An interview with a neighbor: Katrell Christie

Dr. Bombay's Underwater Tea Party owner Katrell Christie spreads the love from Atlanta to India

Since moving from Virginia-Highland to Candler Park eight years ago to enjoy the intown neighborhood's lush parks, Katrell Christie has seen nearly everything the eclectic, mellow community has to offer. The parade of dressed-up pets. The colorful characters, such as street tuba player Larkin Taylor-Parker. The unorganized group of kids who, one summer, spontaneously started banging pie pans and playing makeshift instruments while walking down the street. Just yesterday she learned there's a water ballet group. When an ice cream shop along Candler Park's quaint commercial strip was shutting down, the Atlanta native and former rollergirl — her nom de guerre was Takillya Sunrise — purchased the space to start Dr. Bombay's Underwater Tea Party. The book-filled café became a community hub, hosting neighborhood meetings and events. Dr. Bombay's now also serves as the headquarters of the Learning Tea, a nonprofit Christie started in 2009 to help provide housing and education for impoverished young women in India. Much of Dr. Bombay's profits help fund the organization.

I thought this was the suburbs when I moved here because I lived on Ponce de Leon Avenue so long. I was born in Crawford Long and brought home to Argonne Avenue. I'm definitely an Atlanta girl.

I thought Candler Park was a good fit because there's a lot of awesome greenspace. The park's great. The pool's great. I know 80 percent of my customers. I definitely think it's a neighborhood pocket in Atlanta. I like the creativity of the neighborhood. And I like that this business has a home here. I don't know if this would be the best fit in other neighborhoods. But in Candler Park, it's definitely a community hub where a lot of things get done in this space.

It was an ice cream shop before. I was doing work for international clients and an auction house. I restored and repaired old paintings. When I heard they were going out of business I thought, "I have to keep it open." It's part of the community. In my brain I thought that the place runs itself. It's clean and everyone's happy. That's where I got involved. Now it's a totally different story. It doesn't run itself.

I appreciate the different customers and the characters. That's what makes a community. And I think that draws people to Candler Park. You can be whoever you want.

My project The Learning Tea wouldn't be where it's at without this community. I wouldn't have gotten where I am now without the support of everyone that's chosen to come here over somewhere else to pick up their coffee or tea. And I think people in this area are aware that the money goes to the mission. Whose mission do you want to support? Someone who drives a Hummer? Or someone who takes the earnings to the other side of the world to educate underprivileged girls? This community is really good about that. They strive to support. They think about where they put their money.

I do like that a lot of the things have stayed the same. My first customers are still coming in every day. I've seen little kids who couldn't see over the ice cream counter now getting jobs and asking me for employment.

I think we have great schools. We have a great park. You are seeing the product of hard work. I think we're all here because we want our community to go in a certain direction and we're achieving it. It's small-town charm in a big city. I love this neighborhood.

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