What do the Hill Country and Dallas have in common?

Certainly not the rolling landscape and pristine natural attributes of the former. And most definitely not the skyscrapers, freeways and traffic of the latter.

What they do have in common is Maryneil Dance and the Hill Country Experience. Dance, who splits time between Lakewood and the Hill Country region, was so inspired by the culture in small towns like Fredricksburg and Wimberly that she decided to transport some for our benefit here.

It all started a few years ago when she was helping restore a Sunday Home in Fredricksburg.

“The old German families settled on farms when they came to this area of Texas,” she says. “They built these little houses in town, so on Sundays they’d come to town, go to church, have barbecues and other church activities and spend the night. Well, the town is still full of these tiny houses. They’re wonderful. While I was helping this couple restore one of these homes, I realized what a wonderful experience it was and thought I needed to bring some of this culture back with me to Dallas.”

Sure enough, Dance has succeeded in making the Hill Country accessible to Dallas shoppers — with a shorter drive. Sitting at 2608 Elm, her shop features an array of merchandise, ranging from unique furniture to books detailing the history of central Texas and other items that capture the flavor of the area.

“There’s a whole different feeling and way of life out there,” Dance says. “A lot of people are able to notice that connection between my store and the region. It’s relaxed and easy going, no pressure. I tried to pull this into Dallas, which is hard. But I decided to go to Deep Ellum because I needed something that had a certain look. In a shopping mall, it just wouldn’t work.”

Although there is a little something for everybody, much of the store’s merchandizing focus is on custom furniture. Hill Country manager, Michelle McGinnis (a native of Kerrville) is a professional designer and serves as a consultant to fit certain items in people’s homes.

Dance spends more and more time travelling back and forth between Dallas and Fredricksburg. A hectic schedule but, then again, consistent business has allowed her to bring two new designers into the fold as well as her son, Paul Levatino.

“It’s always very busy,” she says. “We’re always helping customers on the floor or designing a piece of furniture for someone.”

Thus far, it seems that the Hill Country and Dallas can co-exist despite some major differences. As she herself has discovered, there are many people who long for the down home serenity of the area as well as its nostalgic feel for Texas.

“I never had a doubt that the idea behind the Hill Country Experience would go over,” she says. “It’s a unique store. There’s nothing like it in Dallas. It’s just a real good blend of antiques and Texas history, which sometimes gets forgotten with the modern attitudes that dominate this city.”

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