Small Business Grows Here

Beth Miller

The Chamber’s 2016 Small Business of the Year Awards honor four businesses who have not only demonstrated outstanding practices, services and success, but who also establish genuine relationships and continually reinvent themselves to serve our community.

Dish T’Pass, 1-20 Employees Category

Imagine a warm kitchen filled with family members anxiously waiting to dig into a dish passed down for generations – whether it’s a special casserole or a dessert with a secret ingredient. Amanda Varnell of Dish T’Pass Cooking School and Catering Company calls this “foodlove.”

“Foodlove is that little extra effort to give something of yourself whether it’s simple or complicated,” Varnell says. “When you make something of yourself, you are giving something of yourself—a piece of you, a part of your life story.”

Dish T’Pass, short for a “dish to pass” dinner, “evokes a feeling of heirloom recipes, food-splattered recipe cards and family favorites.”

The company, founded by Varnell and Amanda Hooper, focuses on corporate and non-profit needs such as catered lunches, after-hours events and team-building cooking classes.

“Dish T'Pass has consistently kept up with demand and demonstrated to us their love and care for the quality of food they produce,” says Julie Hawbaker, Victoria Love Events and Staffing Lead Event Coordinator. “It’s always a pleasure to do business with them.”

Through their authentic recipes and genuine relationships, Varnell and Hooper want to change the world one meal at time.

Communication VIP
AHS Consulting

The Barn Nursery, 21-50 Employees Category

Spring brings vibrant flowers and blooming trees just in time for Jim Webster, owner of The Barn Nursery, to encourage customers with his catchphrase “Time to play in the yard!”

The Webster family launched its nursery business in the 1960s in Rossville, Ga. Jim took over in 1980 following the passing of his father. Today Jim and his wife, Cindy, are proud to have their son, Cole, onboard as well. But The Barn Nursery’s success hasn’t been devoid of challenges.

Jim and Cindy’s daughter Lana Beth faced a cancer diagnosis in 2001, and the family traveled to Emory, Sloan Kettering in New York and to St. Jude for Lana Beth’s treatments over a five-year time period.

During this time, The Barn Nursery suffered a major blow when a flood destroyed $500,000 of inventory Mother’s Day — the busiest weekend of the year. As they worked to recoup business losses, the biggest loss of all came in 2006 with Lana Beth’s passing.

The Websters managed to keep moving forward, and created Lana’s Love Foundation to help other families of children diagnosed with cancer.

“Because of our staff and by the grace of God, we managed right through it,” Cindy says.  

While the Webster family touts the variety of pottery, plants and potting soil they offer at The Barn Nursery, they also offer commitment to their staff, their community and their customers — “truckload after truckload.”

Office Pride

Ruby Falls, 51-200 Employees

Leo Lambert, a local caver, accidentally discovered a cave of unique rock formations in 1928. He eagerly led his wife, Ruby, into the cave to marvel at its splendor, and together they stumbled upon a 145-foot waterfall that Lambert named in his wife’s honor.

Today Ruby Falls lures visitors from all over the country as a must-see attraction. Under the direction of Hugh Morrow, President and CEO, Ruby Falls continues to discover innovative ways to delight guests.

“They realize that to keep people coming back year after year, they have to look for ways to enhance the customer experience—Zip Stream, parking changes, gift shop and layout changes, solar power, broadband in the cave, and so on,” says Mike Harrell, Latitude Advisors.

The first U.S. attraction to receive the Green Globe certificate for sustainability, Ruby Falls’ solar panels cut energy usage, a water monitoring system slashes water consumption and employees receive carpooling perks. Ruby Falls continues to find efficient ways to reduce pollution, emissions and waste.

“Change is never comfortable and we always gravitate to secure situations,” Harrell says. “But the Ruby Falls staff has learned to be comfortable with the uncomfortable.”

TPC Packaging

Northside Neighborhood House, Nonprofit

A friendly and energetic voice at the other end of the line speaks enthusiastically about Northside Neighborhood House (NNH) and its dedication to Chattanooga residents.

Rachel Gammon, CEO, has served NNH for 20 years and attributes its success to relationships, a holistic approach to serving and accountability.

“We are here to help people,” Gammon says. “But while we’re walking alongside them, we are going to hold them accountable and expect them to really work at improving their situation.”

A dedicated staff offers a range of services to the Northshore community including GED classes – 41 students participated in 2015, budgeting, and a work readiness program in which participants write resumes and receive assistance with their job search.

“I started going to the GED Program and really came to love my time at the Northside Neighborhood House,” says Terry, a former participant. “They even hired me to work at one of their Thrift Stores.  They have made such a big difference in my life.”

NNH opened in 1924 as the North Chattanooga Community Center. Offerings were limited but intentions were not. The desire “to provide a hand up, not a hand out to neighbors in need” keeps NNH moving forward and successful.

“Everyone falls on hard times and that’s why we are here,” Gammon says. “We really believe that to improve peoples’ situations you have to be invested in them and the best way to do that is by forminga relationship.”

Chattanooga Zoo

Other Topics

During November’s Apprenticeship Week – which formally launched a remarkable new program called Apprenticeship Works – one local woman from Unum who participated and graduated from its company’s apprenticeship program declared to a crowd of Chattanooga’s business leaders, elected officials, and…

With holidays quickly approaching, it’s time to dive into the spirit of celebration and find the perfect gift for your loved ones. As we deck the halls and spread the cheer, explore our handpicked selection of six local businesses, each offering the…

One day in high school, a man walked into Lovette Clay’s class with an offer that would ultimately change his life.  His name was Gerald Harris, principal of the Construction Career Center. He offered Lovette an opportunity unlike any other.…

In June 2023, seven graduates from Whitfield County and Dalton Public Schools celebrated their first full-time job opportunities after completing Project Purpose, a two-week workforce training program for high school graduates interested in careers with Whitfield County's leading manufacturers, organized…

The Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce's Annual Meeting, sponsored by Chattanooga Gas, celebrated the community's achievements from the past fiscal year. Charles Wood, President and CEO of the Chattanooga Chamber, kicked off the event by acknowledging the dedication of volunteers,…

In today’s rapidly changing world, it is crucial to a community’s prosperity to have a diverse industry base. As a result, some communities are reevaluating their traditional economic development models and shifting away from the industry that has defined them…

Sign up for weekly updates.