Love Local: Let’s Hear It For the Boy (Next Door)
Boy Next Door is now serving looks - and the community - at the Rainbow Crosswalk.
BY ELLIE HENSLEY
Menswear boutique Boy Next Door has been searching for a new location for quite some time — and it found the perfect place at Midtown’s Rainbow Crosswalk.
The retailer’s original location will eventually be redeveloped as a result of the Atlanta Botanical Garden’s planned expansion. But Boy Next Door, which co-owner Rocky Carroll describes as an “exotic emporium of anything from party clothes to jockstraps,” was also beginning to outgrow its space on Piedmont Avenue. It will be right at home now at the intersection of 10th and Piedmont, the epicenter of the city’s LGBTQ+ community, alongside gay bar and drag destination Blake’s and dance club X Atlanta.
We spoke with Carroll about the shop’s move at the beginning of this year. Read more below.
Here for the Community
Word has spread fast that Boy Next Door has moved, and though it hasn’t been open long in its new location, lots of people have stopped by to shop or simply to express their excitement.
“It’s been a big move for us, though we were only four blocks away,” Carroll said. “But since we’ve moved over here, the community has been so positive about everything.”
The shop’s customer base extends far outside of Atlanta, throughout Georgia and even to Tennessee and Florida.
“I used to get letters when I first started working here that said, ‘“I tried to make it to your store, we drove two hours and I couldn’t find it,’' said Carroll. “That was our concern with moving. We’ve been there for so long, we didn’t want people to think we had left. I always felt like as an LGBTQ+ store, we always have to stay true to our identity, and we have always stayed inclusive and always been here.”
Choosing Its Own Destiny
Boy Next Door opened in 1980, and was acquired by Carroll and business partners Kathy Hawkins and Bill Garner in 2017. Its original building, which has a unique shape that comes to a point on one end at Piedmont Avenue, was built in the 1920s. Carroll has heard a number of stories about the structure, including that it was a house, or a train station, and eventually, a record store. Boy Next Door moved in, and for a time it shared the space with other businesses that occupied the suite next door, including a hair salon and a kite store that also sold skateboards.
The building and the land surrounding it were acquired by the Atlanta Botanical Garden as part of its planned 30-acre expansion.
“We have known about [the impending move] for a while,” Carroll said. “They are great landlords. They always took great care of our building, our lawn and everything. They did have plans for a future expansion, and I think it’s getting closer.”
The Garden’s expansion is slated to be completed by 2026, in time to celebrate its 50th anniversary and to host international guests for the 2026 FIFA World Cup. Boy Next Door moved out in plenty of time to its new location at 1000 Piedmont, formerly occupied by a dry cleaner.
“We wanted to choose our own destiny instead of waiting until the last possible minute,” said Carroll. “We saw this space was available, and immediately we knew it was perfect. That this is going to work for us. It’s on the Rainbow Crosswalk; it’s just the whole neighborhood. This is exactly where we need to be. We signed the day we found it.”
Not Like the Other Boys
One reason Boy Next Door draws customers from throughout the Southeast is that it is one of few clothing stores specializing in gay clubwear that isn’t also a sex paraphernalia shop. Another is that it curates its collection from independent designers around the world. Carroll and his team go to fashion shows in Las Vegas twice a year to select pieces for the store.
In addition to clubwear, Boy Next Door also sells activewear, casual attire, swimwear, loungewear and accessories.
“Chicago, New York, you think these places that are super developed and not out in the middle of nowhere would have places like us, but they don’t,” said Victor Perez, a longtime sales associate who jokingly refers to himself as “The Boy Next Door.” “We set ourselves apart by having unknown brands that people really get into, and they love it because it’s such high-quality stuff. We flip peoples’ perspective of what gay stores should look like.”