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KaTom moves into new digs in Kodak Industrial park

by Rachel Osborn

SEVIERVILLE — After months and months of planning and preparation, KaTom Restaurant Supply Inc. has finally moved into its new Sevier County facility — the former Heritage Log Homes building in Smith-Thomas Technology Park.

Employees began the process of filling the 90,000-square-foot headquarters on Thursday evening, making the 33-mile trip from the Russellville warehouse near Morristown and lugging in boxes full of files and paperwork. By Friday afternoon the building was a sea of activity, with painters, carpenters and employees busily readying the space.

“Seven days ago there was no carpet or paint,” CEO Patricia Bible said, standing in the building’s lobby. “Everyone said, ‘It won’t come together in time,’ but we made it happen.”

This will be the second move for Bible and KaTom since the company’s inception 25 years ago, though leaving the residential garage where she and her late husband Tim started out required much less effort. The transition to Sevierville was needed, since KaTom had outgrown its Russellville building four times and there was no further space for expansion.

Now they’re in a building whose warehouse could hold the entire Russellville location several times over. The former log home manufacturing facility has been completely transformed — made up of an expanded showroom area, offices, conference rooms and an unloading area for trucks, among other features.

Though the “huge expansion” could have been a nerve-wracking endeavor, everything has come together relatively smoothly, Bible said.

“Moving has been like a well-oiled machine,” she explained.

Over the last few weeks, Bible has sent out emails to employees, updating them on the building’s progress. In the last few days, the number of email responses she’s received has steadily increased.

The process culminated with the arrival of everyone at the new headquarters, where they all gathered for the first time Thursday night.

“They were so excited,” Bible said. “They were cheering. It was like a family homecoming.”

Officials with Sevier County Economic Development Council (SCEDC) are also pleased, seeing several years of hard work have a happy ending.

“The SCEDC worked closely with (Bible) and KaTom for the last two years,” Assistant Director David Wear explained. “It feels good to have them make a home here and breathe new life into the building. We’re proud to have them in Sevier County and we expect great success from them.”

Because of the company’s continued success — growing 176 percent over the last three years — KaTom has hired 14 employees in the last two months and expects to add 30 or so more to payroll by the end of the year. That’s something the area desperately needed, Wear said.

“It helps diversify the economy,” he said. “We’re known for tourism, which is great, but we need other types of industry to make the economy here stronger.”

Though the warehouse won’t be completely operational until Tuesday or Wednesday, everyone has started to make their cubicles and offices feel like home. An area that is home to KaTom’s website programmers has been brightened up with a Star Wars mural and covered in dry-erase paint, where they can quickly jot down notes or ideas.

Although the fancy building will offer employees a nicer place to type away at their computers, it will also allow the company to continue providing the level of customer service it has become known for, Bible said.

“A big challenge we faced (in Russellville) is that quarters were tight,” she said. “We couldn’t serve customers the way we wanted to.”

With several people to every desk and no differentiation between departments, customer service was difficult to provide.

“Now we have clarity and a direction to grow in,” Bible said. “Once we’re situated, we’ll be able to take it to the next level of growth.

“I just want to thank Sevier County. They’ve been so great and the building is fabulous.”