Every fall, StyleBlueprint holds an all-company summit. It’s a time when the SB employees in all of our markets come together, visit, talk shop, learn new things, brainstorm fresh ideas, share wins and successes, wax reflective on “unsuccesses” and lessons learned … your typical company retreat. But lest the phrase “typical company retreat” leave you with bland images of conference rooms at chain hotels and days filled with boring, corporate team-building activities, I assure you that StyleBlueprint’s retreat — and its destination — was anything but bland.

Welcome to the Inn at Evins Mill!

Welcome to Evins Mill!

Welcome to Evins Mill

The 2015 SB Summit took place at Evins Mill, located in Smithville, TN, which is just over an hour’s drive from Nashville. Our teams from Nashville, Louisville, Memphis, Atlanta and Birmingham all traveled to Evins Mill a couple of weeks ago for our two-day retreat, and upon arrival, everyone was taken with its natural beauty and rustic charm. Beautiful, tall trees and the quiet sounds of nature added to the serenity. It’s astounding, really, how just minutes off a main highway you feel completely isolated from the daily grind and are able to easily unwind.

Evins Mill, open now for 21 years, was acquired by the late Bill Cochran, Sr., of Nashville, in 1990, who used it for family gatherings and company retreats. In 1994, Bill and his son, William, founded Cochran Management Company, and they renamed the property The Inn at Evins Mill. They had a commercial kitchen installed and three guest cabins built, and, with that, they opened for business in October 1994. Many additions and renovations later, the Inn at Evins Mill, now called Evins Mill, has evolved into a spectacular escape for families, couples, weddings and retreats.

The Solstice at the Inn at Evins Mill

The Solstice features the property’s newest accommodations.

Common area at the Inn at Evins Mill.

The Solstice features several common areas in which to gather and relax, watch TV or veg out.

The rooms at the Solstice feature private balconies with rockers ... perfect for maximum relaxation!

The rooms at the Solstice feature private balconies with rockers … perfect for maximum relaxation!

A wooden walkway leads guests staying at The Solstice up to the main lodge. On the left, by day. On the right, by night.

A wooden walkway leads guests staying at The Solstice up to the main lodge. On the left, by day. On the right, by night.

With 22 people on the SB team, we easily took up most of the guest accommodations, which include 12 creekside cabins, as well as the newest accommodations, a luxury lodge called The Solstice, which features three single bedrooms, one two-bedroom suite and one three-bedroom penthouse. Each room at The Solstice features Wi-Fi and a private porch with rocking chairs, where I spent one of the crisp, fall mornings sipping coffee wrapped in a super-soft blanket and listening to the crickets chirp before the sun came up. That’s a luxury this busy mom doesn’t get every day!

The entire property is walkable; a wooden walkway connects the Solstice lodge to the main lodge, and the creekside cabins are just a short walk from the main lodge up a cobblestone path. Once there, guests can enjoy a meal at the quaint restaurant or a libation at the bar. (The Kentucky team got their bourbon fix during our stay!) Also at the main lodge is check-in, bathrooms, one of the meeting rooms and two fantastic wraparound porches — one up, one down — complete with porch swings and rocking chairs, perfect for doing more relaxing! (Sensing a theme here?!)

Grab a seat and swing for a bit...

Grab a seat and swing for a bit …

The entrance to the old mill

The entrance to the old mill

Rustic features like this old water wheel are all over the property.

Rustic features like this old water wheel are all over the property.

This is the main meeting space. How could you not be inspired by all the natural light and stunning views?

This is the main meeting space. How could you not be inspired by all the natural light and stunning views?

The SB Louisville team getting some photography lessons from Leila Grossman or Grannis Photography

The SB Louisville team getting some photography lessons from Leila Grossman of Grannis Photography

Our group split our time between the meeting room in the main lodge and the meeting room down below in the grist mill building, where there’s also a game room and one more meeting room. The upper meeting space offers beautiful views and lots of natural light, providing plenty of inspiration. 

The property also features green spaces and several hiking trails, but take note: these trails aren’t for the faint of heart. One trail takes you to a waterfall (a few of our crazier team members braved this one before daylight broke), and another takes you to an overlook, which some of the not-as-crazy folks enjoyed later in the day … in daylight. Both offered a hearty challenge for even the most experienced hikers in our group, and both provided equally impressive views of nature that left us feeling in awe of this beautiful retreat.

