All the Right Moves

What does it take to truly make it in business? Where does an endeavor end and an empire begin?


Ernest Lee

What does it take to truly make it in business? Where does an endeavor end and an empire begin? We picked the brains of some of the area’s power professionals.

The Business that Rose Again

It’s a name that demands attention — controversial and proudly so. Even more so than its name, it’s the sleek designs of its bikes that makes Confederate Motorcycles impossible to ignore.

Founded in 1991 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana by H. Matthew Chambers, Confederate was the result of his desire to introduce a new concept in American motorcycle manufacturing. After a series of career changes, Chambers earned a law degree and became a trial lawyer in Baton Rouge. He had a successful practice but dreamed of making something more significant: an American motorcycle with dominating performance. The name Confederate, controversial in the company’s early years, came from Chambers’ appreciation of Southern history.

Following a brief move to San Francisco, Confederate relocated to a prototype shop in New Orleans in 1993. The company’s first motorcycles rolled off the production line there in 1994, with prices starting in the high $20,000 range.

In 2017, the company announced plans to rename itself Curtiss Motorcycles Inc. and switch to all-electric motorcycles. In March 2018, Confederate Motorcycles LLC, with Ernest Lee at the helm, purchased the rights for the brand and Confederate designs.

“I came on board to help with the transition. We personally did not want to see the Confederate brand disappear into the ether,” says Lee. “We are now designing the next run of bikes — including a remodel of the Harley-Davidson FXDR. Our goal is to keep making these motorcycles better in both form and function, building innovative and original bikes that draw crowds everywhere they ride.”

A team of craftsmen assembles each Confederate by hand, and, for most of the company’s history, they have built one machine at a time, with the next order starting only when the current machine is finished and ready for delivery. As a buyer, you put down a deposit and wait for your machine to be built.

The machines have names inspired by American history; the Hellcat, standard bearer of the Confederate line, was named after one of the most successful World War II fighter planes. The current production line includes the P-51 Combat Fighter, FA-13 Combat Bomber and the F-114 Hellcat.

After severe factory damage in August 2005 by Hurricane Katrina interrupted production, Confederate moved its corporate headquarters and assembly operations to a building in downtown Birmingham, Alabama.

Confederate sold 37 bikes in 2008 and anticipated the sale of 30 bikes in 2009, due to the recession. Even though Confederate’s buyers are too rich to be affected by the economic downturn, Company Founder Matt Chambers said during the recession, “It was very fashionable to not be buying a high-end luxury product like ours.”

Melody Rodriguez de Ortiz

Restaurants Done Right

The team at Tequila’s Town each brings their unique talents to running one of the most successful restaurants in Savannah. “Our family members have stuck to what they’re good at, and that gives us strength overall,” says Melody Rodriguez. She oversees business expansion — they’re opening new locations in Pooler and Jacksonville this year.

Her husband, Temo Ortiz, runs day-to-day operations. “That’s not my gift at all,” she laughs. Sergio Calderon, a close family friend, runs building and maintenance, and Rodriguez’ brother-in-law, Sergio Ortiz, is king of the kitchen. Rodriguez explains that’s another reason for their success; “He is the brainchild of our recipes. He makes sure the food is excellent and always fresh.”

They researched Mexican restaurants across the state to inform their concept. “A lot of people in the South are used to Tex-Mex cuisine,” Rodriguez says. The team wanted to introduce the traditional, authentic flavors of Morelia, Mexico, where Ortiz is from, without alienating customers. “To make that transition and get people to experience other things on the menu, we decided to offer Tex-Mex as well.”

Rodriguez is a pescatarian, so she also wanted to create consciousness around different dietary needs by introducing fish and vegetarian dishes as well as gluten-free and dairy-free options to the menu. “That has really made us a number one choice in town.”

Insider tip: If you’re not ready for tongue tacos, order the Chiles Rellenos made with real poblano peppers. According to Rodriguez, they’re one of the most authentic dishes they serve.

Jason McCarthy

SuccessBeyond the Front Lines

McCarthy started the company as an equipment and apparel company in 2008 following his time as a Green Beret. From humble beginnings, McCarthy has built GORUCK into much more than he had originally envisioned.

“Ultimately, it’s about communicating the special forces way of life,” McCarthy says. “It’s about bridging the gap between the military and the general public — through gear, apparel and events.”

It is those events that have transformed GORUCK into a powerful force for good. Led by decorated combat veterans like McCarthy, their events range from social to endurance-level events with rucking at the core of each.

In fact, when McCarthy spoke with South magazine, it was at the end of a 48-hour endurance event. However, he admitted that the group is also well-versed with more leisurely events that start with rucking and end with a few pints of craft beer.

“I think people should be more physically and socially active,” McCarthy says. “We should do more things together. Those are the things that keep us together.”

McCarthy doesn’t believe walking is enough exercise, and thinks running is boring. He calls rucking the foundation of special forces training and has seen, first-hand, the benefits of rucking, which he says includes increased cardio fitness, strength training, better posture and sleeping better at night.

Those benefits aren’t just for special forces-caliber athletes, either. McCarthy says that the vast majority of people who participate in GORUCK events are everyday folks looking to add something unique to their workout.

GORUCK has events across the country and the gear to ruck like the pros, but McCarthy said starting the practice can be even simpler than that. He suggests starting by adding 20 pounds into a backpack your already own and simply start walking. You control the weight, the distance and the time. You’re going to be sore afterward, and that’s the point.

“The human body is an interesting thing,” McCarthy said. “The more you use it, the better it gets. That’s not true about anything else. It’s rewarding to encourage more people to do that.”

To add to your new routine, GORUCK makes cast iron ruck plates, challenge pants, t-shirts, shorts, sunglasses, hats and much more.

Once you have the practice and the gear in place, McCarthy said the next steps are very simple: keep it up and invite others to ruck with you.

“At the deepest level,” McCarthy says, “the way to be more active in your community is to be more active in your community. Stronger relationships lead to stronger communities. Stronger communities are what makes America, America.”

It’s that desire to improve that pushes the organization, rucksack and all.

“Yes, we build gear,” the company website says. “Yes, we lead events, build teams, and strengthen communities. But only because if we didn’t, we’d have to find some other way to change the world, one day at a time.”

Subscribe now to the print edition for the full article.

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Greatest Kids 2019

Nominate your kid this year and tell us why he or she has to be the winner of our South's Greatest Kids contest. Don't be shy — this could be your year!

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Events Calendar

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Scenes of the South

Leopold's Ice Cream's 100 Year Birthday Block Party

Leopold’s celebrated its 100th anniversary on Saturday, August 17, throwing a birthday block party to commemorate the event.

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This past Tuesday, May 21 we celebrated another successful Brews for a Cause at Top Deck Bar! We joined up with Southern Eagle and a great group of like minded people to benefit Two Hundred Club of the Coastal Empire in their efforts to provide financial assistance to the surviving families of local law enforcement officers and firefighters who lose their lives in the line of duty. It was another memorable night in the South filled with great people and even greater crafted beer! This month's Featured Craft Beer: Island Coastal Lager Sponsors: Island Coastal Lager, Two Hundred Club of the Coastal Empire, Southern Eagle, South Magazine