Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Blast From the Past in Atlanta Real Estate

Current Day Williamsburg Village (Click here to view enlarged photo & comparison shots)
As many of you have noticed, one of my favorite things to do is learn about and look back at Atlanta's past, specifically, commercial real estate. 

Over the past year, I've chronicled the re-purposing of Blockbuster Video stores in Atlanta and more recently  (on the blog), former Donatos Pizza restaurants.  

While I have lived though both of these stages in Atlanta real estate, I have not lived though many other happenings.  A great site for reliving Atlanta's past is Atlanta Time Machine.  

Most of the vintage photos shared on the site are courtesy of the Georgia State Library, while the more recent ones are taken present day, some as recently as this year.  

Many of the featured buildings or intersections feature a top / bottom comparison of what the area used to look like and what it looks like today.  

One of the most interesting photo sets I've come across was a before and after of Williamsburg Village, the shopping center at the corner of Clairmont and Briarcliff Roads.  

I've lived in the Oak Grove / Lakeside area all my life (until recently) and made plenty of trips to the center a child.  I can remember when what is now Himalayan Spice was a Revco (a drugstore that was subsequently purchased by CVS Pharmacy)  The "anchor" space, on the Clairmont side was a large unfinished furniture store, and there was a Sidelines bar where Benchwarmers is now.  The "anchor" space was for a short time Pure Nightclub, closed a number of years ago after the liquor permit was pulled.  

Wings Camera, which has been in business since 1912, is one of, if not the, oldest tenant in the center today.  The store is located on the Briarcliff side of the center though one of its earliest incarnations was downtown alongside the famous Loew's Grand Theater on Peachtree Street.    

Revealed in this photo, however, was a seemingly quite large (for the time) A&P grocery store.  Apparently, the A&P opened in 1965 and closed in the 70s.  

I used to do trivia a lot on the site, and one of my most talked about questions was about A&P.  In its heyday, A&P had over 30,000 locations in the 1930s, and was one of the biggest, most successful businesses in the country.  Today the company has only about 300 locations and is concentrated in only a few northeastern markets. 

The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company, or A&P as it later became known, started in 1861 and grew to become an American icon.  The company was so large and well known that The Wall Street Journal said in a 2010 article that "A&P was as well known as McDonald's or Google is today" and that A&P was "Walmart before Walmart."

The chain ceased its then 34-unit Atlanta operations in 1999.  

I remember going to A&P at Emory Commons (now Publix), Toco Hills (now LA Fitness), Decatur (now Kroger), Peachtree Battle (now Publix), Cherokee Plaza (now Kroger), Gwinnett Market Fair (now Bed Bad & Beyond) and Roswell Road (now Big Lots) but never knew that they had a location at Williamsburg Plaza.  

I have been told that the Emory bus depot on Johnson Road near Sage Hill was originally an A&P as was the current Office Depot at Toco Hill.  

What are your earliest memories of commercial real estate in Atlanta?  What chain, grocery, gas, retail or otherwise do you miss? Why?  

Oxford Books? Lechmere? Richway?Treasure Island? Woolco? Drug Emporium? Phar-Mor? Turtle's?

ps, for all my GT fans & readers, you gotta check out these shots from the downtown connector...UNREAL.  


Erik from the Burbs said...

Turtle's Records & Tapes. Spend a lot of money there.

Anonymous said...

There are almost too many to recall at one time. I think as a kid I loved going to the mall and shopping at Record Bar, Turtles, Kay Bee Toys, Mc Crorys or Woolworths, Waldenbooks and playing games at Gold Mine or Tilt. Lionel Playworld was always way better than Toys R Us. And for restaurants, movies and shopping, Memorial Drive used to be hot. Back in the 80's every chain imaginable and some great local places used to be on Memorial from 285 all the way to 78. Anyone remember the dogs anf onion rings at Mighy Caseys? And North Dekalb mall was awesome when it got remodeled. Lechmere was cool!!

Carl said...

When I first moved to Atlanta and lived in Ansley Park, I bought my shower curtain at Woolworth in Ansley Mall. I would never have thought to go there, as it had a certain image of not being a place I'd likely find something to my liking, but I trusted the person (with good taste) who referred me. She was indeed correct. It was a great resource to have in my backyard (or just across the still-operating tracks) until they decided to close all stores. I never made it to the A&P (now Publix) there, nor do I think I made it to the one on Ponce or Midtown Promenade. Amazing how many of those stores once existed. We have much higher standards now.

