The storefronts on Georgia Avenue in the Summerhill neighborhood once buzzed with activity, boasting butchers, barbers, and shops before sitting neglected for decades in the shadow of I-85 and sports stadiums. The historic commercial strip is in the midst of a transformation by developer Carter & Associates and now hums again with restaurants like Little Bear, Talat Market, Junior’s Pizza, Little Tart Bakeshop, Wood’s Chapel BBQ, and the forthcoming fast-casual Southern joint Maepole drawing crowds to the neighborhood alongside the new Georgia State Stadium.
Until now, however, the slew of new offerings on the neighborhood’s main drag—four blocks in a mix of refurbished historic buildings and new infill in similar style—had been limited mainly to food and drink, minus Maggie Murphy’s Salon, which moved from Grant Park to Summerhill last year. The latest announcement adds retail and more beauty and wellness to the neighborhood lineup, with the announcement of the second location of the Old Fourth Ward spa Aviary, and a chic gift shop and letterpress, the Press Shop, both expected to open in June. The development has also inked plans for a major grocery store, community bank, and a dentist, addressing more practical needs that may show Carter’s intent on serving the surrounding community—which includes longtime residents and the recent influx of GSU students—and not just building a destination.
Longtime residents of Summerhill—historically Black and once home to a large Jewish population—have been marred by development before, first from clearance for the interstate and “urban renewal,” then from the construction of two stadiums and a prairie of parking lots that saw the streets around them wither.
“From the beginning, it’s been the plan to get input from the neighbors,” says Jack Murphy, senior director at Carter.
The boutique-sized Aviary (and multi-time Best of Atlanta winner) is known for its personal, intimate atmosphere with its two treatment rooms and just a handful of salon chairs—the antithesis of the busy salon waiting room. Owner Amy Leavell Bransford says this is what has allowed her to carry on safely during the pandemic, and even prompted the opening of her second location, equally cozy in size. The treatment menu will be much the same as at the Old Fourth Ward location, with a few new services at the Summerhill location yet to be announced. The products Bransford carries are reason enough for a visit—like cult French skincare line Biologique Recherche and CBD-infused beauty goods from Lord Jones. Facials start at $165 and haircuts at $80, but Bransford aims to have lower priced pick-me-ups as well, including face creams in the $20 range and quick services like waxing and tinting.
“I want to keep the neighboring community and the GSU students in mind,” she says. Bransford is also looking to hire from within the community, and the exterior will include a custom mural to fit in with the neighborhood’s abundant display of art by Living Walls.
Between Aviary and the forthcoming bank, Ashley Buzzy McHugh is opening Press Shop, a gift store and letterpress that had been slated for its grand opening on Dekalb Avenue just before Covid hit. (McHugh had previously operated a weddings-based, appointment-only letterpress business out of the space.) Now, she’s relocated for the grand opening and expanded her concept to tropical plants, biodynamic wine, kids’ stuff, books, and other giftable items—and of course stationery, with her hulking antique presses (which she sweats over herself) doubling as working displays in the front windows. Many of her offerings are local; others are brands she’s discovered while living in different cities across the country with her husband, who plays professional baseball. McHugh, who is of Middle Eastern descent, says she aims for the shop to feel inclusive, gender-neutral, and quirky, stocked with anti-racism and feminist books, as well as wares by a diverse lineup of artists and brands.