Winter Wren Opens at Corner of Virginia and N. Highland Avenues

WinterWrenWinter Wren – a ladies’ boutique under the same ownership as nearby 310 Rosemont – recently opened in the space previously occupied by Mitzi & Romano (1004 N. Highland Ave.). We asked store manager Carrie Cala to tell us a bit about their new venture and this is what she provided:

DSCN0623This is not about ANOTHER ladies’ boutique in the Virginia-Highland neighborhood. It is much more. Winter Wren Hodges purchased a house just down the street from his latest project in the Morningside area back in 1996. He made it his home in 2011. Owning a retail store with his namesake has been a dream for almost two decades. Atlanta is his largest market and Virginia-Highland is his favorite place to be.

He introduced 310 Rosemont (named for his childhood address) in 2011. In early 2012, Hodges was diagnosed with MDS. After a later diagnosis of AML and a stem cell transplant, Hodges spent every possible moment planning a new concept that would be compatible with 310.  Winter Wren, which opened this past month, has a well thought through selection of labels with location, customer and price point in mind.

DSCN0621A Free People shop is a strong component of Winter Wren with shoes and accessories from designers like Michael Kors, Minnetonka, Rebecca Minkoff, Ugg, Hobo and Ty Jewelry. Other clothing lines include BB Dakota, Michael Stars, Ella Moss, Wildfox and 7 jeans.

Although it is another boutique, Winter Wren is a great addition to the neighborhood of retail. Light and airy, fresh and savvy, it offers alternative brands with pricing every customer, partner or husband will love.

DSCN0622After his recent battle with cancer, Winter thought about slowing down. However, knowing his love of retail as well as his love for the area, he feels as though he is in fact slowing down. He knows this is where he is supposed to be. He actually bought a pair of boots in one of the local stores back in 1995.  It was that experience which gave him the dream of one day opening a store and just being a part of such an awesome community.  He counts it as one of his many blessings.  It’s really not just another boutique.


HoneyBubble Tea Opens on Ponce

HoneyBubble – a bubble tea, fine tea and dessert emporium – has opened at 798 Ponce de Leon Avenue, next door to China Dragon. The shop is a collaboration between two Atlanta residents who wanted to make bubble tea and serve it in a sleek, relaxed environment.

For those not familiar with bubble tea (which I wasn’t), Wikipedia offers the following:

Bubble tea, also known as pearl milk tea, boba milk tea, or boba, is a Taiwanese tea-based drink invented in tea shops in Taichung, Taiwan during the 1980s.Most bubble tea recipes contain a tea base mixed with fruit or milk. Ice-blended versions are usually mixed with fruit or syrup, resulting in a slushy consistency. Most bubble teas come with small chewy tapioca balls, commonly called “pearls” or “boba.” There are many variants of the drinks, and many types are used and ingredients added. The most popular bubble drinks are bubble milk tea with tapioca and bubble milk green tea with tapioca.

Each drink at HoneyBubble is tailored to customer taste. Whole milk, soy milk and Lactaid are options in creating your perfect bubble tea “cocktail.” No white sugar is used to sweeten HoneyBubble’s drinks – only pure honey and brown cane sugar.

HoneyBubble’s focus is on mixology and beverage options, and they’ve chosen to let the dessert experts take care of the sweets. French-style macaroons, croissants and scones from Alon and cupcakes from the Atlanta Cupcake Factory can be purchased to complement your beverage. Frozen treats from Atlanta artisans Honeysuckle Gelato are also available.

A few interesting factoids about HoneyBubble:

  • The shop’s sleek interior (see pictures below) was created by designer Doug Hines of HGTV’s Design Star series.
  • All water used – including ice – is double-filtered for the best possible taste.
  • HoneyBubble’s teas are sourced from 21 different purveyors and only the best teas, coffees and desserts are served.
  • All teas are made to order, not sitting in bins for hours or days. This takes a little more time, but you’ll taste the difference.
  • HoneyBubble makes extensive use of eco-friendly materials, fixtures and supplies.
  • Free WiFi is available, as is a free conference room for private meetings.