SB said...

Nice post. I love this stuff. I grew up in Fort Lauderdale and wonder if anyone tracks this for down there. Phar Mor's were very popular, Freddy's, Loria's, Oshmann's, to name a few.

Nice to know the A&P gutters are still in the same place.

magnolia said...

King's Drug store @ Peachtree Battle, where I charged candy to my dad's name and they delivered prescriptions to your house.

Anonymous said...

Love this. My dad and a beau coddle of sisters and cousins grew up in Virginia highland (or highland Virginia as they call it). He bagged groceries at an a&p in high school. I was born in Decatur but moved to Cobb in '81. So my childhood memories are all over town. Farrell's for bday parties at Cumberland. And the hungry fisherman or the organ grinder. Loved woolworths and Lionel play world too. Gigi's pizza anyone? This is fun nostalgia - thanks!

Anonymous said...

I remember going to the Oxford Books on Pharr Rd and also the Peachtree Battle location as a kid. Those were the days when you would go into the bookstore to look at books on a shelf instead of our cell phones and tablets. Kids these days have it easy. Like going to the library is a thing of the past. Mighty Casey's was also awesome. Mainly because you could play pac-man on the flat table top arcade game.

Jill said...

My favorite memory is of Bell's Variety Store. My family owned and operated the local chain until 1988 when it was sold to Social Expressions. They all closed in 1992. I would go there for everything from cards & balloons to school supplies and ribbons for my hair. I worked as a bagger and cashier at the Dunwoody location from the time that I was 12 until I turned 18. Some of the best moments of my childhood!

Anonymous said...

I would have sworn that the old drugstore at Williamsburg Plaza was an Eckerd's. I used to go there with my grandparents in the '70s.

Jenna S. said...

Very cool post Eli!

Gavin, Jeff and Stephanie said...

Loved this post- I grew up in the Sagamore/Toco area too and one of my favorite places to go when I was a kid was Farrell's Ice Cream at Northlake Mall (not sure new name of place- but where Seasons was located off the front of the mall).
I also loved going to Barwick's Pharmacy to get a vanilla coke when I was a kid.
And, I remember going to that A&P at Williamsburg many times with my mom!

Atlantan99 said...

@Anon RE: Eckerds,

Williamsburg had a Revco and later a CVS for sure. Not far away, at Vista Grove, on LaVista, there was an Eckerd that later became a Dollar General and at Loehmann's Plaza, an Eckerd that later became an OfficeMax.

Thanks for your readership and comments.

Anonymous said...

Actually the former Eckerd's at Loehmann's Plaza is now a Dollar Tree. There was also an Eckard at Lenox into the 90's where SunTrust bank is now located next to the FastFix jewelry repair shop.

Atlantan99 said...

@Anon RE: Eckerd,

I think you are right on with Loehmann's Plaza. The OfficeMax space is over 18,000 s/f, so a bit big for an Eckerd. What was located where OfficeMax was?

Thanks for the comments and readership.

Anonymous said...

@Anon I worked at Mighty Casey's when I was in high school. Remember the "Grand Slam"?
Memorial drive was the stuff of legends back in the late '70s- early '80s. Who remembers El Chico, or Godfather's Pizza? Or Provino's?

Anonymous said...

My son went to St. Thomas More elementary school through 3rd grade in the mid-70's. Wednesday's were half-days so I'd treat him to lunch when I picked him up. He always wanted to go to El Chico at Northlake, so I remember it well.

It was at El Chico that I encountered the rudest waitress ever who was new. We ordered a lunch special my son always chose. She brought the wrong dish and I politely told her so. She was snippy but took it back to the kitchen and returned with another dish that was wrong also. My son told her it wasn't right so she starts arguing with my 6-year-old that it's correct. I was infuriated by how she spoke to my son and by this time the conversation had become loud enough to attract the manager's attention. He told her she was wrong and to leave our table, he profusely apologized, had the right dish brought and comped our meal.

We bought a home in the N. Druid Hills, Briarcliff and Clairmont triangle. Our son went to Briarcliff High School. Fond memories of our time in the Atlanta area before we moved to NM.

I remember when Xavier Roberts opened a Cabbage Patch doll adoption store in Northlake Mall. These were the original hand-stitched dolls called Little People, not the mass-produced vinyl faced ones that started the Cabbage Patch craze, and cost $150-$300 back then depending on size. My son was going to Sagamore Hills Elementary then and his preteen "girlfriend" got her parents to buy her one.