Profiles

Little Five Points and It’s Survival

Off of U.S. 23 and Georgia 42 there is a mile large historical district, that is known as “one of Atlanta’s hippest neighborhoods.” (Little Five Points) It contains over 70 small business ranging from dive bars with sticky countertops to vegan eateries that share wall space with vintage clothing stores. 

Through the official entrance of this neighborhood on the corner of Moreland and Euclid Avenue there is a brick building named Stuff We Wanna Say. It sells custom made t-shirts with phrases like “created to be noticed” and “needs alcohol to function.”  

Above it, in neon green and red graffiti there is a mural and says we’re all here because we’re all not there. It’s the catch phrase of the five blocks that make up this historical shopping district. The spray-paint lettering has sat there for decades, waiting and welcoming people to what is known as Little Five Points. 

In January 2020, the first United States patient was diagnosed with the Coronavirus. By March, businesses started to first close down due to state orders. By September an Economic Impact Report found that 60% of U.S. businesses that closed due to the virus will not be reopening. 

 However, Little Five Points survived. The small historic business district in the middle of Atlanta beat the odds and survived the quarantine; some of the stores even thrived. 

A History that’s Prepared for all

In the heart of Atlanta Georgia, rests five points that stretch for two and half miles. Moreland Avenue created the first two points, by running north and south and creating a county line between Fulton and Dekalb. 

The second two points are from northeast and southwest roads, Euclid Avenue. The fifth point is Seminole Avenue, which has now been altered to a plaza and no longer exists. Surrounding these parks are Inman Park and Edgewood Candle Park, both are connected by an old railroad that used to ship cargo parts. 

In 1908, Candle Park, formally known as Edgewood, was built. Due to the immense amount of people flooding into Inman and Candle Park, a need for a district to provide food and shopping to neighboring areas was born. By 1930, Little Five Points transformed into this need, providing three movie theaters, three grocery stores, three barbers and four drug stores. During the following three decades, the shopping center “addressed the basic, everyday needs of their customers.” (The highs and lows of little five.) 

By 1960, racial segregation, the demolishment of neighboring homes and a proposed freeway caused the formerly thriving stores to slowly empty. By the Mid-70’s, Little Five Points population had been cut in half. 

However, in 1972, Don Bender and Kelly Jordan started an Atlanta Intown Development Corporation to funnel money together to renovate houses that had been dilapidated. They eventually renovated six houses and a strip of storefront that wrapped from Euclid and Seminole Avenue. By 1975 Bender went door to door to survey the neighborhoods and see what types of stores they wanted. 

In 2014, a Little Five Points Business Association was created to keep improving the area and help cater the neighborhoods needs. 

Don Bender, a key component in building Little Five Points in the 70’s stated, “The people of Little Five Points are resilient and their past experience with struggle has prepared them for COVID.” 

Through The Help of Others

The Virus hit Georgia on March 2, 2020. As of Nov. 22, they have over four hundred thousand confirmed cases. By March, on “Saturday the 14, everything had shut down. No bars, and no concerts were going forward,” stated President of the Little Five Points Business Association, Scott Pendergast.   

After the March shut down, “It was up to the store owners to decide how we wanted to deal with the pandemic,” stated Eric Levin, the owner of Criminal Records. 

“It was a hard time; there were no straight forward rules on how we were supposed to act,” said Levin. Due to his 2018 heart attack and lack of government instruction, he closed his store two weeks before the official shut down for safety reasons. 

However, The Record Store doors will not be shut forever. Pendergast, owner of multiple Little Five Point stores, reduced rent for many of the stores he owned. “Scott was really, really cool with the rent,” said Levin when referring to his shut down.

Between the income he made through online sales and the reduced rent, Levin did not have to let any of his employees go due to finical reasoning. He is currently brainstorming new ways to increase business while staying thankful for people like Pendergast who want to see small businesses survive. 

Psycho but Thriving 

Today, Little Five Points is the home to nearly 20,000 people with over 70 businesses tucked in between brightly painted buildings and cracked sidewalks, donning the visuals of decades of street artists. 

Even during a pandemic, Little Five Points is filled with people wearing neon clothing, street vendors attempting to sell their latest’s paintings and preachers, scripting Bible verses as you walk by. “Little Five Point’s breeds weird people” says Angie McClean, the owner of a local clothing store named Psycho Sisters. 

Psycho Sisters sits on Moran Avenue. Its 4,000 square feet bursts with vintage clothing ranging from cowboy boots to tie-dye suits. McLean owns the store and has been keeping it running since she opened it in 1980. 

She prides herself in owning items that will fit people of all ages, all sizes, and all levels of psycho. 

