What Did That Building Used to Be? St. Elmo Shoe Shop

Sunday, January 3, 2016 - by Harmon Jolley

Being a tourist gateway to the Lookout Mountain attractions, the St. Elmo business district today has several nice restaurants and shops for visitors.  In years past, the district had businesses which primarily catered to residents.  There was Incline Drugs which had a large 3D neon mortar-and-pestle as its signage.  Incline Hardware, Mrs. J.E. Jones Grocery, Redford’s 5-and-10-cent Store, and Zahnd’s Dry Goods were shoppers’ delights.  A barber and a physician each took care of needs of the community.  For many years Frank A. Lombardo, proprietor of the St. Elmo Shoe Shop, crafted and repaired leather items.

Frank Lombardo spent his early years in Sandusky, Ohio but lived most of his life in Chattanooga.  His wife was also from Sandusky.  They married in 1936.

When Mr. Lombardo was sixteen, he worked for a statuary shop run by Z. Stefano Giulano and helped to carve the eagle statues that are located at Eagles Nest (http://www.hikelookout.org/trails/eagles.php), an interesting site near the Ruby Falls parking lot.

Mr. Lombardo also was a musician in his younger years, playing the saxophone and clarinet.

He and his father had a shoe shop on Main Street prior to moving to St. Elmo.  The Lombardos had a shop near the Incline Restaurant, then in 1948 moved into a new building at 3815 St. Elmo Avenue.  The business was originally called the St. Elmo Shoe Hospital, but was renamed to St. Elmo  Shoe Shop after Mr. Lombardo tired of receiving prank calls asking if it was a real hospital.

I recall visiting the shoe shop several times with my father when we lived in St. Elmo.  The aroma of leather and polish greeted each visitor.  It was striking to see how many tools, machines, and leather items were packed into such a small building.  Mr. Lombardo would be busy working, and would tell us “Be right with you” as he worked towards a stopping point on repairing an item.

Frank Lombardo gave back to his community by teaching leather craftsmanship to students at Lookout Jr. High in St. Elmo and at Howard.

A feature article in the March 27, 1988 Chattanooga News-Free Press provided readers with photographs and narrative of Frank Lombardo and his work.  In addition to repairing shoes, he also was an artist who crafted leather into pictures and portraits.  He used a Newsweek cover photo of President Dwight D. Eisenhower as reference for a portrait tooled in leather.  President Eisenhower thanked him in a signed letter on White House stationery.

Originally planning to retire in 1988, Frank Lombardo kept his shop open until 1991.  His daughters had been helping with operation of the business.  Throwaway shoes on the market, high cost of materials, and failing eyesight led to his decision to retire.  He was 76 years old when he closed business for the final time.  Frank Lombardo passed away on August 7, 2002.

Other businesses have since occupied the space of the former shoe shop.  St. Elmo’s Fire, Mojo Burrito, and most recently, Finders Keeper, have done business there.

Source information for this article came from Mr. Lombardo’s obituary, the aforementioned Chattanooga News-Free Press article, information shared by Frannie Narramore (one of Mr. Lombardo’s daugters), and my personal recollection of the business.

If you have memories of the St. Elmo Shoe Shop, please e-mail me at jolleyh@bellsouth.net.  I’ll update this article with some of your memories.

Memories of Readers

Mr Lombardo also repaired and re-strung our baseball gloves. He also helped with our cleats. Often for free or material cost only!



Burma Shave Signs

Years ago my uncle Alf (A.T.) Connelly, a WWII vet, upon returning to civilian life, worked as a sign painter for the then Atomic Energy Commission in Oak Ridge, Tn. He painted miniature sets of Burma Shave signs. Attached is a photo of one of those sets. The signs read as follows: “They missed the turn, Car was whizzin’, The fault her’n, The funeral his’n, Burma Shave”.  ... (click for more)

Brooks Family Was Among Earliest Settlers Of Sale Creek

Joseph Brooks was one of the earliest settlers at Sale Creek when it was part of Rhea County. Three of his nieces along with their husbands were Hamilton County pioneers. Joseph Brooks and his brother, Moses Brooks, were sons of John Brooks, who was born in Ireland about 1730. He made his way to Philadelphia and lived a short time in Pennsylvania before going with the tide of ... (click for more)

McCallie Coach From 90s Who Is Now Deceased Is Accused Of Abusing Students

A McCallie School coach from the 1990s who is now deceased is being accused of abusing students at the private prep school. Two former students said Steven Lee "Steve" Carpenter sexually abused them. Carpenter was the basketball coach at McCallie for 11 seasons - through 1999. He was boys basketball coach at Ridgeland High School beginning in 2000. Carpenter was ... (click for more)

Famed Radio Broadcaster Tommy Jett Dies At 77 At His Flintstone Home

Legendary radio broadcaster, Tommy Jett, (Thomas Wayne Reynolds) died Wednesday in his sleep at his residence in Flintstone, Ga.   He was 77. The native of Smithville, Tn., first was heard on Chattanooga radio in 1961 when he joined WFLI. He was known for his gaudy rings and his "Hey Now" greeting. He switched to country on WDOD in the 1980s and later was on "The ... (click for more)

Pluses And Minuses Of Tennessee's New Opioid Law

It was clear when Governor Haslam announced his TN Together plan in January that lawmakers were going to do something to try to address the state’s opioid abuse epidemic. With the passage of SB 2257/HB 1831, Tennessee now has one of the most comprehensive and restrictive laws of any state.   The Tennessee Medical Association was actively engaged in the process and appreciates ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: ‘We’ll Lose The Senate!’

A guy who I admire and respect wrote me yesterday. He had just read my story defending Bob Corker for honoring “The Code” due to his true friendship with Phil Bredesen. He is also no stranger to my vivid dislike of the Republican choice to replace Corker in the Senate. Marsha Blackburn is no match against Bredesen on any tier and it is clearly the Republican Party itself that has ... (click for more)