An interview with a neighbor: Tony Skinner

Embry Hills Chevron owner Tony Skinner has enjoyed watching his tight-knit community become increasingly diverse

Tony Skinner, 51, has lived and worked in Chamblee for almost 30 years, with a brief four-year hiatus in Gwinnett that made him appreciate his current community all the more. He's been the owner and manager of Embry Hills Chevron on Chamblee-Tucker Road at Northcrest Road since 2002.

The business has been a good experience, but a tough one. The economy has just been rougher on us than we expected.

I can't go into Kroger without spotting, like, 10 people that I know. I'm the type of person who likes people. I like it when people know who I am, and I like it when I know who they are. It's great when your customers come in and they hug you and they say hi to you, they miss you, they come by just to say hello sometimes. ... To me, you've got to do your grocery shopping in the area that you live. You try to be in the community where you live.

We've got new families moving in here; the area's kind of turning around in that way. ... To me, it's a middle-class area; in a couple of places it's upper middle-class, but basically middle-class. You've got a good mix: people from the CDC over here, a huge college Mercer University's Atlanta campus around the corner.

I'd like to see something done with Northlake Mall. When I first came here, Northlake Mall was booming. It's not nearly as much now. It's still a nice little mall to go to, but it's like, you throw a stick and you've already reached the end. Over here between Buford Highway and Chamblee-Tucker, there's some pretty nice businesses, you just don't necessarily know that they're there.

There's a huge ethnic component to the area now. It wasn't that way 25 years ago. Back then, it was more of the typical black and white community. The Latin and the Indian and the Asian communities have come into this area a lot now. It's a good mix. And now all of a sudden in the last year, you've got the Eritreans. ... This area is a huge melting pot. This may not be completely accurate — I've heard there are like 147 dialects in DeKalb County alone.

We're having a lot of problems with our roads. ... There are certain roads that are just horrible. ... They put in the crosswalks, which is nice because you have a lot of people walking across Chamblee-Tucker Road from the apartments and condominiums here. They need to have more lighting for safety reasons; they have a lot of old people in this area that are walking late at night sometimes.

I've had a lot of customers complain about not having a better rail system. A lot of customers. "You need to have a rail system. You need to have better public transportation out here." ... They're telling me that the amount of time it takes to come off the MARTA train and get on the MARTA bus, that delay is a major problem for them. They're telling me they have to leave their house two and a half hours early to get to work on time if they ride MARTA.

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