Remember When, Chattanooga? Zayre was the anchor of Golden Gateway

Also: Last week's Red Food Store mystery solved

This shopping center, featuring a Zayre's department store and a Red Food Store, opened in Golden Gateway in 1964. EPB photo courtesy of

Unlike last week's mystery photo of a Red Food Store in East Lake - more about that below - the shopping complex pictured here should be easy to identify for long-time Chattanooga residents.

This January 1965 photo shows the Zayre department store and Red Food Store shopping center in Golden Gateway, part of a sprawling mid-century "urban renewal" project west of downtown. Golden Gateway offered a suburban-style shopping center with ample free parking just blocks from the center of downtown Chattanooga.

The photo is part of a collection of EPB images at, a website dedicated to preserving vintage photos of the city and curated by Sam Hall, a local history enthusiast.

Opened in October of 1964, the Golden Gateway complex included the 125,000-square-foot Zayre departent store and the largest of the 15 Red Food Stores then in the region, according to newspaper archives. The shopping center was on the north side of West Ninth Street (now M.L. King Boulevard) west of Highway 27.

Zayre was a Framingham, Massachusetts-based chain of discount stores that originated in 1956. At the time of the opening of this Chattanooga Zayre store, it was said to be the largest in the chain, which operated until 1990. From its first store in 1956, the Zayre chain had grown to 56 stores in 18 states by the time the Golden Gateway location opened here. By 1964, the company was also reporting $150 million a year in revenues.

A description of the store in the Chattanooga News-Free Press in 1964 noted that its departments included appliances, fashions, shoes, toys, sporting goods and cosmetics. Customers entering through the glass front doors could take an escalator down to the store's full-service automotive department, or climb stairs to an expansive beauty salon.

With the adjacent Red Food Store, the shopping center catered to almost every retail need. The Zayre store in Golden Gateway remained open until 1989, according to newspaper archives. The property was purchased in 1990 by Blue Cross-Blue Shield of Tennessee.


Last week's mystery photo of an unidentified Red Food Store location drew dozens of e-mails from readers who thought they knew its location.

Guesses included Broad Street, Riverview, East Third Street, Hixson Pike, Red Bank, East Brainerd, Holtzclaw Avenue, North Crest Road and East Ridge.

Launched by history enthusiast Sam Hall in 2014, 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.

But it was alert reader Steve Robinson who definitively solved the mystery by taking a deep dive into the photograph. Adjacent to the store is a barbershop with the name ending in ... O-W-E-L-L'S. (The first letter is hidden.) We speculated it might be "Powell's" or "Sowell's" barbershop.

Neither, says Robinson. It was "Howell's."

"This Red Food Store was located at the corner of Fourth Avenue and 25th Street. The barbershop next door was Howell's. ... I worked as a bag boy in the old Red Food Store and as a shoeshine boy in the barbershop as a boy," Robinson wrote.

Indeed, when we checked old address records, there was a Howell's Barber Shop at 2557 Fourth Ave. in East Lake and a Red Food Store at 2555 Fourth Ave. Mystery solved!

As Robinson correctly noted in his e-mail, this corner is now the location of the Boys and Girls Club of Chattanooga East Lake Unit.

Thank you to all of those who wrote in to guess. (Several others pegged the Fourth Avenue location as well.)

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"Remember When, Chattanooga?" publishes on Saturday. Contact Mark Kennedy at