Today's residents of Signal Mountain might not recognize this particular cluster of retail stores in the Signal Plaza Shopping Center.
This photo was taken in March 1966, weeks after the ribbon cutting for Signal Mountain Plaza, 1210 Taft Highway. None of the businesses in the old, black-and-white photo remain today.
Instead of a supermarket and a dime store, today this property is occupied by a Regions Bank branch, Accents gift store, All Creatures Great and Small gift shop, the Southern Star take-out restaurant and El Metate Mexican restaurant.
But back in the day, it was a grocery shopping hub, home to the M&J Super Market, part of a former regional chain with stores across the Chattanooga area. M&J, which stands for Mulkey and Jackson, opened three stores here in 1965-66 alone, including this Signal Mountain location along with stores in Brainerd Village and Highland Plaza in Hixson, according to newspaper archives.
In the 1970s, M&J Super Markets were sold to another local grocery group, Pruett's Food Town, a family business that continues to operatetoday as Pruett's Signal Mountain Market on a nearby property.
The M&J Super Market on Signal Mountain, pictured here, opened in January 1966. Joel Smith was the manager, according to a report in the Chattanooga News-Free Press, and William Ragland was the president.
In 1966, the Signal Mountain supermarket was heralded in a news report for having "a complete delicatessen department offering barbecue, salads, meats and homemade pies and cakes."
When Signal Plaza opened in 1966, the six original stores were M&J Super Market, the Drug Shop, the Prissy Hen, the Town Shop, Rolf's Coiffures and the U.S. 5&10 Cent Store.
U.S. 5&10 was part of a vast American network of so-called dime stores, also known as variety stores. Dime stores fell out of favor in the 1970s and 1980s as shopping malls became popular across the country.
Taking a deep dive into the EPB photo uncovers a trove of grocery specials and promotions offered at the M&J Super Market. A quarter would buy a customer a can of chili beans, a container of apple sauce or a four-pound portion of sweet potatoes. Round steak, meanwhile, was 89 cents a pound, and franks were 49 cents a pack.
Signs in the store's window touted a giveaway featuring "two $500 savings bonds" and a Bingo game with a $100 cash prize.
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