On the road in Atlanta, Georgia
On Sunday, November 16, 1986, my bike and I flew into Atlanta's Hartsfield Airport on a Delta Airlines flight. It was the first time I had ever flown Delta and it seemed appropriate since Delta is headquartered in Atlanta and was on my list of companies to visit. An HOUR after everybody had claimed their luggage, I was still waiting for my bike. With help from the fellows in Baggage Claims, my bike was finally located and, to my dismay, the back wheel had been bashed in beyond repair. I was ticked off! I pay an extra $25.00 to have my bike shipped, I have to sign a release saying if the airline screws up my bike during shipment they're not responsible, I wait an hour and a half to retrieve my bike and then, the baggage officials pull a "Sorry about that, pal" routine. Fortunately, I was staying at a Holiday Inn near the airport and didn't have too far to walk my bike.
Most of Monday morning was spent trying to find a bike shop in the area which could fix me up with another back wheel. My wheels had been hand-built and were specially-made with heavy-duty gauge spokes and rims and most bike shops around the country, let alone near the Atlanta airport, wouldn't have the parts and skill to build a similar wheel. It was noon, I had just dropped my bike off to be repaired, I was near the airport and about 8 miles from downtown Atlanta. The fellows at the bike shop told me to catch MARTA (Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority) into downtown. They wanted ME to ride a city bus? "I don't ride buses", I said. They said it wasn't a bus, but a new commuter train. Skeptical, I made my way to one of the rail stops (West End Station) and caught a ride. What an impressive system! It's new, clean, fast and cheap. When I had been walking to the rail station, I had stopped and asked a man for directions and he had said, "Oh, you wanna take the chocolate express." I didn't understand what he meant by that at the time. Later, after arriving in downtown Atlanta, I figured out it was a racist remark because about 95% of the people on board were black.
People in downtown Atlanta were completely different than the people I had seen several weeks earlier in downtown Chicago in that in Atlanta, people walking down the street actually smile, are friendly and walk at a slower pace.
My first stop was the 52-story headquarters building of Georgia-Pacific. The building built in 1982, is a few feet shorter than the Westin-Peachtree building, thus making it the second tallest building in the Southeast. I met with Gail Smith, Senior Communications Representative, Corporate and Investor Communications. Georgia-Pacific owns the building in a joint venture with Metropolitan Life Insurance and occupies floors 1-22 and the 51st floor which is the top floor. Over 1,600 employees work in the building and the total square footage of the structure is 670,000-square feet. I was able to see the CEO's office and what a view! Smith scored 8 points on my 1-10 scale.
Citizens and Southern Corporation
The address I had for Citizens and Southern Corporation was a post office box. I knew though, that they would be located downtown because that's where, as a general rule of thumb, banks are headquartered. I looked in the phone book and didn't find a listing for the corporate headquarters. I went to the Citizens and Southern Bank Building and asked the security guard where I could find the Public Relations department for Citizens and Southern and was directed to a building about half a dozen blocks away. The building I was directed to looked rather dumpy and I assumed it wasn't where the senior officers were located. I walked into the building and spent at least 15 minutes trying to explain to the not-too-quick security guard why I was there and, if he could contact someone in Public Relations. The guard made several calls and I finally get to talk to a lady who tells me to come up to the 7th floor and she'll meet me at the elevator. I come off the elevator and nobody's there to meet me. I start wandering around. It's lunchtime and nobody is at their desks. I must have wandered around for ten minutes until I found somebody who could help me. Actually, this guy couldn't help me because he had never heard of this lady who was suppose to meet me at the elevator. More people get involved and we eventually figure out what the problem is; when the security guard had called up to find someone to help me, he had called Corporate Communications and the gal told him to send me up to the 7th floor; the guard hadn't told her I was in the Operations Building and she was in the Citizen and Southern National Bank Building about six blocks away! I made my way back to the bank building, which I had originally gone to before being sent to the Operations Building by the inept guard, and was taken up to the 7th floor to meet Sven Haarhoff, Corporate Communications Department. The company owns the 14-story structure, which was built in 1901 and, is listed in the "National Register of Historic Places." The banking lobby on the first floor is spectacular, the room is 29.5 feet high, 204 feet long, and 40 feet wide. I was given a tour of the bank's antique piggy bank collection and of the boardroom, which had a circular boardroom table. Haarhoff didn't know the reason for the CEO's office being on the 7th floor. The executive offices were very conservatively furnished, just what you'd expect from a traditional bank. Haarhoff scored 10 points on my 1-10 scale.
