Milestones: Celebrating Chattanooga Companies a Century or Older

Companies

In a world that’s constantly changing and evolving, staying in business for a hundred years or more counts as a herculean feat. A century ago, Babe Ruth was breaking the home-run record in baseball, and all of the movies in theaters were silent films. Operating a business back then certainly required different strategies and faced different obstacles than it does today, but some companies have adjusted, adapted, and persevered. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, less than 20% of American companies survive past their 25th anniversary, so a centennial milestone is certainly something to be applauded. In industries ranging from healthcare to commercial printing, we’re celebrating seven local companies who’ve made it for a century – or more. 

By Anna Hill

Photos Courtesy of Adams Lithographing Company

Adams Lithographing Company

EST. 1886

Near the close of the 19th century, Walter Adams founded what was then known as Adams Printing Company during a time when lithographic printing was still a popular practice. In 1935, Adams realized that Chattanooga didn’t have any lithographers in business, so he set up shop on Broad Street and immediately installed the first rotary press in town. As the printing company thrived, Adams brought on Clyde Hogue to work in the pressroom, with Ernest Igou joining the business as their first graphic artist soon after. 

Following the death of Walter Adams in 1957, Hogue and Igou purchased the company from his widow, Mary Adams, and continued to expand operations. As the new millennium approached, their sons, Jim Hogue and Mike Igou, took ownership of the company where it now resides – at a 50,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility on Chapman Road. Currently, the company is operated by Jim’s sons, Wyatt, Jason, and Bryan, with Wyatt serving as president. 

Wyatt Hogue believes that Adams Lithographing’s dedication to being an employee- and family-centered company can be credited for their enduring success. “We believe in honest, hard work as much as we believe in the time away from work. We are a family-oriented company, and we value everyone within it, from top to bottom,” he tells us. One of the company’s core values is constant innovation, which means not only re-evaluating and improving their business practices and capabilities, but also continuing to invest in their employees to foster their growth. 

In the printing business, one of the most challenging aspects of it is also one of the most rewarding, according to Hogue. “The business of printing offers the opportunity to create something different and unique with each project, but it also requires us to create a tangible product based on the faith and trust of our customers, as they rely on us to deliver something they can’t see upfront,” he explains. “There are no test drives in printing.” And after decades of success, everyone at Adams Lithographing is looking optimistically to the future. They plan to adapt with the times but keep the focus on the customer, as they always have. “We will continue to grow in size and expertise for as long as there is print,” Hogue assures us. 

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Photos Courtesy of Hamilton Health Care System

 

Hamilton Health Care System

EST. 1921

After the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, the Dalton area realized the vital need for a hospital. Funds were secured through donations from both Crown Cotton Mills and several local physicians, and in May of 1921, Hamilton Memorial Hospital was dedicated on National Hospital Day. 

This year, Hamilton Health Care System (HHCS) is celebrating its centennial anniversary. It’s hard not to make the connection that Hamilton’s hundred years of existence is currently flanked by global pandemics – it originated out of necessity following the Spanish flu pandemic, and currently, it’s still navigating the healthcare needs that have resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic. However, doing its utmost to serve the community has always been at the forefront of its mission, no matter the decade. 

What started with one facility – Hamilton Memorial Hospital – has become a much bigger, far-reaching system. In 1956, a more modern hospital was built in Dalton to meet growing needs, and it was renamed Hamilton Medical Center (HMC) in 1982 to reflect its expanded role as a regional provider. Today, HMC is the flagship facility for the entirety of HHCS, which now includes nine other affiliates. 

Throughout its history, Hamilton has achieved several firsts – such as featuring the first hospital in the state certified to accept Medicare patients and the first hospital in the country to use Prismax, an advanced kidney therapy system. The healthcare system has also dedicated itself to offering innovation in treatment, which can be found in places like their Peeples Cancer Institute. 

Jeff Myers, Hamilton’s CEO, believes that this kind of forward thinking is why the hospital system is still thriving today. “This has allowed us to develop ever-evolving improvements in technology, pharmacology, and treatments, and it has ensured that we have the capabilities to provide the best, most innovative treatments for the region,” he explains. Being proactive about the advancement of medicine and technology while still keeping a patient- and community-focused outlook has not only established HHCS as an asset to the region, but has also contributed greatly to its longevity. 

“Hamilton is continuously evolving to advance healthcare,” Myers says. “An example of this is the development of Hamilton’s Cardiovascular Institute, as well as the many other new services and treatments we have on the horizon. We will continue to do everything we can to always serve the healthcare needs of our friends, families, and neighbors across the region.”

