Modern Tribe hopes to cash in on tourists riding Atlanta rails

In the heart of historic Atlanta sits a shop immersed in 3,000 years of tradition.

Mayor Kasim Reed told the AJT that an Israeli company might supply the new fare system for the Atlanta Streetcar.

Modern Tribe sits across the street from the Atlanta Streetcar line. (Photo by David Cohen)

Modern Tribe sells hip gifts and Judaica products to a new generation of Jews less than a half-mile from the birthplace of Martin Luther King Jr. The 7-month-old storefront at 171 Auburn Ave. sits right on the new Atlanta streetcar line in a revitalized district with the opportunity to attract trendy in town shoppers and tourists alike.

“There have been more people coming in since the streetcar opened” in December, Modern Tribe founder Jennie Rivlin Roberts said. “It’s only been three weeks, and right now it’s not really shopping season, but there have definitely been more people coming into the store, which has been promising. I’m really excited to see what happens.”

The Atlanta streetcar’s 2.7-mile route connects the downtown hotel district with some of the city’s most popular attractions. The Georgia Aquarium, World of Coca-Cola, Sweet Auburn Curb Market and King Historic District are accessible via the rail line.

Roberts hopes the resulting influx of visitors to the Sweet Auburn district will increase visitors to her brick-and-mortar store.

The business is embracing the hoped-for flood of tourists with its own brand of Southern Jewish souvenirs.

“We are creating a line of Shalom Y’all branded products right now that’s really hip and cool,” Roberts said. “We’re putting that on mugs, hats and T-shirts so that when people come into the store, they can bring a little bit of that Southern Jewish culture back with them.”

Modern Tribe sells hip Jewish apparel and accessories.

The store also sells kosher cotton candy from Cotton Cravings, an example of how Modern Tribe provides an outlet for local vendors and artisans.

Modern Tribe began in 2007 on the strength of a Chanukah game Roberts and her husband, Webb, invented, No Limit Texas Dreidel. The Robertses were disappointed with the limited choices in Jewish holiday products and began creating their own. In the store and on its website, moderntribe.com, products vary from contemporary Havdalah sets and Kiddush cups to trendy Chanukah sweaters and tank tops that say “Muscle Tov.”

The shop is directly across the street from the Piedmont and Auburn Avenue streetcar station and a block away from the Sweet Auburn Curb Market, which drew more than 700,000 shoppers last year.

“It’s exciting,” Roberts said of being in a largely non-Jewish area. “Non-Jews come into the store and connect with us for a variety of reasons. On Rosh Hashanah we sold about half of our shofarim to non-Jews.”

The Atlanta streetcar, whose rides will be free until March, hopes to expand downtown tourism beyond the attractions around Centennial Olympic Park. In the meantime, Roberts and her Modern Tribe staff are hopeful that the storefront will show visitors to Atlanta a little bit about what it means to be a Southern Jew.

Visitors to Modern Tribe can find a wide variety of interesting Jewish gifts