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 Books Available By John Wilson

John Wilson, former Hamilton County Historian, 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 history, has 69 chapters and covers ... (click for more)

Fair on January 21 at Soddy-Daisy High School Celebrates Area History

The Soddy, Daisy & Montlake Historical Association (SDMHA) will host a History Fair at the Soddy-Daisy High School on Saturday, January 21 from 9am to 4pm. The association encourages area residents and anyone who is interested in local history to attend this event and to participate in its efforts to preserve the history of its local communities. The History Fair will ... (click for more)

School Board Votes To Issue RFPs For Private School Bus Service; Allows Independent Drivers To Add 20 Routes

The Hamilton County School Board voted unanimously to issue a Request-for-Proposals (RFP) to private bus companies at a special-called session early  Saturday  afternoon.   The vote came at the end of a two-day strategy session where the school board has confronted a list of challenges but the busing question, spurred by the tragic bus wreck in November ... (click for more)

3 People Shot Early Saturday Morning On East 3rd Street

Three people were shot on East 3rd Street early Saturday morning. They were identified as Countess Clemons, 24, Kezia Jackson, 23, and Dutchess Lykes, 26.   The Chattanooga Police Department responded at 2:40 a.m. to a person(s) shot call at a local hospital. All three victims were transported to the hospital via a personally-owned vehicle.   All three ... (click for more)

A Light Rain Began To Fall - And Response (2)

Around noon Friday, Jan. 20, 2017, Donald J. Trump was sworn in as the 45th President of the most powerful nation on Earth after a long and sometimes bitter campaign where 17 GOP candidates of his own party and two of the opposing party competed for the honor.   Thousands rejoiced in the Washington D.C. streets while policemen who had come along with national guardsmen pushed ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Jumoke’s Thuggery Ends

Jumoke Johnson, the most notorious criminal in Chattanooga’s recent history, was killed by a rain of bullets in the 2100 block of East 12 th Street at little after 8 o’clock Friday night and for the many of us who have kept up with the 23-year-old, you wonder how he ever lasted this long. He was aptly proclaimed as the “most dangerous man” to ever have been sentenced in Chattanooga’s ... (click for more)