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!

John Shearer: Former American National Bank Building Turns 50

One of Chattanooga’s longtime depositors and loaners of money has collected its own form of gold this year.   The 20-story SunTrust Bank building downtown – originally built as the locally based American National Bank’s headquarters -- is reaching its golden anniversary with its 50 th  birthday.   In the early fall of 1968, the structure opened at Market ... (click for more)

The Signal Mountain Genealogical Society To Meet Aug. 7

The Signal Mountain Genealogical Society will meet at 1 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 7.  The meeting will be held at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1160 Ridgeway Ave. Signal Mountain.  The speaker, Susan Gruwell, will present a program entitled, "Spotlight on Family Search."  Visitors are welcome. (click for more)

Chancellor Fleenor Sets Aug. 6 Hearing In Democratic Suit To Keep Robin Smith Off The Ballot; Ms. Smith Was Former Campaign Advisor To Judge

Hamilton County Chancellor Pam McNutt Fleenor has set a hearing for Aug. 6 at 1:30 p.m. on a lawsuit brought by the Tennessee Democratic Party seeking to keep former state GOP Chairman Robin Smith off the ballot. Ms. Smith was a campaign advisor for Ms. McNutt Fleenor when she ran for judge in 2014. Her Rivers Edge Alliance was paid $13,546.86 by the McNutt Fleenor campaign, ... (click for more)

Police Say One Gang Member Shot Another After Both Just Left Gang Meeting At Mayor's Office

Police said one gang member shot another after both had just left a meeting at the mayor's office aimed at quelling gang violence. Kevin Dewayne Bush was arrested for shooting Keyshawn Kidd on May 29. Bush, 20, of 17th Street, is charged with attempted first-degree murder, reckless endangerment and unlawful possession of a firearm. Police said Kidd was returning to his ... (click for more)

Not My University: Why I’m Not Okay With Mike Pence Coming To Lee University - And Response (2)

As a student of Lee University, who is well-aware of the Lee administration’s more conservative stance in politics, I am upset about Mike Pence visiting the university and being welcomed on our campus. Although I respect that Pence is in a position of authority as our nation’s Vice President, and that he likewise deserves the right to hold his own opinions in regards to the issues ... (click for more)

Employee Who Stole From East Ridge Should Be Prosecuted

Why has the East Ridge employee who was fired for theft not been charged with theft?    City Manager Scott Miller made the statement that the employee had problems and that the stolen items were returned.  What does that have to do with the employee stealing ?   He has had a history of abuse of city resources. Why is he not being prosecuted? ... (click for more)