Across the street from Citizens and Southern Corporation stands SunTrust Banks, a bank holding company, with its two primary subsidiaries being Sun Banks and Trust Company of Georgia. The headquarters building was built in two stages, 1969 and 1973. It's a 28-story building but, the top four floors are rented out to a law firm. Met with Willis Johnson, Vice President, who, as part of my tour, took me down to the basement to see the vault where the Coca-Cola formula is stored. After 100 years, the formula to Coca-Cola is still a secret. The CEO of Coca-Cola is on the Board of Directors of SunTrust Banks. Johnson scored 7 points on my 1-10 scale.
Monday afternoon I hopped back on the MARTA and picked up my repaired bike and then made my way over to the airport to visit Delta. The buildings at the General Office complex are owned by Delta but, the land is leased. The complex covers 85 acres and the Administrative Center was built in 1984, the Operations Center in 1981, and several buildings called the "A-2 Buildings" were built in 1978. Parking could get a little tight because there are only 2,600 parking spaces for the 8,200 employees. To get into the complex, you have to pass a guarded-gate entrance. Jackie Pate, Public Relations, met me in the small main lobby area. Never got past the lobby (same as when I went to NWA in Minneapolis). Of course, I told Pate about my bike being bashed and of course, she apologized. What was I expecting her to do, start laughing? No, but I thought they might offer to reimburse me. The tallest building is 5 stories and all the officers get reserved parking spots. Pate scored 9 points on my 1-10 scale.
The first company I visited on Tuesday morning was Coca-Cola. The corporate headquarters complex is located about a mile from downtown Atlanta and right across the street from the Georgia Tech campus (Georgia Institute of Technology). I was stopped by the guard at the gated entry and after telling the guard the purpose of my visit, he called Public Relations, which then told him to call Consumer Affairs. Well, I was told if I went to a building about a mile away at 3:15 p.m., someone would talk to me and I said, "Okay." I then asked the guard if I could go inside and check out the Visitor's Center. The biggest building in the complex is the 26-story structure called, "The North Avenue Tower." The name, "Coca-Cola", is embedded on the top of the building and from what I understand, the red letters are lit up at night. I walked into a building called the "Central Reception Building" and was greeted by a receptionist who asked me my name. After she asked my name, the receptionist typed something into a computer and told me to walk down a corridor and I would be greeted by another receptionist. As I walked down the corridor, I felt as if the first receptionist was running a police check on me. When I got to the second receptionist, a computerized nametag with my name already on it was waiting for me. Pretty fancy. The Visitor Center area had all kinds of historical Coca-Cola memorabilia on display. Had a Coke machine dispensing free Coke to visitors. Picked up a brochure which talked about Coca-Cola's art collection. Very impressive mixture: bronze by Rodin, etching by Henri Matisse, woodcuts by Roy Lichtenstein, silkscreen on plastic boxes by Andy Warhol, bronze by Henry Moore, mahogany by Frank Lloyd Wright, lithograph by Frank Stella and ceramics and lithograph by Pablo Picasso, just to name a few. Coca-Cola was celebrating its 100th birthday and had on display many of the gifts they received from other companies and countries.
