Plaza Drugs through the ages

22 Mar

via Atlanta Time Machine

According to the New Georgia Encyclopedia, Briarcliff Plaza was “Georgia’s first true shopping center.” Located at the corner of Ponce and N. Highland, it was the first retail space with an off-street parking lot in Atlanta in 1939.

In the 1960s, Plaza Drugs was a delightful place to buy Russell Stover chocolates, makeup, and mother’s little helpers.

(via Downhome Traces)

Of course, between being open 24 hours a day and Ponce de Leon Avenue’s departure from its genteel origins, Plaza Drugs’ scene changed with urban decline. You can see and read about Briarcliff Plaza social life in the very early ’80s in George Mitchell’s out-of-print Ponce de Leon: An Intimate Portrait of Atlanta’s Most Famous Avenue, which is worth every penny you have to pay for it.

In the mid-1980s, new wave kids The Plaza Drugs played at the 688 Club on Spring Street, and here on the American Music Show. They are so good!

In 1993, Plaza Drugs was totally ’90s and yet so timeless. How do they do it?

via dhpix on Flickr

via zeusface on Flickr*

There has never been a drug store there since I’ve officially lived here. Just some other unsuccessful retail and eventually that tiny guy with the rat tail who works in Urban Outfitters. You all know who I’m talking about!!

In the following video, Ponce de Leon photographer/author George Mitchell explains Plaza Drugs’ slaw dogs.

Speaking of the Ponce book and Ponce itself, did anyone read that article in the AJC a couple of weekends ago, “Residents along Ponce band together to fight crime“? Signature quote: “For years, Ponce de Leon has been shorthand for urban decay and bizarre street theater.”

It’s just so interesting to read this in 2010, because in Mitchell’s book he talks to a few Ponce denizens who, in 1983, predict a lot of gentrification along the street very soon. I think it’s the guy at the Open Door Community who cites the pending development of the old Ford Factory into residential lofts and retail space as the first of what he thought would be sweeping and immediate changes along the corridor to make it fancy and bougie. Little did he know that those lofts would merit review like this on Yelp, and that the adjacent lot would one day be known as Murder Kroger. And that the dividing line between Murder Kroger and the Ford Factory lofts is called “the crack track” in some circles, although the term “the BeltLine” does seem to be catching on these days.

And now the #2 MARTA bus will be eliminated and the route shared with two other bus routes (the #6 and another I forgot), which makes me question if there’s some sort of conspiracy from the DeKalb end of Ponce where that county is like, “Uh, our end of this street is just fine; can you please keep those people who get on at City Hall East from making it all the way to Decatur so easily?”

*Look at zeusface‘s other vintage Atlanta photos from ’89-’95. THEY ARE MAGNIFICENT.

Previously: Atlanta’s garden of Eden

17 Responses to “Plaza Drugs through the ages”

  1. Juliea Monday, March 22, 2010 at 9:40 pm #

    We used Plaza Drugs quite often during the 60s and early 70s. It was still relatively new then and was one of the few pharmacies that stayed open all night. Very handy when you’re raising babies!

    • eddie willers Monday, July 7, 2014 at 1:24 pm #

      Or trying to prevent having babies.

  2. Terry Monday, March 22, 2010 at 10:55 pm #

    Christmas Eve at Plaza Drugs was an ecumenical Atlanta time: Folks of all races, sexes, and classes getting things done in the nick of time. Some bought batteries; some bought bought everything.

    #2 gone? I would drop my car at the Toyota dealership in Downtown Decatur. Back to town on #2. Used to get a lot more done in downtown Decatur.

  3. Leigh Tuesday, March 23, 2010 at 11:05 am #

    From what I gather the #2 will still be in service, it will go east from North Avenue station to Moreland Ave to Inman Park station and then back to North Ave station via Ralph McGill and Freedom Parkway. The #6 will run west from Clifton Road to North Avenue. It’s true there won’t be service to Decatur and Avondale stations anymore, but those areas could be accessed from the train in probably about the same amount of time. I’ve ridden from North Ave to Decatur or Avondale station (and the reverse route) a lot many different times of day and it does seem that between Clifton Road and Avondale there is not much ridership.

    • christa t Thursday, March 25, 2010 at 5:41 pm #

      You’re right. Thanks for always being the voice of reason.

  4. drew Tuesday, March 23, 2010 at 2:37 pm #

    the rat tail kid! totally!

    • christa t Tuesday, March 23, 2010 at 5:51 pm #

      Shut up; you only shop at the Peachtree Center Brooks Brothers.

      • drew Friday, March 26, 2010 at 8:48 am #

        you know what? if i actually did, it would be better than perusing miniature ping pong paddles and over priced t-shirts of 1970’s ad slogans.

  5. classicgaysitcoms Tuesday, March 23, 2010 at 3:39 pm #

    A. I love this blog.
    B. The rat tail kid thing is GENIUS.

  6. Dennis Whitefield Tuesday, March 23, 2010 at 4:51 pm #

    Great post on The Plaza Drug Store

  7. Mayor of Ponce Wednesday, March 24, 2010 at 9:28 pm #

    This is terrific! And thanx for the cred on “the crack track”, my ladies.

  8. Michael Thursday, April 26, 2012 at 5:43 pm #

    I grew up in Smyrna and I remember in the late 70″s and early 80’s Plaza drugs was still playing those commercials. My friends and I would drive all the way down there to eat when we got the munchies at 3AM – drunk and high. Back then you could still drive drunk. Those commercials and memories are part of my “coming of age.” My first foray into “the city.” Back then suburbanites didn’t come into the city – it was dirty and all those hippies hanging out at the Varsity.

  9. Jerry Barnett Wednesday, December 5, 2012 at 7:02 pm #

    My step father, Dr. Emil Weiss, was the owner and genius behind the TV ads and 24 hour service. He worked his heart out for decades to be the best pharmacy in Atlanta. He married my mother, Goldie Barnett Weiss, in 1967. He passed in 1987 after selling The store to CVS a few years earlier. My mother passed in 2011. In the 1970’s I worked in the store on a few holidays as backup to the regular help. One year I sold film without stop from early to late on Christmas day. The long line of customers had no end in sight the entire day. There is no way to understand the full impact of what this little store meant to so many Atlanta residence while Doc Weiss was serving the greater needs of the community. God bless all the little business owners who invest their heart and soul to make a difference in the world.

    • pecanne log Tuesday, February 12, 2013 at 10:11 pm #

      Jerry, thank you for sharing that little glimpse into the personality behind the pharmacy!


  1. Pecanne Log: Plaza Drugs through the ages | Atlanta Unsheltered - Wednesday, March 24, 2010

    […] post on Pecanne Log Monday on the history of Plaza […]

  2. 30 Days of The Plaza, Day 13: Smokin’ at The Plaza, A Flashback to The Plaza’s Racy Past from Torchy Taboo « ATLRetro - Tuesday, June 5, 2012

    […] or Aunt Etheline’s house near the GMHI always included a soda fountain milk-shake from the Plaza Drug Store on the way home at night-fall…”We never close.”  The vintage Plaza sign blipped […]

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