The furniture and other accouterments at Naughty Girls Lingerie and Uptown Novelties on Cheshire Bridge Road were carried out into the parking lot and trucked away last month. A gentleman in charge of clearing the building said the tenants had fallen behind on the rent. Times are tough for the sex industry along Cheshire Bridge. The landlord wasn’t getting paid and just across the street, Onyx, a strip club open for most of this century is now closed. For a few weeks a sign out front said “closed for repairs.” Now that message is gone — in fact the sign is also gone. And the repairs? On dozens of trips past the club in the last month, no activity by the hammer and nail crowd has been spotted.
The Naughty Girls Lingerie/Uptown Novelties building is next door to The Colonnade, still a thriving restaurant but rumored to be on the way out if naughty developers get their way. That story has been circulating for a few years now. The people working at the Colonnade say they aren’t going anywhere. But look up and down the street from the fabled restaurant; change is afoot.
Hundreds of new apartments line Cheshire Bridge from Windemere to Faulkner. Also nearing completion adjacent to Cheshire Bridge and Piedmont are clusters of posh units, right behind Johnny’s Pizza, on down Manchester to Lambert. The side streets once known only to the savviest drivers taking shortcuts are now home to condos and townhouses going for half a million and more. The Manchester complex, developed by Hedgewood, has 45 townhouses going up. Most are three-story jobs and 43 of the 45 are already sold or under contract.
Further down Cheshire Bridge at the former site of Alfredo’s Italian Restaurant is Accent Morningside. It’s a sprawling luxury apartments complex overlooking the Morningside Nature Preserve. Over 200 units bringing Atlantans closer to nature. The quasi-pastoral life starts at around $1,400.00 a month.
Another big complex is going up at Cheshire Bridge and Faulkner, just above the nondescript office building which used to house Web IV Studios, where Lynyrd Skynyrd, Brick, Frankie Miller, Melissa Manchester and Peabo Bryson recorded during the ’70s. In 1977 Paul Davis recorded his biggest hit, “I Go Crazy,” at Web IV. “I Go Crazy” was no doubt the most successful song ever recorded at the studio as it spent 40 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at #7.
Crazy, of course, is the operative word on Cheshire Bridge Road these days. Residents in the surrounding neighborhoods have been unhappy over the streetwalkers and adult arousal shops along the boulevard but they may be unhappier when all the new residents — with cars as appendages — settle in. The sex industry will seem quite innocuous compared to the additional time sitting in traffic.
In 1953, when Atlanta streets ran differently with fewer cars by the thousands, Cheshire Bridge Road was part of Buford Highway. Since that time Rhodes Bakery has stood at 1783 Cheshire Bridge. It’s a plain-looking brick building, plain inside and out. But there’s nothing plain about the cakes, petit fours, cookies, cheese straws and other treats that Tom Rhodes and his staff bake five days a week.
Tom Rhodes was just a kid when his family moved the business from its location at Piedmont and Monroe (then called Boulevard). Through all the changes, he’s missed little that’s happened along Cheshire Bridge and he’s tried to have a positive impact on whatever’s gone down. Long a boulevard of shopping centers, fast-food joints as well as fine restaurants, a new mix of businesses up and down the stretch offered various goods and services. Hastings Nursery opened in the ’50s. Up on a hill was a fortune teller. Close by was a cooking school. Some light industrial. Strip clubs. Gay bars. The history on Cheshire Bridge Road is meaningful to Atlanta’s LGBTQ community. Now “Rainbow flags” wave in front of many restaurants in the Midtown and Buckhead area, but that wasn’t the case as recently as a decade or so back. Few mainstream restaurants in the city were nearly as hospitable to Gays as the Colonnade. That loyalty is still recognized and it’s still reciprocated.
Newcomers to our country found Cheshire Bridge a welcoming place to serve food from their native lands. In a sense, Cheshire Bridge Road has had everything although some believe it has had nothing but trouble. Such people don’t know the meaning of trouble and they sure don’t know the meaning of community.
Trouble doesn’t get to Tom Rhodes. “We have no trouble,” he says. The biggest problem he’s dealt with has been the homeless getting into his dumpster out back, looking for food. He’ll chase them out of the dumpster but then have them come in the bakery. “We feed ’em all …. If someone comes in hungry, we’ll give them rolls or something,” Rhodes said.
Then he acknowledges the changes pressing hard on Cheshire Bridge Road. There will be more condos and townhouses. Traffic will not get any lighter. But he knows many of the new people coming in give the area more color and personality. Looking out his big windows, he says, “It’s a real diverse crowd. Business is good. Lots of foot activity. The streetwalkers. Moms with strollers. Joggers.” Then he remembered a day when a guy asked for some food. There was a spread of meatloaf and sides in the break room. “We prepared the guy a plate but he said, ‘No thanks, I’m a vegetarian.'”Hopefully the guy thought to ask for some cheese straws. They’re better than any meatloaf.
(“Naughty Girls building photo by Jeff Cochran.)