KODAK, Tenn. — For the fifth year in a row, Reader's Digest named the Nicest Place in America -- and for a second time an East Tennessee business took the honor. It's based off of the kindness, resiliency and work done to make the community better.
This year, the Quality Inn in Kodak came in first as the nicest place in America. It's the second time in the award's five-year history a local business has gotten the honor.
According to the Reader's Digest, Yassin's Falafel House in Downtown Knoxville won the nicest place in America in 2018 because it served as a welcoming and safe place for people of every color, culture and religion.
Quality Inn general manager Sean Patel said it's an honor to get this award.
"It's actually amazing. We are still trying to soak it in," Patel said.
From the beginning of the pandemic to now, Patel said he has accommodated many people from all over.
"A lot of hotels shut down because of COVID reasons, and we took a lot of people in because they were told to leave and move out," Patel said.
Patel said he treats his co-workers and guests like they are family. He wants to make everyone feel welcome as soon as they walk in the door.
It's no surprise for locals to see East Tennessee recognized for its southern hospitality.
"It doesn't surprise me at all," Knoxville native Eric Zeanah said. "I've been in East Tennessee for about 40 years and have always felt welcomed and it's a beautiful place to live."
Patel said at the Quality Inn in Kodak, you can always count on a warm welcome. He said it's the people of East Tennessee who make this the nicest place.
"It's the Southern hospitality that speaks for itself and just the people around you, too, are just amazing. They help you do what you want to do," Patel said.