By Dave Leestma

As the Mountain Breeze celebrates its 30th anniversary year serving the greater Lake Lure area, we are recognizing local history makers for each of our 2017 Breeze editions. Steve Gale is certainly qualified to be one of them.

Being a business owner in the Gorge for many years, how did you/your family discover Hickory Nut Gorge? My grandmother came to Bat Cave in the 40’s from Upstate New York. In 1943 my father, Harvey Gale, on leave from the army, came to visit his mother who owned and operated a hotel and gift shop in Bat Cave across from the Rockwood Inn (now A Touch in Time Gift Shop). He met my mother during that trip while she was visiting her best friend from FL who was staying at the Rockwood Inn.

When did you start your retail business and realty business? My parents opened Gale’s Chimney Rock Shop in 1947. After Mary (Jaeger-Gale) and I were married, we moved from Atlanta for a change of pace and eventually purchased the shop from my parents. Visitors were constantly coming in and asking me who they could talk to about purchasing property. After sending them to the local brokers for a few years, I decided to become a broker and help them myself. In 1981, I opened Steve Gale Realty.

Are there any significant changes that happened to either one along the way?

There have been many positive changes in the community/Gorge over the years which have impacted both the shop and real estate sales. Of course, there have been downturns, too, but we always seem to come back stronger than ever.

What are the most memorable highlights in your long history of working and living here?

We incorporated Chimney Rock Village over 25 years ago because we were afraid we’d be taken over by Lake Lure. Now, we love working with Lake Lure and couldn’t do without them!

Other memorable highlights were the Flood of 1996 that washed out a section of Hwy. 64/74 and created havoc for many residents and businesses, the Blizzard of 1993 that crippled the community for over a week and the recent wildfire remind me of our how fortunate we are to live in a community where people care about one another and will do anything they can to help.  Local folks and the many people who come year after year, some for decades and generations, to visit this area and bring their families create my favorite memories.

Your wife, Mary has managed and continues to lead the management team of Chimney Rock State Park with success and enthusiasm. The two of you together continue to be a strong positive force in the Gorge community.  How did you meet each other?  We met when we were both living and working in Atlanta. After “Jaeger” finished getting her Masters at Emory University, we got married and moved to Bat Cave in the summer of 1978.

Are there any personal goals you would like to share? We hope to grow old here and continue to contribute when and where we can. We are looking forward to working a little less and traveling a lot more. We like to ride our bikes, hike and golf whenever we can.

What are your goals and hopes for the future of our Gorge and Lake Lure community? We hope that the Gorge communities and the state park will continue to work together for controlled growth and harmony. I’d like to see the elevator at the Park run before I retire!

What do you like most about Hickory Nut Gorge and our western North Carolina region? We have traveled all over. Whenever we come back, we realize how incredibly beautiful and special “home” is.  It’s a wonderful place to live, love, work and play.

A final word…

I love living in Bat Cave. I left to go to college at Ole Miss to get away from home, but it didn’t take me long to realize I grew up in paradise.