One of Chattanooga’s grand old businesses - Fischer-Evans Jewelers – is celebrating its 140th anniversary this year.
Although the business has diversified beyond the watch and jewelry proprietorship started by founding brothers W.F. “Will” and Lou Fischer, its positive presence in downtown Chattanooga has remained consistent.
Even many of its customers – or at least their last names – have not changed over the decades.
“It is unbelievable that we are still serving the same families we did back then,” said Becky Glover, who runs the business along with her husband, Howard.
The store was started shortly after the Civil War in what was believed to be a boarded-up section of a stable on Market Street. The original owner was Will Fischer, a former Georgian who was only in his early 20s.
He reportedly had only a small supply of watches and jewelry, but he had a large desire to succeed as a businessman. By 1869, which is observed as the founding date, his younger brother, Lou, had joined him.
The business apparently went through several moves and a fire before settling at the current location at the southwest corner of Eighth and Market streets. By this time, the business was on its way to lasting as long as some of its jewelry wares.
According to Mr. Glover, after the Fischers died, T.H. McClure, who had apparently been a manager, bought the store from the Fischer estate. After the Great Depression hit, he made the store smaller by using only a section closer to Broad Street.
The Baker shoe shop later used the Market Street side of the business.
After Mr. McClure died, another manager ran the Fischer jewelry store for a period, and then Mr. McClure’s daughter, Baird McClure, and her first cousin, Nick Senter, operated the business, Mr. Glover said.
In 1956, Carter Evans, the father of Chattanoogan Judy Rowland, bought the business and changed the name to Fischer-Evans in 1963.
The Glovers then bought the business in 1970. Like the Fischers, the Glovers were from Georgia. Howard was reared in Newnan, while Becky was from Columbus.
The Glovers expanded the business in size and scope. On the first floor, fine jewelry is sold, while the second floor offers such diverse items as china, crystal, silver, fine writing pens, fine stationary, gifts imported from around the world, and office, home and personal accessories.
“I am sure diversity is what has enabled us to be doing strongly, even in this economy,” said Mrs. Glover.
The store also has a bridal business, which Mrs. Glover enjoys. “I love it because I enjoy working primarily with so many young people,” she said.
She also enjoys being with the veteran employees, including Ruby Pospisil, Phyllis McMahan, Taylor Watson and Marcia Mehan (who formerly worked at T.H. Payne).
Of course, the oldest business representative, even though it is currently on the equivalent of sick leave, is the Fischer-Evans street clock. First put up in 1883 by the Fischer brothers as an advertisement for their business, the clock became much more to the citizens of Chattanooga.
Although its moving hands always served as a reminder that time does not stand still, it was one non-changing feature in a constantly changing downtown. As a result, it became a beloved landmark.
The clock was electrified and restored over the years, but earlier this decade, a large truck going east on Eighth Street knocked the top part of the clock off its base after the driver had trouble turning due to road closures.
The broken parts were sent to the Verdin Company in Cincinnati for repair, but both the clock firm and Mr. Glover became concerned over liability issues should the clock get knocked off again. As a result, the clock has been gone for more than five years.
“Everything being equal, you would love to have the clock back,” said Mr. Glover. “On the other hand, I wouldn’t like to see someone hurt.”
Now, perhaps all that will likely bring the situation to a resolution is the construction of a small-but-sturdy wall or posts around the clock to prevent it from being struck again.
While the clock has disappeared, at least for the time being, the Fischer-Evans business is still keeping in time with the Chattanooga business needs – some 140 years after the firm started.