About the series
These days, small towns are beginning to look more and more alike, with a fast-food chain on the corner and a big-box retailer down the street. But this winter, The Times will take you to the unique communities within Hall County, sharing
their history, their characters and their charm. Look for a story each day through the New Year. To see previous profiles, go to gainesvilletimes.com/hamlets.
Take a trip on Old Cornelia Highway, and you’ll be greeted by a giant, waving rabbit statue on your way through the small East Hall community of Rabbittown.
While there may not be much in quantity when it comes to businesses and shopping malls, Rabbittown boasts the quality of a simpler life that is unrivaled in larger cities.
“If you blink, you will miss it,” said Rabbittown resident Krystal Poole about the community. “We have three restaurants, two gas stations, a beauty parlor and a hardware store. There’s also other knicks and knacks.”
Although the origin of Rabbittown’s name isn’t certain, one tradition says it came from hunters who found an abundance of game there. Another suggests the name was a result of residents who raised rabbits to sell to their neighbors. Or, Rabbittown may have been named after a local businessman who operated a commercial rabbitry in the area.
Regardless of its roots, Rabbittown is remembered as a small town where neighbors would wave at those who passed by their front porches.
“Most people have been here a long time, and people used to sit on their porch and wave to all the people as they passed,” said A.K. Chan, owner of the popular local eating spot, Rabbittown Cafe. “Rabbittown was one of those Mayberry-type towns. It was just like that.”
In the 1930s, Chan explained that the land where Rabbittown Cafe now sits was a giant cornfield. Over time, Rabbittown slowly developed, particularly with the urbanization of areas outside Atlanta and the building of Interstate 985.
“People knew a bigger population would come this way as Atlanta grew, and we knew commercialization would come,” said Chan, who also said the establishment of more businesses in the future would be inevitable.
Poole agreed that she has seen a lot of change during her time growing up around Rabbittown, but some things have remained the same.
“We still have a big Easter parade, which is fitting with the title of the town,” said Poole. “I love being able to walk into one of the local stores and seeing a familiar face. That happens daily. People know people. Life isn’t too busy to say ‘hello,’ and stopping for a conversation happens more often than not.”
Poole also remembers some of her favorite traditions from childhood happening in Rabbittown.
“On Oconee Circle, the first house on the right was known to have the best lights in the county. In fact, Santa sat outside in the sleigh and you could park and get out,” Poole said. “As I grew older, into driving and college age, I would still pass the lights and get lost in those memories.”
And after her grandfather passed away, Poole moved into the same house in Rabbittown where he had lived.
“My grandfather lived in Rabbittown until he passed away. There used to be a nail salon next to the Petrofast, and he took me there for my first manicure,” she said.
For 84-year-old Sam Blount, the food at Rabbittown Cafe has become a staple in his diet after frequenting the restaurant multiple times a week for at least a decade.
“I love this country food, and A.K. Chan has turned out to be a really good friend,” he said. “Sometimes, I’m here four times a week.”
Blount always sits at the same table at the cafe, right beside a window that lets in enough light over his shoulder so he can read the newspaper and provides a near-perfect view of the 20-foot rabbit statue that has sat in the cafe’s parking lot since 1993.
“I really like coming here, and I’m going to keep at it until I can’t come any more,” he said.