When Matt and Monica Smith graduated from a chiropractic college in Marietta, Georgia, three and a half years ago, they thought they were headed to the San Francisco Bay area to set up shop.
But a quick visit to the West Coast followed by an impulse to check out Chattanooga changed their minds and, in the process, changed their emerging family history.
The Smiths' story is the one of Chattanooga's newfound magnetism in microcosm. The pair, now the parents of two small children — Rocky, 3, and Lyon Rose, 9 months — own and operate the REV Centre for Optimal Living chiropractic office on Frazier Avenue.
Matt does most of the adjusting now, and Monica takes care of the kids. But that arrangement might change down the way as the children get older.
Monica, 32, grew up in Middle Tennessee and played soccer in college at Austin Peay State University. Matt went to college at Saint Leo University in Florida, where he played baseball. Both battled health issues in young adulthood, which increased their empathy for people in chronic pain.
The two met in college, and during their last semester at Life University in 2015, they had their sights set on a move to California. They had even purchased a "tiny house" in Georgia that they planned to haul to the Bay Area as a hedge against the high cost of real estate there.
During the fall of 2015, they took a trip to San Francisco to scout living locations. But a funny thing happened. Monica said she knew almost immediately that Northern California was not a good fit for them.
"I knew there was a place for us to raise a family and start a practice," she said. "But I knew this [the San Francisco Bay area] was not the place."
Call it intuition. Monica said she can't put her finger on exactly what changed her mind, but the vibe in San Francisco was all wrong.
Together, Matt and Monica were so sure of their about-face feelings that they cut short their planned seven-day trip to California and took a red-eye flight back to Atlanta. The next morning, after only getting a few hours of sleep, they drove to Chattanooga.
"I was disappointed because I was looking forward to living on the West Coast," Matt said.
The two had driven through Chattanooga many times on their way to visit Monica's family in Middle Tennessee. They had often commented about the breathtaking natural beauty of Lookout Mountain and the Tennessee River while driving around Moccasin Bend on Interstate 24 — they even told one another that they needed to find such a place in California. But much like they had relied on a gut feeling on their visit to San Francisco, their reaction to their first real visit to Chattanooga was equally visceral, although in a positive way.
On their scouting visit here, the two gravitated to the North Shore and were instantly smitten with the area.
"We loved the look of the North Shore. It was quaint and welcoming," Monica said. "We felt the vibe was more holistic."
"We both looked at each other and said, 'This is where we are supposed to be,'" Matt said.
Soon, the pair leased an office on Frazier Avenue and brought their tiny house to Chattanooga. They were disappointed to learn that the city wasn't yet "tiny-house friendly," but that was their only complaint. They later moved into a small North Shore apartment and eventually into a single-family residence less than a mile away from their work.
Looking back, the two have never second-guessed their decision to move here.
"I think it's a special place," Monica said of Chattanooga. "It's growing. It has the mountains. It has lots of local businesses.
"It feels like it's always been our home," she said. "It's confirmation that our intuition was on point."
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