**Correction from last Saturday’s blog, “A Closer Look at the ‘Feather and Bone’ Artists”: Ed Trask is not and never has been a graffiti artist, he’s a painter and used to paint illegal murals on walls all over the world. Apologies for my blunder.**
We thought it would be nice to meet our neighbors on the row and do a little piece on the other bright businesses that call this sweet spot home. Through our investigation tactics, i.e. interviews, we learned that most of the stores have been here for way longer than expected and are true Poncey-Highland institutions.
Our first stop was right next door at Atlanta Pro Bicycle. We walked in on a Saturday afternoon and were greeted by Chris, the owner, and several of his bike buddies who were casually hanging out on what they called “no pressure Saturday”. Chris, a cheerful, outgoing bike lover, told us that the shop has been in business for 17 long years, 14 at this location. He spoke of the advantages of being on the row, with all the foot and car traffic along North Highland Ave. most hours of most days of the week. Chris also remarked about the great camaraderie he and his neighboring shops share and how he loves working and riding in this bike-friendly community. One of his favorite things about Atlanta: the Beltline. He dreams of living right on the edge of the green path some day.
Our second stop on the tour: Gems of Africa, a 15 year Highland Row native. Keith Washington owns and runs the store with his mother, Wallene, who was pleasantly helping a woman pick out a gold frame when we walked in. This little shop is passionately devoted to displaying real African treasures, hand-picked by the mother-son duo from places like South Africa and Zimbabwe. The store is covered with beautiful artwork, including carved serpentine sculptures (like the ones you can find between terminals at the airport), vibrant batiks depicting village scenes and wood carvings of wild animals you can only see on safaris. This local spot links rural African artists with the Atlanta art scene and happens to be run by one truly lovely family. Stop by and see Keith and Wallene, expose yourself to some culture and take home a little gem while you’re at it.
If you haven’t checked out Highland Row Antiques yet, don’t be fooled by the deceivingly small storefront. As you walk past the register, you’ll come upon a set of stairs that lead down into a massive super-secret underground area fully stocked with eccentric clothing and furnishings that look like they could have come from the set of Buck Rogers. This was Paty’s first time inside and she was instantly in awe over the interesting array of booths, each run by different local dealers. It also helps that Bobby, the man working the register, is one quirky eccentric himself. In between jokes, this self-proclaimed “antique fairy” told us about the strange, yet highly intelligent types of people who come to the store. Bobby, himself, is a lover of old things and when we asked him why he thinks people are drawn to antiques, he gave a very insightful answer, as if he’s asked himself this very question. He suggested that people are reminded of another, happier time in their lives when they see old things, things from their childhood, things that strike a nerve. Bobby thinks that they find comfort in nostalgia and links to the past, or maybe antiquing is simply the trendy thing to do. “It’s definitely an adventure watching people,” he said, before placing a pair of gaudy sunglasses on a wooden giraffe.
Our next stop was Ooh La La, a lively fashion boutique for people who are looking for something off the beaten runway. You can find anything for any occasion here, at Ronni Mcbride’s foxy fashion haven. Ronni’s been in business for nine years at this spot and sells clothing from both local and regional designers and also scouts out trade shows for original looks. She loves this Atlanta community, where she both works and lives and appreciates her loyal customer base. Ronni’s Spring fashion tip for all the ladies out there: don’t be afraid of color. We think she’s quite the colorful character herself.
The end of the row came with a burst of enticing smells as we excitedly walked through the doors of the Atlanta Cupcake Factory. Now, you may not be the hugest cupcake fan but these are undeniably delicious little edible works of art. With interesting and unexpected varieties that change daily it’s impossible get bored, even with a store that revolves around this one specific genre of baked goods. Get your socks knocked off by super inventive flavors like the best-selling sugar cookie salted caramel or apple cake filled with apple-raspberry fruit puree and topped with almond icing. We know, you’re salivating right now. We’re right there with ya.
So, what we’ve learned here is that the Highland Row is more than just a strip of stores. Each shop is 100% local, 100% awesome and 100% Atlanta. We’re a bit biased but we think Highland Row should be a stop on every tourist’s map. And for all you non-tourists, next time you stop by Young Blood, you should definitely pay our neighbors a visit too.
Til next time,
Danielle and Paty