Small Businesses, Big Strides

By Amanda Ellis

It’s that time – we’re gearing up for our annual Small Business Awards recognizing outstanding local companies. Here, we give a nod to the updates and growth of past recipients in our 1-20 and 21-50 employee categories.

Stay tuned for next month’s throwback to the 51-200 employee and nonprofit categories.

On March 23 we’ll honor our 2016 award recipients and finalists, and you’ll read more about them in our April issue. 

A Silverware Affair

Prior to receiving the 2012 Small Business Award in the 1-20 employees category, small catering company A Silverware Affair catered weddings and events throughout the Chattanooga area.

“This award put us on the map for local catering. Nothing else here could have gotten us in front of 1,200 people – and that’s just those who attend the event — in one fell swoop, sharing our story with a wonderful video, articles and more,” says Tara Plumlee, founder of A Silverware Affair and owner of The Catering Companies, LLC.

The Catering Companies encompasses A Silverware Affair and venues The Car Barn and The Mill, an established Chattanooga location acquired after the win.

“I guess you could say this industry was sort of bred into me,” Plumlee says. “My father owns Rib & Loin here in Chattanooga and I was helping out there at 13.

“I love the artistic side of this business, particularly the chef arts. I studied theater in college and it’s similar in that you’re fulfilling someone’s vision and creating something beautiful.”

Since acquiring The Mill, A Silverware Affair increased its profitability by more than 450 percent in four years.

“One of the things I’m most proud of since our Small Business Award is our labor retention — so important in providing a quality product to our clients,” Plumlee says. “Every single one of our core management, sales and kitchen staff are still with our company four years later.”

Staff size continues to grow, and the Catering Companies expanded further in 2015 to offer venue management and exclusive catering at The Renaissance Center and North Georgia’s Covey Creek Farm.

“The key to our growth has been offering clients a variety of solutions,” Plumlee says. “In any business, you have to stay current – things are always changing and you have to be the one at the forefront.”

Through New Eyes

When Allied Eye (previously Allied Eye Associates) received the Small Business Award in the 21-50 employees category in 2012, previous owner Izaak Wessels, M.D., accepted. After a difficult battle with Lou Gehrig’s disease, Dr. Wessels passed away in 2013, transferring his 11-year-old practice to a colleague, Dennis Matzkin, M.D., now Chattanooga’s only neuro-ophthalmologist.

Both physicians graduated from the University of Witwatersrand Medical School in Johannesburg, South Africa. The two crossed paths over the years at ophthalmology conferences and kept in touch through mutual patients. When Dr. Matzkin discovered Dr. Wessels was ill, he called to check on him. Dr. Wessels’s response was, “Dennis, I need you to take over my practice.”

“In this ever-changing, fast-paced business world, we decided to relocate to Chattanooga and seize this opportunity. We faced a decline in the patient base and overstaffing,” says Susan Matzkin, Allied Eye Office Administrator. “With Dr. Wessels’s son, Gunter Wessels, my husband’s skillset and dedicated staff, we rebuilt with a focus on patient experience and outstanding care.”

Dr. Matzkin performs the latest in laser cataract surgery and premium implants, eliminating the need for both distance and reading glasses. A renowned LASIK surgeon, he performed LASIK on champion archer, Jesse Moorehead as well as other athletes, pilots and medical colleagues.

“We’ve totally remodeled our office and patients who haven’t been back in a while can’t believe how beautiful it is and how friendly our staff is,” Matzkin says. Allied Eye now serves many patients old and new, and has maintained many of the same employees.

“When Dr. Wessels became ill, we were all saddened but still had patients to take care of and were apprehensive about the future of our practice,” says Kim Pugh, Allied Eye technician of 10 years. “But Dr. Matzkin brought a new level of expertise. I loved the old Allied Eye, and now I love the new Allied Eye too.”