About four blocks from Coca-Cola is the roughly 40-story tall headquarters building of BellSouth. I walked in the front door and was met by a security guard/receptionist. I told her what I was doing and asked if I could see someone in Public Relations. She asked me if I had an appointment and I said, "No" and she said, "You have to have an appointment." I asked her if she could call someone in Public Relations and she asked, "Do you have a name?" and I said, "No." I asked her, "How can I get a name of someone in Public Relations if you won't call them up?" She said, "That's the way it is." I asked her if there was a phone I could use and she pointed over toward a waiting area. I walked over to the phone and realized I needed a phone book so, I walked back over to the security guard/receptionist and asked her if I could borrow a phone book. She said, "There is none." I said, "You mean to tell me this is the corporate headquarters for the phone company and you have no phone books?!" She continued with her "could care less" attitude and said, "Yep." This is the first person who greets you at BellSouth??? Unbelievable. I walked down the street to a pay phone and after being transferred a few times, I ended up talking to a Mr. Hayslett, who said he was Operations Manager. Hayslett told me he was busy and if I checked back with him, he MIGHT agree to talk to me.
Leaving BellSouth, I rode out to an area about 15 miles north of downtown called, "Perimeter Center." It is like a second downtown, with lots of new office buildings, new hotels and restaurants. Many of the big cities I have visited had "second" downtowns; St. Louis had Clayton, Chicago had Oak Brook and Kansas City had Overland Park. Next to the I-285 freeway on a 27-acre wooded site is the 5-story brick and glass headquarters of Cox Enterprises, a privately-held media company with revenues of over $1.5 billion. I had no sooner walked in the front door when the receptionist asked, "Are you Paul?" I was given a friendly greeting by the receptionist and the security guard. William Stephens, Director, Corporate Services, was the man who answered my questions and showed me around the place. The building was built in 1983 and the company leases space from the owner, E.F. Hutton. The 280,000-square foot building is home to 325 employees and has a parking lot with 950 spaces. I did notice the executive offices to be furnished with quite a few Chinese artifacts. From what I was told, headquarters sits on a site which at one time was a lake. Besides owning newspapers, radio and television stations and cable systems, did you know Cox Enterprises, through their Manheim Auctions Division, is the largest automobile auctions operator in the world? Have three large satellite dishes near the front entrance. Stephens scored 10 points on my 1-10 scale. People at Cox Enterprises treated me as if I were a VIP and were genuinely interested in my project. Nice organization.
Southern Company, a utility holding company, is located across the freeway from Cox Enterprises and leases space in a couple of 10-story buildings. There are other tenants in the buildings and Southern Company has the 8th through 10th floors. Glen Kundert, Media Relations Supervisor, was the fellow I met with. They have a security guard as a receptionist and managers on up get reserved parking spots. The airport is 28 miles away. The first building (known as "64") was built in 1970 and the second building (known as "64a") was built in 1985 and are owned by Metropolitan Life Insurance. Was told it wasn't possible to see CEO's office or boardroom.
Not too far from Southern Company is Contel, a telecommunications company. Contel leases space in a 10-story, 250,000-square foot building built in the early 1980's. Taylor/Mathis owns the building and also owned the building the Southern Company was in. Susan Kettenbrink, Coordinator, Internal Communications, was the person who answered my questions and showed me around. Division presidents on up get reserved parking spots. There are other tenants in the building and also a small exercise room. The executive offices reminded me of those I had seen earlier in the day at Cox Enterprises in that there were quite a few Chinese artifacts.
Gold Kist, Inc.
Located next door to a Marriott Hotel and almost next door to Contel is Gold Kist, Inc., an agricultural cooperative. I talked over the lobby phone to Jean Rice, Vice President, Member and Public Relations, who told me she was on a deadline and there was "no possible way" anyone could talk to me. I told her it was a one-shot deal for me and I'd be willing to wait but, no go. Very abrupt. Rice scored 1 point on my 1-10 scale. Never did find out if Gold Kist was the sole tenant of the three-story structure. There's a sign as you enter the parking lot which reads, "Cotton States Insurance" and below it in the same size letters, "Gold Kist."
Genuine Parts Company
Wednesday morning found me riding out to Genuine Parts Company. Headquarters is in a three-story building located in an office park area about twelve miles northwest of downtown Atlanta. All kinds of new construction going on in the area: houses, office buildings and shopping centers. Was met by Bill Chase, Operations Manager, who answered my questions and showed me around the nice, but functional facility. Small sign visible from the street identifies the place. Genuine Parts owns their headquarters which was built in 1979, has 65,000-square feet and houses 130 employees. I was surprised to learn Genuine Parts, which derives 68% of its revenues from the distribution of automotive replacement parts, has an Office Products Group with revenues of over $300 million. Nothing fancy about headquarters. Chase scored 10 points on my 1-10 scale.
