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

Chattanooga's Blues and Jazz Heritage Program is Monday, August 25

The Chattanooga Area Historical Association and the Local History Department of the Public Library invites all to a talk by Dr. Clark White on "Chattanooga's Blues and Jazz Heritage."  The program will be on Monday, August 25th at 6pm at the downtown Chattanooga Public Library. See the accompanying flyer for more information. CAHA events are free and open to the ... (click for more)

Five Tennessee Sites Added to the National Register of Historic Places

The Tennessee Historical Commission has announced five Tennessee sites have been added to the National Register of Historic Places. The National Register of Historic Places is the nation’s official list of cultural resources worthy of preservation. It is part of a nationwide program that coordinates and supports efforts to identify, evaluate and protect historic resources. The ... (click for more)

Bradley, 24, Charged In Death Of 3-Year-Old Boy At Soddy Daisy

Justin Dale Bradley has been charged with criminal homicide in the death of a three-year-old child, who was rushed to the hospital on Wednesday and later died. Authorities said Bradley, 24, is the boyfriend of the child's mother. The mother earlier took out an order of protection against Bradley, and he was arrested for violating the order. The Hamilton County Sheriff’s ... (click for more)

Shooting Of 15-Year-Old Began As Argument Between Teens

According to police, the Tuesday night shooting of a juvenile on Taylor Street started as an argument between the two young men. Terry Marshell Smith Jr., 19, was arrested the following day. Police said the former Hixson High School student shot the juvenile in the shoulder after their argument and then fled the scene.  According to police, Smith admitted to the shooting. ... (click for more)

Better Plan For Walnut Street Hotel

Mitch Patel and his Vision Hospitality Group have unveiled a revised plan for a hotel on Walnut Street. It is much better than the one proposed two years ago. By having no curb cuts on Walnut Street, it makes that special block near the bridge more inviting and safer for pedestrians. Deliveries would be off Riverfront Parkway and hotel access (valet parking) would be off Aquarium ... (click for more)

Thanks For Making The Southern Brewers Festival A Success

Now that the dust has settled I'd like to thank Chattanooga for supporting the Southern Brewers Festival and making it yet another very successful event.    For those who do not know - the SBF benefits the Chattanooga chapter of Kids on the Block and the Chattanooga Community Kitchen.  As a partner helping the SBF with volunteers, sponsorships and the overall production ... (click for more)