To most readers of GeorgiaPol.com*, hearing about the passing of Walter Strauss would probably register as only the death of a 94-year-old Jewish shoe salesman in Downtown Atlanta.
And that’s technically true. He was “just” a shoe salesman, albeit one with an incredible life.
But he turned Walter’s Clothing into an institution. Does it seem strange to write a paean to a shoe store? Yes, but that gets to my point: he was someone special.
His practice of treating everyone with respect and dignity turned his store into a place where NBA stars would make a detour when playing in Atlanta to pick up shoes. Or where poor college kids would go and immediate blow their FAFSA refunds. At any time of day rap stars could be seen walking out with boxes and boxes of the freshest Nikes. Often Walter’s would be the first place new lines of shoes were sold and people would camp out for days to be the first in line.
Maybe all we can say about Walter’s work is that somehow his family’s entrepreneurial spirit struck gold. Or maybe looking at his life and business there’s a lesson about the value of kindness and being a beacon of decency in a time and place when that was hard to come by.
Either way, Walter’s Clothing will continue through his sons and we can appreciate all the little places that make this city, warts and all, the fantastic part of the universe that it is.
*Forgive me for thinking suburban White Republicans aren’t as, uh…in tune..with Black Atlanta culture. No disrespect intended.