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Photos Courtesy of Fischer Evans Jewelers

 

Fischer Evans Jewelers

EST. 1869

The oldest independently owned retail store in Chattanooga, Fischer Evans Jewelers was established shortly after the Civil War in 1869 by William and Lewis Fischer under the name of W.F. Fischer & Bro. When the Fischer brothers passed away, T.H. McLure, the shop’s manager, purchased the establishment from the Fischer estate and continued business, and his daughter and nephew operated the store following him. It was later purchased by Carter Evans, who gave the business the name that it still has today. In 1970, Howard Glover purchased the store as well as expanded it, and the company is still in the Glover family today – now run by the third generation, Clarke Glover and his wife Nico. 

Fischer Evans is still operating on the original site in downtown Chattanooga. Though it began as a shop that focused on watches and fine jewelry, it now features an expanded range of offerings that also include fine china, gifts, and a bridal registry department. The current owners, Clarke and Nico, are both third-generation jewelers and even met at a jewelry trade show. “We have both grown up with the jewelry business in our veins and complement each other with our different industry backgrounds. We’re a good team,” Nico tells us. 

The Glovers believe that being a family-owned jeweler gives them a leg up when it comes to the shop’s longevity. This allows them to keep their services more personalized. “We hand-select our diamonds, gemstones, and jewelry pieces to cover categories and satisfy our clients’ demands. We will often select pieces or lines based on specific customers,” explains Clarke. 

Looking to the future, the Glovers believe that it’s their unique relationships with customers that will continue to carry them forward. “We have served many families for multiple generations and continue to foster those relationships inside the store and as part of the community,” Clarke tells us. “We feel deep appreciation for our clients over the years, and we love to make people feel at home and taken care of.”

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(First) Photo by Rich Smith, (Second & Third) Photos Courtesy of Leitner, Williams, Dooley & Napolitan, PLLC

Leitner, Williams, Dooley & Napolitan, PLLC

EST. 1882

The law firm that Chattanooga now knows as Leitner, Williams, Dooley & Napolitan, PLLC, was originally founded as the firm of DeWitt, Shepherd & Thomas in June of 1882. Now approaching its 140th birthday, the firm has been serving the community for a significant portion of Chattanooga’s history. One of the firm’s first partners, W.G.M. Thomas, was responsible for incorporating the town of Lookout Mountain and took it upon himself to represent it free of charge for the rest of his life. Thomas was known to be a man of integrity and upstanding character, with the Chattanooga Bar Association noting that “it is doubtful whether any Chattanooga lawyer ever worked harder for causes in which he strongly believed than Mr. Thomas.”

Paul R. Leitner, one of the firm’s longtime partners who passed away earlier this year, marveled at the changes that society went through over the decades, bringing the firm along with them into the future. In his memoir, he noted that when he began at the firm in the 1950s, there were no copy machines, no typewriters with any kind of memory capacity, and usually no air-conditioning. However, as technology evolved, so did the firm: It now has a multi-state network of attorneys, as well as offices in Chattanooga, Nashville, Knoxville, and Memphis. 

Today, the firm continues to carry out its mission in a way that honors the partners of years past. William E. Godbold III, the managing partner of the firm’s Chattanooga office, tells us, “Paul Leitner believed that the greatest asset of any organization is its staff of employees and attorneys. He emphasized that integrity and truly being of service to clients are more important than economic rewards.” Godbold believes that this integrity has been vital to the firm’s continuing success and emphasizes the importance of fairness and respect, both internally and externally. 

The firm also pays homage to founding partner W.G.M. Thomas by staying involved in the community around them, just as he always did. “We’ve remained dedicated to serving the communities in which we live and work. Our attorneys are active in church, civic, and philanthropic efforts,” Godbold explains. Looking to the future, the firm plans to hold tight to the core values they’ve adhered to for so many years while also adapting to keep up with the times – a balance that’s worked well for 139 years. 

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Photos Courtesy of Fillauer

 

Fillauer

EST. 1914

Fillauer’s origins trace back to 1914 when George Fillauer Sr., an immigrant hailing from Germany, decided to continue his work in the area by opening his own pharmacy. After establishing his own business, Fillauer brought on an orthotist, Lawrence Porten, to help fit braces and other devices for veterans returning from World War I, which officially began Fillauer’s involvement in the prosthetics and orthotics industry. Following this, George’s sons, George Jr. and Carlton, joined the business as well, with the latter becoming an orthotist-prosthetist. 

Carlton Fillauer went on to become part of the first class of practitioners to be certified by the American Board for Certification in Orthotics and Prosthetics, as well as the first staff prosthetist named to the National Research Committee on Prosthetic Devices. George Jr. took over as president after his father retired in 1955, and ever since, the company has continued to expand and innovate its offerings in prosthetics and orthotics. Currently, the company is led by the fourth generation of Fillauers, with Michael Fillauer as CEO and David Fillauer serving on the board. 

Fillauer places a lot of importance on growing and innovating in what they do. “The difference that we make in the patients’ lives, restoring mobility and giving them back a part of their lives and daily activities that have been missing, is the most rewarding thing about our work,” says Michael Fillauer. 

