There are very few family-owned chains left in East Tennessee, but there is one. It's very popular for its very discounted prices and it's all about family.
Hammer's. It's a discount store, a fixture, a staple of East Tennessee that has been around for 60 years, but the business didn't begin here.
"My grandfather and my father...started the store in Guntersville, Alabama," said Jeff Hammer. "It was kind of an offshoot of a company that my grandfather worked for, an old company here in Knoxville called Watson's."
It also started as a salvage store. "Over the years the nature of the business has morphed from salvage to irregulars, closeouts, special buys that kind of thing. We changed with the times," said Jeff.
Hammer's moved to East Tennessee in 1952. Helen Hammer remembers it well.
"We were delighted to come back to East Tennessee because my husband and I were both raised here," said Helen Hammer.
Helen is quite the local celebrity in Clinton and beyond. She has starred in Hammer's commercials for decades. She is the matriarch and still works six day work weeks.
"I take care of the invoices and I sign the payroll checks and try to keep everybody in line," said Helen.
But eight other family members help run the company. Three generations of Hammer's.
"I can honestly say I don't recall ever having a foul word with them, arguments or anything, it just hasn't happened," said Jeff.
"We get along famously," said Helen.
The items they sell vary from day to day. "The world is our marketplace. You really don't know where it's gonna come from, it just pops up," says Jeff.
"We really work hard trying to find merchandise that appeals to people and merchandise that they can afford to buy," said Helen.
"Over the years we've sold everything from peaches and potatoes to empty TV cabinets so there's nothing much that Hammer's hasn't sold at one time or the other," said Jeff.
Their customers are loyal.
"The people here have always been so supportive of us. They're just a kind group of people that I enjoy interacting with," said Jeff.
The Hammers. They love a bargain and bargain hunters love them. As the saying goes, "If you haven't been to Hammer's you haven't been to Clinton," said Helen.
One of Your Stories. There's no place like this one.
Helen Hammer just celebrated her 90th birthday. Hammer's has four locations in Clinton, Halls, Wartburg and Sevierville.