What Did That Building Used To Be? - Schroeder’s Garden Center

Tuesday, April 15, 2003 - by Harmon Jolley
Schroeder’s Garden Center. Click to enlarge.
Schroeder’s Garden Center. Click to enlarge.

Each year, Chattanooga area residents are fortunate spectators of a very colorful parade of spring flowers and trees. The procession begins with the crocus and daffodil, followed by forsythia, flowering cherry, saucer magnolia, redbud, tulip, dogwood, and azalea. A business which once supported Chattanooga’s spring color parade was the Schroeder’s Garden Center.

William F. Schroeder attended Tulane University, where he was a member of the football team that played in the 1931 Rose Bowl. He graduated in 1933 with a degree in horticulture, and moved to Chattanooga in 1939. Following a job as manager of McDade Orchids, Mr. Schroeder formed Schroeder, Inc. in 1950, with warehouse and offices located off Bailey Avenue near National Cemetery. The company distributed “Gro-Mulch,” an organic mulch-fertilizer derived from Spanish moss. The product’s ability to increase the growth of plants had been documented in tests by Louisiana horticulturists, with additional tests performed by Mr. Schroeder in his home greenhouse.

Mr. Schroeder also opened a garden supply store at 510 Market Street. To be closer to Chattanooga’s growing suburbs, he moved his store in 1957 to Duncan Avenue beside the McCallie Avenue railroad viaduct. In a 1960 advertisement, Schroeder’s proclaimed its motto, “Everything for the Gardener,” and described its line-up of lawn seed, chemicals, fertilizers, sodding, landscaping, and supplies. Schroeder’s also sold lawn mowers, tropical fish, and camping trailers. The staff was reported to have 766 years of combined experience in horticulture. Southern Florist and Nurseryman magazine ran a cover story on the store in 1961. For those who couldn’t visit the store, Schroeder’s also offered home delivery. A 1965 circular said, “But if you just can’t come down, we’re as close as your phone. We’ll be glad to send it to you.”

In 1970, Mr. Schroeder sold the business to Charles B. Mehan, but stayed on as a director of the garden center. He passed away in 1979. North River Nursery acquired Schroeder’s in 1973, and operated the Duncan Avenue store until 1983. Since then, the Montessori World of Children has been located in the former Schroeder’s Garden Center building.

If you have memories of the Schroeder’s Garden Center, please send me an e-mail at jolleyh@signaldata.net.

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