I’ve often heard folks say that Chattanooga is a tough market for restaurants. Like Dorothy said in “The Wizard of Oz,” “They come and go so quickly here.” The list of eateries of the past is quite long, though I’m not certain how we compare to other cities in the number of dining-out demises.
A short-lived restaurant that was once a favorite of mine was the Shrimp Boats, located at 5508 Brainerd Road near Spring Creek Road.
Based on city directory listings, Shrimp Boats docked in Brainerd in 1969 at a time when areas around Eastgate Mall were still being developed for retail businesses.
Shrimp Boats was a franchise chain of restaurants that emerged in the 1960’s in the southeast. Richard Mize was the owner and operator of the local Shrimp Boats. He was interviewed for the August 28, 1969 edition of “Community Shoppers Guide.” Mr. Mize had first dined at a Shrimp Boats when he was working at a retail men’s clothier in Atlanta. Loving the food, he set sail to acquire a franchise for Hamilton and Walker counties, with plans for four restaurants (only one was built, I believe).
My family often dined at Shrimp Boats when we were in the Brainerd area. I recall that they had very tasty grilled hamburgers and fried chicken, in addition to their seafood items. The building was small, with a steep roof and large glass front window. I think that the interior had a large net and lifesaver rings over the front counter.
The restaurant promoted itself in commercials by playing the song “Shrimp boats is a coming; there’s dancing tonight.”
The 1970 city directory listed this trove of neighboring merchants:
· Copeland’s Holiday Gulf Service Station at 5506 Brainerd Road
· Tomlinson’s Restaurant – 5501 Brainerd Road
· Holiday Inn – 5505 Brainerd Road
The final listing of Shrimp Boats was in the 1973 directory. Ingress and egress near the busy Brainerd/Spring Creek intersection may have hindered their business. Also, competition for dining dollars was fierce in the Brainerd area, with new restaurants frequently opening.
On April 16, 1975, groundbreaking occurred for a branch of the Commerce Union Bank on the site where the Shrimp Boats had been anchored. The new bank opened in December, 1975, which was one month before the main downtown office opened in a new twenty-one story skyscraper.
Whatever happened to the other Shrimp Boats restaurants? If you do a Web search on “Shrimp Boats, Inc.” you’ll find some sites that describe surviving locations in the Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina area. A few sites include photos of the buildings, with their familiar steep roofs and Shrimp Boats logos.
If you have memories of Shrimp Boats, please send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll update this article with a few of the recollections.