AFTER HOURS: FLEX SPAS

A Best Of winner both in 2017 and 2018, Flex once again makes it to the top of our list. If you are looking for a place to relax your weary bones (or not relax, up to you), it looks like Flex gets top marks from the after-hours set in Atlanta. Though there have been multiple name changes and close calls for this “gay men’s social club”, this legendary site has been open for business for over forty years boasting a myriad of facilities like saunas, jacuzzis, a gym, room rentals, and even events ranging from Easter Sunday BBQs to Thanksgiving buffets that keep patrons coming back for more.

“I’m proud. We’ve got great customer service, and we work with the community, so people tend to frequent places that are not just out for profit,” Chris Menche, GM of Flex mused. If you’re not a member, you might want to think about joining as it looks like Flex’s future is going to be pretty bright. “By next year I want to expand. We’ve needed an update for 30 years. It’s time to change.”

Menche is looking to introduce new technologies to keep up with times and change the overall impression of his industry. “We are trying to move away from the negative stigma attached to the bathhouse into a more socially accepted business.” The establishment has seen its share of shaky periods in Atlanta’s gay history and is still considered an important part of the culture as customers continue to visit this after-hours hot spot.

 

BAR: ATLANTA EAGLE

This popular watering hole has won everything from Best Dance Floor and Best Niche Bar to Best Place To Meet Men, and why not? It seems like there’s something for everyone at the Atlanta Eagle. First opening its doors in 1985, the bar has survived many different incarnations, and 33 years later, we have today’s Atlanta Eagle, located right in the middle of everything on Ponce de Leon Avenue. Owner Richard Ramey stepped in to take over in 1997 and ever since has strived to keep up the bar’s legacy and longevity. “There [are] very few places that you can go and be your true self and not be judged for it,” Ramey says.

Before taking over, Ramey was a frequent customer, and the thing that kept him coming back was how welcome he felt. “When I became the owner, I wanted to make sure that inclusion and that feeling I had had for so many years … I wanted to make sure that was always there.” This venue has traditionally been known as a leather bar (they even have a leather shop!), but according to online reviews, they are very welcoming to everyone and are popular for their approachable atmosphere and clientele, plus the drinks are cheap.

New to the Eagle? Ramey suggests visiting on a Saturday so you can get the full experience.

 

BAR: MIDTOWN MOON

This relatively new bar opened its doors in 2018, and since then has quickly gained prominence as a go-to spot for socializing and unwinding. This venue hosts Drag brunches on Sundays and is a frequent performance venue for the Armorettes. Owners Chris McDonald and Marco Penna purchased the disgraced Burkhart’s in April of 2018 and re-launched it as Midtown Moon about a month later. Since then, the bar has seen a rise in popularity which could be attributed to their superior hospitality management skills or the all-you-can-eat buffet every Sunday with bottomless mimosas! Or maybe it’s the atmosphere as one reviewer pointed out, they have the “best patio in Midtown.”

Marco Penna gave some quick words about how their business has grown. “We’ve progressively been getting better. Our goal was to get everybody back in this bar.” And they’ve done just that, by hosting weekly charity drag shows and events that historically bring out over 10,000 patrons. What’s next? Penna says that they are planning a big party to celebrate their upcoming second anniversary of their grand opening.

Earning its second win in the Best Bar category, we’re sure it will be hard to eclipse Midtown Moon’s future success.

 

CHEF: DEBORAH VANTRECE

Chef Deborah VanTrece’s unique take on southern soul food must be the secret that keeps our voters coming back for more! To date, she’s won countless awards, appeared on television, and opened multiple restaurants. The Twisted Soul Cookhouse and Pours is the third restaurant that VanTrece has opened, and it is located off of Huff Road in Atlanta.

VanTrece, who’s been a resident of Atlanta for over thirty years, is considered an expert in Southern cooking, and the self-proclaimed culinary artist also feels very strongly about her love for connecting with people around food. In a 2016 Georgia Voice interview, VanTrece quipped, “I felt my food was worthy of the same attention as other cuisines.”

