By David R. Altman
When Paulette Grizzle first saw the dilapidated house on Talonah Street in Talking Rock, she could see the potential. “It was pretty rough looking,” she said. “But I just knew that with a name like Hollyhocks in Talking Rock, it had to work.”
That was 1994, and now, nearly 20 years later, Hollyhocks has become a popular shopping destination in north Georgia and an anchor of Talking Rock’s unique shopping experience.
Paulette and husband Mark bought the old house which was originally built in 1888 and turned one of the earliest Talking Rock buildings into its most well-known store. But it wasn’t easy.
“When we got here - it was hard to see the house as it was so overgrown by trees and shrubs,” said Mark. “In fact, we had a cottonwood tree actually growing through what is now the main room.”
The aging house had no windows and a not many walls. “In fact,” Paulette said with a smile, “it was so bad, when my dad came to see it he told me ‘You’d better get your money back!’”
Mark, a retired deputy fire chief from Cobb County, said the experience of rebuilding was a challenge. He says they did most of the work themselves. “We had to build the stairway to the second floor, as the only way up there in the beginning was by ladder,” he laughed.
Now, Hollyhocks of Talking Rock is brimming with life - and customers. “The most interesting people in the world like to collect things,” said Paulette. The shop’s colorful interior is filled with antiques, florals and other gifts - some of them one-of-a-kind. She said that “probably 85 percent” of their visitors are return customers.
As for the name Hollyhocks, Paulette Grizzle says it used to be the name of her store back in Cobb County - and it’s always been a favorite flower of hers. While they had hollyhocks growing outside their store in the early years, they found them hard to keep. “The Japanese beetles apparently like them too,” she said.
Talking Rock, now home to about 40 people, was at one time even busier than Jasper, with passenger trains stopping at the depot four times a day. According to the late historian Elaine Jordan who wrote a history on Talking Rock in 1995 and wrote a column called “Reflections” for the Progress, the town may have gotten its name from a creek of the same name that runs through the town. The Cherokee, which inhabited the area until the mid-1800s, apparently found “…a place on the Creek where water running over the rocks created a ‘babbling’ sound, which they attributed to ‘talking rocks,’” according to Jordan’s book.
The Grizzles have traveled all over the country to find things for Hollyhocks. They have been to Maine, New Hampshire, Indiana and Florida and have a trip planned to Texas. “We go wherever we can find bargains - and bring them back for our customers. “Paulette really has a great sense of what our customers want - and with her interior design background she always knows just how the items in the store should be arranged.”
Mark pulls a trailer with his F-250 pick-up truck and they’ve returned with some interesting things, ranging from Amish furniture to bear traps and hides from Canada. “We’ve also brought back many pairs of snow shoes,” she said with a smile, “and sold every one of them.”
People put them on their cabin walls and use them for decoration.
Paulette’s entry into small business started early. “I grew up in my grand-daddy’s grocery store-service station in Cobb County and at a young age I really developed a love for owner-operated businesses,” she said. “I think it’s the most important thing we’ve got going for us in this country.” Paulette later opened her first antique store in 1989 on Dallas Highway in her grandfather’s old store.
Entrepreneurship must run in the family, as the Grizzle’s son Adam runs Aerospace Fabrications of Georgia, a successful Dallas business which employees about 50 people and supplies parts for Boeing. And, daughter Lori ran a small business for several years before returning to teaching.
When they are not in Talking Rock, Mark and Paulette are in Cobb County where their family has lived for several generations. The Grizzles have four grandchildren and a beautiful border collie named Sassy, whom visitors can sometimes see up on the second floor porch of Hollyhocks, keeping watch over Main Street.
“We really like what we do,” said Paulette. “I really do think that old furniture is a value. It’s easy for me to sell it, because I know what a value it is to our customers.”
Above, Mark and Paulette Grizzle, owners of Hollyhocks in Talking Rock, travel extensively to find unique items for the store – including a load of snow shoes, once – they sold every pair.