Remembering the Planters Peanut Shops

Monday, August 4, 2008 - by Harmon Jolley
Postcard for The Peanut Store at 4827 Brainerd Road.  Customers could see peanuts being roasted, and were encouraged to mail them to friends back home.   Click to enlarge.
Postcard for The Peanut Store at 4827 Brainerd Road. Customers could see peanuts being roasted, and were encouraged to mail them to friends back home. Click to enlarge.

A downtown sandwich shop has recently begun a unique advertising campaign. A person suits up in a giant fountain drink cup, and walks around the central city. The sight has brought smiles to a few faces, though some observers may have drifted into that old argument of “half full” versus “half empty.” It’s a type of advertising that reminds me of the days of old when a giant Mr. Peanut walked the streets of downtown.

In 1929, the Planters Peanut Company opened a chain of stores under a subsidiary, the National Peanut Corporation. In 1938, twenty-six year old entrepreneur Ernest H. Longworth opened a peanut shop in downtown Chattanooga at 615 Market Street. Mr. Longworth had moved to Chattanooga from Nashville, where he was listed in the 1930 census as a laborer.

The peanut storefront on Market Street had formerly been a Gilman Paint store. It was located in the heart of the retail business district. Nearby businesses included Effron’s (607 Market), Haverty’s Furniture (619), and Miller Brothers (corner of Seventh and Market). The State Theater was across the street at 628 Market, and J.C. Penney was on the corner of Sixth and Market. As shoppers made their way from store to store, they were drawn to the peanut shop by the aroma of the roasting peanuts.

The Planters shops sold a variety of toys and figurines in addition to the sacks of peanuts. Most featured Mr. Peanut, the suave corporate icon of Planters. On the shelves were cups with the face and top hat of Mr. Peanut, make-your-own peanut butter makers, and banks. Each of these items is now very collectible according to an Internet search.

A person in a Mr. Peanut costume would sometimes greet customers at the store, or walk the sidewalks of downtown to draw customers. It was an era when Market Street lived up to its name, with lots of open-air merchandising.

By the early 1960’s, retailing had moved into new suburban areas around Chattanooga. Mr. Longworth opened a branch of his store at 5951 Brainerd Road. The location was convenient to customers of the new Brainerd Village and Eastgate Mall. Getting a bag of peanuts after a game of miniature golf at Goony Golf or Putt-Putt was a treat.

Ernest Longworth passed away in 1964. His widow, Mildred, managed the stores until the late 1960’s. The Brainerd store relocated to other addresses including 3924 Brainerd Road at Belvoir and 4827 Brainerd Road before closing. By 1969, a Chow Hound Restaurant had opened in the Market Street building where so many had been served those legendary legumes from Planters.

If you miss the Planters Peanut Shop, I can offer you a solution for your nostalgia. It is possible to grow peanuts in this area, as long as you either have naturally sandy soil or you enhance your clay soil to favor peanuts. I buy my Jumbo Virginia seed peanuts from a mail-order company. After we harvest the peanuts in the early fall, we roast them in the oven. The aroma reminds me of the days of my childhood, and trips downtown to shop.

Don’t turn on your ceiling fan and open your windows while roasting your peanuts, unless you want your neighbors to come over.

If you remember the Planters Peanut shops, please send me an e-mail at jolleyh@bellsouth.net.

The National Peanut Shop at 615 Market Street was in the heart of the downtown shopping district.  A tall neon sign of Mr. Peanut beckoned customers.  Click to enlarge.
The National Peanut Shop at 615 Market Street was in the heart of the downtown shopping district. A tall neon sign of Mr. Peanut beckoned customers. Click to enlarge.
- Photo2 by courtesy of Chattanooga-Hamilton County Library


Tennessee Historical Commission Announces Opening Of Battlefield Preservation Grant Funding

The Tennessee Wars Commission and the Tennessee Historical Commission announced that applications for the Tennessee Civil War Sites Preservation Fund are now being accepted. The grant program, begun in 2013, is a key source of matching funding for the preservation of properties associated with the 38 most significant Civil War sites in Tennessee. Additionally, grants can assist ... (click for more)

The Papers Of Andrew Jackson Project Receives NEH Award To Publish 3 New Volumes

The Papers of Andrew Jackson project has received a $325,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to prepare three new volumes for publication, covering 1833 through 1835. This grant is the second highest among the 21 awarded this year within the NEH Scholarly Editions and Translations program. "This generous grant is the largest we have ever received from ... (click for more)

Dallas Bay Baptist Church School Evacuated By Bomb Threat Tuesday Afternoon

Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office personnel responded to a bomb threat at Dallas Bay Baptist Church School on Tuesday.  As a precaution, all staff and children were evacuated from the building. They were moved to a secure location off-site near the school.  An all clear was given several hours later. All students at this time of been accounted for and have been ... (click for more)

Federal Appeals Court Rules In Favor Of Family With Down Syndrome Child Who Sued County Schools

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled in favor of a couple with a Down syndrome child who sued the county schools. The parents of Luka Hyde objected when the county schools tried to move him from his zoned school to a segregated school. The ruling says under federal law that students with disabilities are supposed to be placed in the least restrictive ... (click for more)

Thank You For Cleaning Up Brown's Tavern

Thank you to whomever is responsible for the massive clean-up project that began yesterday at Brown's Tavern in Lookout Valley.  It already looks 1,000 percent better. Ricky and T.J. Hendricks Smith  (click for more)

Roy Exum: One Person Every Hour

After the first weekend in August, the United States was shaken to its core as every major media outlet reported that 67 people had been shot in Chicago, 12 of them dead in the senseless carnage. Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel pleaded for calm and announced an additional 600 police officers would join other law enforcement in the five most troubled districts. This past weekend, which ... (click for more)