Walter’s can be described in many ways. The beginning of most people’s love of sneakers in the city of Atlanta started at Walter’s when their parents purchased them their favorite pair of sneakers. To others who aren’t a fan of the over hyped, celebrity, celebrity co-signing, boutique scene full of hipsters & trend humpers it’s the best place to get a no frills shopping experience. Notice I said “experience”. People travel from other parts of the state, country, & even the world to come to Walter’s.
A blog friend of mine asked me to suggest some stores to visit here in the city. His brother was headed down for a few days from Charleston, SC. & wanted to do some shopping. I named a few boutiques but, as always, Walter’s was at the top of the list. I spoke with his brother via twitter & got the impression he wasn’t too impressed. I immediately felt offended. Not because he wasn’t entitled to his opinion, but because I could tell he didn’t understand Walter’s significance, & I didn’t have the time to explain it. We hope this piece as a whole sheds some light on what this place means to Atlanta & the South as a whole.
Founded in 1952 in a location not too far from where it is now on Decatur St., Walter’s is the only destination for the blue collar citizens of Atlanta (mostly African Americans) to have all their clothing needs met. Their prices were affordable & race wasn’t an issue. They were one of the first Nike accounts in the southeast, & continue to be one of the largest. Over time, Walter’s continued to grow, expanding into modern fashion & accessories, fitted caps, athletic wear, etc.
Years later, people have come to expect them to have exclusive sneakers first. Today sneakers aren’t as exclusive as they once were. Fashion varies so much that no one will ever be completely satisfied with what a store has to offer, but Walter’s is still here. That says a lot about the clientele that shops with them. You can still get all of your clothing needs met for an affordable price at Walter’s, and you can often see celebrities & athletes walking the narrow aisles with their fans both enjoying the same shopping experience.
In our interviews we spoke to Angelo, Shawn, & Brandon, the grandson of Walt himself. Each of them describes different perspectives of the same experience. To become a Walter’s employee you must be an Atlanta Public school student enrolled in a work-study program. This creates a unique dynamic between the customers & sales associates. Shawn described the environment to be similar to a barbershop. You may have been shopping with your particular salesman since high school. They call you when a new release is in the store & even hold your size if necessary. You don’t come to the store to talk strictly about sneakers; you come to visit a friend. There’s a level of sentiment that comes with a purchase from Walter’s that you can’t get elsewhere.
One of the points that Madison wanted me to highlight was the journey we made while creating this piece. I struggled with that idea. Vince and I didn’t do anything out of the ordinary to make this happen. It simply took a phone call from Angelo (better known as Anlo, who’s also Vince’s cousin) & a little help from Thomas Wilson & crew behind the lens. This wasn’t anything new to us. Since high school I can remember going there just to talk to employees about new releases. Buying shoes that I couldn’t find at the mall when they released on clearance at Walter’s because they had so many. Camping out in front of the store for the first time & meeting all of the people I know now that help make Atlanta Got Sole what it is today. Truth be told, the journey won’t ever end. This won’t be the last piece we do with Walter’s God willing. I hope this encourages those who haven’t been here to experience shopping at Walter’s to view it, as it should be; as an opportunity to be a part of Atlanta’s history. Enjoy.