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Marykay Mentzer

Owner of Decatur Alpaca Cottage

“I have lived in Atlanta on and off since I was 12 years old. My wife, Amy, grew up in Athens. We first met in 1989 and I can honestly say I loved Amy from the first time we met. There was a familiarity about her.  In time, we wanted to be married and have a wedding, but back then, same-sex marriages were not legal. Instead, in 1992 we had a 'commitment ceremony', as they were called back then.

The First Existentialist Church in Candler Park is where we had our wedding. It was totally homespun, and our family and friends pitched in to make our wedding special. My dress was a $100 Battenberg lace dress I found at a consignment shop, we wrote our own vows, Amy and I made the guest favors, I arranged the flowers and bouquets, our friends sang in the ceremony, and my sister even made our wedding cake.  It was the only LGBTQ+ wedding we'd heard of at the time and so deeply special to us both. After the ceremony, we spent our wedding night at the Colony Square Hotel. I remember Amy had gone to the Dekalb Farmer's Market to buy lots of flowers to surprise me. The hotel staff set them up in our room for her. When we walked in later that evening, there was an abundance of flowers waiting for us. It was such an amazing day and very memorable for us both. Colony Square has had a special place in my heart ever since.

Having our wedding was a solidifying experience. Not only was it a declaration of Amy's and my love, but it was also a community affirming experience. We had over 50 guests, including both sets of parents and our friends, most of them LGBTQ.  Back then, no one had never seen anything like it. I suppose our wedding could be thought of as activism, but we were just not hiding and choosing to live openly. It was a bit as if we were saying to the world: "We are here, we are here!"

Even now, Midtown Atlanta feels like home. It was and is our community, our people, our place, one that feels accepting, safe, warm, and welcoming. Colony Square has always been the epicenter of Midtown. It was the place to be back then and remains so even to this day!

I am now 55 years old and think the revitalization of Colony Square is very exciting. It has been nearly 40 years since I first experienced Colony Square and I believe it is here to stay. Not only has it been here all that time, but it is bigger, better, and grander than ever before. It is a wonderful metaphor for a community that is persistent, thriving and evolving. For me, that is the profound statement of Colony Square. It could have remained an office building with some adjoining condos and a hotel, but it has become so much more. I am proud to see it as a place for people to congregate and make their own memories.

After we married, Amy and I had two children, a daughter and then a son, Emma and Charlie. We became a family. We were married for 17 years and although we ultimately separated, we remained committed to our family and our children, even in the initial years following our separation. In the end, we co-parented collaboratively and were involved and supportive parents. Amy and I talked daily and usually ended our conversations with "I love you." In this, we had become yet another type of family. Sadly, Amy passed away unexpectedly at age 48. Her death was so sudden, it was a terrible shock to the family, our kids, and me. Still, the resourcefulness that gave us the vision to create our family when the way wasn't clear helped us to come through Amy's death intact. Our daughter graduated from Syracuse and now works in New York as a set designer. Our son is a freshman, studying Musical Theatre at Florida State University. Both are incredible kids and I know Amy would be every bit as proud of them as I am.

In addition to my career with NFP working with global clients, I am also the owner of the Decatur Alpaca Cottage, an Airbnb on an urban alpaca and llama farm just outside Atlanta. The neighborhood we live in was farmland back in the day and my family has lived on our legacy farm for 16 years. In that time, we’ve put a lot of care and effort into creating our gardens, caring for our herd of rescued alpacas and llamas, and now hosting guests in our guest cottage. It is a labor of love and hosting guests, many of whom are from the LGTBQ community, is truly a joy. In fact, more than half (60%) of our guests are local to the area. I had no idea that's how my family's business would grow, but I am always happy to meet others from our community!

I am in a place now where I am very happy, which is particularly welcome after the difficult times of death and loss. I love gardening, working with our herd, writing, and remain involved with and supportive of my children. I also have a wonderful circle of friends and have volunteered with several non-profits like Lambda Legal, Synchronicity Theatre, and now Southeast Llama Rescue.

If there’s a personal mantra I live by, it is "Live authentically as early as you can in life." The ability to let go of worrying about what other people think is crucial; it will break you down. Live your best life even when the way isn't exactly clear is so important.” – Marykay Mentzer, owner of Decatur Alpaca Cottage

 

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