In another Georgia Voice story, Lorraine Lane, VanTrece’s wife, and beverage director mused, “[VanTrece] just always enjoyed preparing foods that make people feel good. There’s nothing really simple about Deborah’s food, but it’s definitely good.” After hearing about her win, the chef herself shared, “I am overjoyed by this acknowledgment! It is an honor to be recognized by my community.” Where will VanTrece’s passion take her next? She told Georgia Voice back in 2016, “I’d like the opportunity to cook on great scales. Maybe do the Oscars.” We tip our hat to the chef and wish her many more accolades in the future.

 

ENTERTAINERS: THE ARMORETTES

1979 was the year the Walkman was released, Margaret Thatcher was elected Prime Minister, and the Armorettes began performing their “campy” drag shows, to the delight of the Atlanta public! “Our mission is to raise money for multiple charities through our drag performances, and we always strive to put on the best show possible,” stated Armorettes Chair Ally Yankadic.

These Best Of veterans most recently won the award for “Best Drag Show” in 2017 and 2018. It seems like you all can’t get enough of this group’s charitable antics, but who can blame you since one can be entertained while helping raise donations for people with HIV and HIV/AIDS. Since its inception, The Armorettes have raised over $2.3 million from the donations of the audience members and event attendees. It’s the best kind of win-win. Yankadic added, “It’s amazing to think how many people have been Armorettes over the years and to look at the great work that they continue to do even after leaving the group.”

As far as what’s in store for the future, Ally stated, “We want to continue entertaining each week and get to our next milestone of $2.4 million, hopefully later this year!” Be sure to catch the Armorettes at Midtown Moon every Sunday or at their monthly Saturday show at Heretic.

 

BUSINESS PERSON: JUSTIN ZIEGLER 

This Atlanta real estate guru is a constant winner on our Best Of lists and for good reason. Not only is he successful at work, but he also uses his spare time to help change people’s lives for the better. His business supports GLAAD, the Atlanta Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, and Atlanta Pride.

“It’s such an honor to be recognized for excellence within my community, and I am so proud to run a company where we can all work and live authentic and genuine lives,” Justin said of his most recent win.

Common Ground Real Estate was established in 2011 as a subsidiary of PalmerHouse Properties, and Ziegler was uniquely primed to lead the new venture toward becoming an important fixture in the Decatur community and around the greater Atlanta area. He must be doing a fantastic job since they have an average five-star review on Google. So, what’s in the works for the burgeoning real estate tycoon?

He’s getting cozy with his partner and turning the tables as he pursues homeownership himself. “My partner and I are under contract on a mid-century modern home that we will also be renovating, and there are definitely some big steps forward we will be making together in our relationship.”

 

CHURCH: SAINT MARK UNITED METHODIST CHURCH

When Atlanta Pride was more a march than parade, it traversed down Peachtree, between a “very conservative Southern Baptist church” and Saint Mark United Methodist Church.

One of the churches treated marchers with hatred and disdain, putting protestors out front and even letting out early on Pride Sunday specifically “so gays wouldn’t defile their property.”

“Our church, a smaller, more intimate congregation, saw that happen a few years in a row,” said Josh Noblitt, associate pastor and minister of social justice and pastoral care for Saint Mark. “Some of the members were like, ‘Hey, how about we pass out some cups of water or something?’”

Saint Mark began hosting support groups and doing Meals On Wheels-style outreach for those affected by AIDS. Their second year of being water-bearers, their positive presence grew.

“They had little signs that said, ‘Everybody’s welcome in Saint Mark’ that were in direct contrast to the signs across the street that said, ‘You’re sinners,’” Noblitt said. “Those two things over a couple of years really changed the demographic of our congregation.”

Today, Noblitt said the church considers Pride Sunday “to be one of our Holy Days just like Christmas and Easter because it is part of who we are as a congregation now.”

Saint Mark’s new pastor, Rev. Dana Everhart, told Georgia Voice he’s proud of the church and all it’s done to carry the banner for the LGBTQ community.

