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Alton Byrd, Chattanooga Football Club

Featured Article

Seven Local Men You Should Know

Men Positively Influencing Various Industries in the Scenic City

Christian Harris and Brandon Carruth

Sleepyhead Coffee

There’s no chance of snoozing when chatting with Christian Harris and Brandon Carruth, co-owners of Sleepyhead Coffee. Originating in 2018 as a mobile coffee cart, Christian combined his talents as a former barista with Brandon’s business philosophy to create a brand the Chattanooga community can’t live without.

Since their coffee cart days, Christian and Brandon have opened two brick and mortar locations. Whether interviewing for a job, leisurely painting, celebrating a two-year old’s birthday party, playing an intense game of chess, or catching up with old friends, the environment at Sleepyhead is the place for it all. Customers come for the space and stay for the coffee which is what fuels Christian, Brandon, and their team to do what they love. 

While it hasn’t always been easy owning their own business, Christian and Brandon both agreed that their greatest accomplishment thus far was opening their storefronts using all of their own funding at the ages of 19 and 21. They both attribute their success to the powerful impact of the Chattanooga community which never shies away from supporting local businesses and has been the backbone of their growth.

The entire team at Sleepyhead is grateful for the open-mindedness of the Chattanooga community that allows them to be an inclusive establishment for all. 

Be on the lookout for new local merch collaborations and their own roasted coffee! To learn more about Sleepyhead Coffee, visit: sleepyhead.coffee




 

Brad Shelton

Accendo Studio

The Latin term “accendo” means to bring light or enlighten. Brad Shelton, owner of Accendo Studio, began his company with the aspiration of creating a studio that supported all types of work from art and photography to architecture. Through his work, Shelton works to enlighten the Chattanooga community and those with whom he works about the importance of sustainability.

An architect by day and a photographer by trade, Shelton has an eye for design and a heart for the earth. “As architects, we have responsibilities to the environment”, he told us. One of his points of pride is working with the local nonprofit, Tennessee River Gorge Trust, which began by purchasing the gorge and has expanded over the years acquiring property along the Tennessee River. Land that is purchased is placed in a conservation trust so that it can’t be built on along the water ensuring that it stays in its most natural form. 

Currently, Shelton and his team are working on an environmentally conscious office building designed with all things conservation in mind. Several green infrastructure components, solar energy panels, rainwater collection, and low flow fixtures are just a few features the site will boast. This 4,000-square-foot building will research, access, and land stewardship initiatives that continue to make the Tennessee River Gorge Trust a nationally recognized organization. 

To learn more about Brad and Accendo Studio, visit: accendostudio.com.

Chuck Bordogna

Lookout Winery & Wood Oven Pizza

Chuck Bordogna is honoring years of culinary tradition by carrying on his family’s legacy in the mountains of Tennessee. In March of this year, Lookout Winery & Wood Oven Pizza celebrated its ninth anniversary. A slice of Sicilian heaven tucked away in Guild, Tennessee Lookout Winery proudly serves homemade Nonna style pizzas and wine. 

While many come for the views, what keeps people coming back is the pizza. Utilizing a family recipe that was passed down from his late grandmother, Lookout Winery & Wood Oven Pizza has lifelong patrons who travel from as far as two hours away. 

When we asked Chuck why he chose Guild as the location for Lookout Winery, he gave us three simple reasons: the view, proximity to travelers, and the hillside. The winery sits high enough to look out onto the Tennessee River and far into the lush greenery of the region. Non-local tourists are frequently drawn to the winery as a pit stop on their travels. In an effort to maintain as much of the site's natural integrity, Chuck knew he needed to be able to build a sustainable kitchen and restaurant into the hillside for cooling and storage purposes. 

With such breathtaking views, it is no surprise that Chuck is expanding his portfolio into the event business with a venue currently under construction. After hosting a number of gatherings on site, Chuck knew it was time to expand what people loved most about the locale: its beauty, timeless elegance, and seclusion to a larger audience. With plans to host weddings on-site as well as private short-term vacation rentals, the future for Lookout Winery is incredibly bright. 

To learn more about Lookout Winery & Wood Oven Pizza, visit: lookoutwinery.com.

Kenneth Burke

Text Request 

It all started with a text that read, “Just show up on Monday.” A South Georgia native, Kenneth Burke, took a leap of faith, packed up his life, and moved to Chattanooga in 2014. Along with three other people in the office, Burke was handed a list of contacts and started cold calling. The rest, as they say, is history.

Growing up, Burke always pictured himself in the music industry as he practiced guitar for hours each day. After attending Covenant College in pursuit of a music career, he soon started studying business, hoping he could combine his passion for music and his business mindset. 

Text Request began with seven employees and has grown to a team of forty-five. The integrative customer service product that originated right here in Chattanooga, offers moderate pricing with no limits on how many texts can be sent per month. Over 100 million people are connected today through Text Request and over 90% of customers are outside of the Chattanooga area. Burke uses SEO marketing and blogging to reach clients across the nation. 

What began as a customer service tool for the hospitality industry and college admission departments has now transitioned to a majority of customers from the home and professional services industries. 

Even though he wasn't the best at English in school, Burke eventually transitioned from sales and developed what is now the marketing department at Text Request. This began with casual blog posting and email marketing in 2016. Kenneth has taken the company’s marketing one step further and created a successful podcast called “Text Request Talks” on Spotify, where he interviews franchise owners and home service providers to hear their business journeys. 

Locally, Text Request values their partnerships with Chattanooga Football Club, UTC and the Chattanooga Lookouts. To learn more about Text Request, visit: textrequest.com.

