Local tourism business gets seed capital

May 06, 2021
Robert and Elise Bloomer, of Big Stone Gap, operate the business near Duffield.  VCEDA PHOTO Robert and Elise Bloomer, of Big Stone Gap, operate the business near Duffield. VCEDA PHOTO

Two Big Stone Gap residents have received a Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority grant to grow their Clinch River floating tourism business.

Robert and Elise Bloomer got a $9,000 seed capital grant for Clinch River Life LLC.

The business, located in Scott County, offer inner tubes and kayaks to float the river in the spring and summer. Operations began in June 2020. Within the first four weeks, nearly 1,000 tubes had been rented, exceeding an initial goal of 200 tubes per week during June, July and August, according to a VCEDA press release.

The business recently added campsite rentals to its services. Robert Bloomer said they received permit approval to develop five to 10 primitive camping sites downstream of the rental office off northbound U.S. 23 near Duffield.

The business has one full-time and four part-time employees, and projects adding six part-timers within two years.

“The seed capital grant makes a huge difference for us,” Bloomer said. “It will enable us to purchase more tubes and kayaks and to set up the camping spots with picnic tables, outdoor grills and fire pits. We wouldn’t be able to do any of that without the grant.”

Additionally, Bloomer said the business plan calls for the construction of a multi-purpose building on site to offer restroom facilities for all activities; a bathhouse; equipment storage; and to serve as a camp store.

Clinch River Life LLC is open Friday through Sunday from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Special groups can be accommodated outside of normal operating hours when arrangements are made in advance. The business is on Facebook and may be reached at 276/690-9199.

The Bloomers worked with the Small Business Development Center at Southwest Virginia Community College on the development of the business plan and application to VCEDA. The Scott County Economic Development Authority wrote a letter of support for the project.