Written by Lauren Stepp | Photos by Evan Anderson
Tsuga Founder Jimi Combs Is Poised at the Confluence of Outdoor Gear Research and Manufacturing
The headwaters of Wilson Creek are born on Grandfather Mountain’s brow. Emerald and frothing, the stream snakes through 23.3 miles of ashen limestone and spruce fir to the junction of Johns River in Caldwell County. Deemed a National Wild and Scenic River System in 2000, the Wilson is as much a part of Appalachian topography as it’s vernacular.
In a honey-smooth drawl that stretches vowels like saltwater taffy, High Country natives often describe themselves as being “in the mouth of the Wilson.” Meaning, in a figurative sense, that they have arrived at the genesis of something vast and immense, a force greater than themselves. This hyperlocal mountain idiom is how Jimi Combs describes Tsuga, the Boone-based manufacturing firm he established in 2009. “We are in the mouth of the Wilson, so to speak,” says Combs. “Clients—established companies and startups—are coming to us. We help them design their products, and when it comes time to manufacture their product, we raise our hand again.”
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