Store offers discount for holiday food, toy donations
Camden — Twice Upon A Dream, 56 Elm St., will give 20 percent off their entire purchase to anyone who brings in a new, unwrapped toy or a non-perishable food item before Christmas.
The food will be donated to Camden Area Christian Food Pantry, the toys distributed through local charitable organizations.
The business, which styles itself an “emporium,” is the dream of Donna Maria Vix and her husband, Richard. It carries an array of items, from Christmas ornaments to Victorian pianos, scented soaps to baby clothes, seashells to accent pieces. It is a good place to find something out of the ordinary.
The story of the Vixes and how they came to Maine from New Jersey is as unusual as their store, and is closely connected with it. When they met in 2004, each had lost a beloved first spouse. Donna spoke of how devastated she was when she lost her first husband, Gary.
At the time they met, Donna was a dentist with two young children; Richard's children were grown. Though a large share of her patients were children, Donna also saw some adults, and Richard was one of them. Donna said she was struck by the way that Richard, while he was waiting for his turn in the dental chair, played on the floor with her 3-year-old son, Noah.
After a while, Donna and Richard started dating and later married. Richard retired from his job as a utility company lineman to help raise Noah and his older sister, Bethany, who is now 17. Not only that, but when they married, he changed his last name to hers (from her first marriage) to make things easier for the children and carry on the Vix family name, the couple said.
Then, in 2007 began what they call the “God-whisper” that led them to Camden. The family visited Richard's brother at his home on Damariscotta Lake. “We all had the nicest time,” Donna said.
Returning in 2009, they stayed in Camden and happened to look at a house that was for sale. They returned several times to look at property, and ended up buying a house not far from what would eventually become their shop.
“We just fell in love with the town,” Richard said.
They leased the store in 2010, but since Donna kept her dental practice in New Jersey and traveled back and forth periodically to see patients, getting it open took a long time. For a while, all she could manage was keeping the windows attractively decorated.
When they were talking about a name for the new business, Bethany suggested “Once Upon A Dream.” Donna said changed it to “Twice Upon A Dream” because of the hope that came into her life when she met Richard.
Richard “proved to me that life wasn't over when Gary died.”
Last December, the store opened during Christmas By The Sea weekend, and it is still a work in progress, with many unopened boxes in a back room and a few items on display still not priced. To thank customers for their patience, the Vixes hand out certificates offering a permanent 10 percent discount on any item in the store.
They expressed gratitude to their former landlord, Chris Lowe, whom Donna called a mentor. He structured the rent payments so the Vixes could afford it, allowing them to increase the payments as they got on their feet, she said. Though he died a few months after they took the store, his son Andrew has been equally kind, she said.
Donna and Richard hope to open a tea room in the front of the store, once they get the kitchen fully fitted out and approved by the Board of Health. In time, Richard would also like to have an ice cream parlor, possibly next door, which would be “a place to park the husbands” while their wives look around the store. Their vision is to keep the menu simple, with a few flavors of ice cream and two kinds of pie, plus coffee, tea and seltzer.
As a visitor can see from looking around the store, Donna enjoys home decorating. She will offer advice on request when customers make a purchase. In an email, she said, “one woman who comes here over the summers was very happy when I helped her decorate an awkward hallway in her home away. I set it up here for her to see, took photos, shipped the items and she used the photo to have someone there install it.”
Donna has also remodeled areas of the store to show how to solve decorating problems, for example by removing an awkward closet and turning it into a cozy nook.
With the help of a newly hired employee, Twice Upon A Dream is open daily from 9 a.m. through the end of the year. In addition, the Vixes' cell phone numbers are on the door – visitors have only to call and they will open the store any time, if they are home. The phone number for the store is 230-1234.
Sarah E. Reynolds is a reporter for the Camden Herald.
Sarah E. Reynolds has been a reporter and writer for more than 20 years, winning awards from the Maine Press Association and other professional organizations. She loves to read, hike and play word games.
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