But we still put a touch of Smoky Mountain friendliness in every box we ship.You could say the mail order business is in our DNA.
The very first post office for Pigeon Forge opened in the Old Mill in 1841, with the mill’s owner and builder William Love serving as the town’s first postmaster. So it was a return to our roots when we started selling tasty Tennessee food by mail in the 1990s
We didn’t have a catalog or a website back then. People would call our shops to buy items and have them shipped. We saw an opportunity to ship a taste of Tennessee all over the country, so we launched our first website in the early ‘00s selling old-fashioned products like pancake mix and handmade pottery with the modern help of high tech.
We put out our first catalog in 2002, and it was a learning process. Trying to figure out what our customers would want to buy by mail from us was daunting. In September of that year we gathered some of the products we were making, from pottery to stone-ground grains, found a photographer and a location, and took some pictures. We spent an entire month putting together that first catalog together with 100 items in it, and we were so proud of it!
These days the catalog is year-round project. We’re always thinking about what to put in next year’s. Someone on our marketing team will say “You know what would be great for our catalog?,” and the idea turns into a brainstorming session about all the goodies we can put in the following year. This year we have more than 700 products for sale in our catalog and online.
Now, 18 catalogs, 4 website redesigns, and 4 order-processing programs later, we have a loyal family of customers and new ones that discover us everyday. We still remember entering our 5,000th order into the system back in 2002 and thinking we were working harder than Santa and all of his elves combined. These days we handle that many orders in November and December alone!
A typical day in our Mail Order Department starts about 6 a.m. Mike, our head of shipping, downloads the previous day’s orders from our website. He works with The Old Mill stores to pull together all the items in an order, from pottery to homemade jams and jellies to our stone-ground grains. If someone orders a cake or a pie, Mike tells the bakers to make them fresh from scratch, in the morning, so the goodies can cool and be packed up by the afternoon. He goes several times a day to pick up items from each restaurant and store in The Old Mill complex and brings them back to the mail department so they can be packed up promptly for shipping.
Meanwhile, Sherri, main customer service operator, takes orders by phone, all day. Sure, the internet is great, but many of our customers still like to call in orders the old-fashioned way. We love our customers and we love speaking with them, so keep the old-school orders coming, people.
On a quiet day we may only have 50 orders, but on other days we get hundreds. We got more than 800 orders on our busiest shipping day last year. Whether it’s 10 orders or a thousand, our staff of about a dozen people gets it done. Everyone from The Old Mill owners to the intern jumps in to help answer the phones, or pick, pack, and ship. We aim to ship your item the day after you order so your goods are fresh.
Next day, we start it all over again. And the next day. And the next.
We keep a personal touch in our orders, so you feel the warmth of The Old Mill when you open your box of Tennessee goodies. Our customers are always on our minds as we load up each box and label it for its final destination. We want you to remember the time you visited us, and to be excited to share your Old Mill products with family and friends.