By Martie Thompson
Holly Donohoe hails from Ottawa, Canada, but loves living and being a business owner in Mandarin. Her path to the present was circuitous, but all of her life experiences built upon each other to bring her where she is today. She earned a PhD in geography from the University of Ottawa and moved to Gainesville to become a professor of tourism and leisure management and marketing at the University of Florida. She was well qualified for this position, having already travelled the world (“every continent except Antarctica”) with her international marketing company and giving lectures to large audiences about leisure development and destination marketing. At one point she worked with the Chinese government, developing their leisure industry.
A scary and long term bout with Lyme disease made her readjust her priorities and now she lives in Mandarin with husband Jan Lindahl and a blended family of three teenagers. She owns and operates Vintage Arts, a boutique featuring “extraordinary decor and curiosities” on San Jose Boulevard.
Q: How did you contract Lyme disease and how are you now?
A: I specialized in nature-based tourism with my destination marketing company and in 2006 I was bitten by a tick and contracted the disease. I wasn’t diagnosed until I was in Gainesville five years later, but by then my health was declining quickly. The treatment was brutal and required multiple surgeries and time off work. I suffered a major relapse in 2016 during which I took early retirement from UF to focus on my health and new marriage. I took two years off and my health today is good, although I will always struggle with the threat of another relapse as well as the permanent effects from the disease.
Q: How did you meet your husband?
A: We met when I started to feel better after my first treatment for Lyme disease. We met online and had a whirlwind romance. He liked that I was a published artist (favorite medium is acrylic on large canvas) as well as an entrepreneur. He really wanted to support my creative side and we started participating in art shows, including the Mandarin Art Festival, together. We married in 2015.
Q: How did you start Vintage Arts?
A: While I was home recovering from my relapse, I spent a lot of time decorating our family’s new, blended home with interesting pieces. Jan and I discovered that we loved to go antiquing together. Many friends and my husband encouraged me to do design work and it took off from there. We got into retail because it was something enjoyable that we can both do together. We opened Vintage Arts and the thing we love the most about it is not just that we are offering goods and services, but it’s a place where the community can gather. It’s like we are hosting a never-ending dinner party.
Q: What is a typical day like?
A: It’s challenging to balance life and work, but the store gives me a reason to get out of bed every day and do something I’m passionate about. On a typical day, I’m either at the store or at my home office with my two assistants: Noble, a miniature poodle and Minou, a bichon. Both are rescues. Also, we feel strongly about supporting arts in the community and we just expanded to offer classes by creative local instructors. I also teach art classes in our studio.
Q: What do you like most about living in Mandarin?
A: The natural environment, the trees … they inspire me. The community’s history fascinates me and makes me feel like I am a part of a bigger story.
Photo courtesy Holly Donohoe
Holly Donohoe at Vintage Arts