I rode back towards downtown and stopped again at BellSouth. I attempted to call Mr. Hayslett (the fellow I got hold of my first visit who told me he MIGHT consider talking to me), and found he wasn't in. Hayslett's secretary then gave me the number of one of Hayslett's assistants to call and again, no one was in. Frustrated, I called up the secretary to Mr. Clendenin, the CEO. I told her my problem of not being able to get someone to talk to me and was connected by her to (groan!) Hayslett's office. I was again told no one was around who could talk to me. What a disappointing experience!
From BellSouth, I rode several blocks to the Summit Building, which is located about a mile from Coca-Cola's headquarters but, where I was told to go to meet with someone from Coca-Cola. I spoke with Ann Francis, Industry and Consumer Affairs, who informed me company policy required questions about the company to be sent in advance and in written form. Answered very few of my questions. I was very uncomfortable and she seemed leery of my questions. She did tell me the CEO smokes and they have a heliport and a health club. Francis also told me that I couldn't write anything about the company unless it has been cleared through them first. "You're kidding!", I said, "You mean to tell me if people were real jerks to me, I couldn't write that?" My reception at Coca-Cola was similar to the one I had received at McDonalds in Chicago. Here are these two huge consumer-oriented companies and they have all these restrictions about answering questions. Both companies had told me I couldn't write anything about them unless it had been cleared.
One of the questions I got the biggest kick out of asking at Coca-Cola was, "In your cafeteria and/or vending machines, do you serve Coca-Cola, Pepsi or both?" Why had I made that one of my regular questions? Before I started this project/trek/adventure, I had written to quite a few corporations in an effort to get sponsors for my trek. On the same day, I sent a letter to Coca-Cola in Atlanta and, a letter to PepsiCo in Purchase, New York. A month later, I received a reply from both companies ON THE SAME DAY. Both companies said they weren't interested but, the fact I received both letters on the same day made me think about the competition between the two and wondered which of the two soft drinks would come out ahead if I kept tabs on what each company I visited served. Atlanta is definitely a Coca-Cola town. I visited eleven companies in Atlanta and the score was 11 to 0, in favor of Coke. Would I find a similar tally except in Pepsi's favor when I visited companies near PepsiCo's headquarters in Purchase, New York?
On the road in Alabama
Wednesday evening found me getting ready to get up early the next day to head towards Birmingham, Alabama. The weather forecast said a big storm was heading this way and I decided to take the Amtrak train from Atlanta to Birmingham, a distance of about 180 miles. I had never taken a train before and called Amtrak for information about shipping my bike. The train left at 8:15 a.m. but, I had to have my bike checked in an hour beforehand. The Amtrak Station is about twelve miles from my hotel, which was located near the airport. I got up at 5:00 a.m. the next morning and it was pouring rain so, riding my bike to the station was nixed. I called up the front desk, had them order me a cab for 6:30 a.m. and told them to be sure to tell the cab company I wanted a station wagon because of my bicycle. It's now 6:45 a.m. and no taxi. Repeated calls to the taxi company get the same answer, "The driver's on the way." 7:00 a.m., driver shows up in an old beat-up taxi that is not a station wagon. I ask him what took him so long and he tells me it's his first day on the job. I end up having to take my bike apart to fit in the back seat. I tell him I'm going to the Amtrak Station and he says, "Where's that?" Can it get worse? (Murphy's Law) Construction work on freeway backs up traffic for miles, idiot driver takes the wrong exit and we get stuck on a one-way street going away from the station. The train is due to leave at 8:15 a.m. and we reach the station at 8:05 a.m. Then, the totally inept driver had the nerve to tell me I owed him an extra five dollars for transporting my bicycle!!! Running into the train station, I had to talk to the ticket agent, the ticket agent's supervisor, and then the train conductor to get permission to have my bike allowed on the train because it hadn't been checked-in an hour before departure and wasn't in a box.
