When this newspaper photo was taken in 1964 there were 15 Red Food Stores in the Chattanooga area.
Can you name the location of this store? We haven't been able to confirm the publication date of this photo or locate a caption in newspaper archives.
If you think you know the spot, write to reporter Mark Kennedy at firstname.lastname@example.org. (Hint: There's a business visible next door to the supermarket apparently named "Sowell's" or "Powell's" barbershop.)
This photo was taken by a staff photographer of the Chattanooga News-Free Press. It is part of a collection of archival newspaper images on the website ChattanoogaHistory.com curated by history buff Sam Hall.
The photo is dated June 1964, and according to newspaper ads that month large watermelons were 89 cents each at Red Food Stores, ice cream sold for 59 cents a half-gallon and saltine crackers were 19 cents a box. Spam (spiced ham) and "potted meat" were also listed prominently in a full-page newspaper ad, which may say something about changing consumer tastes in the last 50-plus years.
Long-time residents of Chattanooga can tell you the corporate lineage of the popular chain of supermarkets, which went through three major branding changes in the last 27 years: from Red Food Stores to Bi-Lo to Food City.
By the 1980s, the Red Food Stores chain was the dominant grocery store group in the city, controlling about 60 percent of grocery sales here, according to old press reports.
In 1994, the Red Food Stores here were purchased for $129 million by Dutch food giant Ahold, which changed the name to Bi-Lo. Twenty-one years later, in 2015, the then-29 Bi-Lo supermarkets in the Chattanooga market (including locations in North Georgia) were purchased by Food City of Abingdon, Virginia.
Launched by history enthusiast Sam Hall in 2014, ChattanoogaHistory.com is maintained to present historical images in the highest resolution available.If you have photo negatives, glass plate negatives, or original non-digital prints taken in the Chattanooga area, contact Sam Hall for information on how they may qualify to be digitized and preserved at no charge.
A deep dive into the corporate history of the Red Food Stores chain shows that its roots trace to 1908, the same year Ford debuted the Model T. In that year a Chattanooga businessman named Frank McDonald opened a grocery store downtown and later added a fleet of 25 Roly Red Wagon Mobile Food Stores, according to newspaper records.
In 1921, McDonald sold his stores and wagons to T. Grady Parham and Ed Lindsey, a Nashville banker. In short order, the stores were sold to Horace G. Hill, who changed the name to the Hill Red Stores. Meanwhile, in 1942, Parham bought the 34-store H.G. Hill Stores chain here, which eventually became Red Food Stores Inc.
For much of the 20th Century, Red Food Stores were synonymous with grocery buying in Chattanooga. By the 1960s, the chain's corporate motto was "better food and a lower cost."
A 1964 Red Food Stores newspaper ad noted, "Since 1921 it has been our purpose to make available to you a pure, wholesome, nutritious array of quality food."
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Contact Mark Kennedy at email@example.com.