From the 1960s until the early 2000s, the John Totten Discount Furniture Store was an East Ridge tradition.
Chattanoogans may remember the tagline from the store's television commercials. Totten, who died in 2002, would end his TV spots with the line, "Where we mark it up, just a little bit." He also touted his store's low overhead and bragged that customers paid only for the furniture they bought "and not the building."
Indeed, his modest storefront at 5815 Ringgold Road didn't have the fancy facade of a chain store but looked the part of a family business. The building sold in 2010 for $205,000 and in recent years it has been re-branded as a Lucky Mart, selling toys, home decor, pet supplies, shoes, handbags and other items.
This photo, which appeared in the Chattanooga News-Free Press on April 15, 1965, was not an advertisement but a political promotion. Totten, seated, is surrounded by family and friends a few days before a municipal election in which he ran for a seat on the East Ridge City Commission.
Newspaper records show that Totten received 633 votes in that election in the spring of 1965, which was not enough to gain a seat. The top five vote-getters that year, who did win seats on the commission, were G.W. White, Curtis Hixon, Clarence Bailey, William Haisten and W.D. Farley.
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The photo is part of a collection of images archived at ChattanoogaHistory.com, a website devoted to vintage photos of the city and curated by history buff Sam Hall.
According to John Totten's obituary in the Times Free Press in 2002, he operated the furniture store for 37 years. An active musician, he was known as "Slim Totten" in gospel music circles.
"He was an avid promoter of gospel music and hosted 'Gospel Music U.S.A.' on WFLI [radio] for many years," the obituary said.
He also was a U.S. Army veteran and member of the Calvary Assembly of God church.
In 1965, the year this photo was taken by News-Free Press photographer Bob Sherrill, customers could buy a whole-house suite of furniture for $871 at Totten's store. For that price, customers would receive a two-piece living room set, two end tables, a coffee table, two lamps, a three-piece bedroom set, a mattress and box springs set and a trio of Westinghouse appliances (TV, refrigerator and stove).
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