Though the company has faced challenges over the years –
as any company that’s been around for over a century would – there have been some wonderful successes as well. “Making the transition from being primarily a distributor to an industry innovator and manufacturer is something that we’re really proud of,” Fillauer says. Furthermore, in the last two decades, the company has completed 10 acquisitions, integrating various product lines into their own company umbrella – another noteworthy accomplishment. 

Orthotics and prosthetics is a constantly evolving industry, and everyone at Fillauer is looking forward to what’s to come. “There is still a lot of room to grow in this industry and profession, and we are continuing to look for ways to do that,” explains Fillauer. “Leading innovation in prosthetics for both upper and lower limbs will continue to be a large focus for us.”

Waldrep Construction

Photos Courtesy of Walter A. Wood Supply Company

 

Walter A. Wood headshotWalter A. Wood Supply Company

EST. 1913

Walter A. Wood Supply Company, named for its founder, Walter Augustus Wood, is an industrial supply company established in 1913. Originally an engineer, Wood had been placed in charge of the plans for Chickamauga Battlefield, which meant being tasked with laying out the monuments in a way that best reflected the events of the battle. After nearly two decades of work on the project, Wood set up a feed-and-seed company at a location near the battlefield, where the company still resides today. 

At first, Wood’s primary customers were farmers in the area as well as the horse-drawn cavalry stationed in Fort Oglethorpe. However, after Wood passed away in 1935 and the company was purchased by James F. Gardner, the city of Chattanooga continued to develop into one of the biggest manufacturing cities in the region, and the supply company began selling industrial supplies to match the area’s demand. The company was later purchased by Gardner’s son, James F. Gardner Jr., along with his son-in-law, Leon Henry. Leon Henry became the sole owner in 1991, and the same family manages the company today. 

Walter A. Wood’s current CEO, David Henry, believes that it’s their approach to running the business that sets them apart and helps them endure throughout the years. Constant investment and training when it comes to their people have always been important, and because of that, their staff averages more than 18 years of employment within the company. The reliability of their inventory has also remained an asset. “We are a little unusual in our industry, as most distributors have a just-in-time approach, but we keep the product on the shelf,” Henry tells us. 

Though the company has faced challenges, it’s still managed to grow and advance its position in the market. “One of our greatest successes has been the transition from a local distributor to a regional player with a national footprint. We now service customers in every state in the U.S.,” explains Henry. Since they are a supplier, 2020 was actually one of the company’s most successful years since its founding. “Our flexibility from the top down allowed us to change our product offerings, alter our procedures, and create new ways to service our customers,” says Henry. From here, Walter A. Wood hopes to continue its forward momentum by extending its footprint and capturing more market share, all while maintaining the company’s core values.

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Photos Courtesy of Erlanger Health System

 

Erlanger Health System

EST. 1889

Something that not everyone might know about Erlanger Health System is that Chattanooga actually has the railroads to thank for its origin. In 1889, a French nobleman named Baron Frédéric Emile d’Erlanger, who held financial interests in a number of railroads throughout the region, made a generous donation of $5,000 (over $4 million in today’s dollars) to be used for a hospital in town. The cornerstone for Baroness Erlanger Hospital, named out of appreciation for the baron’s wife, was laid in 1891, and the 72-bed hospital opened its doors to the community a decade after his donation was bestowed. 

Throughout the years, Erlanger has garnered a myriad of achievements and accolades. In its early history, the hospital founded one of the state’s first nursing schools, and the region’s first open-heart surgery was performed at the hospital in 1960, with the area’s first kidney transplant following there in the ‘80s. Today, Erlanger has seven Tennessee-based hospitals, including a children’s hospital and a behavioral health hospital, as well as three community health centers in Chattanooga. 

According to Dr. William Jackson, Erlanger’s President and CEO, the origin of Erlanger is what has shaped the hospital system’s core values, even today. “In the beginning, Erlanger was built on philanthropic generosity and the desire to bring healthcare to Chattanooga and the surrounding area. This genesis laid the foundation for our enduring mission and values and tireless passion for the betterment of this region,” he tells us. It’s always been Erlanger’s mission to treat everyone who needs care, regardless of their ability to pay, which has presented some unique financial challenges. But Jackson believes that it’s their people who have perpetuated success for so many decades now. “Our physicians and associates provide compassionate care to this community, including their own families, friends, and colleagues,” he explains. “This enduring spirit is evident in our people – they are the difference-makers, and Lord willing, they will continue to positively impact the health and well-being of our region for another century.”

Speaking of the next century, Erlanger hopes to support the community through healthcare by continuing to excel in what they offer. “We strive to improve access to high-quality and cutting-edge care across the region, in everything from prevention to subspecialty services,” Jackson says. 

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Chattanooga Companies Celebrating 100 Years or More

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