“I pledge we will continue to do so and help other churches and their congregations to move into that same loving ministry of support in the days and months to come,” he said.

 

NON-PROFIT: LOST-N-FOUND YOUTH

Next year, Lost-n-Found Youth will celebrate a decade of helping thousands of LGBTQ youth in Atlanta who face homelessness and financial uncertainty.

In the beginning, it was headed by Rick Westbrook and a group of friends who responded to the emerging need for housing and job security.

“The problem was getting worse, and there were no organizations that were specifically or even in an intentional way [addressing this],” said Nasheeda Muhammad, co-executive director. “We started as a group of concerned people offering rooms in their homes for kids who didn’t have anywhere to go.”

Lost-n-Found is known for its thrift shop, which evolved in a similarly organic fashion over the years as community members donated items to help youth in their first homes.

“Rather than letting it sit and collect dust, we can use it to raise money for the mission,” Muhammad said.

Today, an estimated 900 to 1,500 LGBTQ youth are homeless on Atlanta’s streets, and Muhammad is determined to end the problem.

“It’s an amazing feeling, getting to see these youth go, in a six-month period, from desperate and destitute to ‘Hey, I’m moving into my new apartment. Can I go into the thrift store and get some new furniture?’” she said. “To know that the community is not only able to see our work in action, but the community is recognizing us for that, not just for their votes for Georgia Voice, but the continued support of the thrift store and donations … it feels really good.”

 

LGBTQ EVENT: ATLANTA PRIDE

Jamie Fergerson, executive director of Atlanta Pride, has a pivotal moment that stands out from her first parade.

“When you round the corner at 10th and Peachtree and you’re in the middle of the parade, and you see the full force of our community, as well as the full force of the protestors … I can’t help but feel the gravity of the work we do and feel gratitude to the people who came before me,” she said. “We have a focus of celebration, of safe space and creating community, and a focus of remembering history and bringing visibility to the work that still needs to be done.”

Atlanta Pride’s origins go back to 1970 when a group of Atlantans gathered to commemorate the Stonewall uprising. The next year, they held a march down Peachtree Street, which evolved to become part of today’s parade route. Though the Pride parade and festival is its largest and most well-known event, Atlanta Pride is active throughout the year with other opportunities.

“My favorite is our community grants program. We also give out micro-grants to organizations in the community to do their work,” Fergerson said.

Fergerson said the recognition over the years by Georgia Voice readers is wonderful for the organization, but it’s truly recognition for Atlanta Pride’s volunteers.

“We’re still almost an all-volunteer organization,” they said. “I see that as recognition of the importance of our work and our community: to build community; to build the space that we share with each other.”

 

HIV/AIDS EVENT: JOINING HEARTS

Going on 33 years ago, a group of LGBTQ Atlantans planned a poolside potluck to benefit a friend in the community who was living with AIDS.

“They had lost their job; they were going to lose their home,” said David Elsea, director of communications for Joining Hearts. “Over time it just grew into this thing that like, ‘Hey, there’s more people that this affects that need help in various ways. So every year, the party grew and more people started supporting and donating.”

Eventually, the organizers chose to formalize their group as Joining Hearts, and the Pool Party became the signature event for its mission to support several local LGBTQ organizations. More than $1 million were raised thus far for AID Atlanta, Lost-n-Found Youth, Jerusalem House, Hope ATL and Project Open Hand.

Though the Pool Party remains the largest fundraising event for Joining Hearts, the organization also hosts Love on the Rocks, Change of Seasons, and the Wish List Party, at which beneficiaries are presented with their donations for the year.

“Some people think we’re party planners, but no, your money’s actually going to a cause. … We are, at the end of the day, 100 percent about the community and supporting others in everything that we do. We raise funds to give funds away,” Elsea said. “For people to say, ‘Hey, I see what you’re doing and this is great,’ it feels good to know that we are making a difference.”

 

ACTIVIST: JEFF GRAHAM

While still a fresh-faced college kid in the mid ’80s, Jeff Graham was already on a mission to fight for equal rights, leading the charge on issues related to LGBTQ and AIDS. Now, he’s the Executive Director of Georgia Equality where he’s using his platform to influence change right here in Atlanta.