This was the view that the crazy early morning hikers enjoyed.

This was the view that the crazy early morning hikers enjoyed.

Here are some of the not-so-crazy hikers who enjoy sleeping a little later than the sun.

Here are some of the not-so-crazy hikers who enjoy sleeping a little later than the sun.

Two things continue to resonate from everyone at the summit. First, people loved how great the customer service was. Tina and the rest of the team were eager to please and happy to accommodate any request we had, big or small. (Thank you, Tina, for making a gazillion trips to the office in search of a cord that we didn’t need after all!) And the other winning feature was the food. Oh, the food! Carefully prepared by Chef Alison, each meal had a delightful array of flavors and options, some of which included produce procured from an Evins Mill employee’s garden. How’s that for fresh? Being that we were such a large group, all meals were served buffet-style. Breakfast included everything a good country breakfast should: homemade French toast, fresh eggs, crispy bacon, sausage, homemade biscuits and gravy, cereals, yogurt, fresh fruit and several kinds of juices. And the coffee pots were always filled and hot. Lunch and dinner, also buffet-style, were filled with an impressive selection to fill a plate. Ribs, shrimp, baked potatoes, fresh corn, chicken, caprese salad and so much more. The highlight for me was a cup of the most AMAZING butternut bisque I’ve ever had! One more highlight was cocktail hour, which was manned by this girl’s new BFF, Benji, who made sure no wine glass went empty and no cocktail unreplaced.

Our compliments to the chef! Chef Alison thought of every last detail!

Our compliments to the chef! Chef Alison thought of every last detail!

Start your day with some fresh coffee in the lobby!

Start your day with some fresh coffee in the lobby!

Grilled shrimp, caprese salad, baked sweet potato, corn soufflé ... YUM!

Grilled shrimp, caprese salad, baked sweet potato, corn soufflé … YUM!

Fresh cucumber salad had garden-fresh flavors!

The cucumber salad had garden-fresh flavors!

Mixed berry cobbler was a tasty way to end the meal!

Mixed berry cobbler was a tasty way to end the meal!

Belly up to the bar, ladies! They have any libation you could want!

Belly up to the bar, ladies! They have any libation you could want!

At the end of our two days at Evins Mill, the SB team departed, our cups overflowing with a renewed sense of camaraderie, a fresh perspective and a whole new crop of winning ideas to bring back to our readers. Indeed, the 2015 SB Summit is in the books, and the fact that I’ve found a new favorite nearby getaway to return to is a just another fabulous job perk.

Happy fall from StyleBlueprint! Image: Leila Grossman

Happy fall from StyleBlueprint! Image: Leila Grossman
The SB Team pictured above is:
Front row (l-r): Elizabeth Yielding, Meghan Tinker, Elizabeth Gerber, Elizabeth Fox, Alex Hendrickson, Malise Culpepper, Anna Marchetti, Linda Reeve.
Back row (l-r): Leah Carroll, Melanie Preis, Anna Ballowe Aldag, Stacey Wiedower, Lauren Helmer, Margaret McClintock, Micki Martin, Beth Brooks, Ashley Haugen, Heidi Potter and Ginny Staggs.
NOT PICTURED: Liza Graves, who unfortunately was ill and had to return home early, and Karen Werthan.

ADDITIONAL AMENITIES OF NOTE

There are plenty of ways to stay busy at Evins Mill, including:

  • Board games and puzzles
  • Satellite TV & movies
  • Bird watching
  • Hiking
  • Fishing
  • Swimming
  • Activities like horseshoes, corn hole, bocce ball, billiards, darts, foosball, ping pong and more

HANDY TAKE-AWAYS

  • Wi-Fi is available in The Solstice lodge rooms and the main areas of the lodge.
  • Wear comfortable shoes.
  • In the fall, bring a light sweater or jacket; the early mornings and evenings can get chilly.
  • Bring a camera.
  • Bring hiking shoes or boots.

GETTING THERE

Evins Mill is located at 1535 Evins Mill Road, Smithville, TN, 37166. To learn more, call (615) 269-3740 or visit evinsmill.com.

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