In March 1947, there were 57 cafes/restaurants within the posted limits of Johnson City (excluding those eateries in five and ten stores, drug stores and ice crème parlors). Some of the better-known ones, depending on your age, were Dixie Barbeque, Melody Lane, Guy’s Café, Derby Grill, Eddie’s Steak House, Long’s Barbeque, Market Street Café, Lucky Grill, Peerless Steak House, Spot Steak House, Dinty Moore’s and Patio Grill.
A few of the lesser recognized ones included Bacon’s Café, Fair’s Grill, Jestes Café, Maple Street Lunch Stand, Sevier Café, The Stag, Main Coffee Pot, Murr’s Place Cafe, Sports Center Sandwich Shop, Tipton’s Roxie Café, Black Hawk Restaurant and “Y” Café.
Over the years, some restaurants opened and remained in business for an extended period of time while others were short-lived. A few relocated to a more favorable location. One establishment upgraded its facilities and food choices after shutting down and remodeling its premises. Henry “Chris” Christiansen owned Christiansen’s Café at 236 E. Main Street. His wife, Vera, worked as a secretary for Sterchi Brothers Stores Inc.
The food establishment was located on the south side of E. Main between the Keys Building (Orth D. Hutchens, accountant; Carla B. Keys, President of Johnson City Enterprises, Inc.; and Tunnell’s Photographic Studio) on the west and Smythe Electric on the east.
The Johnson City Press-Chronicle announced its reopening on Saturday, March 20, 1947, with a bold headline: “East Tennessee’s Most Beautiful Restaurant Makes Its Bow!” The ad further declared: “After months and months of planning, we are pleased to present to our patrons and friends a new, beautiful Christiansen’s Café at our same location. We have long dreamed of giving to Johnson City an eating establishment comparable to the finest to be found in larger cities. With this in mind, we’ve worked untiringly through the years of shortages to present just such a restaurant to our patrons and friends. This is now a reality and on Wednesday, we invite you in to see the most modern, beautiful and complete restaurant within hundreds of miles of this city. We hope you’ll like it. Chris.”
The newspaper on that Saturday displayed several ads from local businesses offering their wishes for success, but also plugging their products or services:
Hecht’s Bakery, Inc.: “Congratulations to the new Christianssen’s Café. Try our delicious cream pies at Chris’s.”
Smythe Electric Company: “Best wishes, Chris. Johnson City may well be proud of your newly remodeled restaurant and we are proud to have played our part in its construction.”
J.E. Green, Contractor: “Congratulations to
Christiansen’s Café on the opening of our newly remodeled restaurant. We are pleased to have worked with you on this job.”
Grocers Baking Company: “Congratulations Chris. Honey Krust bread is made with pure golden honey making it fresh, wholesome and delicious. Honey Krust products – enriched white bread, whole wheat, cracked wheat, Aunt Sally’s self-rising, rye, sugar rolls and tea biscuits – are available at your cafe.”
Scruggs Equipment Company, Inc.: “Congratulations to the modernized Christiansen’s Café in Johnson City, Tennessee. Scruggs Equipment Company, Inc. of Knoxville, Tennessee, furnished the new, modern equipment and fixtures. The local representative was W.D. Chadwick from Johnson City, Tennessee.”
While I do not know when the business opened or closed, I do know that by 1953 the E. Main Street location was occupied by Jo-Ann’s Shops. If anyone can recall eating at Chris’s place, knows someone who did or can shed additional light on the former business, I would like to hear from you.