The government made Psycho Sister shut down legally on Saturday, March 14, and allowed the store to open back up on May 1. In the time in between, she “got everything out, deep cleaned everything, and reinvented the store.” 

“I got resourceful,” said McLean. Knowing people would not be shopping at the mall, and that other business would not be daring enough to open, McLean took out all of the outfits catering to cancelled events, like Burning Man and Mardi Gras. She then replaced them with more particle items like vintage sweaters and masks. 

McLean also payed special attention to safety. “I did not want people to come in and be forced to buy a mask, so I bought thousands of bandanas, so if they did not have a mask, we could give them a funky mask.” 

The masks also worked to cheer up the people coming into Psycho Sisters as they could get something for free, instead of being turned away.

Improving Sales

Multiple local businesses in Little Five Points used the government shut down to their advantage.  The pandemic opened people’s minds and gave them time to explore new ventures in their lives. This opened up opportunities for stores that specialize in unique interests. 

During early November a line had formed in front of a small but bright blue building named Crystal Blue. The blue store has sat on Euclid Ave since 1985, selling holistic healing tools, and books containing spiritual guides. The walls of the small shop are filled from top to bottom with glass shelves supporting layers colorful crystals. 

A white tent loomed in the store front, relieving the shoppers from the Georgia sun as they waited to be allowed in. To keep Georgia’s six-foot regulation Crystal keeps the headcount of the store under 15 people. 

Two women around the ages of 25 waited in that line. They stood, about 10 people deep, shuffling their jackets while waving their hands in front of their faces to create a source of airflow as they sat under the 2 p.m. Georgia sun. 

As they waited, they began to talk about what had brought them to the store and the new crystals they needed in their lives. One of the women began asking her friend which crystals she should go for, as it was her first time in the store. Her friend’s response was to get whatever speaks to her and helps her feel better. 

 “Crystal Blue deals with lower dollar profits, but they are still doing extremely well during the pandemic,” said Prendergast.  Shops like Crystal Blue has allows customers to explore new ideas and finding comfort in spiritual guides during a time of panic. 

Outback Bikes also used the niche ideas of people finding new hobbies during the pandemic to raise sales. On the corner of Euclid, you will come across a large shop donning hundreds of bikes. However, posted on their window reads a sign stating the shop and showroom and closed due to the pandemic. 

Instead, owner Pete Wicker decided to sell the bikes from the back of his shop. Prendergast said, “Instead [they’ve] setting up tents and barricades to serve the people from the back.” During this time, Prendergast said sales have “skyrocketed.” The stores repairs and service staff have been busier than ever with more and more people purchasing bikes and bring them in for services. 

Busy but Sanitary

While Little Five points has stayed busy during the stores reopening, the residents have gone out of there way to stay sanitary. 

Today, while masks are only mandatory in stores, nine out of ten people walking on the cracked sidewalks of Little Five Points are wearing face coverings. Lines that form outside the stores socially distanced, despite there not being any markings or strict regulations saying they had to stay away from each other. Hand sanitizers were attached to pursers, hanging out of pockets, and used at every store entrance.

“You Guys Are My Home” 

The Corner Tavern, a bar and restaurant on Euclid Avenue sits a black building with large windows peeking into a brightly lit. Through these windows, you can spot servers wearing outfits that most would not dare. 

A hostess wearing neon green hair pulled into a low ponytail will sit you. Last Friday, he wore orange pumpkin tights, a bright red beard, and earrings that held small neon pumpkins. It was past Halloween, but when asked about his outfit of choice, he laughed, saying that he was still in the spirit of things. 

Through another one of the Corner Taverns huge glass windows, five women sat at a table taking tequila shots and laughing about their lack of success finding jobs due to the pandemic. They can see pedestrians doing their daily grocery shopping, looking for some clothes to thrift, and wandering around in masks to their left. To their right stood a waiter, wearing a neon green sparkly mask and a monster mash Tee.  She joked around with the women, supplying them with overflowing shot glasses and pandemic jokes. 

The women closest to the window had four sticky glasses in front of her and had begun to talk about her adventures outside the city. However, she kept circling back to the five points that once made up her home. 

Quite loudly in the crowded restaurant, she stated, “you know you guys are my home, right. No matter where I go, Little Five Points will always be home to me, and no matter what happens during these times, this is my place of relief.”

Source Sheet:  

Scott Prendergast – scottpender54@gmail.com

Eric Levin – eric@criminalatl.com

Don Bender – djbender76@gmail.com

Moss Mills – moss@thejunkmansdaughter.com

Angie McLean – angiemac111@yahoo.com