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Posted: October 25, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Coming to fruition

A couple of shops open prior to the Blue Willow Village grand opening

Mandi Singer/

It takes a village: Blue Willow Inn employee Matt Whitney drags a hose across the courtyard of The Blue Willow Village to fill the fountain that stands as the centerpiece of the courtyard.

 After many stops and starts, the Blue Willow Village in Social Circle has finally opened its doors — well, almost.

Two shops are now open in the Village — The Gallery of Creation and Georgia Originals.

When fully built out the Village will include an 11,000-square-foot creationist and natural history museum and nine shops. The Village is owned by Louis VanDyke, owner of the famous Blue Willow Inn.

Featuring merchandise to go along with the creationist museum next door, The Gallery has an eclectic range of gift items including a tapestry of the famous Leonardo da Vinci painting of The Last Supper and a framed glass map of the world with 11 clocks set to different international time zones.

Laurie Bradford, a co-owner of the shop, said most of the items have been picked up through the travels of her parents. Bradford’s father, Joseph Hurt, is the creator of the animatronics that will be used in the creationist museum.

The museum and gift shop were formerly located in Stone Mountain. The museum is expected to re-open in mid-November.

"I just know it’s one-of-a-kind," said Bradford of her father’s museum. "[It’s] completely different."

Animals and angels abound in the gift shop. Animals leap out at the viewer from throw pillows and throw rugs. They can also be found in stone and wood carvings scattered around the shop. Angel cards, angel figurines and books on angels can also be found in great supply.

A sampling of the rest of the shop’s merchandise includes semiprecious stones, perfume bottles, jigsaw puzzles, Buffalo horns and Pakistanian-carved onyx pillars.

Prices vary greatly from $3.50 for a peacock plume to $250 for a marble chess set.

"I plan on having more stuff from different countries," Bradford said.

Located on the other side of the Village, Georgia Originals is a shop selling crafts made by Georgia artisans, as well as a few crafts made from outside of the state.

"We’ve known Louis [VanDyke] for a number of years and he’s very interested in tourism and economic development, as are we," said Georgia Originals owner Kathy Chappelle about why she and her husband, Jerry, decided to relocate their shop from Stone Mountain.

In addition to selling blown glass, fused glass, stained glass, candles, soap, woven rugs, pen and ink drawings, ornaments and food items made by other Georgians, Kathy and her husband also sell a pottery line of their own, which they make with fruit and flower patterns.

Other shops expected to be opening between now and the grand-opening of the Village on Nov. 17 include a 1950s style soda fountain and diner called Lou’s Soda Fountain and Grill.

A coffee house and a 1950s collectible shop are also believed to be opening at the Village.

Since the project was first announced in early 2007, the Blue Willow Village has had several stops and starts.

In building the Village, Blue Willow Inn Manager Steve DeMoss said 50 trees had to be removed from the site to make way for the nearly 250 parking spots that come with it.

The progress of the project was also delayed when several shop tenants got cold feet and backed out.

"We’ve had a few back out because of the economy, but we have a couple coming in," DeMoss said. "A lot of it was just putting the project together. We went through hiring several different builders."

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