By Claire Sellers, Duck River Electric Membership Corporation

“How’s your conduct?” This is a phrase you will hear quite often in the small town of Lynnville, located in Giles County. Col. Littleton himself uses this greeting often. The appropriate response is always: “Stellar.”

Col. Littleton is an American fashion designer and business owner. Best known for handmade, upscale leather goods and specialty products, Col. Littleton’s manufacturing center is in Lynnville.

After establishing his business in 1987, Col. Littleton today supplies more than 500 stores across the United States. His leather goods and other products are featured in catalogs such as Orvis and Sundance. Col. Littleton also works with other businesses to incorporate their logos and
brands on various leather products. Two storefront locations in downtown Lynnville are
open from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

“We are in the process of moving our manufacturing down the road,” says Col. Littleton, an honorary colonel in Tennessee and Kentucky. This move means all of Col. Littleton’s products will be manufactured on the Duck River Electric Membership Corporation system. His workforce totals 40 employees.

“My goal is for our customers to have unique, one-of-a-kind products,” says Col. Littleton. “No two pieces are the same. Each piece of leather is different, and that’s what we want.”

Products are designed exclusively by Col. Littleton himself and made to have a vintage look and feel.
Different vintage military pieces are used as inspiration. Personalization is an option available to customers. Add customization to a knife or leather product to make it uniquely yours.

“We strive to be stellar in everything we do,” says Col. Littleton. “We aren’t in the needing business. We are in the wanting business. We strive to have stellar customer service and stellar products.”

An order from Col. Littleton includes a Moon Pie, an opportunity to review the product and a “How’s Your Conduct?” sticker.

“Each box that is shipped out will become a guest in someone’s home,” says the Colonel. “It’s all about
presentation. We care about the packaging as much as we care about the product that’s in the box.”

Customers of Col. Littleton include presidents, governors and numerous musical and Hollywood
celebrities. “I learn something new every day,” says employee Lynn Stevens. “I get to see the product when it’s still an idea.”

Each of Col. Littleton’s exclusively designed products is inspected seven to eight times before being packaged and shipped.

History is something that is important to Col. Littleton and his wife, Susie. The couple restored the Andrew Jackson Tavern and moved it to Lynnville from Belfast, Tenn. The tavern, which dates to the early 1800s, today serves as Col. Littleton’s office. An 1874 schoolhouse that has also been restored by Col. Littleton is used for company meetings.

Along with leather products, Col. Littleton has a CD featuring a collection of stories and music. Visit the store and browse through the truly remarkable leather goods inventory.

For more information, contact Col. Littleton at 1-800-842-4075 or visit

120 Years Strong and Growing

Since 1896, Lodge Manufacturing has been an important economic force in South Pittsburg. And even in an age of fast-food and planned obsolescence, the cast-iron cookware standard-bearer continues to grow and become stronger than ever.

You would think that when you produce a product that never wears out and is passed down from generation to generation, you would finally work yourself out of a job. However, cast-iron cookware is experiencing a new surge in popularity fueled by cooking programs on television, food bloggers on the Internet and the “sharing” of all things “foodie” on social media sites such as Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter.

The demand for cast-iron cookware, highly touted for its ability to evenly conduct heat and its natural nonstick qualities, has forced Lodge Manufacturing to get into what company President/Chief Operating Officer Henry Lodge calls “hurry-up” mode to meet the surging demand.

Lodge products made in Sequachee Valley EC's service area.

Lodge products made in Sequachee Valley EC’s service area.

“We have always planned five to 10 years out, but as we watched the demand beginning to increase and started working toward expansion, we found that we had outgrown our plan before we could even implement it,” Lodge stated. “About five years ago, we realized we would need additional product to meet the growing demand. We thought we would have about five years to meet the projected growth, but before we could actually start building the new foundry, we realized that as soon as it was built, it would be filled up. Sales had grown more than we had expected or planned.”

The recent expansion project included entirely new melting furnaces, a new Disamatic molding machine — much larger than the old one — a whole new sand system and new cleaning, finishing and packaging facilities.

