leg·a·cy : /ˈleɡəsē/ noun: something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past.
From tangible items like furniture and estates to those less concrete like values and principles, many things are passed down from one generation to another. But when it comes to running a family business, how do you continue to grow and innovate while not losing sight of the morals and ideas that started it all? Read on for several first-hand accounts of how local leaders are continuing to adapt while still honoring the legacies of previous generations.
Wingard Quality Supply, LLC
James Wingard (Above)
President & CEO
From day one, Wingard Quality Supply has committed its operations to exceeding the quality expectations of its customers and automotive industry standards. My father, Jesse Wingard, built this business from the ground up after spending more than four decades working in the automotive manufacturing industry.
After working for Ford Motor Company for more than a quarter century, he joined New United Motor Manufacturing, Inc. (NUMMI), where he served as vice president of plant operations until he retired in 2001. The next year he launched WQS, providing tire wheel assembly for NUMMI.
When I joined the company as vice president in 2008, I wanted to carry on my father’s legacy as a go-getter who was always looking for new ways to innovate. I brought to the table a layer of global management experience that my dad wasn’t able to provide, and I made the bold decision to move to the market where our largest customer was located, which is what led us to Chattanooga.
The spirit of taking risks and being innovative is a cornerstone of the foundation my father laid when he first started the company, and I strive to emulate that spirit in every decision I make. In order to take risks while at the same time creating sustainable success, you have to have careful strategic planning, a well-trained and informed team, and a willingness to adapt your business operations to meet the growing demands of your customers and the economy.
For 12 years, my father served as an active advisor and board member for WQS. With his guidance, we have been able to ensure that the values of this company will stand the test of time. As my four sons continue to come of age, I’m looking forward to hopefully introducing a third generation to the business, and I know they will carry a commitment to quality and spirit of innovation with them into the future.
I love being an orthodontist. I love interacting with amazing people and being able to help them achieve the smile they have always wanted.
I also love sharing the same profession as my father. Growing up as the son of an orthodontist gave me a unique perspective into my father’s character and how he ran his practice. I obviously didn’t know anything about the intricacies of straightening teeth at that time, but what I did know was that people would often stop me and tell me how much they liked my father and how grateful they were for their new smile. Those interactions had a profound impact on me.
Years later after graduating from college, I found myself helping out with some lab work in my father’s practice. It was at this time that I was able to truly observe not only how my father ran his practice, but also how he interacted with his patients on a daily basis. One of the first things that I noticed was that people were genuinely happy to be there. In a time when most individuals tended to dislike dental visits, my father’s patients seemed happy during their appointments. They laughed and chatted with my father and his staff like they were old friends and were greeted like family members when arriving for their appointment.
I also saw how hard my father worked at his craft and how much personal attention he gave to each and every patient. Those observations inspired me to become an orthodontist, and after 14 years of practice, I am still striving to emulate those characteristics that make Sawrie Orthodontics so special. We are currently in our 52nd year of continuous operation, and I could not be prouder to carry on the legacy of quality orthodontic care for the Chattanooga community.
The Barn Nursery
In 1968, my grandparents Frank and Wanda bought The Barn Nursery for $1,500.
At the time, it was a side-of-the-road fruit stand known simply as ‘The Barn.’ Following my grandfather’s passing in 1980, my father, at the young age of 19, took over and quickly started growing the business. Over the next 40 years, our small fruit stand became one of the top garden centers in the nation.
Growing up, I had the opportunity to experience and play a role in every part of the business in preparation of future responsibilities. As of the beginning of the year, I am honored to serve as president of The Barn Nursery.
The principles that The Barn Nursery was founded on are the reason we are where we are today. Our values of customer service, honesty, hard work, a respectful work environment, and always doing the right thing are core to who we are. These values have led us to partner with organizations and nonprofits in the community, and these partnerships are what make us stronger.
We convene twice a year for our staff meetings, and they all follow the same format my father Jim Webster used when he first started hosting them. The first line of action is establishing who the boss is, which we always jokingly (but still seriously) say: the customer. Like any good business in the service industry, we are nothing without our customers and employees. I’m also thankful to my father who has taught me everything about his buying strategy, and I’m excited to continue to foster the relationships he’s built over the years.
I am proud to carry on the legacy of our founders and to serve Chattanooga. The overall market has and will continue to change, but we will continue to adapt with it. That being said, we will never lose sight of who and what got us here.
M&M Industries, Inc.
President & CEO
My parents married in 1943 during my father’s service in the Navy. He piloted landing crafts taking troops to the shores during invasions, the most recognized being Iwo Jima.
In 1963, my father began his own business and began cultivating values. Each year he hosted a Christmas party for his employees, and during the month of November, many of them would provide some details on their children. He would then take the proceeds from the vending machine that had accumulated throughout the year, and the company would buy presents. At the Christmas party, employees would dress as Santa and call boys’ and girls’ names and deliver gifts to them. For many employees, this was the biggest gift their children received. Each Christmas we continue this tradition, and during COVID, our office took it upon themselves to have Santa drive to employees’ homes and deliver gifts.
My parents’ biggest joy in business was seeing an employee arrive in a new car or hear about a new house they purchased. My parents were invited to several homes over the years, and nothing gave my dad more pleasure. “This is the real reason you do this,” he would tell me many times. “You work for them. They don’t work for you. You are responsible for the gas in their car, their grocery bill, their house payment. How they treat you doesn’t matter. How you treat them is what you should be worried about.”
