Tuckaway Downs is Part Gift Shop, Part Wonderland

Father and daughter bring an original fairy tale to life in the form of their gift shop, Tuckaway Downs.

Many parents tell their children countless fairy tales, but years ago when Don Holloway said, "Once upon a time" to his two little girls, he had something original in mind. 

He told them of a far away land called , where "vendigums," also known as elves, can see the triumphs and tragedies of humans, and through magical powers have the ability to change their lives. 

Every night Holloway's story grew more magical. 

"The stories are still coming to me," Holloway said.  "There are so many levels."

More than 15 years later, Holloway has turned the fairy tale into a book that he hopes to have published in 2011.  In the meantime, he and his oldest daughter, Amanda Spelman, have brought the land of Tuckaway Downs to Sandy Springs in the form of a gift shop of the same name on Hilderbrand Drive.

Inside is a mystical wonderland of toys and gifts, Christmas trees, sleighs, angelic vendigum dolls at every turn, and caged white doves cooing over the holiday music.

Holloway, 50, said he began to create the story of Tuckaway Downs as a child to alleviate nighttime fears.

Vendigums fly in his story and at Christmas time, Holloway said, "They may rest in a tree branch. And where they sit, mistletoe grows."

He continued, "They come down and walk on the earth's surface and reindeer moss grows.  Their magic of being able to fly is transferred to this moss.  It's harvested and kept and fed to Santa's reindeer."

Spelman and Holloway said the goal of their gift shop is to bring customers back to simpler times, if only for a few minutes.

"Life is so hustle and bustle that people forget how to enjoy life, so we have a lot of retro stuff in here," said Spelman, 27.

In January, the gift shop will have a new theme, "Flowers of the Frost,"  followed by an antique Parisian theme in the spring.

Tuckaway Downs is in a cozy home that belonged to building owner Pam Cromen's late grandmother.  It was built when Hilderbrand Drive was still a gravel road.

"This house never looked as beautiful as it does now," Cromen said.  "The ceilings used to be really low and there were just tiny little rooms."

The father and daughter say they became kindred artists when Spelman was a new student at Inman Middle School.  The Holloway family had moved to Atlanta from Savannah and then 8-year-old Amanda felt like an outsider at school.

"My escape from things was the ["Tuckaway Downs"] story," she recalled. "Art was my escape after school.  I would walk to my father's art studio in Virginia Highlands and paint. That snowballed into us working together."

The gift shop originally opened in 2006 in Vermont, where Spelman and her husband had lived. With his wife, Donna, and high school-age daughter, Devin, in Atlanta, Holloway commuted to Vermont.

That shop closed in 2007 due to the failing economy and re-opened in Sandy Springs last March. 

Holloway and Spelman have proved to be resilient with this new shop.  Three months after they opened, then-pregnant Spelman became gravely ill, with a life-threatening complication.

"I went into cardiac arrest," Spelman said.  "I went from being pretty healthy to pretty much I was laying [in the hospital] and [someone] leaned over and said if you don't have this operation by Thursday you will be in a coma or dead."

Delivered three months early to save her mother's life, Isabella is healthy and now 6 months old.

"The experience gave me a whole new perspective on life," Spelman said.  "I want to travel and take her with me and do things that I thought I had to wait to do."

The last six months speak to the message of the "Tuckaway Downs" story, said Spelman and Holloway.  Live in the present and don't give upon your dreams.

"It's been a very tough year, but we have a lot to be thankful for," Holloway said.  "I can't think of a better way to be an example.  We are following our dreams with this store."


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