Cory Vaillancourt

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It’s not noteworthy to hear someone ‘round these parts say, “This will be the fourth generation of my family participating in a Fourth of July event at Lake Junaluska.” 

But it is when it’s being said by the leader of the Lake Junaluska Singers.


Although Haywood County shares many economic similarities with Cashiers, it also sees challenges distinct from those of Jackson County.


The climate and topography of Haywood County make it a place that people want to live.

A large-scale retail development featuring Lakeland, Florida-based grocer Publix as an anchor tenant moved forward without opposition after unanimous consent from Waynesville Aldermen June 13.


Emergencies like the Gatlinburg fires of 2016 and simulated emergencies like last week’s Operation Vigilant Catamount in Canton have brought disaster planning back to the forefront of many minds locally — perfect timing for Haywood County Emergency Services Coordinator Greg Shuping to make his pitch for a new emergency notification system.


Despite hiring challenges that persist across the region, Haywood County Commissioners had no trouble re-engaging a key employee June 19. 


Eminent figures have called for common sense, nonpartisan redistricting since even before Massachusetts Gov. Elbridge Gerry unwittingly lent his name to the unseemly practice of gerrymandering.


A squat little cinder block shop tucked away in a quiet mountain cove on the outskirts of Waynesville caught fire 43 years ago, around suppertime one night.


By the dawn’s early light, about 300 members of the North Carolina National Guard along with a host of local law enforcement personnel and first responders gathered at Guion Farm in nearby DuPont State Forest, outside Hendersonville the morning of June 8. 

Two aircrew had ejected from their F-15 just before it augured in to the rocky dirt, sparking a large fire and kicking off a massive search and rescue mission.


Haywood County’s 2017 property revaluation was like a bucket of cold water in the face of every local government official in the county, but nowhere more so than Maggie Valley.


Despite finishing first in an online contest with more than double the votes of its nearest competitor, Waynesville’s adaptive playground will not be funded by the annual Kiwanis “Legacy of Play” contest.


A strategic plan developed by a subcommittee of the Haywood County Affordable Housing Task Force that proposes 400 affordable housing units by 2028 makes a number of recommendations to help achieve that goal, including the passage of a general obligation bond and the establishment of a land trust.


Three Haywood County Schools will see new administrators this fall after the Haywood County Board of Education approved the personnel changes during a meeting the morning of June 13.


Joey’s Pancake House owner Brenda O' Keefe announced June 6 that the revered Maggie Valley landmark that served visitors and locals alike for more than 50 year will plate its last order on Tuesday, June 13.

Fans of the eatery from across the world are doubtless scrambling to slide in before then, for one last short stack or one last chat with Brenda and the gang; the restaurant is open from 7 a.m. until noon on Monday, Tuesday, and Friday through Sunday.

For those who can't make it, take a stroll down memory lane with these recent photos from Joey's Panckake House. If you'd like to share your stories and experiences, do so in the comments section below. 


Joeys Pancake House 1a 

Originally from Philadelphia, Joey O’Keefe worked for the famed Fountainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach – where he met wife Brenda – before opening Joey’s Pancake House in Maggie Valley in 1966. Cory Vaillancourt photo.



Joeys Pancake House 2

Employees work the line at Joey’s Pancake House, which will close June 13 after more than 50 years in business. Cory Vaillancourt photo.



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The kitchen at Joey’s Pancake House in Maggie Valley is busy, even on an average morning. Cory Vaillancourt photo.



Joeys Pancake House 4

Married 66 years, Lake Junaluska residents Polly (right) and Bill McRae are regular visitors to Joey’s Pancake House. Cory Vaillancourt photo.



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Joey O’Keefe had originally sought to open a restaurant with a Cuban investor in Williamsburg, Virginia; visitors to and residents of Haywood County are glad the deal fell through more than 50 years ago. Cory Vaillancourt photo.



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Diners pack Joey’s Pancake House in Maggie Valley around 10 a.m. a few hours the landmark restaurant’s closing is announced; read SMN News Editor Jessi Stone’s story here. Cory Vaillancourt photo.



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A 1965 Ford Mustang – built the year before Joey’s Pancake House opened – sits in a parking lot adjacent to the revered Maggie Valley restaurant in June, 2017. Cory Vaillancourt photo.



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The year prior to the establishment of Joey’s Pancake House in 1966, a brand new Ford Mustang cost $2,400 and the minimum wage was $1.25. Cory Vaillancourt photo.



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Over the years, celebrities like driver Richard Petty, actor Gig Young and comedian Zach Galiafinakis – just to name a few – have dined at Joey’s Pancake House. Cory Vaillancourt photo.



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Joey (left) and Brenda O’Keefe co-authored a recipe for success at Joey’s Pancake House over the course of 50 years. Donated photo.



