Moment: Ringgold's John B. Callaway Cotton Gin to become antique store

Moment: Ringgold's John B. Callaway Cotton Gin to become antique store

August 3rd, 2015 by Tim Barber in Local Regional News

Danny Brown, left, listens as Jim Callaway talks about the cotton gin equipment from the 1920s outside the old Callaway Cotton Gin in downtown Ringgold. The family-owned old cotton gin dates back to 1929, and is located directly across the street from Ringgold City Hall.

Photo by Tim Barber /Times Free Press.

It's an interesting partnership — a retired dairy farmer and a former car salesman.

The resulting new business is now the latest antique store to come on the scene in Ringgold, sitting directly across from the Northwest Georgia town's modern brick City Hall.

Danny Brown has made his desk in the confines of an old cotton bale scale inside the antique store at the Callaway Cotton Gin, in Ringgold.

Danny Brown has made his desk in the...

Photo by Tim Barber /Times Free Press.

The John B. Callaway Cotton Gin on High Street is an antique in itself, built in 1929. It shares a parking lot with its neighbor, Ringgold Feed and Seed Antiques. In the 1930s through 1960s, it was a family ginning business, the only one in Catoosa County.

On the morning before the blue moon last week, the farmer and the salesman stood under a huge shade tree in front of the landmark building, discussing how to update the sign.

Retired farmer Jim Callaway, born in 1935 and a son of the original owner, now owns the property. He was discussing updating signage for the vintage 1929 cotton gin with antiques aficionado and new cohort Danny Brown, who used to sell cars.

"I think we put, 'Established (Est.) 1929,'" Callaway said as he surveyed the well-aged, tin-covered wooden structure.

Brown, of LaFayette, 30 years his junior, agreed.

The two had been out front looking at an old piece of the original cotton blades rusting on the lawn amid an assortment of old sinks, workbenches, wooden dollies and old windows scattered all around.

"We're not officially open," Callaway added. "But Dan here has been working hard trying to get us to that point."

Their meeting came just six to seven weeks ago, according to Brown. "I had purchased a space to sell my antiques here in sight of the old gin building several weeks ago during the Highway 41 yard sale," he said.

Soon after, he met owner Callaway and proposed restoring the historic building and starting the business, according to the antique curator.

"That next Monday, I was on the property working away nonstop," Brown said. "For the next three days, I only went home to shower and sleep, and then I'd be right back working."

On Thursday of last week, it appeared open as antique hunters worked their way across the front porch of the old wooden structure looking closely at a bevy of items.

At the entrance of the old wooden building, covered with corrugated tin and feed signs, men in overalls rested in chairs, talking it up like it was already a favorite hangout.

The two-story, barn-shaped building revealed the character of days gone by, with original exposed beams giving a view upstairs to the huge 1950s cotton gin equipment looming overhead.

"That's Continental machinery," Callaway added. "When the power rates went up in price in the '50s, Dad decided to retool from the old Lummus gin machines like we were looking at out front and fire it up with a diesel motor."

"I was about 5 years old and Daddy gave me a crayon, or piece of chalk, and people would come in with trucks — line up all the way down 41 Highway — and they might be 30 or 40 trucks, and I'd give them a number so they wouldn't get in front of one another. So that was my first job, putting numbers on."

"We couldn't get by with it today. We'd be ginning cotton and I'd miss 15 days of school until the truancy lady would come talk to Daddy and he'd just send her away when we were busy," Callaway said. "And she wouldn't come back for a while."

With a last look around the store, Brown pointed out the desk where he handles customer purchases. It's fashioned from an old cotton bale scale and suspended a few inches off the floor, like a bale of cotton would have been decades ago.

With finds like this, it's likely to be another blue moon before another unique antiques store opens.

With decades-old cotton gin machinery high above the main floor, Danny Brown displays antiques on the first floor of the Callaway Cotton Gin store in downtown Ringgold.

Photo by Tim Barber /Times Free Press.