Two-Hundred Minutes in…Roswell

photos courtesy of MIKO + BOONE; OLIVIA KOLKANA; LINEN & FLAX; FOUNDATION SOCIAL EATERY; MORGAN BLAKE; EXPLOREROSWELL.COM; LIZ ERIKSON; ABBY WILLIAMS PHOTOGRAPHY, 

IF YOU FOLLOW A CAR with a “Go with the Flow” bumper sticker on its rear hatch, odds are you’ll end up in Roswell. You can often tell you’re inside city limits when you see multiple cars with the same sticker in one parking lot. While some may interpret the phrase as a metaphorical life motto, the stickers are actually repping Go with the Flow Sports, an outfitters shop in historic downtown Roswell.

Located at the corner of Elizabeth Way and Canton Street, the shop’s continued success since1991 is a no-brainer: this Northside community borders the Chattahoochee River and abounds with waterfront public parks and trails for easy access to outdoor adventures. In fact, the city’s roots are centered on and around the river.

As for a life motto? Well, there very well maybe a tangible laid-back lifestyle among the citizens. However, if you spend a little time there, you may find that “Go Your Own Way” more accurately seems to guide Roswell residents on whatever paths they may follow. Independent businesses, natural wonders, historic preservation and a thriving arts community all call the area home, but none of these could survive without the passionate people uniting them together. Maybe there’s something in the water.

THE WELCOMING COMMITTEE

Just ask Rand Cabus how much he cares about his community. As the newest chairman of the Historic Roswell Business Association (HRBA), it’s in his job description. To get technical, the HRBA’s stated mission is to “best enable the businesses of the Historic District to work in a spirit of collaboration with each other and with Roswell’s government and non-government agencies to promote the growth, development and economic prosperity of our community.”

It’s worth noting that being chairman isn’t Cabus’ first job, and it’s not even his second.

Cabus is the owner of Mojo Vinyl, a record store on Webb Street, just steps away from Go with the Flow. His shop buys and sells new and used records as well as sells audiophile quality turntables, art and miscellaneous cool stuff that add up to Cabus’ passion project. Meanwhile, his main gig is his marketing agency, Privateer Design, which specializes in communications and brand development.

While the success of the HRBA could directly benefit Cabus as a small business owner, it was his primary skill set that catapulted him into the leadership role. In collaboration with the Roswell Convention and Visitors Bureau, Cabus and the HRBA have created exploreroswell.com, a free, online resource. Their target audiences are newcomers and daytrippers to the area — both of which Cabus gets regularly. In fact, for the celebration of Record Store Day in April, Cabus saw 500 customers pass through the doors of the quaint Mojo Vinyl. Other days, he greets out-of-town visitors and even out-of-the-country regulars who have specifically sought out his unique shop.

Inside, you’ll find a mix of genres and music lovers could spend half a day just flipping through the stacks. While Cabus would welcome you warmly, I imagine he would kindly tell you to get outside and explore what else Roswell has to offer, too.

CANTON STREET CULTURE

According to the HRBA, Historic Roswell can be organized into five main districts: Canton Street, Webb Street, Oak Street, the River District and the Square (across from the Roswell Mill).

The first — Canton Street — is home to retail stores and boutiques as well as many of my favorite al fresco dining spots. It tends to constitute the most popular connotation for many people when they hear of or visit Roswell.

Simply put, it’s a charmer. Old brick facades. Long, narrow restaurants that feel cozy. Sunlit porches filled with smiling faces.

On the weekends, Canton’s sidewalks are typically vibrant throughout the year with potted plants and pedestrians, but there’s no better way to see this stretch of the area come to life than during “Alive in Roswell.” Formerly known as “Alive After Five,” this family-friendly street fest is hosted the third Thursday of each month from 5 to 9 p.m. between April and October. The road is closed to vehicle traffic and filled with strolling crowds in search of art at Vinings Gallery, live music and a “crowler,” a 32-ounce can of a unique, small-batch ale from Gate City Brewing Co.

Founded by three locals, Gate City continues to evolve. Earlier this year, they opened an expanded, revamped taproom where Magnolia Street meets Canton, as well as stepped up for the role of presenting sponsor for the “Alive in Roswell” series. Gate City’s momentum is just one indication of the boom many local businesses have experienced throughout the years when they have set up shop along Roswell’s prime real estate and there are no signs of slowing down.

Next door to Gate City, where a Wells Fargo branch is currently located, is the site of an innovative new development dubbed Canton Place. After more than four years in the works, groundbreaking is on the horizon, with plans including a boutique hotel with 100-plus rooms, an 8,000-square-foot event space, chef-driven restaurants with roof-top dining, a luxury spa and underground parking facility. The Roswell’s Downtown Development Authority knows that the latter alone could be a game changer as a long-term solution for commonly overcrowded lots and car-lined streets.