Birmingham, Alabama is a sleepy city of about 300,000 and back in its heyday, it was known as "the Pittsburgh of the South." I was in town to visit two companies, Sonat and Torchmark.
Sonat, a holding company who's primary subsidiary is Southern Natural Gas Company, co-owns the 30-story building which serves as its headquarters with AmSouth, a bank. Sonat occupies the top ten floors of the building built in 1971. Security guard is the receptionist. James Saye, Manager MIS Administration and Security, answered my questions. Very blah people. Was not allowed to see CEO's office or boardroom. Building has numerous other tenants. About 450 are employed at headquarters. Saye scored 6 points on my 1-10 scale.
Torchmark, an insurance holding company, is headquartered in a 595,000-square foot, 16-story, fortress-like structure built in different stages over the years. The first thing you notice about the building is the huge replica of the Statue of Liberty atop the building. At thirty-one feet tall, it's the world's largest replica of the Statue of Liberty. A receptionist and security guard greet you when you enter the building. I was given a tour and had my questions answered by Spencer Stone, whose business card had his name but no indication of his title or position. I found out he was designated the one to talk to me because he's a bicycle enthusiast. Nice guy. Over 1,000 people work in the building which has an Art Deco look about it and there's an indoor jogging track. Stone scored 10 points on my 1-10 scale.
A big surprise to me was to find one of the 74 most affluent suburbs in the United States (Mountain Brook) located in Birmingham, Alabama. Mountain Brook is about four miles from downtown and many of the homes are colonial-style. Wasn't too impressed by the area. I was surprised by the number of Mercedes-Benz cars in Birmingham.
On the road in Tennessee
Leaving Birmingham on a Friday, I made my way north to Chattanooga, Tennessee. As soon as I got into Chattanooga on Saturday afternoon, it started to rain. Was in town to visit Provident Life and Accident Insurance Company. I decided not to wait around until Monday to visit Provident. I did go by the company's headquarters and take pictures (in the rain) of the fortress-like complex. Reminded me of Torchmark's building in Birmingham. I did manage to find time to walk through the Chattanooga Choo-Choo complex; a renovated former train station with shops, restaurants and the Choo-Choo Hilton, which rents out rooms in train parlor cars.
On the road in Nashville
Heading into Nashville, my expectations weren't set too high because I figured Nashville would be similar to Chattanooga, which had been a dull, not much going on kind of town. Big mistake. Nashville has an impressive skyline of about half a dozen new or will soon be completed high-rise structures. Nashville, with about 500,000 people, seems to be a city on the move.
Hospital Corporation of America
Located about two miles from downtown Nashville is Hospital Corporation of America, a hospital management company. Headquarters is a company-owned, 5-story structure built in 1982. The lobby area is sterile-looking and reminds me of a hospital, except for the marble floors. Didn't catch the name of the nice lady who answered my questions and showed me around. Interesting art scattered around the building and there are two fitness centers, racquetball and Ping-Pong. The CEO, Thomas Frist, Jr., is a pilot and frequently flies one of the company's corporate aircraft himself. Headquarters is right across the street from Centennial Park, which houses the world's only exact size replica of the Parthenon of Greece. Makes it a nice area for employees to go for a walk or jogging. Over 1,700 employees work in headquarters and nearby buildings. About a block away is one of the hospitals run by HCA.
Six miles from downtown is Ingram Industries, a privately held company which I added to my list after reading an article in the local newspaper. Ingram Industries, with estimated sales of about $1 billion, is a diversified corporation with many interests: Ingram Barge Company is the nation's leading carrier of residual fuel oil to industry and utilities, coal mining through Ingram Coal Company, Ingram Book Company is the largest distributor of trade books, pre-recorded video cassettes and microcomputer software in the United States and owns the Tennessee Insurance Company. I showed up at Ingram Industries with no advance warning because I had added Ingram on my list after arriving in Nashville and wasn't able to mail a postcard to the CEO. After explaining who I was and what I was doing, I ended up speaking to Joanne Carnes, Personnel Assistant. Headquarters is a long, three-story, grayish-colored building which looks to be about 25 years old. The name and logo (Ingram in blue letters inside a red circle), appear on the side of the building. The front part of the building houses a bank and the rest of the building houses Ingram Industries. Furnishings are very plain. 160 employees work in the building and the company has 3 corporate aircraft.
