Krystal, the Southern fast-food chain with small square burgers, was founded ninety years ago here in Chattanooga, Tennessee, in the midst of the Great Depression. It’s one of the oldest fast-food restaurants in the United States. Krystal restaurant signs continue to dot Chattanooga streets today.
To mark the anniversary, Special Collections has opened a new exhibit, “Home-grown in Chattanooga: 90 Years of Krystal, 1932-2022 – Selections from the Krystal records and memorabilia collection.” The exhibit is on view in the Andrew Roth Grand Reading Room on the fourth floor of the Library through December 9, 2022.
The very first Krystal restaurant – conceived as a clean place to get hot food at inexpensive prices – opened on October 24, 1932, in a 10-by-25-foot building on the corner of Seventh and Cherry Streets in Chattanooga.
Over the years, Krystal spread to eleven states, trying out many new logos, food items, restaurant designs, and marketing campaigns as the times changed.
The company moved its headquarters from Chattanooga to the Atlanta, Georgia, area in 2013. That same year, the Krystal company donated its records to UTC. The Krystal Company Endowed Scholarship, awarded to entrepreneurship majors at the Rollins College of Business, also stems from this partnership.
Materials in the Krystal records and memorabilia collection date from 1932-2013 and include business records, newspaper clippings, the Krystal Gazer and other company newsletters, mascot costumes, uniforms, toys and merchandise, photographs, film, and numerous other advertising resources. On display in the exhibit you can see a sample of these materials highlighting the history of the company, such as a 1930s to-go hamburger sack (the logo then was “Take Along a Sack Full”), an early black-and-white uniform, and 1970s Krystal Kritters dolls.
The bulk of the collection is not on display. Special Collections is currently processing the materials in order to make them available to researchers. In the meantime, or if you aren’t able to visit physically, check out our digitized issues of the Krystal Gazer for more background about the restaurant and its development within the American fast-food landscape.