While we await more updates about Canton Place, others signs of construction on a drive up and down the namesake street (and beyond— just Google “Southern Skillet development”) are hinting at other mavericks in the making.

OAK STREET’S RENAISSANCE

On Oak Street, another tide is rising. While Cabus and the HRBA aim to help all the districts flourish in ways that Canton has, Oak Street and its inhabitants are perhaps next in line to hit their stride. For now, what distinguishes Oak from the crowd is what keeps the curious coming back.

“Our customers love Oak Street because it’s not as busy with traffic and we have parking!” said Amy Ferrer, owner of and interior designer at Miko + Boone. Since opening in 2015, Ferrer has no shortage of accolades from regional media and repeat customers alike. Miko + Boone specializes in gifts and designer-selected vignettes of light fixtures, home furnishings, accessories, rugs and more that you can purchase right off the floor, as well as full-service design and their To.The.Trade Designer’s Resource Center.

On Oak Street, Ferrer’s neighbors feel like family to her and one of her neighbors actually is. “I must say, my favorite part is that my shop is two doors down from my daughter Britt Bass Turner’s studio,” Ferrer said. Turner is a talented artist that draws inspiration from colorful blooms and Southern foliage to create splashy, abstract works that have been reinterpreted as prints, notebook covers and even iPhone cases— all of which are for sale at Miko + Boone.

Even the name “Miko + Boone” alludes to Ferrer’s own kin as they are the names her grandchildren call her and husband. But the familial feel doesn’t stop there.

Miko + Boone and Britt Bass Turner are part of a larger development that has recently rebranded itself as Roswell Collective, or ROCO for short. The collective encompasses professional artists, photographers, designers, entrepreneurs and forward-thinkers working independently in a spacious 30,000-square-foot building.

There are some spaces in the development that accommodate walk-ins, like Miko + Boone, Rustic Trades Furniture and Oak Street Café. The rest of the development is a mixture of working artist studios and offices like Turner’s, as well as the Fountainhead Art Space, ROCO’s headquarters and more.

The community didn’t blossom overnight. Even Ferrer said she had frequented Roswell’s shops and restaurants for 28 years, but until she owned her business, she really had no idea how awesome Roswell was.

“I didn’t know this little suburb that feels like an in-town city had an overwhelming sense of community,” Ferrer added. “I also didn’t know the different varieties of creatives that own their own small businesses while doing what they are so passionate about every day. The artists, restaurateurs, furniture makers, graphic designers, interior designers (like myself), florists and boutique shop owners all play a part of this wonderful community. It’s a beautiful thing to witness how the community of people living in or around Roswell are supporting one another.”

SOUTHERN COMFORT

All things considered, it should come as no surprise that Chaz Easterly of Linen & Flax Home was eager to join this burgeoning creative district, too. However, Easterly has already made a local imprint by way of her first home décor shop in an old house on Canton Street.

You could say that Easterly entered the interior design business through the backdoor. When she and her family moved to Roswell in June 2017,  Easterly had no intentions of owning her own business nor even getting a job. Her family was building their farmhouse in Roswell and people started coming by to see the progress. Before long, neighbors wanted Easterly to help them with their own homes and she started to recognize her fervor for beautiful interiors.

When the recession hit and Easterly’s family was in need of a second income, she scouted Canton Street for employment opportunities. After no takers, she found a job at Pottery Barn and further honed her newfound talent. Eventually, her fortuitous turn of fate led to an independent business —Chaz Easterly Design — then to the opening of Linen & Flax Home in December 2015 and as of April, the debut of a second concept called The L&F Barn on Oak Street.

The Barn’s spacious size allows for an extension of the goods you’d find at the original Linen & Flax, but in a style that Easterly describes as “a little more rustic, a little more farmhouse, a little more found objects” and includes garden products. Like her creative contemporaries in Roswell, Easterly also puts her heart into each of her client’s projects; just look at her company’s name.

“I love fabric, but there’s a significance to it and in the Bible, this ‘Proverbs 31’ woman. She was the ultimate woman, but no one really talks about the business side of her. I saw in that area of scripture that she’s always working with linen,” she said.

The second part of the name relates to Easterly’s personal journey. She shared that there’s been a lot of heartache and pain, and she does a lot of ministry with young girls based on these experiences. She has found healing in realizing design is also a process of refinement.

“You may get a house and it may be kind of a mess, and it’s our job to make it pretty again. It’s the same thing with flax. You know it was nothing you would choose — it’s not a pretty flower, it’s just an ugly grain, but it has to be beaten down, it has to be refined, and whenever it comes out, it is beautiful linen.”

Flax isn’t the only crop that resonates with Easterly. Cotton is one of Linen & Flax’s biggest sellers, and the connection to the city’s history wasn’t lost on her.

