As the only freestanding midcentury specialist in Atlanta, City Issue is Mecca for local Mad Men fans. A full-time vintage dealer since 2000, owner Jennifer Sams has enviable knowledge of the modern design movement and cross-country experience with finding exquisite pieces. I photographed her Inman Park shop and asked her to dish on topics to titillate the growing mass of midcentury style seekers: her favorite cities for antiquing, the best buys for starting a collection, and more.
Last year, during a day of thrifting in antique-rich Chamblee, Georgia, an unassuming used bookstore I’d passed dozens of times suddenly lured me in. I wandered Atlanta Vintage Books aimlessly at first, but after exploring two levels of rare, collectible, and plain ole used titles on every subject, I was filled with manic inspiration tugging me in ten directions. ESP? Yes, I’ve been meaning to look into that! A 60s typography book that looks straight out of Mad Men? Obviously, Don Draper would want me to have that. Teen dramas with sherbet-colored spines? I need photos of those for my vintage design file.
Bob Roarty says his 7,000-square-foot bookstore is like “Cheers without the beer,” a place for locals of all ages and interests to gather and make connections. I see what he means — couples read cozily in the nooks, and college study groups sprawl on the well-worn furniture. But I’ve always visited solo, making exciting connections with the books themselves. To me, it’s more like the best used music stores, where the inventory surprises you, the titles strike chords with your personal history, and the staff eagerly guides you toward a meaningful purchase.
Five roaming shop cats, the salvaged sofas, and the conspicuously absent coffee bar let you know you’re not at Barnes & Noble. “A place like this has a character to it, a personality, and a comfort that you don’t get in a new bookstore,” says employee George Walters. While I love the convenience of loading up my digital cart on Amazon, I agree that real, distinctive, curated shops like AVB have a firm (if a tad musty) place in society. I’m not alone, because sales have increased every year since Bob and his wife, Jan Bolgla, bought the business in 2007.
Some inventory is available online, but getting a taste of the shop this way is a flavorless morsel. Hunting used books is a sensory experience that must be enjoyed in person. For instance, the online books’ descriptions include their blemishes (worn covers, rubbed type, etc.), which in the virtual environment sound like red flags. But the books’ bruises, dog-eared pages, scribbles, and scents are actually part of their history and charm. I hope you’ll wander into Atlanta Vintage Books soon and come out with your own story to share. Please give Callie the cat a tickle from me.
3660 Clairmont Road // Chamblee, GA 30341 // 770.457.2919