Service Auto Parts Once Kept Chattanooga's Cars Running

Sunday, July 13, 2014 - by Harmon Jolley
In this 1976 Yellow Pages advertisement, a smiling piston (very possibly from Detroit) invites customers to shop at Service Auto Parts.
In this 1976 Yellow Pages advertisement, a smiling piston (very possibly from Detroit) invites customers to shop at Service Auto Parts.

When I think about working on cars, I think of the times that I helped my father (or vice versa, after I started driving).  Engines were simpler then, with enough space under the hood for a mother cat and kittens to ride as stowaways one day to my father's work.  "Where is that meowing coming from?" he thought.  Fortunately, the felines were fine, though their nine lives had been on the line.

I was able to help my dad more as I got older, but as a three year-old, I can only say that I was trying to help.  According to the story that was told to me later, I started throwing pistons down an embankment from where my father was rebuilding an engine.  That earned me an escorted trip back into the house to be with my mother.

Today, there are thousands of components in the average modern automobile, and it's so crowded under the hood that my mechanic advises customers not to venture there.  The number of parts has increased over the years, particularly with the advent of on-board electronics. 

Rewind the clock to 1958 and we would still need lots of replacement parts to keep a car running.  That was the year that parts men at Service Auto Parts started fulfilling orders at their counter.

According to a November, 20, 1983 Chattanooga News-Free Press article by automotive columnist Buddy Houts, Service Auto Parts opened in November, 1958 at the corner of Brainerd Road and Tunnel Boulevard.  Owen Maddox and Hollin Williams headed the new auto parts store. 

By the time of the article, Service Auto Parts had grown to five stores.  The company had moved across Brainerd Road, and the old store had given way to the Hale Building.  The headquarters and warehouse were at 5919 Lee Highway.  Three other stores were at 4742 Highway 58 (now American Rental), 4528 Hixson Pike (now Higgins Tire and Auto), and 1200 McFarland Avenue (now a dental office).  Radio-equipped trucks made deliveries to local repair shops.

Many things in the automotive industry had changed since Service Auto Parts first opened.  Hand-written orders, inventory, and bookkeeping had given way to computerization.  In a November 5, 1978 interview in the News-Free Press, owner Owen Maddux commented how more complex that automobiles had become.  “At one time, only one fan belt would fit all Chevrolets, but now it is different.  There are presently about 250 fan belts just for Chevrolets alone.” 

In the 1970’s, automobile owners had a new reason for keeping their engines tuned properly – the 1973 oil embargo which sent gasoline prices soaring and fuel availability reduced at times.  There was a fuel economy incentive that led folks to visit Service Auto Parts for spark plugs and wires, condensers, points, air filters, and fuel filters. 

The counter salesmen at Service Auto were seen as key to company success, according to co-owner Hollin Williams.  “A spark plug is a spark plug, so what else do you have to offer your customers?  You have to give your customers better service so they will continue to come back, and we have tried to live up to our name.”

Hollin Williams passed away in 1981.  Service Auto Parts was eventually sold to new owners.  The April 25, 1998 Chattanooga Times reported that Warehouse Distributors, Inc. was acquiring the stores. 

If you have memories of Service Auto Parts, please send me an e-mail at  I’ll update the article with some of your feedback.

Service Auto Parts often advertised in local school football programs.  This is from a November 10, 1967 Central High publication.
Service Auto Parts often advertised in local school football programs. This is from a November 10, 1967 Central High publication.

Chester Martin Remembers Chattanooga's Enriched Society

With that title I am referring directly to the Jewish population of our city. This population had apparently begun its good work long before my time. My father was born in a very rural community in1884 and his family remembered "Leboits" - a peddler, who spoke with a strong "old world" accent. "Leboits" traveled to the most rural parts of North Georgia well before 1900, reaching ... (click for more)

Chester Martin Remembers Dr. Karel Hujer

When Dr. Karel Hujer arrived in Chattanooga shortly after WWII he was easily the most highly educated member of the University of Chattanooga faculty. His degree was "Doctor of Science", (D.Sc.) from Prague's ancient Charles University in Czechoslovakia. He received further education in Ancient Astronomy in many parts of the world, including Paris, London, Egypt, Mexico, and Peru. ... (click for more)

Darrel Jones, 43, Shot And Killed On Central Avenue

Darrel Jones, 43, was shot and killed on Central Avenue on Thursday afternoon. Chattanooga Police responded to the 3600 block of Central Avenue around 3 p.m. on a report of a shooting. They located a single victim, who  succumbed to his injuries on scene. Witnesses to the incident declined to cooperate with the investigation.  Investigators continue ... (click for more)

Family Escapes Early Morning House Fire

A home was damaged by fire early Thursday morning.  The Chattanooga Fire Department received a fire call at  3:48  a.m.  and responded to 1825 Dixon Street with four fire companies. The family inside the home was awakened by a passerby knocking at the door. All of them quickly made their way outside the home to safety.  Once firefighters ... (click for more)

An Extra Helping Of Gratitude

After being thankful for the grace of God, my family and good health, this year I have an extra helping of gratitude to live in a special place called Chattanooga.   We endured the trauma of terrorism on July 16 and emerged more united and stronger than ever before.  We claim our heritage and celebrate our diversity like no other city in America.  We honor our ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Cometh ‘The Black Dog’

I am one of 350 million people in the world who suffers from clinical depression. The doctors trace it back to my first decade of the 21 st century when constant surgeries and infections knocked me loopy but the more I have found, I believe I am more like Sir Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincoln and pro football star Terry Bradshaw – I think I have had it all my life. Today it ... (click for more)