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Dr. Marc W. Cromie accepts the Small Business of the Year award Wednesday on behalf of the Chattanooga Allergy Clinic at the Small Business Expo at the Chattanooga Convention Center.


* 1-20 employees: Office Furniture Warehouse (winner); RMJ Tactical, Yogi's PrimoPromo

* 21-50 employees: Southtree (winner); Airnet Group Inc., JHM Certified Public Accountants

* 51-200 employees: Chattanooga Allergy Clinic (winner); Chamber, Bahner & Stophel PC, Marion Environmental Inc.

* Nonprofit award: The Trust for Public Land (winner); Friends of the Festival, Girls Inc. of Chattanooga

Dr. Marc Cromie and other physicians at Chattanooga Allergy Clinic say they've fought personal battles with allergies and asthma, so they know the suffering their clients have gone through.

"That's why we got into this," he said. "We all have personal suffering, but love for what we do."

The clinic was one of four entities which garnered small business awards Wednesday from the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce. Office Furniture Warehouse, Southtree, and The Trust for Public Land also were cited for their industry success and community impact.

The clinic, which won in the largest employee category, has grown from five workers and one office to nearly 60 staffers and five locations in the past decade or so. It has three Chattanooga sites and one each in Fort Oglethorpe and Cleveland, Tenn., where it recently doubled its footprint.

The business, started in 1975 by Dr. Hyman Kaplan, has seen revenues grow eight-fold since 2000, Cromie said in an interview, though he wouldn't give a dollar figure.

"People want something that works as a long-term solution," he said. "We can relate to the parent who is coming in with a child that has hives, or swelling or a life-threatening bee sting allergy so we can actually cure it and they don't have to live in fear."

Cromie said more people are realizing they can do something about their problems than take over-the-counter medicines, which are only a band-aid to the symptoms.

"In the end, [the OTC medicines] just don't cut it," the physician said. "People get tired of being miserable. Shots are more of a cure."

Insurance companies like clinics such as CAC because they change the course of peoples' diseases, Cromie said.

"It makes allergies go away and they're not just covered up," he said. "So we can do some disease modification."

Cromie joined the clinic in 2000. Dr. Todd Levin came on board in 2006 and Dr. Lee Perry in 2009. The clinic also has four nurse practitioners.

Plans are to add a satellite office in the future, Cromie said. Also, the clinic will offer in coming months a treatment that involves "a new type of oral allergy shot so to speak," he said.

Small business pay big dividends

Ron Harr, the Chamber's chief executive, told the more than 1,000 people at the Chattanooga Convention Center that many think the group is about big business.

"The major majority [of Chamber members] are small businesses," he said.

U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn., said he's working in Washington, D.C., at getting "burdensome regulations" off of small businesses. Also, he said, he wants to ensure that women- and minority-owned companies "get a seat at the table."

Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger said 93 percent of companies in the county employ fewer than 50 people. The businesses create a $2.5 billion annual payroll, he said.

Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke said small businesses will drive future growth in the city.

"We're providing a pathway every day for entrepreneurs in our city," he said.

Contact Mike Pare at or 423-757-6318.