For members of the Nextdoor Virginia-Highland online community, a review of HoneyBubble by David Eckoff can be found on that site.

Make a point of stopping in soon to check out HoneyBubble Tea Shop!

Photo Credit: Brian Gross

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Photo Credit: Brian Gross

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Hot Holiday Cheer

By: Denise Romeo

The weather has finally turned colder making it feel like it really is December and the season for celebrating the holidays with friends and family. With everyone’s busy schedules it can be difficult to find a time when everyone can get together. And, let’s face it, while it is always wonderful to see everyone at holiday parties, the usual party fare can get a bit tiresome. If you have seen one cheese log, you’ve seen them all, right? So why not try something a bit different this year?  Perhaps an after-dinner party with desserts and warm drinks with everyone gathering around a fireplace?

With this idea in mind, I popped into Urban Cottage to peruse their collection of cookbooks and to find some festive serving pieces. After a wonderful stroll through their treasure trove of goodies which are an eclectic mix of vintage and well-placed new items, I found some sturdy goblets perfect for cold or hot drinks as well as napkin rings, and pretty linens. A few doors down at Festivity, I picked up a cheese tray and knives to complete the ensemble.

Now what to serve? Normally, we would start the evening with cocktails; a favorite being gin and tonic. So in an “Ah-Ha” moment, we decided on “Gin Toddies” a sophisticated spin on the seasonal Hot Toddy to go along with artisanal cheeses (from Alon’s Bakery) and spreads (from Bella Cucina Porta Via) and some homemade pizzelles, torrones and amaretti.



Hot Gin Toddy:

1 teaspoon sugar

½ cup boiling water

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 ½ oz. favorite brand of gin

Put a teaspoon of sugar in a heat proof glass or mug and add boiling water. Stir briefly to dissolve sugar and then add gin and lemon juice. Stir to combine and garnish drinks with your choice of cinnamon sticks, cloves, cardamom pods, star anise, or lemon slices.

It is not too late to get your party supplies or pick up the ideal hostess gift at one of our wonderful neighborhood shops and remember to eat, drink and shop locally on Thursday, December 20th at “Holidays in Virginia-Highland” with special promotions at participating shops and restaurants. For more information about the event, contact Jessica at

Local food blogger Denise Romeo has lived in the Virginia-Highland area for 23 years. She and her husband Dom enjoy spending time together cooking and entertaining. They’ve tried to instill their love for cooking and culinary exploration in their two teenage sons. You can read more from Denise on her award winning blog at We Like To Cook!


VaHi Business Owner Helps Decorate White House for Christmas

One of Virginia-Highland’s local business owners had the great honor of being selected as part of the team that decorated the White House for Christmas this year.

Laura Iarocci, owner of Faith Flowers on N. Virginia Avenue, was part of a team of 75 volunteers from all over the United Statues who arrived in the nation’s capital on Thanksgiving Day to begin their daunting task. The group spent the first two days sorting through and repacking ornaments and decorations from prior White House Christmases (many of the decorations are recycled and reused each year). The volunteers arrived on Sunday with truckloads of boxes and spent the next three days decorating every room in the White House. Mrs. Obama hosted a reception at the end to thank all the volunteers who participated.

Faith Flowers will hold an open studio day on Saturday December 15 featuring two local artists working in the studio. Photos from Holiday 2012 at the White House will be on display throughout the day.

Scroll down to view images from Iarocci’s trip.

Laura (right) and her daughter Allison at the White House visitor’s entrance. Laura created the wreaths on the windows.

Bauble Archway in the Lower Cross Hall connecting the East Room. Over 6000 ornaments were strung on these arches, all recycled from previous years.

The Armed Forces tree in the Blue Room.


The White House gingerbread house with pictures of the First Family and staff affixed to sugar glass windows. And yes, that's First Dog “Bo” front and center.

The Red Room Tree and mantel filled with fruit, all recycled from prior Christmases.

Michelle Obama’s vegetable garden recreated next to the gingerbread house.

Many of the ornaments were created by military families.

Hanging terrariums on the Green Room tree. Check out similar ones at the Faith Flowers studio.

Hanging terrariums on the Green Room tree. Check out similar ones at the Faith Flowers studio.

