Visit Bush’s Visitor Center in Tennessee
Wanna know a secret? Okay, so maybe we can’t tell you the secret family recipe behind Bush’s baked beans. But we can tell you where to find out so much more about them: Bush’s Visitor Center just outside of Pigeon Forge!
Bush’s Visitor Center is located in Chestnut Hill, Tennessee, which is 19 miles or about a half-hour drive from Pigeon Forge. At the Visitor Center—which is housed in the original A.J. Bush & Company General Store, founded in 1897—you’ll get to tour the museum, watch a film on the history of the company, and even try a new family recipe, like their Pinto Bean Pie. Once inside, we think you’ll agree that this unique attraction was worth the drive during your next visit to Pigeon Forge.
History of Bush Brothers & Co.
For more than 100 years now, Bush Brothers & Co. has been a family-owned company dedicated to serving only the best when it comes to their beans. But, interestingly, they didn’t get their start with their baked bean recipe.
Instead, A.J. Bush, the founder of the company, opened a tomato cannery in Chestnut Hill, Tennessee, where the Visitor Center stands today. With Americans quickly warming up to the convenience of canned foods, this business quickly ripened into selling other canned ingredients including, you guessed it, beans.
But, at the end of World War I, the business nearly crashed with the downturn of the tomato market. It wasn’t until the development of a new product—Pork & Beans—that things really started to turn around. In fact, Bush Brothers & Co. canned and shipped hundreds of cans of Pork & Beans to American troops overseas throughout World War II.
Eventually, the company kick-started back to life with America’s clamor for “table ready” products in the 50s. Bush’s “variety beans,” introduced in 1952, fit right in with this new demand. But it wasn’t until the 70s and 80s—after the Bush family spent time perfecting their baked beans, aiming to make them “as near what mother would make as possible”—that they really hit their stride.
In the 1990s, after the enormous success of their perfected baked beans recipe, Bush Brothers & Co. went from a regional cannery to a national brand, and it was in 1994 when Jay Bush (A.J.’s great-grandson) starred in the company’s first national TV ad. A year later, he was joined by America’s favorite (talking) golden retriever, Duke.
About the Visitor Center
Today you can visit the place where it all started—the site of A.J.’s original general store—at Bush’s Visitor Center in Chestnut Hill. The center features Bush’s Theater, where they “roll that beautiful bean footage” and fill you in on the rest of the Bush family history as well as some modern methods for processing and canning beans.
You’ll also have a chance to walk through a giant replica can of Bush’s Baked Beans—now where else can you do something like that? Inside the can, you’ll learn the bean’s journey from start to finish. And at the Bush Brothers timeline, you can read how the company has changed with the times—though they have never lost their dedication to premium products and high-quality service.
End your tour with a stop at the Bush’s Family Café, known for their delicious desserts and Southern specialties like Pinto Bean Pie. But don’t leave without visiting the souvenir shop, where you can buy a Bush’s World of Beans Cookbook, a vintage Pork & Beans can, and even a miniature plush version of Duke to take home. This is one family outing you’re going to want to remember!
Bush’s Visitor Center is open year-round, Monday through Saturday. Hours vary depending on the season, so call ahead at 865-509-3077 before you start the drive to Chestnut Hill. You should also call ahead if you’re wanting to schedule a group tour. For more information, visit their website.