When Bo Terry first moved to Travelers Rest in the early 1970s, the town was just one of many small Upstate communities, located north of Greenville on US 276 - a place where he could escape to trek in his beloved Smoky Mountains.
Terry, who sold outdoors gear and worked as a rafting guide, never envisioned that Travelers Rest would become a prime tourist destination for visitors to the Upstate.
Today, Greenville's premier "hidden gem" draws thousands of hikers and nature lovers, as well as fans of small towns with plenty to see and do - and eat and drink.
Terry is owner of Sunrift Adventures, which since 1980 has been a destination for outdoors lovers, selling kayaks, canoes, trail bikes and all manner of clothing and accessories. He laughs when he considers how his passion - and his adopted hometown - have changed.
"Thirty years ago, only a small percentage cared about (outdoors adventures)," he says. "Nowadays, I think it's a majority. And it's only fitting that Travelers Rest be a gateway to the South Carolina and North Carolina mountains."
These days, more than a dozen establishments line Travelers Rest's manicured Main Street, including Tandem, a French-style creperie; ice cream shop Cool Mama's; TReat's, a smoothies and juice bar ; plus the Whistle Stop at The American Café, Shortfield's, Sidewall Pizza, Upcountry Provisions, Duke's Doggs and others serving meals throughout the day and week.
Establishments feed off each other, creating a dining and adventure landscape. "Our business has really grown, especially in the summer," says Terry, who moved to his current 8,000-square-foot store in 1995. "At one time, we were the only dedicated outdoors shop in the Upstate."
Now he is doing a thriving business competing with chains such as Half Moon, Appalachian Outfitters and REI. Sunrift stocks more kayaks than any outlet in South Carolina and sells an average of 600 a year.
"The sidewalks used to roll up after 5 p.m.," Terry says. "It's nice to have more activity now, and it helps having the restaurants and brewery."
That would be Swamp Rabbit Brewery, one of a growing number of microbreweries in Greenville. There's also Copperhead Mountain Distillery, which produces and sells "modern moonshine" for the adult crowd.
If Travelers Rest is a "hidden gem," it's much less hidden now." In 2014, Budget Travel magazine named Travelers Rest No. 4 among "coolest small towns in America."
To learn more about Travelers Rest and other Greenville "hidden gems," visit www.UpcountrySC.com or www.visitgreenvillesc.com.