Ingram Industries is located next to Belle Meade and Forest Hills, two more suburbs on my list of the 74 most affluent suburbs in the United States. Belle Meade has quite a few old mansion-style homes and has more character than its neighbor with the newer homes-Forest Hills.
The address I had for Service Merchandise was a post office box so, I called up to find out the location of their corporate headquarters and was told it was near the airport, which is about ten miles from downtown Nashville. As I'm riding down Murfreesboro Road near the airport, I see an office building which looks like a big department store and a sign out front near the roadway says, "Genesco, Inc." I stopped and went inside figuring Service Merchandise was headquartered in one of their subsidiary stores-Genesco. I went inside and asked the receptionist if she could tell me who had received my postcard and if someone could see me. The receptionist asked me who I had addressed the postcard to and I said, "Mr. Raymond Zimmerman, the CEO." The receptionist told me they had no CEO with that name and it was about that time when I realized I was at the wrong address. I was at the corporate headquarters of Genesco, a manufacturer and retailer of footwear and men's apparel and they were in no way related to Service Merchandise. Genesco, with sales of about $600 million, wasn't big enough to be on my list of companies. The receptionist directed me down the street to the headquarters of Service Merchandise. I went inside one of the two six-story, dumpy-looking buildings and was eventually directed to see Richard Schenk, Vice President, Finance and Chief Financial Officer. Though Mr. Zimmerman kept an office in the building we were in, Schenk informed me corporate headquarters for the company had moved to the suburb of Brentwood, another 20 miles away. The whole building reeked of cigarettes and during my five-minute talk with Schenk, he smoked two cigarettes in his small office. Service Merchandise operates 287 "catalog" stores. Have three corporate aircraft and there is no boardroom.
Thanksgiving morning found me on the road to Jackson, Tennessee, about 125 miles southwest of Nashville. I had stopped near a freeway overpass (I-40) about 20 miles south of Nashville to look at my map. A big tractor-trailer truck which was passing overhead honked his horn and pulled over and stopped near the freeway on-ramp. I don't know how the heck he saw me but, I wasn't going to let this opportunity pass me by. The driver was a black man, probably in his 40's and about my size. He walked to the back of the trailer and swung open the doors but, as I lifted my bike into the back of the big, empty trailer, I started having second thoughts about hitching a ride with a stranger. I became even more nervous when I climbed up into the cab of his truck because the back part of the cab was partitioned off with a curtain. What if he had an accomplice behind the curtain with a gun? What if he pulled a gun out and told me to get out of the truck and drove off with my bike? What if he knifed me and dumped me off the side of the road, who would know? He drove about 40 miles without either one of us saying much. He pulled over to a truck stop to catch a bite to eat and that's when we started talking. I figured there were so many other people at the truck stop who had now seen us together, he would be a fool to try and kill me now. "John" was on his way home to Jackson, Mississippi after delivering a load of furniture to New York City. How and why did he see me? On his trips to New York City, he always looked for hitchhikers because he would pay them to help unload the truck when he got to the "Big Apple." "Was it dangerous picking up strangers?", I asked. John nodded his head and gave me a tip; if within a minute of getting in his truck a hitchhiker asks for something like a cigarette or a bite to eat, John stops and tells 'em to get out because he has found from past experience people like that tend to be trouble. He also told me he carries a "piece" next to his seat. The ride in the truck after the food stop was much more enjoyable. I found myself occasionally peering over to see if I could see his "piece", which I figured was probably under a pile of rags next to his side. John and I shook hands as he dropped me off near Jackson, Tennessee, and I wished him luck in making it home to his family in Jackson, Mississippi in time for Turkey Day fixings.
