GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WVLT) -- Paula Deen arrived in Gatlinburg Friday to meet with fans and to open her new retail store on the Parkway.
The Paula Deen Store is opening beside Ole Smoky Moonshine. Deen made a surprise visit to her new retail store, and fans waited outside for hours to be able to meet their favorite Southern Chef.
"She's been a true inspiration to me for so long. I've been collecting all her cookware stuff for about five years now," said Austin Dalton from Grainger County.
Dalton was waiting outside when the staff arrived to open the store at 8 a.m.
Deen was scheduled to greet fans at 1 p.m.; she arrived about half an hour earlier than expected to greet the waiting crowd.
Deen says she's excited about her new adventure in the Smoky Mountains, a place she and her family have vacationed.
"You want to give people a wonderful experience through the eating. This was just a natural place to come. It's my people," said Deen.
Staff of the store had a surprise for Deen. They have set up the original stove she cooked on in her first TV show.
"Oh my gosh it's been so long since I've seen it," said Deen as she looked over the stove. "And nobody could see it, but I had two little boys playing at my feet as I stood up at this stove and cooked. I had two little boys playing with their cars and their soldiers playing at my feet."
Deen plans to be back in Pigeon Forge on June 21 and 22 to do a live cooking show. Tickets are still on sale for the event at the LeConte Center.
Deen arrived in Gatlinburg with a $10,000 check to the Boys & Girls Club of the Smoky Mountains. She says she plans to give back to the communities where she does business.