While I have no knowledge of its history beyond passing by it as a child, this piece from "krogerclerk" on Groceteria dated November 5, 2005 looks to shed some light on it:
"Dalton, Ga.'s first large shopping center, Bry-Man's Plaza had both Colonial and Winn-Dixie on opposite ends of the center. Colonial became Big Star briefly in the early 1970's, and relocated in the mid-70's next to a nearby Kmart, only to close in 1981 when Grand Union downsized the chain. Winn-Dixie relocated to Bry-Man's Plaza South which was constructed in 1979 until relocating into a Winn-Dixie MarketPlace in 1994, Office Depot now occupies this site. The original Winn-Dixie has been subdivided and Jewel T was a short lived occupant in the early 80's, and is now a Tuesday Morning. The Colonial space was shortly a Western Auto and since subdivided. The construction date of the original Bry-Man's Plaza was late-50's-early-60's, with me leaning to 1961 or 62."
Another article dated March 7, 2009 by Jimmy Espy from "The Daily Citizen" also mentions Bry-Man's plaza:
"Jamie also recalls his glory days at Bry-Man’s Plaza, when a Saturday afternoon with buddies consisted of too many hours blasting Space Invaders at Funway, scarfing pizza at Godfather’s and slurping ice cream at Kay’s Kastle for dessert."
View of the main part of the strip with the enclosed mall portion entrance
In all, this was a pretty significant classic strip mall. Other tenants that have appeared and disappeared there include JCPenney and Dunaway Drugs. I am still curious after all these years if there was ever actually a store called "Bry-Man's", which is part of what got me interested in the center. What also interested me were the mall portions of this shopping center, which were usually very small and generally found only on the 1950's-era shopping centers. Town & Country north of Atlanta and Five Points West north of Birmingham both had mall portions. The Five Points West mall portion was the most substantial with a now long-abandoned Pizitz store hidden behind it.
A close-up look at two store fronts reveals classic architecture typical of strip malls of older vintage.
According to this information, the date is pretty close to the construction of most of the first strip malls loaded with grocery stores and mall-like tenants. A Woolworth, Newberry's or McCrory's was very likely in this strip and a sit-down restaurant or cafeteria flanked the shopping center somewhere as well. I remember the shopping center when it had its most 1970's appearance, and 1979 sounds correct judging by the design. The former design featured the diagonal cut cedar siding wildly popular in the era, which was when the shopping center added its second phase across the street (not pictured). This is also most likely when the two mall portions were added to the strip. According to the quote above, 1994 also sounds right for the renovation to the modern bleached look. I recall it being renovated in the 1990's, but did not remember when that actually happened.
The enclosed mall portion looks to have not had any real stores of any kind in years other than a second interior entrance for O'Henry's Restaurant. This mall portion looks to have been added in the 70's, and today is primarily mall management offices. The visible back door is nothing more than that, opening directly onto W Franklin St.
The mall portions of Bry-Man's plaza are two-fold. The first is an enclosed mall portion that at its peak contained maybe 6 stores and a back entrance onto W Franklin St. This enclosed corridor appears to be primarily used by mall management. The second is an open-air corridor with ten stores ending at a ledge overlooking S Hamilton St and a disconnected former Kuhn's Big K store. Bry-Man's Plaza South has no mall portion. It is completely a strip mall with an Office Depot located in the former Winn-Dixie and has remained a traditional strip mall longer than the original center. In that, the original center today has no major anchor tenants and is made up of mostly small locally-owned shops and restaurants.
The open-air mall portion is far more viable with attractive planters and a full host of small businesses. The open-air portion ends at a ledge overlooking S Hamilton St and a thrift store that was once Kuhn's Big K.
While Bry-Man's plaza has seen better days, it is still a really interesting complex. Personally, I wish they would utilize those mall portions as actual malls, expanding those corridors into actual anchors. The old Big K (now a thrift store) could be torn down and replaced with a department store and parking deck connected by a catwalk. W Franklin St could be closed and a Target built into the back of it with that mall portion actually going straight into it. A lifestyle wing would be built into the back, connecting the Target and hiding the backside of the original strip. Instead of tearing up vacant land and tearing down mountains, a 21st century Bry-Man's plaza updated to a semi-mall could be a fascinating and incredible project. Of course, while I'm still dreaming I hope you enjoy this gallery featuring one of the last surviving early strip malls.
This is the view of the Big K how it looks today from the ledge. The Big K store was vacant at last visit and had the original dark awnings similar to the early 80's Wal-Marts. Wal-Mart bought the Big K chain in 1981.