“The new melting system came on-line in 2013, the new production and molding equipment in 2014,” Lodge said. “Even with all the new equipment, we still can’t keep up with the market. It is growing faster than we can produce.”

Market numbers show that sales of cast-iron cookware have increased from 4 percent to 10 percent of the cookware market. So even though people hold on to their heirloom skillets, they love their cast iron so much they are adding griddles, Dutch ovens and other pieces to their collections.

One factor to which Lodge attributes the popularity of their line is the fact that the cookware comes already “seasoned.” The care of cast iron has been seen as daunting or just “too much trouble.” However, that changed when Lodge introduced its “Logic” preseasoned pieces in 2002. The line was so popular that soon all of Lodge’s cookware left the factory seasoned.

With nearly 300 employees, Lodge is one of the largest employers in Marion County, so its growth, expansion and climbing sales figures mean a better economy for the county and the Sequatchie Valley.

“We are moving a LOT of product,” Lodge said. “We produce the largest selection of American-made cast-iron cookware, although there are a couple of small niche companies that produce small quantities of high-end ‘designer’ cookware here in the U.S.

Henry Lodge, left, Lodge Manufacturing president/chief operating officer, talks with Larry Pines, operator of a new, more-efficient, electric melting furnace, during a walk-through of the company’s newly rebuilt foundry.

Henry Lodge, left, Lodge Manufacturing president/chief operating officer, talks with Larry Pines, operator of a new, more-efficient, electric melting furnace, during a walk-through of the company’s newly rebuilt foundry.

“Our products are sold in retail stores such as Wal-Mart, Target, Cracker Barrel, Williams-Sonoma, Cabela’s and Bass Pro Shops as well as Amazon. We even ship to a number of foreign countries but that only makes up about 10 percent of our sales. We haven’t really pushed the foreign markets because we are fighting to keep up with American sales.”

The 120-year-old family-owned business, now run by Lodge and CEO Bob Kellerman,great-grandsons of founder Joseph Lodge, is making plans for the next five to 10 years and beginning work on the next building project — a new warehouse across the river in New Hope — while settling into the new, larger factory store in South Pittsburg.

“A large part of our being here — keeping the business local — is to help make South Pittsburg, Marion County and the Sequatchie Valley a great place to live and work and to continue to provide families with opportunities,” Lodge said. “I can’t talk about our success without talking about our people. This growth and success are only possible because we have great employees producing great products for our customers.”

“Lodge Manufacturing has been a good corporate citizen from the beginning,” said Mike Partin, Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative president/CEO. “The company’s commitment to the community and its employees is evident in everything it does. This was demonstrated by the leadership R.L. Lodge gave in bringing electricity to the rural areas of the Sequatchie Valley and the surrounding mountains as the first chairman of the SVEC board of directors. It continues today with the leadership and support that Bob Kellerman and Henry Lodge and their team have given to community projects such as the National Cornbread Festival, which brings tens of thousands of visitors to South Pittsburg each year, boosting the local economy. Lodge Manufacturing is a long-time sponsor of the local Boy Scout troop and supports countless other local causes and events. SVEC is proud to be a partner and power supplier to such an outstanding community asset. Partnerships like this are what make our communities Co-op Strong.”

8th Day Software specializes in highly technical solutions for healthcare companies across the country, but perhaps its greatest innovation has little to do with code and lots to do with location.


8th Day Software founder Dave Loschinskey.

Dave Loschinskey would fit in well in Silicon Valley. His resume includes a stint as a Fortune 50 healthcare technology executive and leader of a multimillion-dollar consulting practice at Oracle. But recently he has been spending less time in San Francisco and more time in West Tennessee.

Henderson is a community about 15 minutes south of Jackson in Southwest Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation’s service territory. The town of 6,000 is known for its barbecue, school system and proximity to Chickasaw State Park and Forest. It is certainly not the typical place to put a software company.

“People think I am either really smart or crazy to build a software company here,” says Loschinskey, CEO of 8th Day Software.

“This is the result of a couple of frustrations I had when I was the chief information officer of a big healthcare company,” he says. “We did our best to use resources responsibly, and that often meant that we outsourced some software development to other countries. Unfortunately, there were time-zone challenges, language barriers and culture differences that prevented us from creating the innovative products we wanted.”

