting timber, running saw mills, share cropping, or makin ‘white lightin’. Jim’s dad, Cheatum, had the finest matched set of mules in the cove which helped the Olivers drag the logs off of the mountain slopes and hollows down to the saw mill that his cousin Bayo Nunley ran. All the men in the Oliver family worked at timbering and sawmilling. During the winter months, when the weather was too bad to timber, cool temperatures made excellent time to start processing the hogs for meat and lard and to make a little ‘moonshine liker’. Jim took particular interest in the fine art of curing, smoking meats, and barbequing. From those early days of necessity on the farm, Jim Oliver has brought these time honored traditions and recipes to his business, that he started in 1960, to his Smoke House Restaurant on top of the mountain at Monteagle, Tennessee where today, over 300,000 customers every year stop by to sample the taste and smells of all those recipes that Jim has preserved for all these years; traditions handed down from generations of his family. So, when you are enjoying that delicious smoked meat, remember that you are sampling something that has been handed down thru several generations, and still as good today as it was yesterday.
In 1960, twenty one year old Jim Oliver, started building his reputation for cookin’ (and excitement) at an old “Honkey-Tonk” he rented, called the Bee Hive Drive-In, with 2 employees,(sister Joann and her daughter Shelia Fay) 6 counter stools, a juke box, a pin ball machine, and curb service to the parking lot; which served as the dining room and fist fight brawling area; there wasn’t a lot to do around town, so fightin’ was pretty popular entertainment for all the mountain and valley locals.
The Bee Hive thrived, and Jim made enough money there to buy another historic landmark restaurant just down the street. Jim and his brother Melvin purchased the Historic but fledging Monteagle Diner, and reclaimed its fame by re-making it one of the most well known restaurants between Chicago and Miami along the famous “Dixie Highway”. “Tennessee Country Ham & Hot Biscuits” was the catch phrase for the Diner on the billboards out on the highway, and travelers up and down the byway came in to sample the great cookin’ at the Diner.
In 1975, building it from the ground up, Jim opened up the Smoke House Restaurant with 14 employees, 80 seats in the restaurant, a general store, and a menu full of family recipes handed down from generations of Oliver cooks, featuring traditional old smoke house style meats.
Along about 1982, Jim put together his team, including son J. D. Oliver & Hank Landers, to expand and promote the Smoke House Restaurant into even a bigger attraction, by building the meeting & retreat center, the Mountain Lodge, and Log cabins for family and corporate retreats, meetings, and vacations. During this time, the Olivers expanded their advertising and marketing from the Interstate billboards, to include direct sales to corporate, association, and tour groups. The Smoke House also was successful in obtaining more free press about the business and its unique history. In the 90’s,
J. D. Oliver began to promote the Smoke House on the internet by starting the first Smoke House Web Page and on line mail order catalogue. Collecting names and addresses of customers coming thru the doors began to add up, and the mail order catalogue business quickly became an integral part of the overall business.
Jim passed away May 16, 2007, and has left a legacy to his children that they continue. Today Jim Oliver’s Smoke House is still operated by Jim’s children, serving the same family recipes, and a few of them with Betsy’s (Jim’s daughter) twist of her own. The Smoke House has over 70 employees, a 10,000sf General Store full of antiques and old fashioned goods, a Best Western 85 room Lodge, 21 Rustic Log Cabins featuring fireplaces and Jacuzzi tubs, a 5000sf Conference Center accommodating meetings & reunions, and music shows on Friday & Saturday nights, and over 25 acres of campus for customers to have fun on. “Dad was never satisfied with standing still, he built and built and built until he created a business that could cater not only to local folks, but also to all the travelers up and down the highways” states James David Oliver, Jim’s son.
In conjunction with the 52nd Anniversary, Jim Oliver’s Smoke House is featuring “Music on the Mountain with The Best of Nashville”, singer/songwriter acoustic music shows, every Friday & Saturday night, starting at 6:30pm/cst, free to all Smoke House customers as a Thank You to all our loyal customers.
The future of the Smoke House holds much promise. This generation of Oliver’s are embracing the technologies such as developing social network sites and building an E-commerce On Line Store for marketing the over five hundred Smoke House Brands. It’s the Oliver’s goals to keep the old traditions alive and in place, but also remember where they came from and how, and use these new methods of internet business, just like Jim used the new Interstate in 1960’s and 70’s, to grow the Smoke House with the times, into new markets and new customers on the current “information highway”.
You can check out what the Oliver’s have going on by visiting their web site at www.TheSmokeHouse.com , or see videos at http://www.youtube.com/smokehousemonteagle or become a friend at http://www.facebook.com/thesmokehouseofficial
. . . Or, just drop by, and come-n-see what’s cookin’!