Small grocery stores were once common in Chattanooga’s older neighborhoods such as the old West Side/Cameron Hill area. West Side residents walked to nearby grocery stores to buy a few items or many.
Most of the West Side stores were located on either Poplar or Cedar streets which dated to Chattanooga’s original street grid pattern from the early 1800’s. Poplar was parallel to Chestnut and Cedar was above Poplar on the lower slope of Cameron Hill. Cross streets were the “West” sections of Chattanooga’s numbered downtown streets.
A partial list of the grocery stores, addresses, and proprietors includes:
Brotherton Food Market – 307 Fourth Street – Willard J. Brotherton, Sr.
Green’s Grocery – 1125 Cedar – Isaac F. Green
Jake’s Food Market - 1222 Poplar - Jacob Goldstein
J & L Food Market – 507 Cedar - Leo Rind
Kopkin’s Market – 1101 Grove – Sol Kopkin
Reingold Grocers – 416 ½ Cedar – Joseph Reingold who resided above his store. His son, Arvin, was later a prominent attorney and judge.
Though their buildings were small, neighborhood grocery stores carried a wide variety of items. Children flocked to the candy counters often located at the front of the store. Parents stopped by the display cases of meats and cheeses and waited for the store clerk to slice and wrap their orders. Phone orders and home deliveries were often available.
Some of the West Side grocers sold beer and ale. Brands such as CV (“Champagne Velvet”), 20 Grand Cream Ale, Miller High Life, and Sterling were advertised on metal signs which hung on the exteriors of the store buildings. Softer drinks such as Coca-Cola, Royal Crown, and Seven-Up can also be seen in old photographs.
To have more purchasing power in negotiations with food vendors, several of the grocers belonged to the locally based Dixie Saving Stores cooperative. The Nov. 30, 1931 Chattanooga News reported the proceedings of a first anniversary celebration held at the Colonial Baking Company. More than 300 persons were in attendance including out-of-town grocers wanting to learn more. Dixie Savings president Benjamin Ratowe gave a speech in which he said, “Our buying power is as great as any merchandising organization; thereby enabling us to meet any and all competition.”
Today, except for the College Hill Courts, Second Presbyterian, and St. Paul’s Episcopal, little remains of Chattanooga’s historic West Side from the years prior to the 1955 start of the West Side Urban Renewal project. West Side grocery stores and the residences of their customers all were eventually listed in the Chattanooga City Directory as having a “Torn Down” address status.
If you would like to share memories of the West Side grocery stores, please send an email to email@example.com.