Graham has won many accolades for his activism, including being listed in Atlanta Magazine’s 55 Most Powerful People in The City list, and has served as Grand Marshal of the Pride Parade multiple times.

“It’s nice after all these years to [still be] relevant and effective because that’s what means the most to me,” Graham remarked when we reached out to him about his most recent Best of Atlanta win. Over the course of a quick conversation, we uncovered a moment that has stayed with Graham as one of his proudest.

Back in 2016, he and his organization were able to put together the Georgia Unity Against Discrimination campagin, which utlized an unprecedented amount of teamwork and mobilization with members within the Atlanta LGBTQ community, faith leaders, and the business community to get the governor to veto the controversial “religious freedom” legislation.

“That’s what, most recently, I really am very, very proud of.” With all of his years of experience, it’s a wonder he hasn’t lost his drive, but Graham continues to be vocal and essential in leading efforts against inequality and injustice for the LGBTQ community in Atlanta and beyond.

 

ACTIVIST: LINDA ELLIS

Linda Ellis is a longtime advocate for the Atlanta LGBTQ community’s health and wellness. Over her career, she’s been involved with numerous organizations that helped to promote LGBTQ initiatives. “I think we can legitimately call homophobia a health hazard,” Ellis remarked at a fundraiser back in 2012. She’s even had the privilege of visiting the White House, recognized for her efforts in promoting health in the LGBTQ community by Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” initiative in 2012.

The organization she’s donated most of her time to is The Phillip Rush Center. She had been Executive Director since 2008, but stepped down last year after 17 years at the post. “I want to extend my sincere gratitude to all those who have worked alongside me to increase Atlanta’s LGBTQ community’s access to health and social services,” Ellis stated in her resignation announcement letter.

Though she’s won this award many times in the past, and she’s chosen not to comment this year, we’re sure her future endeavors will be met with even more accolades and recognition.

THEATER: ACTOR’S EXPRESS

Nonprofit theater Actor’s Express started making a name for itself in 1988. Its first home was a church basement on Clairmont Road, then the Inman Park location that now houses Dad’s Garage. In 1994, the theater company settled in King Plow Arts Center.

The theater aims to express “contemporary human experiences,” and is noted for its willingness to direct works that include themes of sexuality, coming of age, and the LGBTQ experience. Actor’s Express became known as the LGBTQ-inclusive place to see provocative and edgy works, including the musical “Spring Awakening” and nudity-embracing “Equus” – which was noted on Broadway and in London when actor Daniel Radcliffe played the title role.

“Angels in America,” a powerful seven-hour-long show about the AIDS crisis, hit the AE stage in 2018, and the most recent season began last September with the comedy “Skintight” and thriller “Downstairs.”

Actor’s Express is also a theater career launchpad. In addition to shows, it hosts classes and has an annual intern program for aspiring actors, directors, and stage managers.

 

PET BOARDING/SUPPLIES: PIEDMONT BARK

Life with fur babies can be ruff … but thanks to Piedmont BARK, it doesn’t always have to be. Piedmont BARK (located on Amsterdam Avenue in Midtown) is the most loved and trusted dog destination in Atlanta.

Welcoming four-legged friends of all breeds and ages since the Fall of 2002, this organization has been rated Best of Atlanta’s Dog Daycare (2017-2019), Best of Atlanta’s Dog Supply (2018-2019) and Best of Atlanta’s Dog Grooming (2015, 2018-2019).

For nearly two decades, Piedmont BARK has been an amazing facility for canine companions to socialize for a few hours, play all day, or even stay overnight. William Campbell, owner and founder of Piedmont BARK, came up with the idea for this Doggy Disneyland based on his own situation at home.

“What made me interested in the concept of doggy daycare, which was pretty non-existent in 2002, was my worry that if I began working in a corporate setting I would have to leave my dalmatian Sebastian home alone,” Campbell says. “I wanted to create a unique doggy playground that could meet the needs of Midtown pet owners like myself where all dogs would be comfortable to come into.”

