Local to Worldwide
Gallatin has always had a thriving business community, with many companies providing products and services for customers around the globe. In the 2021 edition of the Gallatin City Guide, we shine the spotlight on four worth watching.
Covenant Plastics may not be a household name, but you’ve probably interacted with the company’s products without knowing it. Launched in 1995 by Bill Roark, Covenant Plastics got its start manufacturing plastic point-of-purchase displays for the gospel music industry. When demand for displays declined in the early 2000s, Bill redirected the company’s efforts. Today, the company manufactures plastic parts and sells materials that other manufacturers use to fabricate parts.
The COVID-19 crisis dealt Covenant Plastics what appeared to be a fatal blow. As the pandemic unfolded, nearly all the company’s customers were deemed non-essential businesses, and most were forced to shut down. “By the time Sumner County ordered us to close, we weren’t doing enough business to keep the doors open,” Bill said. “I gave my employees layoff notices, and the next day, my wife and I came in to figure out what to do next.”
That morning, something unexpected happened. At 8:30 a.m., the phone rang. It was a heart surgeon in Los Angeles. Personal protective equipment was in short supply, said the surgeon. Could Covenant make patient shields?
Bill had no idea what these shields looked like, so the surgeon directed him to a website. The shields were a clear plastic box with two armholes in the back. A healthcare worker intubating a patient placed the shield over the patient's head and reached through the holes to complete the intubation process. If a patient sneezed or coughed, the shield protected healthcare workers from exposure to the coronavirus.
“I have no idea how the surgeon found me,” Bill admitted. Covenant Plastics hadn’t been in the fabrication business since 2005, but Bill agreed to manufacture the shields. He recalled most of his employees and they started filling orders. Eventually, word got around that Covenant Plastics could manufacture these hard-to-find items, and orders tumbled in from hospitals across the country. The company also started manufacturing sneeze guards. “There was a two-month period there where making patient shields and sneeze guards was basically all we did.”
It was enough to keep the company afloat until the shutdown orders eased, and orders from his regular customers returned. “I didn’t know how the company would survive,” Bill added. “Fabrication, something we hadn’t done in 15 years, was the silver lining. Shields and sneeze guards ended up saving us.”
Perfect Fit Image Apparel
When you encounter a worker wearing a uniform, where does that uniform come from? The supplier may be a small but thriving family-owned company in Gallatin: Perfect Fit Image Apparel.
The company was founded nearly 26 years ago by Kenny Glover, who left a secure position with the largest rental company at that time to launch his own direct sale uniform business. “Mom and Dad worked many late hours to get this business off the ground,” recalled Jennifer Floyd, Kenny’s youngest daughter and the firm’s sales manager. “Today, we sell uniforms, t-shirts, and other clothing items branded with our customers’ logos. If you can put your logo on it, we sell it.”
Electric utilities are a big part of Perfect Fit Image Apparel’s customer base, with clients throughout the southeastern U.S. Perfect Fit Image Apparel also provides uniforms for Servpro franchisees across the U.S. and Canada.
Fortunately, the COVID-19 situation didn’t impact Perfect Fit Image Apparel as much as it did other companies in the Gallatin area. “Many of the companies we serve are considered essential business, like utilities, so we’ve been able to keep everyone working,” Jennifer said. “In the early days of the pandemic, we worked from home. It took us a little longer to get items from our suppliers, but we were able to make keep the operation going.”
Perfect Fit Image Apparel employs 18 people, including four generations of the family. “My parents, Kenny and Charlotte Glover, are the owners,” Jennifer explained. “If alterations are needed, they’re done in house by my grandmother, who has been with the company for 16 years. My sister Angie Coggins manages orders once they arrive at the warehouse and makes sure they get out on time, my sister Kendra Jackson does all design work for logos, and Angie’s son works as a delivery driver. It’s truly a family affair.”
“We take our customer out of the uniform business, freeing them up to do what they do best,” added Jennifer.
When you open a newspaper and the advertising inserts fall out, think of Craig Sinnard and DoDat Communications. For more than 15 years, DoDat Communications has been providing advertising services to national retail chains like Home Depot, major grocery wholesalers, as well as the organizers of major events, such as golf tournaments and conventions. The company builds ads and designs and manufactures signage for a nationwide client base.
When the coronavirus situation ramped up in March 2020, Craig and his team watched with concern. “Like everyone else, we were in a state of shock,” Craig remembered. “We weren’t sure what was going to happen. Grocery stores all over the country canceled their orders. There were product shortages of all kinds, and the grocery stores stopped advertising until they could get their stores restocked. Our business tanked.”
It didn’t take long for Craig to find new ways to help his clients. “The nice thing about a small business is there is no red tape, so we were able to quickly pivot to offer what our customers told us they needed,” Craig said.
Thanks to COVID-19, retailers and restaurants needed plenty, including masks, paper menus, floor signage to enforce social distancing guidelines, and plexiglass barriers to protect frontline workers. “We were making all kinds of floor stickers including directional arrows and signs with different messages, including Do Your Part—Stay Six Feet Apart and Stand Here,” Craig said. “We bought as much plexiglass as we could, and we were flooded with orders from dentists, doctors, gas stations, and many other businesses—and even Gallatin City Hall—until we could no longer get plexiglass.”
Though revenue was down, there was enough work to avoid layoffs.
Craig noted that the Gallatin Area Chamber of Commerce played a major role in the company’s ability to find new business quickly. “We did several email blasts to get the word out about how we could help essential businesses stay open—and reopen—safely,” Craig added. “It was a big help.”
What does it mean when a 500-year-old company locates in your town?
“It means we have a lot to live up to,” said Doug Linder, Vice President of Operations at the company’s Gallatin facility. “When the company you work for is older than the United States, it creates a certain expectation.”
Beretta’s rich history and reputation for high-end quality have seeped into every corner of the operation here in Gallatin. “This is a 16-generation-old family-owned business that is just as relevant today as it was in 1526 when the company’s founders sold gun barrels to the Venetian Republic in Venice,” said Doug.
One of just two Beretta manufacturing facilities in the world, the Gallatin facility is home to the U.S. operation, along with the company’s think tank and its research and development team. Most of the tasks involved in designing and creating a firearm are done in-house, including milling, machining, forging, grinding, chroming, painting, and polishing. “We are vertically integrated, which is exactly how Beretta likes to operate,” Doug explained. “We do very little outsourcing.”
Beretta’s 150,000 square feet Gallatin facility produces the iconic M9 92 Series pistol used by U.S. armed forces for more than 35 years. “We deliver around 1,000 pistols every single month to the U.S. Army,” Doug explained. “We have a lot a pride in that they’re all made in Tennessee.” In addition to the M9, the Gallatin facility also produces more than 100 variations of the 92 Series pistol, along with the APX Carry, a concealed carry weapon that launched in 2019, the PX4 SubCompact, the Bobcat 22 Caliber, and the Tomcat 32 Caliber with a tip-up barrel. The A300 Outlander shotgun is also produced in the Gallatin facility. “We’re planning to launch four new products in 2021, all built by people here in Middle Tennessee.”
Firearms produced in Gallatin find their way to every corner of the globe. The company has a strong international market, providing firearms to both commercial and elite law enforcement around the world. “It means a lot to put the name Gallatin on every pistol that leaves our building,” Doug said.
Though COVID-19 created the same employee safety challenges for Beretta as it did for other local companies, the pandemic and other world events during 2020 created some unexpected opportunities for the company. “Demand for firearms is very strong and our backlog is probably the largest it's been in the last four or five years,” Doug added. “We’re hiring more staff to keep up with current market conditions.”