Manny Grillis, a technical director at 8th Day Software, supervises the development of medical software that helps doctors treat patients more effectively.

Manny Grillis, a technical director at 8th Day Software, supervises the development of medical software that helps doctors treat patients more effectively.


Companies needing custom software typically have two options: expensive consultants from Atlanta, Chicago or New York or inexpensive developers in Pakistan, India or China. “What we are doing here in Henderson is creating another option,” says Loschinskey. “We share similar time zones, languages and cultures with our clients, but our operating expenses are much lower than other U.S.-based providers. It allows us to create innovative solutions at cost-effective prices.”

“We were at Stanford University earlier this year, demonstrating a product for clients, and we showed them on a map where the product was built,” he says. “They could not believe that it could happen in such a small town.”

8th Day’s 23 software developers work at the company’s domestic solutions center in Henderson, writing code for programs used in hospitals and medical research.

8th Day’s 23 software developers work at the company’s domestic solutions center in Henderson, writing code for programs used in hospitals and medical research.

Selling small towns

Loschinskey is an advocate of rural America, quick to mention the benefits of lower taxes, inexpensive real estate and little traffic.

8th Day has seen success in finding the talent it needs in Henderson. “Millennials don’t want to sit in traffic,” says Loschinskey. “They want to ride their bikes to work and go visit their kids at school at lunchtime. These attributes are more valuable than earning a few more dollars in an urban area.”

Kaleb Glass was the first employee hired by 8th Day in Henderson. Glass was a student at Freed-Hardeman University, just down the street from 8th Day’s office, when he first learned of the company. “I received an email from a professor about this job opportunity, and I jumped on it,” Glass says.

“I expected to end up in a big city,” says Glass, a software engineer and father of two. “But Henderson is a great place to raise kids. It is a good community with good people, and there is no traffic — I always know how long it will take me to get to work.”

“We’re thrilled that 8th Day Software chose Henderson to grow its domestic sourcing business,” says Henderson Mayor Bobby King. “It offers employment opportunities for Freed-Hardeman University and other graduates who previously would have had to work in a city to pursue a career in information technology.”

Kaleb Glass is a software engineer that specializes in security. Glass, the first employee hired by 8th Day in Henderson, ensures that the sensitive medical information handled by 8th Day's software is protected.

Kaleb Glass is a software engineer that specializes in security. Glass, the first employee hired by 8th Day in Henderson, ensures that the sensitive medical information handled by 8th Day’s software is protected.

Making connections

Broadband Internet is a key part of the 8th Day story, and Henderson has something rarely found in rural Tennessee — a gigabit fiber network.

“Ninety percent of our clients are in other parts of the country, and broadband allows us to connect and collaborate,” says Loschinskey. “We have clients in places like Ann Arbor, Mich., and Chicago who can’t get gigabit Internet, and they can’t believe that we have it in Henderson.”

“Encouraging entrepreneurs is important to us in Henderson,” says King. “Offering gigabit Internet, high school coding classes, a strong chamber of commerce and a quality of life that people of all ages can enjoy, Henderson is an ideal incubator for business start-ups.”

Loschinskey says that small towns have a problem with self-esteem. “We believe that small towns can do manufacturing and retail,” he says. “We believe that small towns can have a doctor’s office and a couple of nurses. Why don’t we believe that small towns can have engineering firms and creative design firms and software development firms?

“We at 8th Day dispel a lot of myths, and people have a different view of small towns when they hear our story and see what we are doing in Henderson.”

Telling the story of rural Tennessee

Tennessee’s electric cooperatives are celebrating innovation and creativity in rural Tennessee and exploring opportunities for co-ops to be advocates for our communities. “Concern for community is one of our guiding principles,” says David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “Whether it be broadband expansion, political affairs or economic development, co-ops have unique opportunities to improve lives in real ways.”

We need you to help us tell the story of rural and suburban Tennessee. Use the hashtag #smalltownsbigideas on Twitter and Facebook to tell us about the great things happening where you live.