“I saw the potential right away,” says Lowry, who lost her job in special education just as the first season of the long-running CW hit was finishing.
The show took off with viewers, and fans started coming to see sites of the fictional Mystic Falls, home to a group of exceedingly photogenic vampires. Lowry created Hollywood of the South Tours to take tourists behind the scenes at locations like The Lockwood Mansion, home to the show’s mayor. Some wanted souvenirs, which she sold first out of her tour van and then in an antiques market.
By fall 2013, she’d opened On Location Gifts on the town square, near the famous old courthouse and the Mystic Grill, a restaurant popular with locals, food critics and “Vampire” fans.
The shop sells T-shirts, coffee mugs and other souvenirs from “Vampire” and from oldies like “The Dukes of Hazzard” and “In the Heat of the Night,” which still bring in fans of their own.
Her business is so successful it employs her whole family, she says. The whole town has seen a boost, particularly the revitalized square. And even though the series is winding down this March, Lowry isn’t slowing down.
“We’re not worried about that at all,” she says, partly because Netflix keeps hooking newcomers to the show, and foreign markets still have years of shows left to air. Germany was her biggest supplier of foreign customers last year. Now it’s Spain.
Even beyond that, the community has drawn other shows, including two Dolly Parton TV movies, and scouts for still more. “The Vampire Diaries” even spawned a spinoff, “The Originals,” that’s filmed in neighboring towns.
Also in the works is a 700,000-square-foot studio which Three Rings Studios plans to build in Covington.
“We’re just looking to grow and prosper here no matter what comes,” Lowery says.
— “The Vampire Diaries” returns Friday for the final episodes of its eighth and last season.