I have not dwelled on keeping a legacy. I think one can only emulate what they see in their parents whom they grow to respect. Because of my dad’s lessons, I have worked with people whom I appreciate deeply and whom I truly revere. For that lesson and much more, I love my parents.
Hunter Oil Company, Inc.
Family values have always been instrumental in establishing the identity for our business.
In 1957, my grandparents led the way with their never-quit and can-do attitude when they founded Hunter Oil Company.
No customer was too small, and no customer was too large. Managing their business sometimes required long hours, but they always found a way to complete the tasks for the day. They were able to adapt and transform the business as the markets changed, and when they failed, they corrected it and learned from their mistakes. They taught work ethic through example, and their sons led the growth as the second generation.
As they added employees, other family values became equally important. They preached the importance of treating your coworkers with respect and helping each other accomplish difficult tasks. In a family business, you must learn how to do every task. My father always said he would never ask an employee to do anything he would not do himself. His attitude and work ethic were infectious and important to the culture we have today.
We try to hire individuals with positive personalities and never-quit attitudes. We want to be known in our industry and by our customers as the company that will go the extra mile. I’ve always tried to apply those values to managing our business. My grandparents, father, and uncle didn’t always have all the solutions, but they always offered assistance. Our business has grown – we have more facilities, more customers, more trucks, more inventory, and more employees – but we have the same competitive never-quit attitude that Jim, Margaret, Mike, and Rick Hunter had years ago.
“Doing the right thing and doing the right thing right.”
That is a statement said about P&C from a client a few years back. That saying resonates in my ears almost every day. P&C was built on this saying. Royce Cornelison and Estil (Skeeter) Pritchett started the business in October of 1993 with the plan to change the concept of just being a shady general contractor.
Our core values stem from this. We also strive to be loyal and true to God, treat every individual with respect, provide honesty and integrity throughout the organization, and present ourselves as good stewards of His kingdom. What is integrity? Doing the right thing even when no one is watching. That rings so true with the statement made about P&C. Having morals and ethics will lead you to be honest and fair, even when you are being pressured to change.
Royce (my father) received some advice when he started the business that he has since passed to Nic and me. “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all the things ye have need of will be added unto you.” It is important as we continue to grow the business to keep God first and our integrity and morals to the same standards set before us. My grandfather and mother always told me, “You will always get more flies with honey than with vinegar.” Be kind, be honest, have ethics and morals, and you will succeed!
Southern Champion Tray
Executive Vice President
Our mission at Southern Champion Tray (SCT) is “to serve customers with great packaging and distinctive service in ways that value people and glorify God.”
Our values statement is, “We strive to follow Christian morals and Biblically based principles: Trustworthy, Servant-Hearted, Relational, and Resourceful.”
SCT was started in 1927, and we are thankful to have just celebrated 95 years in business. The foundation of these statements, which we revised in 2015, goes back to my grandfather, SCT’s founder, Milt, and my dad, Chuck. Grandpa was a machinist and full of integrity; he consistently lived out trustworthiness and resourcefulness. When Dad took over the business, he worked hard to continue the legacy of his dad while being more explicit about our family’s desire to glorify God throughout every aspect of the business.
When my brother John (President & CEO) and I started leading the business over 25 years ago, we sought to continue the legacy of Grandpa and Dad, while strengthening SCT’s culture and focusing on the three pillars of our mission: serve customers, value people, and glorify God.
We seek to provide steady, long-term employment even through the ups and downs of the economy and business conditions, which is why we operate with minimal debt. We are thankful we have never had a lay-off in the company’s 95-year history. In valuing our team, we view each team member holistically, and we strive to invest in each person, professionally and personally. Some examples include on-site wellness centers and an exercise physiologist on staff, free confidential counseling through Shepherd’s Care and Marketplace Chaplains, marriage retreats through FamilyLife, and access to Dave Ramsey’s SmartDollar online financial program and RightNow Media.
As we continue the legacies of Grandpa and Dad, our hope is that SCT becomes “a thriving culture of engaged individuals intentionally impacting their families, work, and communities.”
Acropolis Mediterranean Grill
Through 27 years of serving the Chattanooga community,
Acropolis has continued to preserve its commitment to its founding principles and vision: using fresh, simple ingredients and old-world flavors to create dynamic dishes, to provide a familial atmosphere, and to give back to the community that embraced a Greek immigrant family over 40 years ago. Although my father passed away 10 years ago, we continue to honor him by carrying on his values at Acropolis. To understand these values, you have to know his story.
Emigrating from war-ravaged Greece in 1951, founder Teddy Kyriakidis came to the United States with a head for business and a heart toward sharing his passion for food and for life. Teddy’s father always helped hungry and destitute people during the Nazi occupation. Although Teddy didn’t understand it at the time, he caught that same spirit of servant leadership, and it still shows today in how Acropolis continues to pour into its employees and its community.
Another value that my father brought with him and instituted in the restaurant is a cultural one and in Greek is called ‘kefi.’ It means zest for life, and it is infectious. Food is more than a meal – it is a celebration, the breaking of bread, the time we connect. At the table we celebrate, we laugh, and we also mourn. You never enter a Greek house and are not offered food. It is an integral part of who we are.
Over the years, Chattanoogans have celebrated their birthdays, weddings, and anniversaries at Acropolis, and they have mourned the loss of their loved ones over good food and with consoling hearts. Generations have come and gone through the doors of Acropolis, and we are fortunate to have had the longevity to be there for all of it. It is always nice to hear guests say how they remember my father and how long they have eaten with us. We honor these values by continuing to focus on giving back and being a gathering place where we welcome guests as friends and family.