By Abigail Roberts
Warm Christmas lights, vintage tables set up in a bright garage and cheery holiday Christmas music playing in the background all provide the backdrop for Upland's pop-up holiday shop, Second Fiddle.
Started in 2011 as an Etsy business, Second Fiddle has grown and morphed over the years, while still maintaining its essence: quality handmade and vintage goods with a homestyle creative touch.
Owner Tammy Neel and her husband, Rob, have been an integral piece of Upland for over 15 years. Their children attended Taylor, and Rob Neel is the local pastor of Upland United Methodist Church. Since its beginning, Second Fiddle has given all its profits to support RedBarn, a local youth center.
Second Fiddle opened in 2011 as an Etsy business and has been a pop-up ever since. Although Upland can't support a full-time gift store, opening during the different holidays, mainly November and December, provides adequate business.
"I love the products," said Deb Hatland, academic technology specialist. "I own many of them. I've purchased aprons and tote bags and given some of the products as gifts. Tammy is a talented individual with a heart for the community."
A fifth-generation seamstress, Tammy Neel remembers her mother giving her a lined piece of paper as a child and having her sew along the straight lines to practice. Her mother owned a retail store in Dunkirk, Indiana for over 20 years. Known as The Nest Egg, Tammy Neel remembers past Taylor faculty stopping by.
"It kind of runs in my blood," Tammy Neel said. "I grew up with that."
Being family-run, Second Fiddles' products mirror each member's creative style. The Neels' daughter, Esther, is a theater painter, while their other daughter, Sarah, is a potter and their son, David, runs a bike repair store next to the Second Fiddle. It is no doubt talent runs in the family. Rob Neel's love for vintage items, Tammy Neel's seamstress skills, added to their children's vision and knowledge of popular millenial styles and items, create products for everyone.
"We all have different design ideas," Tammy Neel said. "(My daughters tell me), 'I'm sure that's a good idea,' and then that's the one that sells. . . . They're very skilled and can do just about anything."
Some of Tammy Neel's favorite and most popular pieces are her aprons made of vintage table cloths. People will bring in their grandmother's tablecloths, and Tammy Neel transforms them into bright and colorful sewn aprons. Other popular items include fabric covered journals, vintage school pendants - perfect for a father's Christmas gift - and paper items from decades past.
With a wide price range of items, some starting at a dollar, Second Fiddle's products appeal to all, even somewhat-broke college students. They even have a Square reader so customers don't have to bring cash.
Tammy Neel, whose desire is to someday open a full-time store, is content with where the store is currently.
"It's just fun," Tammy Neel said. "We have a lot of Taylor support; it's just good."