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Meet Marykay Mentzer of Decatur Alpaca Cottage

Today we’d like to introduce you to Marykay Mentzer.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
Our family has lived on our little Legacy farm for 15 years. The acre and a half on which the Decatur Alpaca Cottage sits is a vestige of the rolling farmland and open fields which existed in the area long ago. The surrounding neighborhood was built in the 1950’s and, thankfully, a small slice of land, our urban farm, was left intact. It may be a smaller farm, but we’ve got a lot going on here!

Our urban farm features several perennial gardens, a natural plant dye garden, an organic/non-GMO “Food, Fruit, and Flowers” garden, and a backfield, affectionately called ‘The Back Forty’ It is here that our small herd of alpacas (a good portion of them are rescues), a miniature Chilean llama, and flock of chickens in a variety of colorful breeds live in harmony.

The Cottage, a guest house, was built long ago and was re-branded as the “Decatur Alpaca Cottage” in 2016. We didn’t set out to become a vacation rental and event/wedding venue, but the high level of interest brought us to offer our cottage and gardens to visiting guests. Interestingly, about half of our guests are local to the area and having a staycation and we find it is a great way to meet the broader community.

As you might imagine, a lot of heart went into creating our Cottage and gardens, so sharing this with others is a natural extension of what we already love doing. Although our family has always been active in non-profit work, in the course of 2017, as hurricane after hurricane battered the US and Puerto Rico, it became clear that the Decatur Alpaca Cottage (DAC) could help as well. When Hurricane Irma was approaching Miami, we made the decision to drop our prices, add an extra bed to the cottage, and offer it as a place to come for an evacuating family.

For two weeks, we hosted a lovely family from Miami and, by the time it was safe for them to head back home, we had become friends. We also made the decision to donate 10% of gross sales for August and September 2017 to Hurricane Relief and shared our donation across Hurricane Relieve for Texas, Puerto Rico and other affected areas.

In May, to accommodate interest in visiting to see the gardens and meet the animals, we hosted an open house Farm Day at the Decatur Alpaca Cottage. We had more than 200 visitors in the course of the Farm Day and also raised funds through voluntary donations for Southeast Llama Rescue. The DAC matched these donations so a sizeable donation was made in the interest of llama and alpaca rescue efforts.

We love our home, our neighborhood and city, and are a proud part of the Decatur community!

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
We have been fortunate in the course of creating our business. The business grew organically (pun intended) in the course of all we do naturally – community, gardens, animals – we would do what we do with or without the business. I believe this helped pave the way to successfully creating a business. What is the old saying? “Do what you love and you’ll never work another day in your life” That’s it.

There have been some learning curves along the way – learning to successfully convey what we offer is one. There are a million ways to tell a story and it took several iterations to tell ours in a way others could understand what we offer; a guest house, an event venue, and community-oriented Farm Days a couple times a year.

I have also learned a lot about marketing on social media – primarily Instagram, but Facebook and Twitter too. It’s been a bit of a learning curve to do it effectively and efficiently, but we’re rolling along smoothly at this point.

Please tell us about Decatur Alpaca Cottage.
We offer a deluxe guest house for visitors to the area as well as local residents who wish to have a getaway without the long drive. As we like to say “Close to city, but just far enough away.”

The Decatur Alpaca Cottage features:
– A charming, one-bedroom cottage nestled in Georgia pines, plants and flowers.
– the cottage is framed on one side by an organic vegetable garden with fruit trees and a little legacy farm with alpacas, llama, and chickens on the other.
– All around, birds, butterflies, and a sense of calm welcome our guests
– Well-appointed and welcoming, this updated retreat is also a favorite for special events, weddings, photo shoots, and film projects.

We are proud to be a National Wildlife Federation Certified Wildlife Habitat and Bird Friendly Habitat. All of this to say that we care about the animals in the area as much as we do our guests! I am proud that we have a successful business which does not sacrifice the values we hold dear; people, our environment, and kindness. In fact, the business typifies those values.

Given the boom of Airbnb-like rentals in the area, we find that our high attention to detail (5-star ratings across the board), the unique experience of an urban farm and intimate botanical garden setting, and the incredible heart we bring to our guests is a differentiator. In short, you can rent a hotel or Airbnb for a weekend, but you won’t have the same experience that is offered at the Decatur Alpaca Cottage.

If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
Oh wow, that’s a great question!

If I were to start over, I suppose I might have started the business in its current form sooner. Sure there have been lessons learned along the say, but each serves a purpose and has helped create what the business is today.

Not a very exciting answer, but honestly – we’ve learned and adapted and appreciated the journey.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Glorious Moments Photography

Getting in touch: VoyageATL is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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