Today (nearly two decades later) this thriving facility serves as a second home for thousands of pups of various breeds, ages, and sizes between two buildings. Piedmont BARK boasts six spacious, fresh air-cooled and heated indoor play areas, more than 10,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor exercise and play areas and private/secured clean kennels for sleeping and eating.

Additional amenities include a walk-in do-it-yourself full-service dog wash, a large simulated indoor park-like setting with trees/park benches/river rock/stack-stone walls and columns, plenty of natural and artificial light, and a large colorful mural wall featuring a scene from Atlanta’s own Piedmont Park.

Most importantly, Piedmont BARK is fully staffed with an experienced team dedicated to the welfare and well-being of your canine family member.

Mary M. of Dunwoody proudly utilizes the services at Piedmont BARK each time she flies out of town. “My dog Milo loves it here! Just when I feel guilty about leaving town and leaving him for a few days, I remember he actually loves having a little stay-cation. Everyone takes such great care of my baby while I’m gone.”

“Animals have always been our children in the LGBTQ community,” Campbell expresses. “So when they’re in our care, they’re our extended family.”

There have been rumors of Piedmont BARK expanding in the near future, with a daycare-only facility. “The community, specifically the gay community, has supported my business since day one,” Campbell says. In the meantime, Campbell shows his gratitude by reinvesting at least $10,000 annually to local charitable causes.

 

RESTAURANT: CAMPAGNOLO & HENRY’S MIDTOWN TAVERN

Its name means ‘peasant’ in Italian, but this charming eatery falls nothing short of rich … with its wealth of bucolic bites, its abundance of Old World beverages, and its seemingly never-ending wine selection.

Campagnolo Restaurant + Bar (quaintly situated in the 10th and Piedmont area) opened its doors to the Midtown Atlanta community in 2012 and has repeatedly been voted Best Romantic Restaurant and Best Italian Restaurant for nearly a dozen years.

Owner Maureen Kalmanson proclaims, “The focus is on rustic, Italian cuisine where everyone is treated like family.” Also owned by Kalmanson is Henry’s Midtown Tavern, a Mediterranean-infused Italian establishment that is also home to one of Midtown’s most flourishing patios.

Grayson R., a resident of the Virginia Highlands, is quite enamored with Campagnolo. “It’s totally a fun atmosphere with amazing service and great food. When we’re looking for something to remind us of home, we go to Campagnolo.”

This establishment, with its intimate interior and warm bar, is a hot spot seven nights a week (with live music on Fridays and Saturdays) and an extremely popular meeting place for brunch on the weekends.

Henry’s Midtown Tavern (located on bustling 10th street in Midtown) made its artful appearance to Atlanta in 2013 and has since been recognized as Atlanta’s Best Patio (2015-2016) and Atlanta’s Best Brunch (2018).

The tree-lined corner of 10th Street and Juniper was the inspiration for the owner to construct Midtown’s biggest deck as a gathering place to dine, drink, and socialize.

Much of the materials used at Henry’s (named after owner Maureen Kalmanson’s dog) were extracted from the building’s renovation and, believe it or not, from tobacco barns in North Georgia and North Carolina.

Mingled with recycled industrial pipe lighting, this venue is worth venturing out to for food and drinks no matter what the occasion (oh and did we mention they do brunch BIG here).

“The outdoor area is fantastic,” Stephanie Y. of Marietta boasts. “I love to visit this place for a refreshing drink and a nice bowl of gouda mac & cheese. Doesn’t get any better than that!

Henry’s Midtown Tavern, also acknowledged today as a great gastropub, boasts a colorful menu of burgers, wings, tacos, steak, and salmon … along with some to-die-for cocktails.

 

RESTAURANT: METROTAINMENT CAFES

Comedian Robin Williams fondly remembers his mother saying, “the world is a wonderful place, rainbows, and unicorns.” Thanks to one food service company in Atlanta, the world can appear as just that.

