Davidson's Was Long-time Clothing Retailer in Downtown

Wednesday, January 30, 2013 - by Harmon Jolley
Photo of Davidson store front from Chattanooga Commercial Review of 1914
Photo of Davidson store front from Chattanooga Commercial Review of 1914

Mention the topic of the glory years of shopping downtown to half-centenarians and their elders, and many will tell of Loveman’s, The Leader, Miller Brothers, and T.H. Payne.  All were locally-based stores that had grown up with Chattanooga.   One could mix in a few stops at Jack’s Records, the Martin or Rogers movie theaters, the Orange Julius, and Planters Peanuts, and have a fun day in downtown.

There is one store which I recently learned of that was also locally-based, and also around for years – Davidson’s.

  The retail clothier was founded in 1881 by Charles A. Davidson, who had earlier moved to Chattanooga to work at the Roane Iron Company.  Two sons, Robert and Edward, helped their father with the store at 811 Market Street.  Their slogan was “the best goods obtainable at a reasonable profit and one price to all.”

Upon the passing of the elder Davidson in 1899, the Davidson brothers became managing partners of Davidson’s.  Edward became the store’s president in 1912, when Robert relocated to Boise, Idaho.  That same year, the store was extended through to Broad Street.  Typical of many downtown retailers, the building’s second story was used for storage of merchandise.

In 1946, control of Davidson’s passed to new out-of-town ownership under Louis Kunlan and Robert M. Stein.  The September 12, 1946 Chattanooga Times reported that a formal grand opening of the new Davidson’s would be held that day.  Models from various sororities at the University of Chattanooga participated in a fashion show.   The store had been remodeled, and was now air-conditioned.  Neon signage displayed “Finer Clothes” above the name “Davidson’s.”

The cash registers of Davidson’s eventually opened nevermore (Had to work in that word, since the Ravens are in the Super Bowl).  On March 29, 1966, the Chattanooga Times reported that Davidson’s would be having a going-out-of-business sale.  The lease on the building had expired, and would not be renewed.  Discounts of up to fifty per cent were offered on familiar brands of clothing - Gant, Hathaway, Jantzen, and Manhattan among them.

If you have memories of Davidson’s, please send me an e-mail at jolleyh@bellsouth.net.  I’ll update this article with some of your feedback.

Advertisement from Chattanooga Weekly Commercial of 1-1-1882
Advertisement from Chattanooga Weekly Commercial of 1-1-1882

New TSLA Exhibit Explores the Civil War in Tennessee in 1864

1864 would prove to be the decisive year of the Civil War. Despite Union victories at Gettysburg, Vicksburg, and Chattanooga the previous year, northern citizens were growing war-weary. The mounting lists of dead and wounded made many wonder if the South should finally be allowed its independence. Geographically situated between the midwestern states and the deep South, ... (click for more)

Tennessee and the War of 1812 Program is September 29

The Chattanooga Area Historical Association and the Local History and Genealogy Department of the Public Library invite you to attend "Tennessee and the War of 1812."  The event is free and open to the public, and will be held on Monday, September 29 at 6:00 pm at the downtown library. The speaker will be Linda Mines, Chairperson of the History and Social Sciences Departments ... (click for more)

Linear Park Planned As Extension Of Walnut Street Bridge In Front Of Planned Boutique Hotel

A linear park that will be an extension of the Walnut Street Bridge public space is planned in front of a new boutique hotel at Walnut Street and Aquarium Way (Second Street). Mitch Patel of Vision Hospitality on Tuesday night told nearby residents that "the city pushed this idea of a linear park, and we agree that it is a great idea." He said the current situation in which ... (click for more)

Sharply-Divided City Council Approves Office Reorganization; Councilman Freeman Calls Move "Evil, Hellish"

A sharply-divided City Council on Tuesday voted 5-4 to completely reorganize the council office, leaving current staffers without a job down the road but with the option to reapply. Councilman Moses Freeman called the move "evil" and "hellish." He said, "We are punishing somebody on a personal level," though he said the office has been running smoothly. Saying the majority ... (click for more)

How To Reform The City Industrial Development Board - And Response (3)

My aims is to bring to the public’s attention the need for procedural changes that, if implemented, would significantly improve the information available the public, to the City Council and to the City Industrial Development Board about the verifiable benefits and costs of tax incentive financing structures and to make the entire process transparent. The public, the City ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: My October Garden

Hark! It is the first day of October and, as I make my monthly stroll through the garden, I find a growing numbers of leaves and acorns. Autumn leaves are beautiful while acorns are nuts, thus you will get the idea as we make our monthly awards: A PRETTY LEAF to Phil Hughes after the Minnesota Twins pitcher came within one inning of earning a $500,000 bonus this season. The deal ... (click for more)