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

Tennessee Newspaper Digitization Lecture is October 29

Historical newspaper records once available only through long hours of research can now be accessed within seconds.   The Tennessee Digitization Project to digitize a series of newspaper records and make them available online is a partnership between the University of Tennessee and the Tennessee State Library and Archives. The first phase of the project concentrates on the ... (click for more)

Civil War Battle of Johnsonville Being Remembered

This year marks the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Johnsonville. To commemorate the historic event, Johnsonville State Park and Nathan Bedford Forrest State Park will host several events in October and November.   The 150th anniversary kicked off earlier this month with a Civil War quilt show at Johnsonville, which will be on display through December 31 at the park’s ... (click for more)

Chattanooga Area Under Hard Freeze Warning As Winter Comes Early

The Chattanooga area was under a freeze warning as winter rushed in early. The biting weather came as crew members were about to hit the water for the annual Head of the Hooch at Ross's Landing. Here is the warning: ...FREEZE WARNING IN EFFECT FROM 3 AM EST /2 AM CST/ TO 9 AM EST /8 AM CST/ SUNDAY ... THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN MORRISTOWN HAS ISSUED ... (click for more)

Downtown Chattanooga Apartment Complex That Brought $3 Million Profit Exempt From Most Taxes Until 2022 Under PILOT

A downtown Chattanooga apartment complex that recently was sold at a $3 million profit is exempt from most property taxes through 2022 under a PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) agreement.   No payment of school taxes was included in the deal for Walnut Commons at Walnut Street and Aquarium Way.   The only taxes due on the property for the next eight ... (click for more)

A Vote For Education Is Critical In Tennessee

In a state where just 28 percent of eighth graders are proficient in math and 33 percent are proficient in reading according to national assessments, education is deserving of more attention in 2014 elections. Across the country, more parents are making informed decisions about their child’s education, but for Volunteer State parents without resources, choices are difficult to come ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: My Garden In November

As the first day of November arrives today, it is cold enough in my garden to officially certify that fall has fell! There are even signs of ice on the ground but there is a bounty crop of acorns so, in keeping with our monthly tradition, some will get shiny acorns and others will get a chunk of cold ice: A SHINY ACORN for Patriots football coach Bill Belichick for scoffing at ... (click for more)