BLUE RIDGE, GA (Times Free Press) — Tourists pack the sidewalks of this mountain town, and merchants offer everything from wine tasting to hot stone massage to bamboo fly-fishing rods handmade by the store’s owner — who was commissioned by former President Jimmy Carter to build a trout rod.

But it wasn’t always this fancy — or lively — in Blue Ridge.

Jeff Turner, a 20-something with deep family roots who has visited Blue Ridge all his life, remembers when downtown was pretty much dead.

“Everyone here, when you graduated high school, it was either farming or working in the Levi’s factory,” said Turner, a trout fishing guide who recently bought Blue Ridge Fly Fishing, a shop in the heart of downtown. “Now there’s options for people again.”

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