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The August 10, 2016 cover of The Smoky Mountain News, in which SMN Staff Writer Cory Vaillancourt tells the story of Joey’s Pancake House. Read the story here. Cover design by Micah McClure.


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The exterior of Joey’s Pancake House on a vibrant August morning in 2016. Cory Vaillancourt photo.



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A familiar sight to many a Joey’s Pancake House patron over the past half-century – a cup of joe and paper menu. Cory Vaillancourt photo.



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Beneath wagon wheel lamps, two travellers enjoy a quiet moment at Joey’s Pancake House in August, 2016. Cory Vaillancourt photo.



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This photo of the late Joey O’Keefe adorns the cover of a work his wife, Joey’s Pancake House owner Brenda O’Keefe, commissioned called The Book of Joe. It is filled with letters of adoration from fans spanning decades and continents. Read all about it here.



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Joey’s Pancake House first opened across the street, about a block down, but has been at 4309 Soco Road since 1971. Cory Vaillancourt photo.



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Dan Kelly (left), an 88 year-old retired purchasing agent at Champion Paper in Canton cracks a joke with his 89-yeer old childhood friend Dr. Al Cline, a retired Canton dentist. Cory Vaillancourt photo.



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The sun sets over Maggie Valley landmark Joey’s Pancake House on the evening of June 6, 2017. Cory Vaillancourt photo.


Joeys Pancake House 19

Gene (right) and Marsha Messer, part-time residents of Maggie Valley, have been visiting Joey’s Pancake House since the late 1970s. Cory Vaillancourt photo.



Joeys Pancake House 20

Hundreds of thousands of cars pass by Joey’s Pancake House, at the western end of Maggie Valley, each month. Cory Vaillancourt photo.



Joeys Pancake House 21

Amsterdam residents Ger (left) and Maryke van Praag-Beitsma stopped into Joey’s Pancake House June 6 while touring the U.S. from Washington, D.C. through Virginia and North Carolina on their way to Chicago. Cory Vaillancourt photo.



Joeys Pancake House 22

“We’re just a little restaurant on the side of the road in Maggie Valley,” said Joey’s Pancake House owner Brenda O’Keefe. “I mean, how smart do you have to be when you see 40 hotels and motels lined up on the same street?” Cory Vaillancourt photo.



Joeys Pancake House 23

Joey’s Pancake House slumbers before another morning of eggs, bacon, biscuits and coffee. Cory Vaillancourt photo.



Revenues are down, costs are up and local conservative factions haven’t been silent in their criticism of the Democratic-majority Haywood County Board of Commissioners, which is about to approve a budget utilizing fund balance for the first time in around a decade.


A problematic landfill in Waynesville’s Francis Farm community will be seeing a lot of activity between now and 2019 — about $5 million worth.


On a rainy June Monday in Maggie Valley, wispy mists lick lush mountaintops that tower behind nearly every business in town, including the Cabbage Rose gift shop on Soco Road. 

The first draft of the Town of Waynesville’s proposed 2017-18 fiscal year budget was presented to the public on May 23, but citizens still have a few opportunities left to weigh in on it before adoption.


A 56,000-square-foot, $20 million retail project that will bring a long-awaited Publix grocery store to Waynesville was unanimously approved by the town planning board May 15, but still has one more hurdle to face.


A multi-agency training exercise led by the N.C. National Guard meant to test and improve disaster response will result in roadblocks and an elevated level of police, fire and military activity in Canton on the morning of June 10.


A lagging recovery from the Great Recession and the continuing loss of a major tourist attraction in Maggie Valley haven’t slowed growth of the tourism industry in Haywood County. 

There’s an old adage in business that says, simply, “If it isn’t measured, it isn’t managed.”

Since before the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was chartered in 1934, Western North Carolina has been a sought-after destination for tourists from across the country and across the world. 

Waynesville Mayor Gavin Brown opened the town’s February budget retreat — his 17th or 18th, by his own reckoning — by setting the direction with a poignant quote.


Opened atop Buck Mountain in 1961, Wild West-themed Ghost Town in the Sky used to draw as many as 600,000 visitors a year to Maggie Valley, but after a combination of maladministration, mechanical difficulties and even a landslide, the park began opening intermittently, and then not at all, leaving a gaping hole in the local tourism economy.


As a writer, it’s easy to feel that one’s ability is never quite good enough; as a writer in the American South — long a befuddled region characterized by ugly stereotypes highlighting ignorance and violence — even more so.


Things are happening in Waynesville’s historic African American community along the Pigeon Street corridor; the town is pursuing a grant to identify historic structures, has demolished a problematic former church and is planning a park of some sort for the site.


When most people think about Folkmoot, they doubtlessly think about the huge 10-day international folk dance festival that has taken over Western North Carolina each July for more than three decades. 


