In 1954, the busy corner of Brained Road and South Germantown Road was undergoing changes.
The Hodge Furniture store, a fixture at the intersection for a decade, was moving to Hixson Shopping Center on Hixson Pike, and its building — at the center of the accompanying photo — was being converted into a branch of the Miller Brothers department store.
Although the photo here from the Chattanooga News-Free Press archives via ChattanoogaHistory.com is undated, the marquee for the adjacent Brainerd Theater suggests the image is from some time in mid- to late 1954.
"Saskatchewan," a 1954 motion picture staring actors Alan Ladd and Shelly Winters, was playing at the theater, and a deep dive into the photo shows customers lined up to buy tickets.
The change in location for Hodge Furniture was well-documented in newspaper articles and advertisements in the summer and fall of 1954.
At the time, Hixson was becoming one of Chattanooga's fastest-growing middle-class suburbs, and the move was clearly designed to boost business at the furniture store. In an advertisement heralding the opening of the new, 7,500-square-foot furniture store on Hixson Pike, owner J. Clyde Hodge alluded to just that.
"With 29 years in the furniture business, our plan is to handle furniture in price ranges suitable to the needs of the many new home owners of this section (of the county)," Hodge, who had been called "the dean of the Chattanooga furniture business," wrote in the ad.
J. Clyde Hodge and his brother, Harry, had been in business together at the Brainerd Road store but parted ways before the move to Hixson. J. Clyde Hodge, a Chattanooga native, got his start in the furniture business as a salesman in 1923 after serving in World War I. He subsequently held management and sales positions at furniture stores in North Alabama; Asheville, North Carolina; and Augusta, Georgia, before returning to his hometown to open his own store.
In 1954, Miller Brothers Co. leaders saw the Brainerd property as a good spot to expand a department store business that had roots in the city going back to 1889. The company spent freely to remodel the building and add parking spaces. (The era of suburban shopping malls had not yet begun in 1954.)
The Chattanooga Times reported on the Brainerd Millers' opening: "When the doors open for business, customers will find an attractive department store with the latest styles of equipment and fixtures."
Meanwhile, in Hixson, the new Hodge Furniture Store was joining an emerging shopping district. The furniture store was part of an expansion of the Hixson Shopping Center in 1954 that also included the addition of a clothing store, a supermarket and a restaurant.
A grand opening newspaper advertisement pointed out that the new Hodge Furniture Store was only a 20-minute drive from downtown Chattanooga and would only be about a 30-minute drive from Brainerd once the then-under-construction Wilkes T. Thasher (Chickamauga Dam) Bridge was completed.
"All our friends and former customers of the Brainerd Road store will be most welcome," J. Clyde Hodge said in a newspaper advertisement touting the Hixson store.
In the early 1960s, Hodge sold the Hixson store to the Fowler Brothers Furniture owners here, and he continued to work for that company for several years.
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 nondigital prints taken in the Chattanooga area, contact Sam Hall for information on how they may qualify to be digitized and preserved at no charge.