Article from Blue Ridge Outdoors Magaine. Read in its entirety here.
Set against a backdrop of rolling countryside and idyllic ridgelines, the city of Roanoke is perfectly poised to offer visitors and residents alike a balanced blend of scenic beauty in a diverse and thriving urban environment. Situated at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains, in the heart of the valley, alongside a river, wrapped in the arms of national forest, you’d think outdoor recreation would have always been an integral part of the city’s identity.
Yet it wasn’t until the early 2000s that Roanoke began to step away from its storied past as an industrial hub and promote the great outdoors outside, and within, city limits. As plans for greenways and urban parks took shape, so too did a community that supported an active lifestyle. By 2013, there was no question as to the direction Roanoke was going—with the formation of the Roanoke Outside Foundation (a non-profit created by the Roanoke Regional Partnership) came events, initiatives, and even businesses, that not only encouraged people to get outside, but also helped them get there.
“We kinda feel like it’s just the tip of the iceberg,” says Roanoke Mountain Adventures co-owner James Revercomb.
Revercomb is part of that new wave of outdoor-minded businesses. Born and raised in Roanoke, Revercomb never envisioned returning to his hometown. In fact, he spent the better part of eight years far from the Star City as a snowmobile and fly-fish guide in and around Jackson Hole, Wyo. Despite the western town’s reputation as a mecca for outdoor tourism though, Revercomb and his wife eventually came to the conclusion that there’s no place like home.
“We figured that if we weren’t in Roanoke, we’d be wishing we were,” he says. “The cost of living is fairly high [in Jackson Hole]. We were enjoying what we were doing, but we were thinking longer term. We knew we wanted to be in the mountains in a place where we could still recreate and have that quality of life as well as career opportunities.”
In early April of 2015, Revercomb and his father opened up Roanoke Mountain Adventures as a gear rental and guiding service for the greater Roanoke area. Though starting any business can be a daunting task, the Revercombs have seen nothing but support from the local community.
Blaine Lewis shares that sentiment. “We knew Roanoke was an area that would support the type of business we were going to bring here,” says Lewis, owner of Fleet Feet Sports.
Lewis, whose wife is originally from Roanoke, also relocated to the city in 2003 after leaving a 16-year career stint as an adult probation and parole supervisor to open up a franchise of Fleet Feet Sports (headquartered out of Carrboro, N.C.). As a runner and triathlete, Lewis says Roanoke’s access to the outdoors combined with a low cost of living made moving to the city a no-brainer.
“Roanoke has grown and changed a lot in the past 12 years,” Lewis says. “From an outdoor perspective, Roanoke was just starting to find its roots there. From a business standpoint, it’s great because we’ve been able to help contribute to the active lifestyle growth here as well.”
As the momentum behind the city’s outdoor recreation scene continues to grow, Roanoke, once ranked as one of the “best places to retire” by Money Magazine, is also attracting a much younger, more active generation.