Entrepreneurship Hall of Fame 2001

Lyle Finley

Adolph S. Ochs

Charles and Mary Portera

Mose and Garrison Siskin

Lyle Finley
Golden Gallon stores founder Lyle Finley believes success in business comes from having a winning idea, surrounding oneself with capable people and treating them well, and working long days and nights. Twelve to sixteen-hour working days are the norm, he says.

Mr. Finley's idea for drive-through stores in East Tennessee occurred to him while attending a University of Tennessee Vols bowl game in Florida in 1959.

There, he saw motorists readily utilizing the convenience of shopping from their cars at small drive-through stores. He figured the same business could work back in Tennessee and pitched the idea to his brother-in-law, Ray Moss, Jr. The two began developing small freestanding stores where fresh milk was sold to drive-through customers. Hence, the name Golden Gallon, which became a brand name for the milk they sold. They soon owned their own milk processing plant and a distribution fleet.

The enterprise quickly caught on and by 1970, Golden Gallon had become a leading retail establishment in the Southeast with 58 convenience store locations. Fueling stations at the stores were introduced in 1971. By the year 2000, the highly successful food, fuel and dairy chain had annual sales of over $300 million. The chain also ranked as the 36th largest convenience store operation in the United States in number of locations with 134 stores and more than 1,100 employees.

In 1977, Mr. Finley became sole proprietor of Golden Gallon after the untimely death of Mr. Moss in a plane crash. Mr. Finley began to further hone his skills in hiring capable people and treating them well. He served as Chief Executive Officer until 2000, when Golden Gallon was sold to BI-Lo of Mauldin, South Carolina, one of the world's largest food retailers. BI-LO is a $3 billion company with more than 280 supermarkets in North and South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee and Alabama.

Lyle Finley continues to be active with real estate investments and works as site locator for businesses. He is a 1956 graduate of the University of Chattanooga and has a B.S. degree in business.

Adolph S. Ochs
Adolph S. Ochs came to Chattanooga in 1877 to become a newspaper publisher. He had already worked as a newsboy, printer's apprentice and journeyman printer in Knoxville to help support his family. And when he came to Chattanooga to start a newspaper he was only 19 years old.

Born in Cincinnati in 1858 to Bavarian immigrants, Julius and Bertha Levy Ochs, young Adolph began his newspaper career when the family moved to Knoxville.

Adolph was 7 years old when he became a newsboy and later journeyman apprentice at the Knoxville Chronicle. Mr. Ochs seized the opportunity to join others in establishing the Chattanooga Dispatch, a newspaper that soon failed. Undaunted, he joined with David B. Harris to publish a city directory for Chattanooga in 1878, providing him with barely enough capital to purchase the failing Chattanooga Times.

Before the age of 40, Mr. Ochs was running his successful daily newspaper and had begun to make real estate investments in his adopted hometown. In 1896, The New York Times was struggling financially, and he saw the opportunity to develop one of the most highly respected and powerful newspapers in the world. While running the New York Times, Mr. Ochs continued to call Chattanooga his home. He still owned the Chattanooga newspaper and bought and sold a considerable amount of real estate. The Chattanooga-Lookout Mountain Park, stretching for four miles down the east slopes of Lookout Mountain, and for nearly six miles on the west side, is another origination of Mr. Ochs. Through his efforts, the park association was formed, and Mr. Ochs paid for most of the land that comprises the park. By establishing one of the country's most successful newspaper dynasties, he helped to change the face of American journalism while at the same time contributing to the welfare and betterment of his beloved Chattanooga. Mr. Ochs died in 1935 while visiting Chattanooga. He was 77.

Mary R. and Charles A. Portera, Sr
Although it seems unlikely that an oncologist and his wife would become entrepreneurs and developers, in reality it was quite natural for Dr. Charles ("Tony") and Mary Portera. Both are from families in Mississippi who owned and operated grocery stores. Growing up in the midst of small-town family businesses, Tony and Mary learned early in life the value of hard work.

On reaching midlife, the Porteras began to examine options for a different lifestyle when their four children became adults and were about to start careers of their own. Mary had always loved art and Tony trusted her ability to recognize quality and establish a rapport with artists.

The River Gallery was born from that idea, and it has evolved into Chattanooga's Bluff View Art District - a popular complex of four restaurants with world-class chefs, three bed and breakfast inns, a sculpture garden, bocce court, conference center and, of course, the art gallery.

There was no master plan. Mary was not very well-capitalized and had to borrow money from a local bank. But she was eager and hard working, determined to make a success of the art gallery. Entry into the business came at an opportune time with the opening of the nearby Tennessee Aquarium, which spurred development in the area. The Porteras are quick to point out that revitalization of the riverfront area has been an important asset to growth of their businesses.

The Porteras attribute the success of the Bluff View Art District to the work ethic instilled in both of them early in their lives and the family bond that has deepened as their own four adult children have joined them in their enterprise.

The Porteras continue to exhibit those family work ethics they learned in Mississippi and hope that the Bluff View Art District will be a legacy for their children and and maybe even beyond.

"I just love this place," says Dr. Portera. "I think we are here for the long haul."

Mose and Garrison Siskin
Brothers Mose and Garrison Siskin are best remembered as great philanthropists and deeply religious men who worked for the betterment of Chattanooga. At the same time, they successfully ran a multi-million-dollar steel supply company that arose from humble beginnings.

The sons of European immigrants, Mose and Garrison learned early in their lives about hard work through their Judaic heritage. Robert H. and Anna Siskin, their parents, came to Chattanooga in the late 1890s from Lithuania to escape religious persecution.

Robert sold housewares door-to-door, walking throughout a 75-mile radius of their home in west Chattanooga where they had settled. When Mose was only six years old, he sold newspapers on the streets of Chattanooga and was soon joined by Garrison. When their father went to work for a scrap dealer, they made a soapbox wagon and went around the neighborhood collecting junk, bottles, rags and scrap metal.

With $6 and a rented lot at the corner of 19th and Chestnut streets, Robert H. Siskin went into business for himself, starting the Siskin Steel and Supply Company in 1900. It continued to be ably run by Mose and Garrison throughout their lives.

The local company was sold in 1990 to become a part of Los Angeles-based Reliance Steel and Aluminum Co. Siskin Steel and Supply continued to be a privately held metals service center business until its sale to Reliance, supplying customers with stainless and carbon steel, aluminum and alloys. Its business also included metal processing, cutting metals to tolerance and customer specifications. The scrap metal processing unit was sold in the early 1990s. Sales in the fiscal year 1999 totaled $180 million. The brothers, who died in 1978 and 1979, are best known for their work with the disabled, leading to establishment of the Siskin School for Children and the Siskin Rehabilitation Hospital, both in Chattanooga.

Few companies survive 100 years or more, much less flourish as Siskin Steel has. Rarer still is the impact on the lives of the people of Chattanooga made by Mose and Garrison Siskin.