The closest 7-Eleven to Buckhead is all the way in South Carolina.
That is peculiar given the role the iconic convince stores played in many of our lives, especially if you are around my age. That is to say nothing of the fact that what the world needs most on a sweltering summer day is a Coca-Cola Slurpee.
I’d happily drive to the next state when the temperature reaches north of 95 with shirt-soaking humidity for a draw of the Carmel-colored frozen goodness. For the uninitiated, Slurpees are only available at 7-Eleven. A Frosted Orange from The Varsity does the trick in a pinch. But I digress.
I learned we don’t have 7-Elevens when the new season of “Stranger Things” popped up on Netflix. Among the many films and TV shows being shot in Georgia right now, it is among the most popular. It follows a band of teenagers as they fight supernatural creatures and government bad guys in the 1980s.
In keeping with the ’80s theme, one of the scenes featured a 7-Eleven. But it was only Hollywood magic, someone online pointed out, because the orange and green convenience stores aren’t in Georgia.
Most people frequented the one on West Paces Ferry Road in Buckhead, where the Blue Ridge Grill is today. It was a popular stop for the after-school carpool as moms made their way from Westminster, Lovett and Pace. On weekends there were always a few familiar cars in the parking lot and a few bicycles leaning against the outside wall.
The 7-Eleven was central to life in Buckhead until it wasn’t there anymore. That would have been in 1988, when Circle K bought all of the Georgia locations. Some of them changed names, but many went the way of the Carolina parakeet: wiped from existence and our memories.
Growing up on the other side of Buckhead, we had the Majik Market on Peachtree Road just north of Peachtree Battle Avenue. It didn’t have Slurpees, but it had Icees, which also came in a Coca-Cola flavor. In fact, there was a wall of flavors. A “suicide,” where you put them all into a single cup, was too intense for me. I stuck to the tried and true.
The Majik Market was our first and last stop when we rode our bikes to the Hole, the Peachtree Battle Shopping Center. Afterward, we’d ride down to the center and go in Richards, Kings Drug Store and Oxford Books in no particular order. Riding a bike down a steep hill with an Icee in one hand was an acquired skill, but one we mastered out of necessity.
Messing around in the stores was an excellent way to kill a few hours on a lazy summer day in anticipation of something — anything — happening. We’d hit the market one more time before heading home for a candy bar or some other unhealthy snack our houses lacked.
The clerks knew us, and they watched over us. There were a few occasions when my mother, Mary Bird, called the store to tell me to come home. Oddly they knew who I was. By then, Buckhead was evolving, becoming far more urban as everything continued to push northward.
It was good someone was keeping watch. Lord knows it wasn’t our parents.
The Majik Market had some staying power. When I was in college, I stopped in a few times and had the surreal experience of being transported back in time 15 years by the smell alone. Torn down in the 1990s or early aughts, the site most recently housed a furniture store.
The corner has been slated for redevelopment for a few years. The Burger King — or the BK Lounge, depending on your age — next door is gone, in its place a weedy concrete lot. Next to that, the old bookbindery is hanging on by less than a finger. It is just a matter of time before it, too, is gone.
What was an almost daily occurrence is foreign to our children. They can no more comprehend hanging out at a convenience store all day than imagine the colors of a Carolina parakeet. Their lives are about hanging out at their friends’ houses with flat-screen TVs, cell phones and video games. There are idle moments, but even those are filled with distractions.
The Majik Markets and the 7-Elevens and nearby Steak ’n Shakes and BK Lounges were the soda shops of our generation. These were places we went with absolutely nothing to do except getting a Slurpee, only to turn around and see what else was happening in the world.
We got into a lot more trouble that way, but we lived our lives a bit deeper. Of course, it helped that our parents weren’t too concerned about where we were or who we were with.
It wasn’t so much stranger things as it was stranger times.