published Saturday, May 3rd, 2014

63-year-old Chattanooga company, Grant's Auto Glass Co., is closing shop as owners retire

Grant’s Auto Glass has closed because the owner is retiring.
Grant’s Auto Glass has closed because the owner is retiring.
Photo by Erin O. Smith.
  • photo
    Dena and Betty Grant are seen at Grant’s Auto Glass in Chattanooga.
    Photo by Erin O. Smith.
    enlarge photo

The Grants are going to the house.

Hanging it up. Calling it quits.

Retiring.

"We're all going to go home and rest for a while," said Betty Grant, matriarch of the family who owns and operates Grant's Auto Glass Co. in Chattanooga.

And after 63 years doing auto glass and part work in Chattanooga, it's time.

"They're going to miss us when we're gone," said Dena Grant, her daughter.

Mike -- Betty's son and Dena's brother -- popped in from the garage through a windowed door and shooed the family's in-office dogs out of the way.

The Grants are tying up loose ends, finishing odd jobs and dismantling 50 years of residency on South Market Street.

The shop officially closed on April 25. The phone rings and rings when you call.

This is how it will be until June 22, which is the Grants' deadline to get out of their Southside building. Betty Grant said this week that a cabinet company has purchased the property.

The keys will be handed over to a non-Grant for the first time since either 1961 or 1963 -- Betty and Mike can't agree on which it is.

Either way, it's been a long ride.

And far longer than Betty ever imagined way back in 1951, when her husband, the late Rex Grant, decided to open an automobile glass repair shop in Chattanooga.

"I thought 'Oh my god. We'll starve to death,'" she remembers.

But 63 years later, and almost 40 years since Rex's passing, the auto glass shop has continued to provide a living for the family that Rex Grant left behind.

And that's a legacy too close to the chest to hand off to strangers.

"You don't want to up and just give it to anybody," said Dena Grant.

That decision to close rather than sell is not typical when a business is healthy.

"Generally, [businesses] will try to sell it," said Sharon Moreland, director at the Tennessee Small Business Development Center in Chattanooga. "We see really more of that than anything."

If there was a clear choice to take over Grant's, Dena Grant says maybe they would sell.

But "nobody does what we do," she said.

A family of true tradesmen, who do little things, big things, "anything pertaining to automobile glass," Mike Grant said before shuffling back through the office, hitting the door and getting back to the garage.

The dogs shuffled around, got comfortable and laid down for naps.

And that's that.

A hand-written, cardboard sign taped to the office door thanks six decades' worth of customers but politely turns them away.

It's not all that sad, said Dena. At least not for the family.

She just hates to leave the customers to find someone else.

"You just don't find anymore people who can do what my brothers do," she said.

Contact staff writer Alex Green at agreen@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6480.

about Alex Green...

Alex Green joined the Times Free Press staff full-time in January 2014 after completing the paper's six-month, general assignment reporter internship. Alex grew up in Dayton, Tenn., which is also where he studied journalism at Bryan College. He graduated from Rhea County High School in 2008. During college, Alex covered the city of Graysville and the town of Spring City for The Herald-News. As editor-in-chief of Bryan College's student news group, Triangle, Alex reported on ...

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