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.


Sound Living Counseling Celebrates Grand Opening Aug. 30

Sound Living Counseling will celebrate its Open House and Dedication with ribbon cutting ceremony on Aug. 30 from  11:30 a.m. –4 p.m.  The Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce will coordinate this event, taking place at 6727 Heritage Business Court, Suite 720. Sound Living Counseling is a center expanding to serve the needs of people in the community. The mission ... (click for more)

UNUM Hosts Back To School Bash For Chambliss Children

UNUM hosted its annual Back to School Bash for the school-aged children spending the summer at Chambliss Center for Children.   This year more than 175 UNUM employees came out to host a special day on our campus that included inflatables, games, a petting zoo, snow cones, face painting, hot dogs, burgers and more. They also stuffed 125 backpacks full of the required ... (click for more)

Man, 28, Shot And Killed In East Chattanooga

A 28-year-old man was shot and killed in East Chattanooga early Friday morning. The victim was identified as Jeremy Clark, a brother of House candidate Dennis Clark. Dennis Clark said, "Jeremy, a beloved son, my younger brother and dear friend to many, was taken from us too soon. The pain from our sudden and tragic loss is Indescribable. He was a compassionate and fun-loving ... (click for more)

Michael Ford Sentenced To More Than 13 Years In Prison On Drug Charges

Michael Shawn Ford has been sentenced to 13 and a half years in prison on drug charges. On April 20, 2105, Ford was arrested at his house in East Ridge. Police found him hiding in the closet with a laundry bag which contained a loaded pistol and 7.9 grams of crystal meth. Officers said that two backpacks were found in the same bedroom, one with 257.3 grams of crystal meth ... (click for more)

Olympic Events On The Ocoee River Made History – But It Wasn’t Easy

It started with a simple “what if” question while Atlanta officials were working on a bid to host the 1996 Summer Olympic Games.  A group of amateur kayakers from the city began asking themselves: “What if Atlanta’s bid is successful? Then where would the Olympic whitewater canoe and kayak races be held?”  To some of the members of that group, the answer was obvious. ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Don’t Kick A Man’s Neck

From the minute my brothers and I each became cognizant, my dad started teaching us the rules of becoming a man. Dad was from deep in Mississippi and he’d been taught a lot of life’s secrets from his father. These lessons have been passed for generations and, the older I have become, I’m convinced a lot of them were borne from The Sermon on the Mount. Our favorite, back in the ... (click for more)