Laura’s favorite tree with hand blown glass ornaments in color bands around the tree.


Laura (left) and Chief White House Florist Laura Dowling


Local businesses publish Highland Corridor map

Local businesses in Virginia-Highland have worked together with others in Morningside, Poncey-Highland, Inman Park, and the Old Fourth Ward to produce a foldable, glossy, paper map of the “Highland Corridor”, which is now being distributed at local businesses.

Download the brochure as a PDF
Google map of businesses listed on the map – perfect for using on your smartphone or tablet.

“To The Trade Only” is the facilitator of producing these maps on behalf of the local businesses which make up the district. Barbara English of that company provided us with the story behind the maps:

Following on the heels of the very successful Virginia-Highland marketing pieces that were produced for the businesses as late as 2006, there was a void when the business association failed to maintain itself through organization of its members. The business leaders who were a part of it realized how much time and effort it took to market the area and run their own businesses too. To The Trade Only offered to collect a small amount of money from each of the business owners, organize the group into a workable marketing plan and get the maps printed and distributed to over 76 hotels, B&B’s, the Georgia Department of Economic Development, CNN Center, Peachtree Center, The Atlanta History Center and other points of public distribution in addition to the businesses on the maps.

A Facebook page has been launched, and regular newsletters to the business community are being sent to keep them informed of news that would be relevant to them. The maps are made available to any kind of event for gift bags or just to hand out. This includes weddings, realtors with open houses, etc.

As a marketing piece for the neighborhood association, part of the value of it is to make potential buyers and owners aware that the area is not only a desirable place to live, it is rich with resources which make the area attractive to residents as well as tourists.

It is To The Trade Only’s hope to continue to work with the local residents and businesses in marketing the area to everyone’s benefit. They organized a trade out with Atlanta Intown Magazine and will be seeking out anyone else who has a vested interest in making the Highland Corridor successful on many different levels.


European-Style Flower Studio/School Opens in VaHi

Faith Flowers, a European-style flower studio and school, has opened in the retail space at the corner of Virginia Avenue and Rosedale Drive.

Faith Flowers is an “open flower studio” where visitors can see floral designers at work in a wonderfully vintage setting. Located in a residential part of Virginia-Highland, Faith Flowers takes visitors back to an older Atlanta, when people walked to their neighborhood store for groceries. The space has a natural feel to it – wood floors and a loft ceiling (the latter feature being quite important before the advent of air conditioning).

Laura Iarocci, an internationally known flower arranger and teacher, owns Faith Flowers. Her most recent work includes decoration of the White House for Christmas 2012 (more on that in a future Voice article).

“Human beings have an innate attraction to flowers,” says Iarocci. “Scientific studies consistently show that flowers make people happy. Faith Flowers offers a range of ways to experience the joy that comes from flowers – from picking up a beautiful bouquet to taking flower arranging classes. “

Faith Flowers creates arrangements for weddings, events or any occasion, their flowers having graced the ballrooms of premier venues all over Atlanta. Inside the studio, Faith Flowers sells European hand tied bouquets and unique, natural arrangements ready to take home. Custom orders can be filled as well. The studio also offers unique gift items, including potted plants, succulents and floral related gift items. Flower arrangers can purchase an array of products and tools of the trade. Christina Perry Design has recently begun displaying its floral-inspired jewelry pieces.

For those who want to go beyond just a floral purchase, the Faith Flowers school offers classes for beginners and experts alike – anyone who loves flowers and gardening will enjoy the classes. Classes include “Flowers 101,” “Flowers from Your Garden,” “Weddings, Grocery Store Flowers” and more. There are even classes for children. Special classes for groups of friends, birthday parties, or corporate team building are available and guest designers are invited to teach regularly.

Iarocci is eager to get involved in the neighborhood and has even donated flower arrangements for some of the homes on this year’s Virginia-Highland Tour of Homes. She invites VaHi residents to stop by the shop to explore how the flower magic happens, or just check out their inspired window displays on your walks around the neighborhood.

Scroll down to see a few photos from Faith Flowers!

Welcome to the Studio!

