What Did That Building Used To Be? - Shap's

Tuesday, July 16, 2002 - by Harmon Jolley
Architect's drawing of Shap's that was built on Broad at Fourth. Click to enlarge all our photos.
Architect's drawing of Shap's that was built on Broad at Fourth. Click to enlarge all our photos.

It was a conversation on the CARTA downtown shuttle that inspired this series of articles on the history of buildings in the Chattanooga area. As we passed the intersection of Fourth and Broad, a person asked me if the Yellow Submarine restaurant used to be in a vacant building there. I replied, “Yes, but when I was growing up here, that was a Shoney’s Big Boy diner.”

In 1959, three local investors obtained a franchise for the first Big Boy Hamburger restaurant in the area. They were I. Shapiro, Pem Cooley, and E.D. Latimer.

Their first location was on Hixson Pike near the newly-opened Highland Plaza Shopping Center. It opened for business as Shap’s (an abbreviation of Mr. Shapiro’s name) Big Boy. The building featured a modernistic roof design which sloped almost to the ground.

Patrons could choose to dine inside, or order from their cars at the drive-in. Among the menu choices were a double-decker hamburger, seafood, steaks, creamy shakes, and fresh strawberry pie (which was 35 cents in 1960).

Being centrally located to City, Red Bank, and Hixson High schools, Shap’s was a popular destination after football games.

Later that year, the owners announced plans to build a second location at Fourth and Broad streets. As part of the freeway and Olgiati Bridge project, Fourth Street had been widened, bringing more traffic by that intersection. Booths and a counter provided seating for up to 32 customers. The restaurant served customers from nearby offices as well as downtown shoppers. I recall going there with my mother after shopping trips.

Within a few years, E.D. Latimer bought out the other two investors, and became part of the Shoney’s Big Boy restaurant chain, which had been started by Alex Schoenbaum. In 1968, Shoney’s opened in the Golden Gateway Shopping Center, which was anchored by Zayre’s Department Store. The location at Fourth and Broad closed one year later. In 1974, Shoney’s moved their Hixson location to Highway 153 across from the new Northgate Shopping Center. In later years, the association with the Big Boy chain was dropped.

Shoney’s closed the Golden Gateway location in the 1990’s, but continues to operate restaurants in the Chattanooga area.

The original downtown Shoney’s building was home in recent years to the Yellow Submarine restaurant, which now operates in a location by Coolidge Park. For several years, the His and Her Hair Place has operated in the former Shoney’s on Hixson Pike. Its distinctive roof was teal blue for many years, but is now painted red. Both buildings are legacies of the early days of restaurant franchising and family dining in Chattanooga.

If you would like to comment on this article, please send me an e-mail at jolleyh@signaldata.net

Big Boy at Hixson Pike location
Big Boy at Hixson Pike location

UT McClung Museum Receives Large Gift of Rare Maps

Almost 200 rare maps of Europe and other parts of the world created between the 1500s and 1800s now belong to UT. The UT McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture recently received the large gift from private donors. Twenty of the maps are currently on display in the Burchfiel Geography Building. These, and the other maps housed in the museum’s collections, will be ... (click for more)

Songwriter Thomas Mosie Lister Dies

Songwriter Thomas Mosie Lister died last week on Feb. 12.  He was 93. Earl Freudenberg said of Mr. Lister, "We became good friends by telephone.  He told me h e drove a small car, but when Elvis recorded 'His Hand in Mine' and it sold several millions he got him a big car."  He was a veteran of the U.S. Navy serving during World War II. Rev. Lister ... (click for more)

Joe H. Dempsey, 64, Dies On Friday In Crash Attributed To Icy Roads

A 64-year-old man died in a Hixson Pike traffic crash on Friday morning in a wreck that was attributed to icy roads. The collision involving two vehicles was reported this morning at approximately  7:22 a.m.  in the 9100 block of Hixson Pike.   Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office traffic investigator Todd Cook said a Mazda driven by Joe H. Dempsey was traveling ... (click for more)

Magistrate Says Ex-Boyfriend Threatened Her With Sexual Photos, Videos

Magistrate Sharetta Smith told police that a former boyfriend had sent her a threatening text message with a sexual picture from the time they were dating attached. She said Darian Paris told her in the text that he had more pictures and videos. Paris, 38, of Ooltewah, was arrested on a charge of harassment. Ms. Smith also filed for an order of protection against him in ... (click for more)

School Vouchers Are Unfair

A school voucher is a publicly funded credit or certificate whereby a student may be enrolled in a private school and apply the credit to tuition.   So, why should Tennessee taxpayers care? 1.      Vouchers use your money to help pay for a student to go to a private school that answers to private administrators and not you the taxpayer. ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: America’s Newest Darling

Minutes after I read a letter on Rebekah Gregory’s Facebook page yesterday, I was mere seconds from summoning the marching band, our prancing elephants, and the flag-bearers so we could rightfully induct this dazzling survivor of the Boston Marathon blast into my personal Hall of Fame. I do that, you know, when I see everyday people display courage, kindness, guts, brilliance, ... (click for more)