PIGEON FORGE, Tenn. — Pete Jucker noticed a growing interest in puzzles several years before the pandemic.
"I thought I was riding a wave of people wanting to get away temporarily and get the tech out of their hands," Jucker said.
He and his wife, Joy, own 'Puzzled,' a store in Sevier County that specializes in all types of puzzles and games.
When they closed their doors in March, Jucker quickly worked to move his inventory online.
"The amount of orders that came in the first week I went online was kind of amazing. I had over 100 orders the first week. I was trying to upload them to the website and then come into the store to ship them when I didn't have any boxes. I had to scrounge up boxes to make it work," Jucker said about turning his puzzle store into a shipping store overnight.
Orders started coming in from all over the world.
"On the same day, I got requests for puzzles from Egypt, Australia and Isreal," Jucker said, adding that he wasn't able to ship internationally due to cost, but was amazed at the wide-reaching interest.
"The largest puzzle we sold during the pandemic is a 42,000 piece Disney puzzle. The next largest was the 24,000 piece wildlife puzzle," Jucker said.
Puzzles in their Smoky Mountain section and thousand-piece section have been the most popular throughout the pandemic, and over the past several weeks, Jucker has shipped to every state except Hawaii.
"We even had a couple of Alaska orders," Jucker said.
Even with the boom in online business, Jucker is happy to once again welcome customers into his store at The Island in Pigeon Forge.
They recently reopened with a limited capacity and social distancing guidelines in place.
"It's floor-to-ceiling puzzles. People look at it and their jaws drop to the floor. They're amazed because they've never seen anything like it. On the internet, it's a different type of shopping," Jucker said.
While it's likely that people will cut back on puzzles once they resume their normal schedules, Jucker doesn't think puzzlemania is disappearing anytime soon.