By LISA WHALEY
For the past five years, Jonesborough’s Eureka Inn has had a secret weapon. But it’s definitely not a secret anymore.
Recently, thanks to a nomination submitted by local playwright and McKinney Center outreach director Jules Corriere, Eureka Inn owner and innkeeper Katelyn Yarbrough has been honored as the region’s latest “Rising Star,” a part of the 22nd Annual Pinnacle Awards.
“It was important for me, personally, to let Katelyn know that I see her, and what she brings to her community, and to acknowledge her,” said Corriere of the award, administered by the Northeast Tennessee Tourism Association as a way to recognize local excellence. “It is important for the young women professionals in this area to know that there is an older generation of women rooting them on, and ready to support and encourage them on their journeys.”
For Katelyn, the award was both an honor and a surprise.
When she first found out Corriere was submitting her name, Katelyn said, “it brought me to tears. That doesn’t happen every day.”
At the awards luncheon, she remained oblivious to the recognition headed her way.
“I shot up out of my seat and was told that I levitated across the stage very fast,” said Katelyn laughing, as she recalled the moment when her name was called. “I thought everyone went to the awards luncheon. I had no idea I had won.”
Katelyn had long been front and center for many of the historic town’s activities well before Corriere decided to submit her name.
Arriving at the scene in 2014 with husband, Blake, the pair took over the running of the downtown historic inn, purchasing the property about a year ago.
Katelyn’s contributions have been many and varied, said Corriere, from establishing the Historic Eureka as an internet presence to be reckoned with to her Eureka Bites Breakfasts and her Murder Mystery Dinners.
One of her greatest attributes, according to husband and business partner Blake, is “I can’t do” is never a part of Katelyn’s vocabulary.
“She believes that, number one, she can help anybody,” he said. “If she gives you her word that she is going to do something, she will do it.”
Their collaboration in running the inn began long before Katelyn even set foot on the property, according to Blake. He was working as innkeeper at the Eureka at that time and would come home and talk with Katelyn about the potential.
“We started a notebook,” she said. “If we were ever (running an Inn) what we would do.”
Her ideas to promote the inn and this historic town she and her husband both love are numerous. They bounce ideas off of each other and occasionally, Katelyn admits, he helps rein her in a bit. “I will run wild,” she said with a smile. “He makes me think in a different way.”
Still, she has no plans on slowing down.
“I’m always prepared for anything… I don’t shy away from the ball,” she said. “I always feel like I can be doing more.”
For now, that means finding continuing ways to make the inn an important part of the town and the region. With Blake providing his expertise in the kitchen and Katelyn promoting each new idea, they believe the sky is truly the limit.
“The juggle is real,” Katelyn said. “I try to kind of highlight specific things while the season is relevant. I don’t cast out a wide net because it oversaturates people’s mind.”
But most of all, she said. “I love our town.”