For a time, Pruett's Food Towns represented the area's largest locally owned grocery store chain, with at least 16 stores operating in the region in the 1970s.
The undated and unidentified photo accompanying this article is from the Chattanooga News-Free Press archives and appears to be the former Pruett's Dixie Super Market on East Third Street near the Glenwood neighborhood. The store opened in 1953. By the mid-1960s the name of the East Third Street store had been changed to Pruett's Food Market.
The address for the store, 2108 E. Third St., is now occupied by a medical office building.
The Pruett's Dixie Super Market on East Third Street was owned and operated by A.C. "Clyde" Pruett, the patriarch of the Pruett's chain. By some assessments it was the city's first "supermarket." At some point the spelling of the family name associated with the stores was changed from "Pruitt's" to "Pruett's," according to news stories and advertisements.
Whenever the photo was taken, signs in the window of the store note that Campbell's tomato soup was 10 cents a can, sugar cured ham was 55 cents a pound and white potatoes were 10 pounds for 29 cents.
In 1957, a photograph and caption in the News-Free Press noted that the Pruett's Dixie Super Market had just doubled in size to 20,000 square feet, "covering an entire city block" and making it "one of the largest food stores in Tennessee," according to A.C. Pruett.
Also, according to newspaper archives, Pruett started in the grocery business in 1947 with his Tennessee Food Fair stores in Brainerd and East Ridge through which he "introduced the self-service grocery concept to Chattanooga." By the time he was operating the store on East Third Street, Pruett was described in news archives as an "original wholesale food broker, (now a) retailer selling at wholesale prices."
According to his 1998 obituary, A.C. Pruett's chain had grown to 10 stores by the mid-1970s. Then, in 1976, he purchased six M&J supermarkets here.
According to news reports, by 1976 the newly expanded, 16-store Pruett's chain was projected to do $70 million in sales annually. Among the former M&J stores was a Signal Mountain property that remains Pruett's Market and is operated by A.C. Pruett's grandson Chuck Pruett, according to the store's website.
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