Alton Byrd

CEO, Chattanooga Football Club 

Born in San Francisco, Alton Byrd has always had a passion for sports. In 1979, he was drafted to the Boston Celtics, but due to an injury the night before training camp, he took his chances with a job opportunity in London that summer. 

Byrd proved to be passionate about both the business side of sports and the recreational side of sports as he continued to establish his reputation as a sports commentator, TV personality, and broadcast host over the years. Byrd’s one year EU plan quickly turned into a lifetime career both on and off the court as he soon became the leading rookie of the Crystal Palace team in the British Basketball league leading the team to a 50-5 record. 

From there, business alliance opportunities presented themselves as Byrd was approached by a wealthy steel magnet in Edinburgh named David Murray who asked Byrd to build and run the most successful team in EU basketball history. After the birth of his daughter in 1987, Alton received a call from Manchester United and transferred back to England to act as the captain of their basketball team for one year. A stockbroker by day, Byrd continued his athletic pursuits by night. 

Retiring from basketball at age 38, Byrd began a host of endeavors including starting his own sports marketing agency and a range of television and radio shows. Following these pursuits, he became the NFL U.K. Commercial Manager for the London Monarchs. 

In 1999, Byrd moved back to the U.S. to be closer to his mother and assumed the role of Head of Sponsorships Alliances for the Sacramento Kings. In 2020, he founded Clear Focus Consulting and for eleven years ran the multicultural marketing agency as well as the corporate coaching agency.

Despite all of these accomplishments, Byrd notes that his most valuable roles are being a husband for twenty-four years and father of two. 

Byrd’s impressive career path brought him to Chattanooga in 2023 where he now serves as the CEO of the Chattanooga Football Club. Byrd told us, “When you have a curious mind, you watch what managers say, what plays are made and called and you research the stats. It’s about spacing near the goal and front end, being connected so that when one player moves everyone moves. It’s the same size, style, and spacing as basketball.”

When asked about his future plans for the Club, Byrd hopes to implement matchday events throughout the city emulating the comradery, support and alliance that EU football fans are known for. On the presence of two prominent football clubs in Chattanooga, Byrd told us, “Soccer is built on rivalries and this is evidence of the city’s love of the game as we see tourists from surrounding cities coming to town for soccer events. Furthermore, it is great to see our local recreation programs incorporating the sport into the roster of sports options.” 

Byrd is hopeful that by showcasing the games on a national stage, more positive attention will be brought to the Scenic City. 


 

Christopher Shaw

Final Flash Photography 

Christopher Shaw, owner of Final Flash Photography, has always considered himself a story teller. Telling stories through painting has been something he was enthralled with for years. At just twelve years old, he held a camera for the first time and discovered an art form that ignited his passion. From then on, he worked tirelessly and intentionally to perfect his craft and continue storytelling from a different perspective. 

Collaborating with fellow entrepreneurs and creatives has been a grounding force and inspiration throughout Christopher’s professional journey. “Malik Stoudemire, Genesis the Greykid, Herman Prater, Anthony Wiley, Jeremy Lawrence are all men that have created and continue to create things that make waves through our city and create a name for themselves. They keep me focused on the promises I made to myself when I began this journey.”

Shaw, who shot our cover and feature images of Chattanooga Football Club CEO Alton Byrd, aspires to continue his pursuits in athletic photography and, as an avid wrestling fan, hopes to one day shoot something with the WWE. From a musical perspective, Zendaya and Rihanna are at the top of his list given their natural auras in front of the lens. 

Visual arts in general have taken a large leap of popularity in recent years and many people are entering the digital space. This allows an opportunity for our creatives to showcase different perspectives and services to our city that are needed in today's market. “I'm really excited to see how far creativity can go in this medium”, Shaw told us. 

To learn more about Christopher and Final Flash Productions, visit: finalflashpro.com.

Steve Flynn

Owner, Stevarino’s & Blackstone Grille


 

Sociable. Happy. Fun-loving. These are qualities you can expect when meeting Steve Flynn, owner of Stevarino’s Italian Eatery and Pub. Steve Flynn has spent a lifetime in the restaurant business, and he’s brought his positive spirit to the food service industry in Chattanooga. Steve learned about the beauty of independently owned restaurants as a wholesaler in Florida before moving to Tennessee. 

Now, Steve has planted his roots in the Scenic City. In 2007, Steve alongside his friend and business partner Kerry, opened the first Stevarino’s in South Pittsburg before opening another location in Chattanooga in 2019. Now, Steve and his wife are opening a new restaurant in Lookout Valley. Blackstone Grille is set to open by the end of May and will fill a void for the community. “Chattanooga is a foodie town. It’s small enough to not be a mega city, but big enough for opportunity” the couple told us. 

Steve and his wife Vicki are excited about the future potential of their upscale American tavern in Lookout Valley. “In this area, we have Lookout Mountain, Black Creek, Tiftonia, plus all of the hotels. Most of what is in this area is fast food, we are excited to offer something different.” With the opening of Blackstone Grille, the carefree, fun-loving spirit that is recognizable at Stevarino’s will make its way to Lookout Valley. 

After meeting with Steve, it was obvious that the Scenic City is lucky to have Steve, who just wants to have fun and enjoy life. Steve invites you all to, “Come for the food and stay for the atmosphere.”


To learn more about Stevarino’s visit: stevarinos.com.

  • Alton Byrd, Chattanooga Football Club
  • Brad Shelton, Accendo Studio
  • Christian Harris and Brandon Carruth, Sleepyhead Coffee
  • Chris Shaw, Final Flash Productions
  • Chuck Bordogna, Lookout Winery