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!


Signal Mountain Genealogical Society Meets Nov. 6

The Signal Mountain Genealogical Society will meet at 1 p.m. on  Tuesday, Nov. 6 , at the Signal Mountain Public Library.  The speaker for the day will be Linda Mines, a well-known historian within the Chattanooga area and the official historian for Chattanooga and Hamilton County.  She is the First Vice-Regent of the Chief John Ross Chapter of the Daughters ... (click for more)

What Was That Stone Arch Halfway Up Lookout Mountain?

As a child in the early- to mid-70s the majority of our summer vacations were to Tennessee - a stop in Chattanooga then on to Gatlinburg.  We always visited the Incline, Ruby Falls and Rock City.    On the way up Lookout Mountain, I’m not sure of the road, there was a stone/cement type monument along the roadway with what looked to be a tongue sticking out ... (click for more)

Chattanooga Police Investigating Shooting That Victim Says Happened A Week Ago

Chattanooga Police responded to a local hospital on Friday evening after a person arrived with a gunshot wound.   The injured man told police he was shot on Thursday, Oct. 11. He said he was shot while on the dance floor of a club somewhere along Brainerd Road.   If you have any information about the incident, call Chattanooga Police at 423-698-2525. You ... (click for more)

Charles Pipkens, Lajeromeney Brown Arrested In Series Of Violent Home Invasions In Which Robbers Posed As Police

Chattanooga Police have arrested Charles Dijon Pipkens and Lajeromeney Brown in connection with a series of violent home invasions in which the suspects told their victims they were Chattanooga Police officers.. Pipkens, 27, was charged in an Aug. 11 case and Brown, 40, in an incident on Sept. 19. Pipkens, of 434 N. Hickory St., is charged with two counts of aggravated kidnapping, ... (click for more)

Teach For America Raises Concerns

For the last several years, many groups, individuals and parties interested in preserving public education for our children have stood firm as a rampantly growing privatization movement has descended upon our local educational landscape.  We saw last year the Department of Education push a plan that would form a partnership zone which could potentially lead to schools in the ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Inequality & The Left

The story is told about a liberal politician who was getting a room full of snowflakes all heated up over equity and equality, which is big with the political Left right now. One of his handlers finally got the chance and whispered in his ear, “Use ‘fairness’ instead! That’s what sells … “ Afterwards a newspaper column read, “The liberals love fairness because it cannot be measured. ... (click for more)