Decatur Districts Deconstructed

by Loren Pratt


Destination Old Depot District

Historic rail line is hub of modern food and fun


LIKE THE ENDURING railroad line that it hugs, the Old Depot District (ODD as it’s known by locals), is a robust group of busi- nesses revitalizing the area east of downtown Decatur. The ODD is anchored by Twain’s on the west and extends across the tracks to the shopping center housing Dog Towne Franks and Bleu hanger.

We caught up with business owners in the district representing the unique services, wares and community spirit that make the ODD a destination all its own.

First Stop: Spot for Dogs

New to Decatur, Spot for Dogs has been offering daycare, overnight stays and “old- fashioned baths” to local fur babies at its BeltLine location for the past 12 years.

Decatur resident and owner, Shannon Baker, says she “fell in love with an old, burned out building [in the district] and couldn’t wait to bring it back to life.”

Baker is proud that she and the staff know all the dogs by name as soon as they come in the door. The family-owned and operated business offers 24-hour supervision.

One important rule for business inspires Baker’s work. Her advice, “Have fun and enjoy what you are doing. It’s contagious to humans and canine interactions!”

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Spot for Dogs

Second Stop: Dog Towne Franks

Spurred by the confidence of their food truck success with Pup Truck, Alan Makrewicz and Chris Day recently opened their first brick- and-mortar restaurant in the ODD.

The resulting Dog Towne Franks lives up to their goal of “innovative, old-school and delicious.” A skate-punk vibe and a tasty menu define the eclectic restaurant known for its unique hot dogs, pierogies, sausages and sandwiches.

Best sellers to try are El Jeffe (Mexica-influ- enced hot dog) and The D (Detroit-inspired hot dog). Makrewicz’s personal favorite is the Banh Mi (think cucumber, pickled dai- kon radish/carrot, mayo and siracha on a hot dog). The pierogies, coined “dumplings of goodness,” are house-made.

Keeping with its local vibe, all hot dogs and sausages are handmade by a local butcher, and 90% of the toppings are made inhouse. Bonus: Meat-eaters and veggie- lovers alike can dine in harmony with the yummy options offered here.

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Third Stop: Different Trains Gallery

A step into Different Trains is a local way to immerse yourself into “approachable and uncommon” contemporary art. The art gallery housed on the main floor of a townhome is reminiscent of the warehouse district in New Orleans.

Director Shawn Vinson describes the experience he and business partner Sarah Garvin have cultivated, “On any given day,you’ll find evocative exhibitions of paintings, prints, photography, and sculptures from local, regional and international artists.”

Past exhibitions include works by heavy hitters such as Tennessee artist Harry Underwood, Decatur’s very own Ruth Franklin and even M.C. Escher. Vinson’s 25 years in the industry and Garvin’s background as an art history major have provided access to a network of talent they can’t wait to share.

Vinson and Garvin are most excited about two upcoming exhibitions. First, in conjunction with Atlanta Celebrates Photography, the gallery will present “Remembering Marvin Rhodes,” a retro- spective of work from the late Atlanta-based photographer and Vietnam veteran.

Second, the gallery will host a one-woman show for Luzene Hill, an award-winning Atlanta artist and enrolled member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. “Hill’s work reflects interdisciplinary scholarship in visual art, women’s studies and Native American culture,” explains Vinson.

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Different Trains Gallery
Kellys Market

Fourth Stop: Kelly’s Market

This neighborhood grocery store and deli embodies the terms fresh, local and fun. At Kelly’s Market everyone is welcome, including dogs.

Inspired by his grandfather’s store in 1960’s Culver City, California, owner Sean Crotty (re)opened Kelly’s Market 50 years later and 2,000 miles away in the ODD.

Be prepared for immediate and mouth- watering sights and smells of the shop. The deli serves breakfast, lunch and dinner or find local ingredients to prep your own meal.

Best-sellers include locally-sourced eggs, milk and coffee beans. Crotty’s personal favorites include Spotted Trotter Spatch- cock chicken, Roots hummus and Georgia sourdough crackers. It’s worth mentioning that the market carries a nice selection of gluten free products, including beer.

Speaking of beer, don’t forget to grab it and wine from the market’s unbeatable selec- tion and join its beer and wine clubs. Crotty is proud to offer wines that are a “punch above their weight in terms of quality and value.” His go-to is Oregon’s Ovum Big Salt.

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Fifth Stop: Splash of Olive

Owner Mimi Williams is excited to have relo- cated Splash of Olive to the “little gem” of Kelly’s Market. Here, her Ultra Premium (UP) olive oils and balsamic vinegars join in “sym- biotic relationship” with the market’s food.

“Customers are thrilled to shop for high quality olive oils and balsamic vinegars while also being able to grab dinner or other items from the market,” explains Williams.

In high demand is UP olive oil, the highest standard for quality oil. With a selection of more than 20 to choose from, customers are encouraged to taste each oil and vinegar before purchasing. Favorites include basil oil, Tuscan herb oil, and Sicil- ian lemon white balsamic and traditional dark balsamic vinegars.

Williams is a wealth of knowledge on pairing oils and balsamic vinegars as well as pairing them with food and drink. She rec- ommends using wild mushroom and sage oil when cooking mushroom risotto, pizza and torta. She swears by substituting blood orange oil in place of vegetable oil when making brownies.

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Splash of Olive
Color Wheel Studio

Final Stop: Color Wheel Studio

From its humble beginnings in a bungalow on Church Street with one teacher and 12 stu- dents, Color Wheel has grown into a building with 10,000 square feet of space and a staff of 11 in the ODD. This creative operation has helped thousands of Decatur kids unleash their imaginations into artistic expression with its after school and camp programs.

“Color Wheel’s curriculum is holis- tic and focused on creative exploration,” explains owner and founder Cathy Spen- cer. “We support the individual learning capacity of each child and, in turn, support the school curriculum. We believe strongly that creating art on a regular basis enhances brain connections by engaging in new and complex activities and that being part of a creative community supports social and emotional well-being.”

Pottery, drawing and textiles are some of the mediums used at the studio. Students work together and with teachers who have a degree in fine arts or art education.

Community impact is also important to Spencer. Color Wheel hosts many events with the City Schools of Decatur, the Decatur Education Foundation and Decatur Art Alli- ance. Student and staff favorites include the Decatur Lantern Parade and Empty Bowls with the Atlanta Community Food Bank.

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