“When did Athens become so mainstream? What happened to supporting local?” my neighbor asked me the other day. She complained that the city seems to be losing it character and charm—that unless you are downtown, in Five Points or in Boulevard, you risk confusing the town for any mainstream Georgia city overrun with chain restaurants, retail conglomerates and national businesses in formulaic strip malls.
In fact, the plans for the new 486,000 square foot Epps Bridge Centre shopping center are slated to include national big-name businesses like Marshalls, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Ulta and many more. Only the Georgia Theatre Co. movie theater has an Athens vibe.
While we all know Athens has much poverty, and can benefit from the
opportunity of more jobs, losing Athens’ voice and presence is not the way to go. Before we know it, Athens will be an Atlanta bedroom community, with cookie-cutter retail stores that represent the mundaneness of mainstream America and minimalize the unique southern charm of nearby neighborhoods.
My point is not that the shopping center should be located somewhere else; it should be filled with something else. So, Flagpole, let it be known that Athenians are worried, that we are concerned with not only our image and our current appeal. We want it known that this new mall, while positive in its own light, does not truly represent Athens. This is a shout-out to local entrepreneurs and business hopefuls: Let’s bring some homegrown ideas to the area and stay away from more retail conglomerates.