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This building at 3889 Hixson Pike was originally Shap's Big Boy restaurant, later renamed Shoney's Big Boy. Photo contributed by ChattanoogaHistory.com.

This story was updated at 4:17 p.m. on Thursday, April 30, 2020, with more information.

The mere address — 3889 Hixson Pike — might be meaningless to you.

But if you drive through the Hixson area frequently, you will probably recognize the building — a funky, futuristic structure with a geometric roof.

Today, the building is occupied by the Summitt Pianos store which relocated there a year ago after a fire destroyed its previous location on Lee Highway.

Over its six decades of existence, though, the building with the swoopy roof has also been a family restaurant, a bar, a beauty salon, a stone store and an archery store.

The black and white photo shown here is part of the ChattanoogaHistory.com archive, a collection of documentary photos curated by local history buff Sam Hall. The photo was provided to the web site by EPB. 

If you're a baby boomer, you might even remember the Hixson Pike structure as a former Shoney's Big Boy restaurant in the 1960s and 1970s. Before that it was called, Shap's Big Boy, which opened in the summer of 1959 next to the then-new Highland Plaza Shopping Center, which opened just months earlier.

"Shoney's was the hottest thing north of the river for years — into the early 1970s," says long-time resident Tom Quillen. "It was THE hangout for Hixson and Red Bank teenagers for most of the 1960s."

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Today, 3889 Hixson Pike is home to Summitt Pianos. It has also been a stone store, a bar, a family restaurant, a beauty salon and an archery store. Photo by Mark Kennedy.
 

Indeed, the iconic Big Boy, a rotund, cow-licked figure in red-checked overalls hoisting a triple-decker burger, was ubiquitous in the Southeast for decades. With curb service, the Big Boy restaurants in Hixson and Brainerd were the top teen hangouts of their day, residents remember.

According to Shoney's corporate history, the first Shoney's drive-in restaurant was opened in Charleston, West Virginia in 1947. The Big Boy brand was adopted in 1952 and dropped in 1977 as the name was shortened to simply Shoney's.

In the beginning, the Big Boy franchises often included the name of the owner. In the case of the Hixson restaurant, Shap's Big Boy was named for the manager, I. Shapiro.

A report in the Aug. 16, 1959 Chattanooga Times noted that the $250,000 building "has a sharply sloping roof which extends beyond the glass walls to concrete supports just above the ground level." The article also noted that the building had seating for 138 guests and parking for 72 vehicles.

Such "saddle roofs" were a type of geometric post-war architecture that used shape, not mass, to create structural strength, according to designbuildings.com.

Follow the "Remember when, Chattanooga?" series on Facebook here.

Contact Mark Kennedy at mkennedy@timesfreepress.com.

More Info

Launched by history enthusiast Sam Hall in 2014, ChattanoogaHistory.com is designed to preserve historical images in the highest resolution available. If you have photo old negatives, glass plate negatives, or original nondigital prints taken in the Chattanooga area, contact Sam Hall at samhall@chattanoogatn.biz for information on how they may qualify to be digitized and preserved at no charge.

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