Metrotainment Cafes has been around since 1991 but may be more recognized today by its cluster of individual eateries including: Einstein’s, Joe’s on Juniper, Hudson Grille, Sugar Shack, and Metrotainment Bakery.

Einstein’s (located on Juniper and just a few feet away from Piedmont Park) was one of the first of the Metrotainment venues to open its doors. Einstein’s has been a popular place for nearly three decades, serving up southern fare and creative drinks … along with what they call their “infamous bloody mary bar.”

Joe’s on Juniper has (according to the Metrotainment clan themselves) Atlanta’s best patio, most attractive waitstaff, and best bar food all in one place. They’ve also got some terrific trivia in fact, as Creative Loafing, Fenuxe, and Southern Voice all selected Joe’s for Atlanta’s Best Trivia.

Hudson Grille is the largest of operations under the Metrotainment umbrella, boasting six locations across Atlanta with a seventh slated to open soon in Little 5 Points. This jumpin’ joint is preferred by ATLiens not only for their game-day classics, but also for their healthy, local, and gluten-free options not found at any other sports bar (can you say cauliflower buffalo wings?).

Sugar Shack (located in the Brookhaven Station shopping center on Peachtree) is a counter service dessert, sandwich, and coffee cafe. This neighborhood hangout (which is one of the newest additions to the Metrotainment roster) is a perfect place to enjoy quality food in a cozy atmosphere.

Metrotainment Bakery in West Midtown has been dishing out baked goods and sweet treats to the Atlanta metro area via its cafes since 1997, and was touted as Best of Atlanta’s Bakeries in 2019 as well as 2020. This sweet spot is well-known for its confections (such as that bold and beautiful rainbow cake!)

California native Philip E. raves about his visit to this sweet shop. “I dropped by Metrotainment one weekend while visiting family in Atlanta and liked it so much I flew home with an entire rainbow cake to bring home to my family because they needed to get in on all the goodness.”

 

CLOTHING: BOY NEXT DOOR MENSWEAR

When it comes to pool parties or intimate gatherings in the bedroom, one extravagant emporium in Midtown is hardly the new kid on the block. Nestled on Piedmont near Monroe (just past the entrance to the Botanical Garden) lies Boy Next Door Menswear, a unique landmark, fully stocked with appealing apparel and undergarments.

Established in 1980, this boy-strous boutique specializes in on-trend casual wear, unique partywear, and is a year-round destination for men’s swimwear. The store proudly displays apparel from some of the most globally revered fashion designers like Diesel, Andrew Christian, Nasty Pig, and 2EROS … so it’s no wonder Boy Next Door has been chosen as Best of Atlanta’s Clothing Stores for multiple years (2012, 2017-2019).

Boy Next Door came under new ownership in 2017, when Peach state native, Bill Garner, a loyal customer since the store opened, pounced on the opportunity to purchase this staple of gay Atlanta fashion along with Store Manager/Buyer, Rocky Carroll and men’s fashion importer, Kathy Hawkins. Rocky continues to revolutionize the store by assuring that Atlanta is availed of the world’s best fashion from independent designers who are focused on the boutique experience. Rocky stated, “It is important that the brands we select have a reputation for quality and responsible manufacturing. We also want to assure the best buying experience for anyone who enters our doors.” Bill is ecstatic to now to have Rocky and his staff leading the store into the future of fashion, technology and keeping pace with the evolving demands of the LGBTQ and changing midtown community.

Assistant Community Director and Morningside resident Cameron F. loves Boy Next Door. “There’s always something fun to find there, along with great underwear. I’m always looking for that next ‘Say something!’ pair of underwear, and this store never disappoints!”

Boy Next Door Menswear has become a tourist destination for those visiting Atlanta during Pride weekend and other LGBTQ gatherings. Bill, Rocky, and Kathy are proud that Boy Next Door is part of both the history and the future of the LGBTQ community!

 

GIFT SHOP: BRUSHSTROKES PLEASURES

For the sixth year in a row, one Midtown novelty shop remains a masterpiece among the LGBTQ community: Brushstrokes.