“That was the first industry in Roswell; that’s how they made their living was with cotton,” she said. When working with clients, Easterly enjoys incorporating a little bit of that historic soul and old-world charm into the homes because she feels like that’s what Roswell is.

“I love the history, and I love the soul of Roswell,” said Easterly, who hails from Connecticut but considers herself a transplanted Southern girl. “I feel like the community has embraced the history and I think people gravitate here because [of it].”

A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT

About a mile from the L&F Barn, you can see the historic ruins of the Roswell Manufacturing Co. in Old Mill Park.

Located on the banks of Vickery Creek, the cotton mills were constructed in 1839 and 1853 before Union forces burned them down on July 7, 1864. The 1853 mill was rebuilt after the Civil War and used until destroyed by fire again in 1926. The waterfall created once the creek was dammed as well as the original machine shop can be viewed from the interpreted trail. A covered pedestrian bridge over the creek connects the walking trail that begins in Old Mill Park to the Chattahoochee River trail system. Nature lovers and history buffs alike will rejoice at the discoveries to be made at this natural oasis in the middle of suburban sprawl.

When I asked locals like Turner and Cabus about what makes Roswell special to them, their responses drifted back to the river. With multiple access points open to the public, it’s easy to make a quick escape. Perhaps my own favorite spot to find some waterfront peace has been at The Ben Brady Lakeside Pavilion at the Chattahoochee Nature Center.

To feel the sense of calm wash over you, dip your toes in the chilly water and hear the soothing sound of the waterfall at Old Mill Park or spend a relaxing summer day on an inner tube “shooting the Hooch” is just something you have to experience for yourself.

SOMETHING’S ALWAYS BREWING

Still, there’s a lot more to Roswell than its historic downtown districts. When you go your own way, your path may lead you north on Alpharetta Highway for some friendly competition at Andretti’s Indoor Karting & Games or west on Woodstock Road for fashionable threads at Findlay Rowe.

I followed my heart (and stomach) east on Holcomb Bridge Road, where mixed among residential neighborhoods, golf courses and schools, you may discover more tucked-away gems like Chef Mel Toledo’s Foundation Social Eatery (FSE). Whether you venture in for an elevated lunch experience, happy hour with an expertly arranged cheese and charcuterie board or stay for dinner, trust me when I say that you’re in for a treat.

Of course, Roswell’s progression isn’t stopping there. While Gate City might have blazed the trail Variant Brewing Co. and From the Earth Brewing are both happy to join the party. Founded by Tim Stevens, From the Earth Brewing Co., is slated to open in the same shopping center as FSE in September 2017.

“Our goal was to stay in the community we live in, [where] we are involved in charities and where our children go to school,” Stevens said. “We have lived in Roswell for the past five years and love everything it has to offer! Our goal is to create a neighborhood gathering spot for all our friends and neighbors to enjoy. We plan to source our food locally and we plan on donating our spent grain (fertilizer and feed for animals) to the same farmers that are growing our food.”

It’s another refreshing example of the good that can come from the power of connectivity and following one’s passion.

You could spend all 200 minutes rollicking in it yourself, with a locally crafted pint (or two) with pals. You could take the time volunteering to clean up the Chattahoochee, an hour supporting local artists or just a few minutes meeting a new friend — and you never know where that will lead. Which way will you go?

roswell.gov
exploreroswell.com
roswelldda.com
roswellcollective.com
linenandflax.com
foundationatl.com

MORE SUMMER HAPPENINGS IN ROSWELL

The City of Roswell hosts a free “Fitness in the Park” series on Saturdays at 9 a.m. at the Roswell Town Square. Join a Zumba class on June 10 or get Zen with a yoga session on June 17 and 24.

After breaking a sweat at Zumba, head over to Barrington Hall on June 10 for the seventh annual Lavender Festival. Held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., this free festival celebrates health and well-being with lavender and garden-related demonstrations, lavender food samples, children’s activities, live music, food and an arts and crafts showcase. facebook.com/roswelllavendarfestival 

Vinings Gallery is pleased to welcome hometown hero Thomas Arvid back to Roswell for his annual one-man summertime celebration. Featuring new original paintings and limited edition works, the show promises to be as exciting as ever. Stop by between June 23 and 25 at Vinings Gallery on Elizabeth Way in historic Roswell. viningsgallery.com

The Chattahoochee Nature Center (CNC) offers a full schedule of summer events to fill your family’s calendar. From scouting fairy houses and film screenings to guided hikes and sunset concerts, there’s something for everyone and all ages to enjoy. Take Dad or Grandpa to celebrate Father’s Day on June 18 and he will enjoy free admission for a day of cool adventures along the 127 acres. Sign up by June 15 and your family can enjoy a canoe trip for the whole family (limited space available; discounted prices for CNC members). chattnaturecenter.org