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


Chattanooga History Books By John Wilson Available At Zarzour's Restaurant, By Mail

John Wilson, former Hamilton County Historian and publisher of Chattanoogan.com, has written two volumes on the early families of Hamilton County and also books on Chattanooga and on Lookout Mountain, as well as editing books on Chattanooga's railroads and the Stokes and Hiener photo collections. Railroads In And Around Chattanooga , featuring Chattanooga's intriguing railroad ... (click for more)

Beans Helped Settle Tennessee; Some Moved On To Hamilton County

William and Lydia Bean are celebrated as the first permanent settlers in the section that became Tennessee, and their son, Russell Bean,was the first white child born within the confines of the state. As the descendants of William Bean spread out from the vicinity of the Watauga River, some of them made their way to Hamilton County. William Hamilton Bean, grandson of Russell ... (click for more)

State Plays Tape Of Prior Testimony Of Shooting Victim After He Refuses To Come To Court

The state on Thursday played a preliminary hearing tape of shooting victim Kadarius Johnson after he refused to come to the Criminal Court trial of the man accused of shooting him in the back of the head. Prosecutor Andrew Coyle said every effort had been made to contact Johnson, who he said told investigators that if he testified he would be labeled as a snitch and killed by ... (click for more)

Langdon Strickland, 33, Dies From Monday Afternoon Shooting

Langdon Strickland, 33, who suffered life-threatening injuries in a shooting on S. Kelly Street early Monday afternoon, has died.   Chattanooga Police responded to a person shot at the 500 block of S. Kelly.  Upon arrival, Chattanooga Police officers located the victim, who was suffering from a gunshot wound. Hamilton County EMS transported the victim to a ... (click for more)

Shame On Anyone Planning A Protest At Coolidge Park Thursday Evening - And Response (4)

Whether you're Alt-Left or Alt-Right, Coolidge Park isn't the place to showcase your hate and indifference with one another. Just because it's your right, that doesn't necessarily mean that you should do it. Many have this misconception that this park is named after a President, Nope. It's named after a great man, a true patriot, and Medal of Honor recipient from right ... (click for more)

A Tale Of 3 Properties

Here in Lookout Valley on the far southwest edge of Chattanooga and Hamilton County, trees and rocks are plentiful but sidewalks are as rare as unicorns. It’s a land the governments forget – until tax collection time.  The recent county reappraisal spoke about ‘comps,’ recent sale prices of comparable local properties. But the assessors defined ‘comparable’ to suit themselves, ... (click for more)