Carter County’s first outdoor supplier opens downtown

Published 2:45 pm Friday, May 26, 2023

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By Danielle Morin
Star Correspondent
“It’s about time,” a phrase new storeowner, Peyton Brondos, says he has been hearing a lot from local residents. The comments have come after the opening of Carter County’s first outdoor supplier, Hellbender Outfitters, with Brondos calling the support he’s received “overwhelming,” saying, “We’ve had so many people tell us how excited they are and be very supportive.”
“We’re avid outdoor enthusiasts,” Brondos said of himself and wife, Kimberly Schlager, on deciding to open Elizabethton’s newest shop. “We’re always taking [our dogs] to the river, finding new trails, and getting outdoors. We would often find ourselves going to Asheville or Boone and seeing stores that provided ways for people to get outdoors. And there wasn’t anything like that in our area, so that’s what got us thinking. This is a great area; there’s so much opportunity for outdoor rec so we figured we’d open it up, give it a shot.”
Brondos says Elizabethton is full of outdoor activities, but having access to the supplies needed for those activities is “crucial,” and something that Elizabethton has been lacking. “We were kinda shocked that nobody has opened it yet. And we kept thinking if someone hasn’t already, it’s not too long before someone picks up on the market. We wanted to come in, we’re local, and we wanted to keep it local and support our community rather than having maybe a franchise or someone come in and take that small town [aspect] away from it.”
With its grand opening three weeks ago, Hellbenders offers a wide variety of must-haves for any outdoor activity or occasion, including pet supplies so dog-owners can bring their furry friends with them when they adventure. Whether it’s on the water, or in the woods, Hellbenders has any and all gear. “And anything you don’t see in the store, we can special order,” says Brondos.
In addition to the new item inventory, Hellbenders offers consignment opportunities to local residents looking to sell their own gear. The store also partners with local vendors to help them broaden their markets. “If there’s a small hobbyist who makes their own outdoor-themed items, then this is a space where they can start to sell their stuff. We just want to keep it local and offer a variety of both used and new as well,” says Brondos.
 With salamander logos on display throughout the store, Brondos says he and his wife named the new site after a local salamander found in Carter County rivers by the same name, hoping to bring awareness to their existence and preservation. “Our whole goal is to get people outdoors, which also puts pressure on our local environment. So if we could start with even just educating people about what is in our area, then we can bring awareness to something because their numbers are dwindling. They’re not endangered yet, but they’re getting close. They need really clean water and without clean water, they start to die. So, the more awareness we can bring, hopefully the longer we can keep them around,” adding environmental awareness to the list of ways the store is hoping to positively impact the community. “They’re really neat, and a lot of people don’t know we have them right in our own backyard.”
With summer around the corner, Brondos says he is “excited” for the future of Hellbender Outfitters, adding that paddleboard rentals will soon be available.
Customers can shop at Hellbender Outfitters at 547 E Elk Ave. Interested vendors or those looking to sell their gear can call Peyton at 423-430-9123.

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