This adult bookstore and gift shop (residing in the Ansley Square Shopping Center) has been serving up gag gifts and sexually charged paraphernalia since 1989 and was selected again in 2020 as Best of Atlanta’s Adult Gift Store.

“We began this store in a tiny hallway space on Highland Avenue with greeting cards, T-shirts and a tanning bed,” co-owner Mark Jackson admits. Since then, “We have expanded and moved it three times, and now occupy 4,500 square feet of retail space in two stores.”

Today Brushstrokes carries a myriad of merchandise including apparel, lingerie, adult DVDs, magazines, greeting cards, sex toys, and erotica. The store’s owners have recognized the growth of our LGBTQ community and have continued to evolve and cater to its ardent clientele.

Jaysen M., a bartender at one of Buckhead’s most popular establishments, has frequented Brushstrokes for several years.

“Not only do they have sexy underwear and toys, but they’ve also got this fantastic assortment of items that can bring the bedroom vibe from 0 to 20 in the blink of an eye,” Jaysen says.

Brushstrokes continues to give back to local organizations (such as Jerusalem House and P.A.L.S.) to express their gratitude for our LGBTQ community.

 

LIQUOR: TOWER BEER, WINE & SPIRITS

For three years in a row, one alcohol emporium continues to stand taller than others across the City-of-71-Peachtree-Streets: Tower Beer, Wine & Spirits (also recognized as the “Best of Atlanta” by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, INsite Magazine, LENUXE Magazine, and Creative Loafing).

Tower Beer, Wine & Spirits (originally Tower Package Store) opened its doors many moons ago in 1948, when brothers Irwin and Michael Greenbaum set out to make a big splash in the beverage industry on the heels of the prohibition repeal of 1938.

During that era, the State of Georgia set all product pricing, and stores were required to sell their items at the exact same price, so Irwin resolved to distinguish their shop through superior customer service.

Brother Michael concurred with the strategy. “Our goal is always superior service and for success, this must be provided at every level; on the sales floor of our store, with the cashier, and even in the parking lot,” Greenbaum says.

When the “one price” law changed in 1967, Tower became a “discount” liquor and beverage store. The discount pricing was so successful that the number of stores multiplied briskly, and Tower became a household name across the Peach State.

Brent E., an active military instructor and avid visitor of Atlanta, divulges that Tower is always a pit stop upon arriving in town (and before heading back to his home in Birmingham).

“It’s nice to drop in at Tower because I can count on finding what I’m looking for …  from European vodka to local whiskey to the newest craft beers of for the season,” Brent says. “Oh, and their customer service is fast and furious. You are in and outta there quickly!”

Tower Beer, Wine & Spirits is widely known today as a reliable source for its bountiful selections of wine, scotch, and whiskey, as well as Korean, Japanese, Chinese, and Hispanic beverages.

 

LEATHER: BARKING LEATHER

When it comes to the Best of Atlanta’s Adult Novelty Stores, one shop, in particular, is more bark than bite (or is it?!).

Barking Leather, which originally opened its doors off Cheshire Bridge Road more than six years ago, set up its new shop just feet from Brushstrokes Pleasures and other LGBTQ-owned businesses in the Ansley neighborhood in September of 2019.

Owner Ray Stewart strategically planned the move of his store just in time for Pride weekend last year, because he knew the new store would be an “easier location, [with] easier access, [and] a lot more parking.”

Voted Best Adult Novelty Store two years in a row, Barking Leather specializes in a slew of seductive adult leather clothing and accessories including their own line of pants, kilts, uniform shirts, uniform pants, bar vests, long sleeve shirts, sleeveless shirts, and t-shirts. Since much of their merchandise is actually handmade, patrons can order custom-fitted pieces.

Mall Retail Store Manager Tony G. highly recommends this boutique. “They’ll make custom pieces for anyone, and they’re always very helpful,” he says. “Their stuff is definitely top-notch construction and a great value.”

Barking Leather also hoards a horde of novelty items such as floggers, whips, nipple play, cock rings, restraints, and much more.

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