Austin Garden Center Closing After 87 Years In Business

Friday, August 28, 2009

Austin Garden Center is finally calling it quits after 87 years in business in Chattanooga.

Chad Norman, one of the three current partners, said next week will be the final days for retail sales at the landmark on Signal Mountain Road across from the entrance to Baylor School.

He said the store was doing well, but he, along with Mike Austin Sr. and Mike Austin Jr., just felt it was time they wanted to pursue different ventures.

"We have been talking about it for two or three years and now seemed the right time when inventory was low," he said.

Mr. Norman, grandson of longtime store manager Don Nicholson, said word was given months ago to the 7-10 employees. He said the closing was curtailed until all had found other work.

He said the family intends to keep the sizable property and look for another use for it.

Mr. Nicholson had retired from the store in 2007 after six decades there.

At about the same time, Mike Austin Sr. retired also, leaving the day-to-day running of the operation to his son and Mr. Norman, who was formerly in the landscaping business.

Mr. Nicholson’s connection to the store dated to when the late L.B. “Pete” Austin Jr. hired him to run the business so that Mr. Austin could spend more time concentrating on his real estate and other business interests. The store had been founded by L.B. Austin Sr., who died of a heart attack in 1945.

The store was at 428 Market St. with a warehouse at 1036 Carter St. when Mr. Nicholson started in 1946.
subdivision. The store had been founded in 1922.

In 1948, a second store was opened at 3462 Brainerd Road in an old icehouse building near Tunnel Boulevard. The Brainerd store remained in business at that site until 1960, when traffic became so bad that a new location was needed. The successful Brainerd Road store then became one of the first tenants of Brainerd Village. Austin’s was in Brainerd Village for about six years, until Sid Varner bought it and renamed it.

In 1951, to alleviate a parking problem, Austin’s decided to relocate to a corner building at 338 Market St., where drive-through service was offered. But not all the parking and public access problems were solved. ,
So, in 1953, they discovered that the old Log Cabin Milling Co, - owned by Dave Eldridge and Sam O’Neal – was for sale. The property, at 1724 Dayton Blvd., was still owned by Mr. O’Neal, so they bought the company and incorporated it into theirs. They also signed a lease for three years.

In 1958, two years past their original lease period, they completed a building at 225 Signal Mountain Road, where the path of U.S. 27 is now – just east of the current location. They had filled it in with some dirt brought from some property Mr. Austin owned off Dayton Boulevard, where Echols furniture is.

The store also decided to build up its offerings at that time. That is when it became a garden center and hardware.

Within a short while, the owners learned they were on the right of way for the planned highway, so in June 1963 the business moved into the current facility at 241 Signal Mountain Road. That building was a duplicate of the previous one.


BlueCross Names Medalie Director Of Major Account Management

BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee has selected Jonathan Medalie as director of major account management.  In this role, Mr. Medalie will oversee major and corporate account management operations and develop and maintain regional broker relationships.  Mr. Medalie most recently served with BlueCross of Idaho, where he was director of sales and account management. ... (click for more)

TVA To Hold Public Meeting In Nashville On Draft Integrated Resource Plan

The Tennessee Valley Authority will host a public meeting in Nashville on Tuesday about the newly released draft of its 2015 Integrated Resource Plan, a guide to TVA’s energy planning decisions for the next 20 years. The meeting, the sixth of seven TVA will offer around the Valley, will be held at the Loew’s Vanderbilt Hotel, Kirkland/Calhoun Room, 2100 West End Ave.  The ... (click for more)

Prominent Business, Civic Leader, And Philanthropist Scotty Probasco Dies At 86

Prominent Chattanooga business, civic leader and philanthropist Scotty Probasco has died at the age of 86. Scotty, as he was affectionately greeted by most of Chattanooga, was known for his modesty, generosity, dependability, and unswerving loyalty. “Great work” was always on the tip of his tongue – a manifestation of his joyous humility. He was a man of high ideals, of kind ... (click for more)

Chemical Odor In Lookout Valley Traced To Chattanooga Tank Wash

Chattanooga firefighters in Lookout Valley were sent out Friday night to investigate reports of a strange odor in the area. The firefighters searched the area, but never found the source of the odor.  John Schultz, an investigator with the Air Pollution Control Bureau, was also out Friday night and eventually tracked the source of the odor to a business, the Chattanooga ... (click for more)

Proud Of Hometown Boy Turned Global Leader, Bob Corker

Time Magazine has it right.  Not only is Chattanooga’s own U.S. Senator Bob Corker one of the “100 Most Influential People in the World,” but he is probably now the most prominent leader in the history of our city.   At a time of extreme frustration with Washington and Congress in general, Bob continues to rise above the division and rancor to build consensus and solve ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Great Work, Ol’ Pro!

Years ago I was lucky enough to be the seatmate of Scotty Probasco on an airplane bound for somewhere and he taught me a word that has helped me be a much better person than I ever thought I could. We were already swell friends, since he’d watched me grow up at First Presbyterian Church every Sunday with his kids, and he liked some of the stuff I tried to write back then. So ... (click for more)