European designs on the sidewalk outside the studio.

Guest designer Gudrun Cotteniere with Flower Magazine editor Margot Shaw.

Antiques & orchids

European table design by Belgian guest designer Gudrun Cotteniere

Owner Laura Iarocci teaches a class.

Students working together on European table design

Students in guest designer Holly Chapple's class wear the flower girl crowns they created.

The studio tablescape

Open house table display


VaHi, Local Businesses Need Your Vote for ‘Best of Atlanta’

If trying to figure out whom to vote for in the upcoming Presidential election’s got you stressed out, kick back for a few minutes and practice your decision making with something a tad less important.

Atlanta Magazine’s annual ‘Best of Atlanta’ campaign is underway and a number of local businesses – as well as Virginia-Highland itself – would appreciate your support. VaHi’s in the running for best in-town neighborhood and some of your favorite local shops and restaurants are included in their respective categories. You’ll have to write in your vote for Summerfest as the city’s favorite neighborhood festival, though, as our annual fundraiser was for some strange reason left off the list of candidates (what’s up with that?).

Voting began September 28 and wraps up October 15. Winners will be announced in the magazine’s December ‘Best of Atlanta’ issue.

Click here to take the survey. Let’s rock the vote, VaHi!!


Voice June 2012 — Extreme Makeover: VaHi Style!

Aurora Coffee owner and local designer collaborate to spruce things up a bit at the landmark Virginia-Highland shop

By: John Becker

Next time you’re enjoying a cup of your favorite java at Aurora Coffee, don’t blame shop owner Madonna Hill if she suddenly lets out with a loud “Move that bus!”

The reason: Hill just completed the first phase of a series of improvements planned for the popular bistro near the corner of North Highland and Virginia avenues, and even Ty Pennington couldn’t be more pleased with the progress.

“So far it’s just new paint and window treatments,” says Hill, “but if what we do next has as much impact as what we’ve done so far, I can’t wait for the next phase!”

Hill and husband Eric Levin have owned the shop for seven years (they also own the Aurora Coffee in Little Five Points, as well as the adjoining Criminal Records). Hill says she’d been thinking about sprucing the place up, but has virtually no budget for improvements and was concerned about cost.

Enter Angelika Taylor, owner of Natty Flats, a consulting, interior design and fabrication company. Taylor, her husband, and two daughters moved to VaHi a year ago from Roswell and immediately dove into a whole-house renovation of the Virginia Avenue property they’d bought.

At the same time, Taylor dove into the community of which she was so excited to be a part. She formed new friendships through her daughters attending Inman Middle School, became involved in community projects – including chairing the 2012 Virginia-Highland Tour of Homes – and started looking for other opportunities to “give back” to the neighborhood she knew her family would receive so much from.

To that end, she set her sights on Aurora Coffee.

A self-described “coffee snob” and Aurora regular, Taylor had an appreciation for what the shop offered, but knew the customer experience could be enhanced.

“The coffee and pastries are amazing and the staff is super-friendly,” Taylor explains. “It’s the quintessential small neighborhood hangout. Every morning there’s such a diverse mix of people: businessmen and women, moms and dads, teens and college kids. The location’s great and it’s definitely one of the anchors of Virginia-Highland.”

But while Taylor didn’t doubt the staff’s ability to brew a savory cup of joe or serve up a tasty blueberry scone, she felt the store was in desperate need of a facelift.

“It lacked comfort and coziness and needed something to make it hip and give it a fun, coffee shop vibe,” Taylor says.

The interior walls were white and the trim a nondescript beige, so Taylor knew fresh paint – in colors that would create the ambiance she was seeking – would help, and at a reasonable cost.

“Fresh paint provides the most ‘bang for the designing buck’ and the quickest noticeable difference,” Taylor says.

At the same time, there were features of the shop Taylor wanted to preserve.

“There’s a beautiful industrial steel bar/counter, lots of windows and plenty of light,” Taylor says, “and I knew these were features that would work well with the new colors.”

Taylor picked out a few fabrics and came up with a window treatment style she felt enhanced the exterior of the shop and also warmed up the interior. Along with the new paint, it was a simple scheme and could be done at relatively low cost.

