ModernTribe, a local shop selling Jewish gifts and novelties, will keep building its international brand online as it works to keep its local Auburn Avenue storefront open.
The store, founded by Jennie Rivlin Roberts, was previously solely an e-commerce operation with worldwide sales and imported Israeli goods. But increased demand locally led Ms. Roberts to a Central Atlanta Progress program that helped merchants open “pop-up shops” along the proposed Atlanta Streetcar route.
“We’ve collected a number of local Atlantans that ask to come shop our warehouse each year, so we decided to create a space with both our operations and retail,” Ms. Roberts said.
An Atlanta native, Ms. Roberts wanted to help revitalize the downtown area while sharing her culture and benefiting from Atlanta’s growth in tourism. She estimates that among the among the 40 million visitors to the city each year, about 2 percent or 800,000 are Jewish.
That’s “more than six times the number of Jews that live in the metropolitan Atlanta area. ModernTribe has a national following. We want to be accessible to our national customer base, when they visit Atlanta,” she said.
But the delay of the Atlanta Streetcar launch meant that the promised foot traffic never arrived, which has led to the current negotiations with the city over rental rates into the future. ModernTribe formed a collective with the other pop-up shops and met with a commercial broker who should help negotiate new terms with the city; shop owners hope to pay reduced rent until the streetcar launches, so rents will rise with revenues.
“We’re going to the landlord, saying, we’re here. We’ve done so much. Let us stay,” Ms. Roberts said.
That’s not to mention the fact that the shop sees a much higher calling than just selling t-shirts and mugs, Ms. Roberts said. In a neighborhood full of churches and known for its civil-rights heritage, the store has become somewhat of a forum for religious conversations.
“We keep our door open, people walk in, and we have a lot of interesting discussions on religion.”
To introduce their brand and their culture, ModernTribe also hosted a series of events, including making kosher pickles and making caramel apples for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. Ms. Roberts also reached out to the local student Jewish organizations, Hillel, at Georgia State University and Georgia Tech.
Despite ModernTribe’s specialized nature, Ms. Roberts said she feels at home and like Modern Tribe belongs where it is.
“MLK’s birth home is down the street. We’re part of that big melting pot and that diversity of MLK’s dream. We have gotten such a welcome and so much love from the neighbors. We feel very appreciated and very integrated. We feel a part of the neighborhood already,” she said.
The Atlanta Streetcar is expected to launch in late November or early December. Mayor Kasim Reed has not announced a deadline other than by the end of the year.