NPR

A Pillar Of Atlanta's Community Also Has An Outsize Shoe Collection

Walters Clothing carries styles that go back decades and shoes up to size 18. Its outsize selection has earned the attention of NBA stars and hip-hop artists. (New Voices Initiative, AIR)

It takes anchors to keep neighborhoods lively — key restaurants and stores that draw people from far and wide. Walters Clothing in downtown Atlanta is a mom-and-pop shop that has that kind of magnetic attraction.

Seen from the outside, the store's appearance is unpretentious: The red and white awning is striking, but it is the store's reputation as the place to buy sneakers that is the real draw. Walters carries styles that go back decades and shoes up to size 18. Its outsize selection has the attention of NBA stars, and Atlanta-based hip-hop stars including Jermaine Dupri and Ludacris have memorialized the store in music video.

Walters is also an institution that attracts celebrities, which led to confrontation. In 2010, associates of rival Atlanta rappers Gucci Mane and Young Jeezy ran into each other and mixed it up, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

Walters employee Patrick Morrison is nonchalant about the store's fame.

"People come to certain places. It's just the way it is," he says, "you just can't explain it."

Thanks to independent producer Susanna Capelouto and Georgia Public Radio's Eboni Lemon. They're part of the New Voices initiative from AIR, the Association of Independents in Radio.

"City Life Snapshots" are part of the NPR Cities Project.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

More Photos
Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Vital neighborhoods need anchors - places like a community center, a restaurant or a store. Here's an example - a place that's been in some music videos - in this City Life Snapshot.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Hey, how're you doing, ma'am?

PATRICK MORRISON: My name is Patrick Morrison. I'm from Atlanta, Ga., and I work at Walters Clothing. It's a mom-and-pop store - opened in 1952.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Walt's Clothing - yeah, just a moment.

MORRISON: Walt's is like, one of the pillars of the community. It's a landmark in Atlanta. So anybody that's from here knows Walters. So it started as a clothing store at first, but it evolved into shoes, and shoes is pretty much our biggest business now.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: Are you a size nine?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #4: You going to try them on?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: These are a size nine right here.

MORRISON: Imagine going into a room full of tennis shoes. All the walls are filled with tennis shoes. If you're an older guy looking for that tennis shoe back in 1980, we probably still have it. So if you're a guy now who's looking for the new KD's and LeBron's, we're going to have that, too.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #5: All right, you want to get these?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #6: Can I try them on real quick?

MORRISON: I think a lot of these artists that came up in the city used to shop here when they was coming up, like Outkast, Rick Ross, all those guys shopped here when they were young. So you know, they kind of still just come back here, even Ludacris.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WELCOME TO ATLANTA")

JERMAINE DUPRI FEAT. LUDACRIS: (Singing) Welcome to Atlanta, where the players play and we ride on dem thangs like, every day.

MORRISON: We just do a lot of music and we have a lot of athletes because we carry shoes up to size 18.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #7: How're you all doing today? Can we help you?

MORRISON: People come to certain places. It's just the way that it is. It's why you think people go eat Varsity hamburgers. It's not great food, but it's always people there. You just can't explain it.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WELCOME TO ATLANTA")

JERMAINE DUPRI FEAT. LUDACRIS: (Singing) Welcome to Atlanta, where the players play and we ride on dem thangs like, every day. Big beats, hit streets, see gangsters roamin' and the parties don't stop till 8 in the mornin'.

SIEGEL: Patrick Morrison at Walters in downtown Atlanta. Thanks to Susanna Capelouto and Eboni Lemon for that City Life Snapshot. They're part of the New Voices initiative from the Association of Independents in Radio. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Most Popular