Taylor’s next step was to pitch her ideas to Hill. After a quick phone call, Hill was intrigued so the two agreed to meet.

“I’d never dealt with a professional designer before,” Hill says, “and Angelika just made the whole process so easy. She came in with colors and fabric samples and ideas I’d never even thought of.”

Hill was anxious to proceed but still concerned about how much she’d have to spend. To keep costs to a minimum, Hill decided to use her staff to do the painting. Taylor provided consulting and fabrication services gratis and materials at cost.

“As an Aurora customer,” Taylor says, “and more importantly as a Virginia-Highland resident, I wanted this to be my ‘give back to the community’ project. At the same time, it meant a lot to me that Madonna would take money out of her own pocket for the paint and other materials and even have her own staff do the painting.”

There’s rumor of a coffee-for-design-services barter deal, but neither party would disclose the exact terms of the arrangement.

“On this basis, phase one was affordable,” Hill says, “so we dove in head-first!”

Over the next few weeks Hill’s staff used off-hours to do the painting. The molding and trim are now black and the walls an off-white. What used to be a loud orange wall behind the front counter is now a soothing ‘moody’ blue. The front door frame has also been painted the same soft blue color.

Taylor created the custom window treatments herself – fabric and hardware – and met Hill at the shop late one night to do the installation.

“Angelika’s pretty impressive with a drill and a hacksaw, let me tell you,” Hill says.

Aurora’s owner is thrilled with the outcome of the first round of improvements.

“As you can see, Angelika really understands our vibe and what we’re all about,” Hill says. “I think that’s why we work so well together.”

The improvements have gotten positive reviews from the shop’s staff and customers, too.

“The new colors are very calming and create a more relaxed atmosphere for both the customers and us,” says barista Teresa. “It’s cozy and home-like.”

“I think they did a great job making the improvements around things that were already here like the metallic bar,” says barista Virginia. “It’s modern but, at the same time, classic – the colors aren’t masculine or feminine so everyone can enjoy them. I especially like the relaxing blue here behind the counter.”

Aurora regular Kris Coluro Smith’s impressed, too.

“The new and improved Aurora is amazing,” Smith says. “It’s a very relaxed, serene setting. Perfect for sipping my skinny, single shot, decaf latte and enjoying a quick break from my two little girls! It just looks fresh and new – a great improvement from the outdated drab orange paint that was there.”

Any future improvements in the works?

“We want to add a community bulletin board toward the rear of the store,” Taylor says, “and I’d also like to work on the big window on the left as you walk in where the bench is. It would be cool to throw some fabric at that for the visual effect. And we definitely plan to put some art on the walls, hopefully from local artists.”

Updated furniture, additional exterior painting and possibly some plants and landscaping could also be in the works, but nothing’s been decided upon yet.

“We don’t have a budget for this work right now, so we’ll definitely be taking it slow,” says Hill, “but, whatever it is, I can’t wait to start the next project.”


Summer Camp at the indie-pendent

The first session (June 4-8) began and they are offering two more sessions, June 25-29 and July 16-20. The kids (ages 4-11) will be dancing, singing, gardening, cooking, painting, constructing, collaging and creating all sorts of fun things. Info at VaHi's newest (and perhaps most unique?) space for events, workshops and unique artist-created gifts. In the alley behind Belly at 1052 St. Charles, more info at


A Revived VaHi Business Association?

VaHi resident and Ten Thousand Villages employee, Juliet White, has volunteered to do the leg work to get the businesses in VaHi organized again. If you would like to help her with this project or of you are a business and would like to be united with the other 100 + businesses here, contact Juliet at Juliet stresses she will not be able to lead the group once it gets off the ground – the business community will have to provide leadership thereafter.


The DBA Barbecue Vandalism Incident

To see a CBS Atlanta report of this incident from 10/11 and get a close-up view of the perp’s face – go to The perp was far from being just a harmless drunk, and evidently strung out on something more than a couple of beers and represents a danger to the neighborhood. If you have any knowledge about this person, please contact Detective Floyd at Zone 6 at The property owner, Highlands Real Estate, is also offering a reward for information leading to an arrest of this individual. Someone out there must know who this guy is.