I must say, Memphis is the first city I've visited in which I've been disappointed. The 16th largest city (population about 650,000) in the United States has a boring, ugly downtown. I had visions of Memphis being similar to Nashville but, no way! The city looks like it's still in the 1960's.
I had a P.O. box as an address for Federal Express but, I knew they would probably be located near the airport and I was right. Headquarters is an unmarked, 4-story, white building near the airport in an industrial airport executive park. The lone Federal Express truck in the parking lot was the give-away. I saw closed-circuit security cameras on the roof. Even though it was a Saturday morning, I knocked on the front door of the building and asked the security guard if anyone was available to talk to me. Guard told me no one was in but, I did find out that Federal Express leased the building. Decided it wouldn't be worth coming back to visit on Monday morning.
Dunavant Enterprises is a privately held firm with revenues over $1 billion dollars, whose primary business is the buying and selling of cotton commodities. Headquarters is a one-story, 47,000-square foot building about 15 miles from downtown Memphis. The company owns their headquarters building and is located in an industrial park about two miles from the airport. The receptionist/lobby area is very tiny and plain. Perry Winstead, Assistant Controller, was the fella who answered my questions and showed me around. The boardroom is located at one of the racquet clubs Mr. Dunavant, the CEO, owns. Dunavant is also owner of the defunct USFL, Memphis Showboats football team. The CEO's office hasn't much of a view from the first floor and the tall brown fence outside his window takes away his view of the parking lot. The inside of the building is much bigger than it looks from the outside. I was taken to the back part of the building where bails of cotton are sorted, sampled and graded. I always thought cotton was cotton but, not to these guys. Was also told Dunavant Enterprises leases land near the airport to Federal Express. Winstead scored 10 points on my 1-10 scale.
Rode by Memphis State University and didn't see much of a campus. Also went by the Liberty Bowl and was amazed at how dumpy the place looked. Memphis is a one-newspaper town but, "The Commercial Appeal", the Scripps-Howard paper, is a pretty good newspaper. Nashville had two newspapers and both of them were lousy. Stayed at two different Hampton Inns in Memphis. I like 'em because they're new, reasonably priced and have "no smoking" rooms. I was told by several people THE place to live in Memphis is about 15 miles east of downtown in the suburb of Germantown. The booming part of Memphis is out towards Germantown where I-240 intersects with Poplar Avenue.
As I made my way to Holiday Corporation, I tried to envision what the place would look like; I figured it would either look like a 1960's Holiday Inn or one of their Embassy Suites. Boy, was I wrong! It's located on the new fringe of a well-to-do residential area about eight miles from downtown Memphis. I pass an open iron gate as I make my way up the tree-lined driveway towards what looks to be a mansion. Getting closer, I see a three-story, green building connected to the mansion. Not being sure where the main entrance of the building is, I stop and get off my bike. I'm immediately approached by two security guards in separate vehicles. After explaining the purpose of my being on the premises, the one security guard gets on his walkie-talkie and calls the situation in. (Of course, he walks about 40 feet from me so as to keep me from listening to his conversation.) Evidently, I've passed the security check because they get the word to escort me inside the building. I ask the guards several times if there is a restroom I could use before they take me to whomever I'm suppose to meet because I want to change from my shorts to long pants. The guards say, "No." As I'm taken through the mansion over to the connecting building, I thought I was in a museum. A stuffy, formal museum. The place was decorated in early 19th century, with paintings and vases all around. I felt uncomfortable parading through in my shorts. I'm finally greeted by John Onoda, Director, External Communications, in his small cubicle and apologize profusely for my being in shorts.
Holiday Corporation bought and moved to the 26-acre former estate in 1985. The mansion has 8000-square feet and the 3-story connecting building, 60,000-square feet. There's parking for 200 cars and senior executives have five reserved spots. There's a swimming pool, an elaborate closed-circuit camera security system and a company flag flying on the flagpole. My requests to see the CEO's office, the boardroom and the art collection were denied. The grounds on the property are some of the most beautiful seen on my trek. Several sculptures were scattered on the property, including one in bronze entitled, "Death Song" by Frank Berke; it depicts a Sioux warrior and his fallen pony. Executives have a separate dining area and there's a cafeteria with an outdoor patio dining area. I was given a brochure which described some of the furnishings and art in headquarters:
Impressionist paintings from the late 19th century to mid-20th century.
