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.


Weaver Named BlueCross Director Of Infrastructure Engineering Services

BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee has named Jennifer Weaver as director of infrastructure engineering services. She was previously director of the office of the chief information officer for BlueCross. In her new role, Weaver is responsible for the company’s infrastructure engineering teams. She will report to David Marckel, vice president of infrastructure and operations within ... (click for more)

Government Operations Committee Reports On Efforts To Be More Efficient

Tennessee’s state government is becoming smaller and more efficient according to a report from Senate Government Operations Committee Chairman Mike Bell (R-Riceville) released at a meeting of the group Wednesday in Nashville.  During the 108th General Assembly, which extended from January 2013 to November 2014, the committee terminated 17 agencies, while merging eight and restructuring ... (click for more)

Erlanger To Proceed With Manager Bonuses In 2 Steps; Considering Employee Performance Incentive Plan

Erlanger President and CEO Kevin Spiegel said Wednesday night that the hospital plans to proceed with $1.7 million in manager bonuses in two steps. Current participants in the incentive program will receive 50 percent of the approved 2014 performance plan this month. The remaining 50 percent will be paid to the management group in July 2015. At the same time, Mr. Spiegel ... (click for more)

Man Shot In Chattanooga On Wednesday Afternoon

Chattanooga Police said a man was shot Wednesday afternoon. At approximately 3:16 p.m., Chattanooga Police responded to a local hospital for a person shot. P olice were advised that a male victim arrived suffering from a non-life threatening gunshot wound. O fficers are attempting to locate a crime scene at this time. Chattanooga Police ask anyone with ... (click for more)

A Letter To The NAACP

I believe when a "unarmed" man is evil, he will try to beat a police officer on his head in hopes to knock him out, in hopes to kill him. We saw the bruises on the officer's face.  This evil force tried to take his gun away from him , Proof was in the autopsy.  Why did Michael Brown  try to take his gun away from him? Exactly, to kill the officer.  ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Advice: Just Be Normal

Matthew Kerlin, by his own admission, claims to be just a normal guy. But I am of the opinion, after reading his speech following Samford University’s Winter Commencement exercises, that the university’s Assistant Dean for Spiritual Life is a bit more than that. Dr. Kerlin knows college kids well and his advice to the most recent flock of America’s graduates resonates with brilliance. ... (click for more)