Voice – Fall 2011

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– Summerfest success
– President’s corner: volunteer for the board!
– Safety update: street captains, graffiti removal
– New Highland Park brick purchases
– 2011 Gold List of neighborhood businesses
– Street tree do’s and don’ts
– Patrols expand in VaHi and Old Fourth Ward
– VaHi history book published
– Parks update: Orme and New Highland
– Bella Cucina
– Repairs coming near Chevron and The Cavern
– Garrison Afterschool expands


Voice – Summer 2011

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– Summerfest
– Recent accomplishments of VHCA
– Maintaining curb appeal
– Funding received to benefit Orme and New Highland parks
– Rosedale Dr./N. Virginia intersection improvements made
– New businesses (Catalyst, Genki)
– History Part XI


Neighborhood Business Security

This is not meant to be, in any way, a recommendation for specific businesses, but rather to let you know how our local business people are working to make their venues safe for your patronage. I’d like to make this a regular feature, so let me know about your business and your security procedures. City Storage, the new facility on PDL Place, tells me that they have 12 cameras, as well as motion detectors, a fire alarm and sprinklers, all monitored off-site. The loading dock is secured by 2 key-pad activated coiling gates for security, access is only by key-pad entry, and during regular business hours the office area can be locked-down in the event of an emergency or intrusion. Their exterior also is very well lit for your safe nite-time visits.


Voice – Summer 2009

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– Summerfest
– Neighborhood preservation committee update
– Planning for 2009 Tour of Homes
– Historic Fourth Ward Park under construction
– President’s Corner: fundraising for new park
– News from MES and Inman
– SPARK gets name and principal
– Join New Highland Park Conservancy
– New businesses: Glamour Paws, D.B.A. Barbeque, Silverstein, Thomas & Carter
– VHCA wants you!
– Rufus Henry Stansell (1929-2009) neighborhood folk artist
– Col. Mustard reviews Belly General Store
– History of Virginia Highland Part III


Voice – Spring 2004

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President’s Address, by Kevin Cronin
– City council honors Aaron Gross for his leadership
– City council passed sewage and water bill
– Sidewalk reimbursement program
– Grand opening of Cunard Memorial Playground March 28, 2004

Parking and transportation are major issues for the business community, by Tinka Green, VHBA president
– permit parking may be introduced in Atkins Park

What’s happening at Inman Middle School (renovation), by Liz Coyle
– Virginia-Highland Tour of Homes planned
– Remember to recycle, by Nan Hunter

Why cities don’t matter and why Virginia-Highland does, by Chip Gallagher
– Cities are losing out to suburbs in political power
– VaHi and intown neighborhoods will weather the fiscal storm due to social organization

Atkins Park Garden Club celebrated 75th anniversary, by Tinka Green
– The Southeastern Flower Show provides great landscaping ideas, by John Wolfinger
– Anatomy of a property tax assessment challenge
Cunard Memorial Playground park cleanup and grand opening
– How can I remove graffiti?


Voice – Winter 1993

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the fate of Summerfest will be decided at the December VHCA meeting: Should we enlarge it, make it smaller? Should we move it from John Howell Park?
– Meet your new board (bios of all board members)
– Having a bad hair day? (Review of VaHi hari salons), by Deborah Cox
– Recycle today, by Nan Hunter
– “B.A.T.”, bicycle quiz by Mike Goodman
– John Howell Park Project (update) by Jerry Bright
– School news
– Shop for a good cause, Window to the World, Mennonite church shop opens


VOICE – August 1983

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  • Commercial Revitalization Moves to St. Charles Square
  • See You at Piedmont Park Pool
  • 600 Neighbors Enjoy Picnic at Virginia-Highland Park
  • Steering Committee Report of it’s Last Meeting
  • Flea Market Addicts: Here’s Good News
  • Voice Advertising Rates
  • A View From the Chair
  • Calendar
  • Community Bulletin Board
  • Legislative News: Georgia 400 Extension: Outdated, Wasteful and Nonproductive (support for Mass Transit from State Senator Paul Coverdell)