A recent designation by the North Carolina Department of Commerce could have a detrimental impact on Haywood County’s economic development efforts.

In the first installment of this series on Haywood County’s economic development, the analogy of a bathtub was used to illustrate the county’s economy: water flows in, water drains out and the freeboard is always changing, but amidst all the splashing, insular yet interconnected bubbles of industry rise and fall and swell and pop.

If Canton’s legendary Labor Day festival – the oldest in the south – is to survive, it’s going to have to become self-sufficient.


Each year, counties and municipalities must pass their upcoming year’s budget by July 1.


A recovering economy and low unemployment along with a 30 percent increase in tourist spending since 2011 has kept Haywood County in decent financial shape, but a few large expenses — married with the everyday needs of a 60,000-resident county — means a tax hike may be coming.


Offering “credit where credit is due,” Rep. Michele Presnell, R-Burnsville, congratulated Gov. Roy Cooper for recently signing a bill that will do away with vehicle emissions testing in Haywood County. 


The strange saga of a shuttered school still casts a shadow over Haywood County, but it may turn out that opponents of the school’s closing were exactly right. 


Thanks to Kiwanis International and Landscape Structures Inc., one lucky community will walk away with $25,000 in free playground equipment this summer.


The Affordable Health Care Act got a bit closer to repeal last week as the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation that could drastically affect millions across the country and across Western North Carolina.


Among the various organizations involved in economic development, one often finds a Chamber of Commerce and some development organization.

If all goes well, Maggie Valley will soon be known as a place where some of the finest spirits in the world are crafted.

Although speculation has been rife over the past year, plans for a Publix grocery store in Waynesville have finally been revealed in advance of an upcoming zoning hearing.


As summer approaches, Waynesville’s green spaces are getting greener, but they’re also getting greater — in size. 


Obamacare is one step closer to repeal as the U.S. House of Representatives today passed legislation that would provide a drastic overhaul of health insurance for millions in America and hundreds of thousands in Western North Carolina.

“From the earliest stages of the discussion, I’ve stated that my goals were to, one, bring down premiums for Americans, and two, protect those with pre-existing conditions,” said Republican Congressman Mark Meadows, R-Asheville, in an email earlier today. “After weeks of negotiations, conversations, and substantive changes to the bill, I believe we reached the point where both of these criteria will be sufficiently met. I believe the revised AHCA will substantially reduce healthcare premiums and provide a strong net of protection for the most vulnerable Americans.”

Called the American Health Care Act, the bill was narrowly approved 217-213 with nary a ‘yea’ from Democrats; 20 Republicans joined them in voting no.

For most of his first 100 days in office, President Donald Trump has pushed for the undoing of Obamacare, but often found himself stymied.

Meadows, who chairs the influential House Freedom Caucus, helped derail a previous effort pushed by Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wis., weeks ago.

Since then, Meadows said he was pushing for two issues – high-risk pools for pre-existing conditions, and state waivers for essential medical services.

Meadows got what he wanted, but the bill is not yet law – the Senate is seen as the more uncertain chamber in this incarnation of “repeal and replace,” and it’s possible Senators instead draft their own legislation.

Look for more on this story in next week’s Smoky Mountain News, on stands Wednesday, May 10.


CeCe Hipps is one of the very few people in North Carolina who can say that she was at the epicenter of the two most significant postwar economic expansions in the state. 

A new business or a new family moving to town isn’t solely due to the luck of the draw.

Likewise, a shuttered mill or dilapidated neighborhood isn’t solely due to being dealt a bad hand.

The stakes were as high as the hopes last weekend as competitors from across North America came together at the Haywood County Fairgrounds to see whose luxuriously-locked little rodent would be deemed best in breed by a discerning panel of judges.


Lake Junaluska residents opposed to a new Waynesville Fire District in their neighborhood will get one anyway, after a 2-1 vote by the Haywood County Board of Commissioners May 1.


Haywood County commissioners have set a date for the required public hearing in advance of passing next year’s budget — an especially important one, considering County Manager Ira Dove’s prediction that the county could see itself forced to use over $2 million from the county’s fund balance to keep things in a state of equilibrium.


Over the course of the six Cultural Conversations sessions I participated in at Folkmoot, our diverse little group — sitting in one big circle — learned a lot about ourselves, and each other.


Advanced manufacturing and machining in Western North Carolina just got a huge boost from a Fortune-500 multinational conglomerate with more than $127 billion in yearly revenue.


Born in Florida but raised in tiny Blue Ridge, Georgia — just a few miles outside of Murphy and not far from where Tennessee borders Georgia and North Carolina — Matt Coffay, 30, has spent a little over a decade in Western North Carolina, after moving to Asheville to attain a degree in philosophy. 


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