Downtown Shannon: New life moving into the once robust area

By JB Clark/NEMS Daily Journal

SHANNON – There are few signs of life in downtown Shannon now that Shannon Town Hall has moved to Highway 145 along with most of the businesses once located downtown, but two local food truck owners are hoping to revive the last vestige of the Shannon’s once-thriving downtown.
The T.W. Francis Grocery stayed downtown when most of the city’s businesses moved to Highway 145.
Mary Lee Helms, daughter of the store’s owner Soc Francis, said she can remember when the streets were crowded from people making their monthly trips to town.
“On Saturdays we would have something going on, I can’t remember what, where there would be a drawing and the streets would be full of people and there were many merchants around that time,” Helms said.
The grocery store closed in January 1980 and was turned into Shannon Fish and Steak at one point but has been vacant for years. The city is leasing it now to John Wooten and Nate Wigginton, who have done business through John’s Place in Saltillo, Johnnie’s Drive In, Wigg’s Barbecue and Wooten’s Wagon Wheel.
The two are preparing the rustic wood and brick storefront to become Double Barrel Steakhouse.
Helms said she remembers many of the men in Shannon would hang around the rustic grocery store before it closed.
“They would sit on the front porch and tell their tales and in the wintertime they would gather around the gas heater and do their talking,” she said. “There would be people that lived here in town and others would travel in.”
Lee County Sheriff Jim Johnson said he remembers the late Major League Baseball Pitcher Guy Bush telling his stories at the T.W. Francis Grocery.
Bush pitched two games for the Chicago Cubs in the 1929 World Series against the Philadelphia Athletics. He is probably most famous for his May 25, 1935, performance for the Pittsburgh Pirates against the Boston Braves, in which he gave up Babe Ruth’s final home run.
Wigginton said they hope to be successful in the attempt to revitalize a piece of Shannon’s downtown.
The two had been in search of a building for a new restaurant when the opportunity presented itself.
“John was cooking a Christmas party over here, steaks on the back porch, and the city let him serve them in the building,” Wigginton said. “The building was for lease and his wife’s family and some friends are from here. I know a lot of people from this area and Brewer so we decided to give it a shot.”
They will start out serving dinner on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.
“I’m glad to see it being used and I just hope somebody can get in it and stay there and make a good business out of it,” Helms said. “I know I dipped many an ice cream cone for a nickel.”
Helms said before everyone moved to the highway, businesses lined each side of Broad Street and Boyd Avenue.
The City’s Police Department will soon add new life to the old Shannon Town Hall on Boyd Avenue. The new Town Hall on Highway 145 gives the city much needed office and court space.
jb.clark@journalinc.com