Correction: This story was updated at 10:26 a.m. on Saturday, July 25, to correct the year the photo of Kay's Ice Cream was taken to 1959 and not 1950 as a previous version incorrectly stated.
Before Baskin-Robbins became ubiquitous. Before Dairy Queen ascended to soft-serve royalty. Before Ben met Jerry. Before any of that, there was Kay's Ice Cream on Brainerd Road (later called Kay's Kastles).
By the time this 1959 photo was snapped, the Great Depression-era ice cream plant had become the hub of a growing chain of ice cream shops/restaurants in Tennessee, Georgia and Virginia.
This photo is from a collection of old Chattanooga Free Press photos found at ChattanoogaHistory.com, a website that preserves vintage images of the Tennessee Valley and is curated by history hobbyist Sam Hall.
The Kay's Ice Cream chain, established by founder F.R. "Tiny" Kollmansperger in 1933, was headquartered in this Tudor-style building at 3744 Brainerd Road, which stood as a food-service landmark for decades before being torn down late in the 20th century.
There remains a Kay's Kastles location at 8804 Dayton Pike in Soddy-Daisy, where you can still purchase ice cream, along with hot dogs and hot fudge cake. The Food City supermarket chain still carries packaged Kay's Classic ice cream, as well, although it is now produced by Mayfield Dairy Farms, according to a Knoxville news report.
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.
According to an article in the April 4, 1938 edition of the Chattanooga News, Kollmansperger was a native of Iowa who graduated from the dairy industry department of Iowa State College in 1925. After that, he came to Chattanooga and became associated with George K. Brown, a "pioneer ice cream manufacturer here."
Then, in the middle of the Great Depression, Kollmansperger started his own ice cream manufacturing plant on Brainerd Road, where pure Jersey cream was pasteurized and homogenized into 12 flavors of ice cream. In the late 1930s, a half-gallon of Kay's Ice Cream cost 73 cents.
By the chain's fifth anniversary there were Kay's Ice Cream locations on Brainerd Road, Glass Street, Frazier Avenue, Central Avenue, McCallie Avenue and Rossville Boulevard — as well as in Cleveland and Athens in Tennessee, and Dalton, Georgia. Kay's was shorthand for Kollmansperger, and eventually there were also restaurant locations in Knoxville and Maryville, Tennessee, and Roanoke, Virginia.
Newspaper advertisements from the 1930s note that Kay's Ice Cream was "wholesome, nourishing and satisfying." Not only that, but its employees were expected to be "courteous" and "above reproach morally."
The ads also boasted that Kay's ice cream cones were "the biggest thing this side of the dam."
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