Remembering the Kirk Supermarkets

Friday, January 22, 2010 - by Harmon Jolley
J.W. Kirk collaborated with Pruett's on this December 1, 1955 advertisement.  Click to enlarge.  Typical of most grocers, trading stamps were offered as incentives.  Click to enlarge.
J.W. Kirk collaborated with Pruett's on this December 1, 1955 advertisement. Click to enlarge. Typical of most grocers, trading stamps were offered as incentives. Click to enlarge.

Grocery stores keep getting bigger. When I was growing up in St. Elmo, there were still some very small stores such as Mrs. J.E. Jones and Scharf’s. The latter had a candy counter with those fake wax teeth, wax lips, and small wax bottles with multi-colored sugar water. I didn’t have much of a vision of the future worth of things; I bought some Beatles bubblegum at Scharf’s and enjoyed the gum but threw away the photo cards.

The next generation of grocers was represented by stores like the A&P, Goodlett’s, M&J, Pruett’s, and Red Food. They were usually located in brick buildings with large glass windows. It was someone’s weekly job to make advertising signs on large sheets of white paper, and then to paste them onto the storefront panes. The stores placed several pages of advertisements in the newspaper each week.

The Kirks – John William (“J.W.”) Jr. and Herbert Clay – were two local grocers who were part of the food markets’ rise beyond the mom-and-pop level. They were natives of Cobb County, and moved to Chattanooga in the 1930’s. In 1933, H.C. Kirk opened the Big Apple Fruit Store. He continued to label some grocery items with the name “Big Apple” over the course of his career in the grocery business.

By 1940, Herbert was the owner of two Fresh Food Markets, one 3607 Rossville Boulevard and another at 433 Cherokee Boulevard. J.W. was a clerk at the second store.

In the mid-1940’s, the Kirk stores went by the name of Kirk’s Supermarkets. Both men were listed in the city directory as owners.

The two added other stores by 1950, including 1302 East Main Street, 3952 Brainerd Road, 2207 Broad Street, and 426 Frazier Avenue. Kirk’s also had stores on each end of Ninth Street – one at 326 East Ninth and another at 402 West Ninth to serve the residents of downtown.

By the time that the 1960’s began, the two Kirks appear to have become competitors in the supermarket business. H.C. Kirk built Kirk Plaza between Twenty-Third Street and Rossville Boulevard, and opened a large grocery store there. After the building was destroyed by a 1964 fire, an even larger building was erected in its place. Four years later, however, Kirk Plaza was sold at auction. The site later became the home of Gibson’s Discount Center.

H.C. Kirk relocated to Titusville, Florida and became the owner of the one hundred acre Florida Wonderland tourist attraction. This was located at Indian River City. H.C. Kirk also continued his grocery career by becoming president of the Jewell Stores.

J.W. Kirk, meanwhile, had established his own grocery store at 2413 Fourth Avenue across from the East Lake Courts. Like many stores of its era, it was a red brick building with large plate glass windows. The business served the residents of the East Lake and Highland Park communities, as well as those from other parts of town.

The J.W. Kirk Grocery took on other names in future decades. In the 1970’s, it was called Kirk Food City, and in the 1980’s, it was the Time Saver Food Store.

Herbert C. Kirk passed away in 1978 and John W. Kirk in 1984. Both men would likely be astounded by the size of today’s super-sized supermarkets, and by the variety of products sold within their businesses.

If you have memories of any of the Kirk groceries, or of Florida Wonderland, please send me an e-mail at jolleyh@bellsouth.net.


East Tennessee Historical Society Honors Hamilton County Initiative With Award Of Excellence In East Tennessee History

Hamilton County History Scholars To Compete In National Competition

Chattanooga Area Historical Association Meets June 13


The East Tennessee Historical Society’s annual Awards of Excellence were presented at the organization’s Awards Ceremony on Tuesday, June 7, at the Museum of East Tennessee History in Knoxville. ... (click for more)

Four Hamilton County students who placed first or second in their categories at this year’s Tennessee History Day contest will represent Tennessee at National History Day competition beginning ... (click for more)

The Chattanooga Area Historical Association will meet Monday, June 13, at 6 p.m. at the First Presbyterian Church, 554 McCallie Ave. David Cooper will discuss the six churches in Chattanooga ... (click for more)



Memories

East Tennessee Historical Society Honors Hamilton County Initiative With Award Of Excellence In East Tennessee History

The East Tennessee Historical Society’s annual Awards of Excellence were presented at the organization’s Awards Ceremony on Tuesday, June 7, at the Museum of East Tennessee History in Knoxville. Since 1982, the Society has annually recognized individuals and organizations that have made significant contributions to the preservation, promotion, programming and interpretation of ... (click for more)

Hamilton County History Scholars To Compete In National Competition

Four Hamilton County students who placed first or second in their categories at this year’s Tennessee History Day contest will represent Tennessee at National History Day competition beginning June 12. After competing in regional contests across the state, 241 students advanced to this year’s Tennessee History Day competition, held the first two weeks of April. At Tennessee ... (click for more)

Breaking News

EPA Awarding Brownfield Grant At Site Of Planned Lookouts Stadium

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Deputy Administrator Janet McCabe on Wednesday is set to present the city of Chattanooga with Brownfield program cleanup and assessment grants at the site of a planned new $79.5 million stadium to be used by the Lookouts. The press conference will be at the U.S. Pipe/Wheland site. The grant is "to help spur economic revitalization ... (click for more)

$79.5 Million Stadium Touted As Catalyst For Major Project At Long-Blighted Wheland/U.S. Pipe Site; Lookouts To Pay $1 Million Annually To Lease "Community" Stadium

More than 100 acres of the long-neglected U.S. Pipe and Wheland Foundry sites "will begin transforming into a world-class live-work-play district that will generate more than $40 million for schools," Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger and Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly announced at a press conference at the site on Thursday. Flanked by nationally renowned master developer Jim ... (click for more)

Opinion

New Stadium Does Not Pass The Smell Test - And Response

I can't find any logical reasons that the new Lookout stadium is being placed where it is other than to think it's a combination of favoritism and eliminating an eyesore. All statistics point to an illogical decision coupled with questionable tax breaks/support. Lookouts average attendance in 2018 (all that I could quickly find) was 3,206 per game and ranked 74th among ... (click for more)

School Achievement Tied To Funding?

My career was in the public schools of several states. I never drew the connection to funding for schools and achievement until later. This is what I have found. The states of the deep south are run by Republicans. In all of them, educational achievement is poor. Is there a connection between funding for schools and achievement? The answer to that should be a resounding "yes." ... (click for more)