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Thought Leadership Views From Peachtree

Experiences Make Midtown Atlanta’s Retail Future Bright

By Shirley Gouffon, Senior Vice President, Selig Enterprises and Midtown Development Review Committee Member

Restaurants and retailers alike have been evolving over the last several years, but the pace of evolution has been decidedly robust since and during the recent COVID pandemic. There are some “silver linings” to be found within the pandemic, not the least of which is the transformation of the retail experience, particularly in Midtown, Atlanta.

For the last decade or so, at the mere stroke of a key, the consumer has had many options available for both consumables and disposable products. Restaurants, particularly, pivoted during the pandemic and many of Midtown’s food and beverage establishments implemented take-out and delivery programs that were previously not widely employed, if at all. Delivery and curbside pick-up is here to stay, however, it should be noted that the desire for in-store retail experiences is on the rise with over 50% of Millennials claiming that much of their spending goes towards experiencing related products and services. Midtown Atlanta is a wonderful example of an urban environment which has been thoughtfully planned to attract “feet on the street” with its expansive sidewalks, lush landscaping and approachable storefronts.

Moreover, experiential retail is becoming increasingly relevant in today’s consumer market.  Creating a memorable shopping or dining experience through customer engagement is essential. Many brands with “flags” in Midtown, have very successfully transformed their businesses by offering “retailtainment” and immersive retail and dining experiences. 

Café Intermezzo, the European-inspired coffee house located in the heart of Midtown at Peachtree and 11th Streets, has long been considered an industry leader in creating authentic and memorable experiences for its patrons. Brian Olson, the CEO & Founder of Café Intermezzo, is considered an industry pioneer and was really on the cutting edge of experiential retail going back nearly 30 years. The Café Intermezzo experience transports the patron to a beautiful coffee house in Europe from the moment you enter. This experience has been thoughtfully executed through Brian’s discerning choice of décor, music, food presentation (a la “dessert tours”) and even foreign language instructional tape broadcasts. This proven formula has lured the patron back to Café Intermezzo for decades and is a shining example of the experiential retail phenomenon.

Whether a resident, visitor or tourist, one has access to a host of memorable experiences unique to Midtown. An afternoon spent in Midtown today within a one-block radius may include:

  • A leisurely walk down a beautiful tree lined street, lush with planters full of vibrant, cascading flowers, ripe with “Instagrammable” moments!
  • Stopping in DryBar for a blow-out while sipping a chilled Rose’, followed by an indulgent and relaxing mani/pedi at Sugarcoat next door.
  • A tour of the historic Margaret Mitchell House followed by a mid-afternoon stroll and people-watching from Café Intermezzo’s perch along Peachtree Street.  
  • Lastly, ending the day, as the sun is fading, atop Bulla Gastrobar’s scenic patio overlooking Midtown’s vibrant Crescent Avenue while feasting on a delicious array of tapas and enjoying a refreshing Sangria.

We are all, at heart, social beings. And it is through Midtown’s commitment to promoting the pedestrian experience that the area will continue to thrive as Atlanta’s premier walkable experiential destination.


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  1. John Brown July 7, 2022 10:24 am

    Sounds very priviledged. How nice not have to worry about crime, pollution or where the money for your mani/pedi will come from.Report

  2. Brian Carr July 13, 2022 12:58 pm

    Thanks for reading, @John Brown. I feel like your comment missed the point of the article and wanted to offer a different take. These retail stores in Midtown are readily accessible to everyone, and it was hard for me to make a connection to the issues you bring up (crime, pollution). What’s cool about the author’s role on the Midtown Development Review Committee is that she helps guide developers to make a great experience at street-level, and where the buildings meet the public right-of-way, where everyone is welcome.Report


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