September 7, 2010

Bush’s General Store & Visitors Center, a review

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Today we helped to drive the senior adult group from our church, Faith UMC, to Chesnut Hill, TN, to tour the Bush’s Visitors Center and Museum and to eat at their cafe for lunch.  The drive took approximately 1 hour from Knoxville, and the experience was well worth the journey. 

Our daughter, about 15 senior adults, and I made the trip for fun and fellowship.  I wasn’t sure of what to expect when we started out for the day.  I didn’t expect to leave impressed with the attention to environmental issues nor to have learned as much as I did about the process of bean canning and the company history.  

Our daughter is 4 1/2.  She LOVED the museum!  She delighted in completing the trivia page in the museum.  There were 6 or 7 questions throughout the museum.  She found the answers, marked them on her page, and decoded a secret message from Duke.  Unfortunately it wasn’t the family recipe, but she was pleased nonetheless.  We had our photos taken in a booth and green screen so that it looked like we were having our pictures made with the real star of the show, the beloved dog Duke.  She showed everyone her photo and couldn’t wait to tell her daddy all about it when we arrived home.  Bonus—the photos and the admission to the museum were free!

The cafe served sandwiches, salads and hot dishes.  One of the ladies who had the catfish said that it was the best she’d ever eaten, “And I eat it everywhere I go.”  The waitress brought out small ramekins of baked beans as a little appetizer while we were perusing the menu—such a nice touch.  Out of all of the foods that they offered, the desserts were the biggest hits.  Among other choices, pinto bean pecan pie and black bean brownies were on the list.  We didn’t know about the brownies until we had already eaten, but a few people tried the pinto bean pie and were pleased.  At the very least, you can say that you ate a pie with beans in it!  The foods ranged in prices from $3.99 for beans and cornbread to around $9 for the larger hot platters.  The kids meals were around $5 and came with a fountain drink that the waitress easily exchanged for milk as a healthier option.

The movie in the museum was very informative and well done.  I had no idea that the Bush family and company put so much effort to being as environmentally friendly as they do.  They have an onsite water treatment plant and take many measures to waste as little water as they can.  Even the visitor center bathrooms had dual flush toilets (liquid waste uses less water to flush).  The plant uses methane produced on site to partially power the factory.  They even use cows as their lawn mowers.  The second part of the movie was a cute film of the history of grilling by Jay and Duke.  Our daughter laughed and laughed at the costumes that they wore at different times in the film. 

The General Store/gift shop had a wide range of goods—everything from old fashioned candy by the pound to some of the cutest aprons I’ve ever seen.  I pined over many of the hand towels.  I didn’t buy anything other than a few pieces of candy, as I’m making an effort to be more disciplined with our spending, but I found the prices to be great.  The aprons that I really liked were selling for around $15, and the same apron would have cost almost twice that much at shops in downtown Knoxville.  They had some beautiful needlepoint pillows selling for $40.  While that is still a lot of money for a pillow, I’ve seen similar ones sell for over two times that amount at places like Home Goods and even Tuesday Morning.  The store also sold just about every variety of Bush’s Beans you can imagine and all sorts of Bush’s Beans logo t-shirts and souvenirs. 

The decor of the entire complex was also notable.  There was an attention to detail that you don’t see at many museums or visitor centers.  They opened the center this summer, and so it is new and fresh.  The landscaping is lovely and well tended—we saw many butterflies who also agreed. There were plenty of outdoor seats so that you can rest and enjoy the fresh air.  The only critique was that trash cans were not placed where they were easily found if needed.

In full disclosure, I have previously met both Jim Ethier, Bush Brothers & Co. Chairman, and Jay Bush.  I met Jim at a party that a friend hosted, but he wouldn’t know me from Adam.  His wife, he, and I had polite conversation for a few minutes during the party, and I remember liking that he was such a down-to-earth and friendly guy.  I met Jay at one of the chili cook-offs in Knoxville that a friend was coordinating.  My Hubby was taking photos for the event, and he was able to chat with Jay and Duke more than I.  I told my daughter today that she met Duke when she was just a baby, and she thought that was “very cool”.  I have no affiliation with them or the company, and Bush’s doesn’t know I’m writing this review.

If you are in the East Tennessee area, I highly recommend a visit to Chesnut Hill to the Bush’s General Store for an inexpensive, informative, and family friendly outing.  We had a wonderful day and were pleasantly surprised at how great of an experience it was.  And do you know what?  One of the ladies who rode with me in my car surprised me when I dropped her off by giving me one of the hand towels I’d been admiring in the gift shop!  A perfect day!

3 comments:

  1. Thanks for the good review! We live in Jeff City and homeschool, I have contemplated taking our 3 young kids but wasn't sure if kids would enjoy it...so I'm glad to hear your daughter had a good time!! :) Thanks for all your work on your blog...I have you in my google reader and appreciate all your tips, etc!! :)

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  2. Thank you for taking the time to write Candace! I am recommending this as an outing for many of my friends who homeschool, and I hope you and your children enjoy it!

    Thanks again for reading and for your comment. I appreciate it more than you know.

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