Wednesday, August 1, 2012
A handful of Signal Mountain businesses have been serving the community under the same ownership for a quarter-century or more. The staying power of these businesses is revealing of the value the community places on the products and services they offer, as well as the satisfaction the owners get from serving their friends and neighbors.
Owners of these businesses cite many similar strategies for success, including a focus on customer service, community involvement, continuing education, evolving with the times and listening to the needs of their customers.
Signal Mountain residents continue to show appreciation for the reliable car repair service at Mountain Service Imports, according to Elias Tigiros, who has owned the operation since 1984, and the friendly customer service and convenience of Signal Mountain Cleaners through their continued loyalty throughout the years.
“A lot of our customers are our neighbors,” said Maryann Leun, whose parents Dixson McCarty and Nanci Kelly opened Signal Mountain Cleaners in 1957. “We’re friends with our customers and we know your name when you walk in.”
Leun said she started working at the cleaners while in junior high school. She and her husband now run the business along with her mom.
“Mom’s been here forever,” said Leun. “She’s seen [customers’] kids grow up, and now those kids come in.”
Contemporary Portraits owners Greg and Jeannie Forehand have also served multiple generations of Signal Mountain residents through their photography business. They said they have probably photographed more than 1,000 people in the community since they started the business in their home 27 years ago.
Among those customers is Linda Nelson, owner of Signal Mountain Travel. A common theme expressed among Signal Mountain business owners is their loyalty in supporting other businesses in the community.
“I patronize as many as possible,” said Nelson, who opened her business in 1990. “If I have a need for anything on the mountain, I always give them my business first.”
Jeannie Forehand said when she needs a wedding gift, she goes to All Creatures Great and Small and Accents. For meals out, she and her husband rotate between 517 Subs, Fortune House, Southern Star and the Pizza Place, which has been baking pies on the mountain since 1989.
Several businesses aside from Signal Mountain Cleaners, the mountain’s oldest business still under its original ownership, have also been passed down to the next generation.
Two years ago, Anson Hyde took over The Bread Basket, which his parents Charles and Marie Hyde started from their Signal Mountain home in 1988. The store in Walden was built in 1993 to accommodate the increased demand for their products, and The Bread Basket also opened a store in East Brainerd in 1995.
“We felt like there wasn’t anything like us up here and thought we would be able to be successful,” said Anson Hyde. “The mountain has been fantastic to us.”
The company’s breads, cakes and cookies have such widespread appeal they are shipped nationwide.
“My father was not afraid of technology,” Anson Hyde said of his father, who had the foresight to develop an online store in the mid-1990s, expanding the business’s reach exponentially. He said they recently revamped the website, and more changes are to come.
“I’m working on a lot of new products,” said Hyde, who added that he would like to open additional stores in the future.
Evolving one’s business to adapt to current trends is essential to a successful business, said Greg Forehand.
“You have to change to fit the market and reach out and do different things,” he said.
Photographing high school seniors is a new focus for Contemporary Portraits, as is creating memory books that are popular with the younger generation.
“Diversification has allowed us to serve a lot of different needs,” Greg Forehand said.
When Webbco Graphics moved from its location in Ashley Plaza to the Signal Mountain Business Complex, the company did away with its presses and went all-digital, said owner Terry Brown.
Brown now operates the business that was started in the family’s garage by her father, Leon Webb, in 1972.
“I was in it from the very beginning,” said Brown of how she came to join the business, which got its start printing the church bulletin for Signal Mountain Baptist.
The company continues to offer valuable services to various factions of the community, including the printing of the Signal Mountain Directory, as well as materials for businesses and organizations such as Signal Mountain Social Services, Signal Mountain High School and Mountain Top Toys.
Grandson Ben Freye helps out at the store during the summer, which means a third generation could possibly continue the tradition of family ownership at Webbco.
Cheerific owner Patsy Lay has served many of her clients for more than 30 years at her salon, which opened in 1980.
“We’re like family here; everyone comes in and immediately feels completely at home,” she said, adding that Cheerific’s atmosphere is often compared to “Steel Magnolias.”