A 2000-year old Egyptian mummy mask.
Ten-foot tall, hand-carved Japanese ornamental portal from the 1830's.
The furniture in the mansion part of the house is primarily 18th century English and French.
Antique Oriental rugs are scattered throughout the mansion.
A private dining room is located in the basement for executives and includes a wine cellar.
As I rode off, I couldn't help wondering if my reception would have been different if I had arrived wearing long pants. Nope, everyone would have still been indifferent towards me and still would have made me feel uncomfortable. For some strange reason, I assumed a company specializing in hospitality would have been a little more friendly. Onoda scored 5 points on my 1-10 scale.
Malone and Hyde
Malone and Hyde, the third largest food wholesaler in the country, is headquartered in an old Jefferson-Ward Department store building about six miles from downtown Memphis. The inside of the building still looks like a department store. I was sent up the escalator to the second floor to see Gary Burhop, Assistant to the President. Malone & Hyde moved into the company-owned, 156,000-square foot structure in 1983. The privately held company has a conference room which serves as the boardroom. Six hundred fifty employees work at corporate headquarters, which is actually located in a shopping center. Burhop scored 9 points on my 1-10 scale. Security guard is the receptionist. Malone & Hyde also owns a sporting goods chain, an auto parts chain and a drugstore chain.
On the road in Arkansas
Made my way to Little Rock, Arkansas, the capital and state's largest city with a population of about 160,000. Found the city to be nice and compact.
Dillard Department Stores
Dillard Department Stores corporate headquarters is a four-story building located about three blocks from downtown and three blocks from the State Capitol. The sign on the side of the building reads, "Executive Offices, Dillard Department Stores, Inc." Over the main entrance is a sign which reads, "Dillards." On my first visit in the late afternoon, I was greeted by the security guard/receptionist and was told there wasn't a public relations department. I was referred to the treasurer's office and was then told he wasn't in. The building looks to be about thirty years old. Definitely a no-frills kind of place. I showed up again the next morning and was told the Treasurer wasn't in. My pleas of finding someone who could or would talk to me for a few minutes fell on deaf ears. Took a picture of a big beehive on the outside of the windows near the main entrance.
My next destination point was Wal-Mart in Bentonville, Arkansas, about 220 miles away. I decided to catch a bus from Little Rock to Fayetteville, a distance of about 195 miles. Fayetteville, with a population of 40,000 is home to the University of Arkansas and one of the nicest towns I've visited.
Riding to Wal-Mart in Bentonville, I tried to envision what their headquarters would look like. It would probably be a no-frills place with CEO Sam Walton's pick-up truck parked with everyone else's. I found out I wasn't too far off. A huge black and white sign saying, "Wal-Mart General Office" greets you from the road. The sign did read, "General Office" and not "General Offices." Across the street from the two-story, warehouse-looking structure is a Church's Fried Chicken stand. The lobby was plain and had lots of seating for vendors. Was met by Jim Von Gremp, Director, Corporate & Public Affairs. As Von Gremp was taking me around the place, he commented about the new paint job the building had received and how Walton was griping about it being unnecessary. For those of you unfamiliar, Sam Walton is reported to be the richest man in the country, worth over several BILLION dollars. The company owns the 954,200-square foot building built in 1970 and added onto in 1985. There's a fitness center on the premises and the 2,600 employees vie for the 1,600 unreserved parking spots. There is no boardroom. Walton's office is on the first floor and he looks out his window to a view of the parking lot. I was told the sofa in his office was over 20 years old and it sure looked it. Von Gremp told me he himself had slept on the sofa several times after working late. The most interesting tidbit I picked up was the fact they have seven corporate aircraft. I don't think too many (actually none) of the major airlines fly into Bentonville. Wal-Mart is about a half-mile from downtown Bentonville. Von Gremp was a super nice guy and he scored 10 points on my 1-10 scale.