Like a lot of folks born and raised in the ATL, Abbadabba’s has been on my radar for most of my life. In middle school, rumors of the coolest shoe store situated in one of the edgiest neighborhoods started flying around. By the time I got to high school, those whisperings had escalated to full blown shouts as tales of Converse, Vans, Birkenstock, and the most coveted shoe of all, Dr. Martens, all available under one roof, reached fever pitch. Kids skipped school to check out the neighborhood, and to come back with prized purchases (hidden from parents, natch) to be shown off the next day to much fanfare. “So and so got Docs” would fly through the ranks, and all us jealous kids would crane our necks to get a peek at the coolest shoes in school. See, it was more than just a boot or a brand. Back in the late 80’s and 90’s, if you saw someone else in a pair chances were you guys stood on common ground. Wearing Docs transmits a lot of info about the person wearing them without a word being spoken- artistic, music lover, socially conscious, a little (or a lot) rebellious. I HAD to have a pair! I think it took over a year of bargaining with my mom to convince her that I desperately needed these boots. I can still hear the arguments- “Think of the money you’ll save because you’ll NEVER have to buy me another pair of shoes. These will last forever! I can wear them everywhere!” And her response- “Those are so ugly and heavy looking. At least you’ll build up some leg muscle.” And with that I knew victory, and a pair of Dr. Martens, was mine!
We made the trek to Little 5 Points from our tiny suburban apartment and my mom, a long-time resident of Atlanta, pointed out the places she used to live around the neighborhood. I had never known she used to live in Little 5, so this gave me a new perspective on her and the life she had before she had me. Mom was, well, cool! We parked and walked around, stopping to look in Crystal Blue, and laughing at a restaurant called Eat Your Vegetables, housed in a place that would, ironically, later become the Vortex, famous for its burgers and take no nonsense attitude. Directly across the street from the laid back eatery was Abbadabba’s. Boom! Back then it was quite a bit smaller than the store is today. The whole neighborhood smelled like patchouli and Nag Champa, the classic incense, and Abbadabba’s was no exception. I wish I could say that I remember more about the interior. 25 years between now and then renders details a little hazy, but I do remember the walls being lined with all types of shoes I had never seen before- crazy disco platforms, knee high boots, sneakers of every kind. I had always been in a hurry to grow up before, but seeing all the crazy styles made me long for the day when I could wear whatever I wanted, starting with all these amazing shoes!
But I was a girl on a mission- 8 eye Dr. Martens in classic black. Found them! The minute I put them on and looked at myself in the mirror I finally saw the person I always felt like on the inside. Fast forward 20 some odd years later and I’m working in our Little 5 Points store and this girl comes in, and she’s about 15 or 16 and her Mom is trailing her, cooing over all the array of shoes, talking about what was in style when she was younger. I walk over and ask them how they’re doing and ask if they have something particular in mind. Mom looks at the daughter, who looks back as if to say, “Are you sure?” In that moment I know why they’re here. The daughter walks over to the table full of Dr. Martens in colors and styles I could never have dreamed of, picks up the classic 8* boot in black and says “I want my first pair of Docs.”