Christina Hollerbach owns String Theory Creations along with her mother, Linda. Christina lives with her boyfriend, Matthew, in Sanford.
WHAT DO YOU DO FOR A LIVING?
CHRISTINA: I am owner and curator of String Theory Creations. We feature over 25 artists from all over the country and teach jewelry making classes. My mother, Linda, is our resident artist and instructor. We have only been open since April 2014 and every day brings something new and exciting. I am the former Director of Operations at Hollerbach’s Willow Tree Café where I have worked since the age of 14. After opening my own business, I am still involved with the family restaurant as a consultant and advisor to our Management Team. MATTHEW: I am currently attending UCF to achieve a Bachelor’s Degree in Technical Writing after completing my AA at Seminole State College. While going to school, I also work for an online pool supply company where I assist customers, write blogs and how-to guides.
HOW DID YOU FIND YOUR WAY TO SANFORD?
CHRISTINA: I have had family in Sanford all my life, but my real relationship with our Historic Downtown started in 2001. My parents have always had the goal of starting their own restaurant. When the opportunity to buy the Willow Tree Café became a real possibility it changed our lives forever. Over the past 14 years, the original 80 seat restaurant has turned into a 300+ seat, 70+ employee, nationally recognized Sanford fixture. After graduating high school in 2005, my family moved to the historic district where my parents still reside, and I recently bought my home in Sanford in 2012. MATTHEW: I met this girl…and decided to stay.
WHAT WERE YOUR FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF SANFORD?
CHRISTINA: When I was a kid and we visited the Downtown area there honestly wasn’t much to it. I remember Hot Dog Heaven…a lake…and a post office? In the mid-90s, my mother worked at my uncle’s business located downtown and I remember visiting the area frequently, but it was very commercial and not a lot of fun. Even our first years starting the restaurant, it was like pulling teeth to get people to come out, especially at night. I remember playing soccer in the streets and being lucky if we had more than 20 guests a night when we first started dinner service hours. Sanford has changed a lot since then, now we have lines of people waiting to get in. MATTHEW: My first impression was that it was small town with a lot of history and future potential. It is a lot like a smaller version of my hometown, Frederick, Maryland.
WHAT’S IT LIKE TO RUN AND OWN A BUSINESS IN DOWNTOWN SANFORD?
CHRISTINA: No matter where you are, owning your own business is the most rewarding and terrifying thing in the world. There is so much joy and passion but also mixed with fear and anxiety. I love it, and it constantly keeps me on my toes. After watching this town grow and change over the years, we knew we wanted to stay invested in the community. Instead of franchising the restaurant to another area, we wanted to diversify and stay in the Downtown area and give people even more reasons to come to town. The art community and the merchants are so welcoming and we all have a great balance and a passion with a combined goal to make our town a destination for the arts and entertainment.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE SANFORD MEMORY?
CHRISTINA: I have so many fabulous memories and stories about Sanford. Yet, one memory stands out that really shows to support and community-centric vibe of Sanford. It was 2004 during the back-to-back hurricanes of Charley and Frances. Sanford did not get hit too badly, but we lost power for almost a week and the Lake Monroe seawall was dangerously breached. We had not yet moved to Sanford, but decided to protect the restaurant and move in with family down the street in the Downtown area. Todd’s Tomatoes loaned us a freezer truck to save all the food from the Willow Tree during the power outage and my family and other locals helped us load up the truck and sandbag the entrances. After we had fortified ourselves we began to look for others that needed help. The Sanford Armory was stranded with no food or power. So, our employees and families started cooking everything we had on our gas restaurant equipment to feed the men stationed there. We turned what could have been very rough times into a fun and supportive week. Our community really came together and brought out the best in all of us.
WHAT DO YOU WISH TO SEE IN SANFORD’S FUTURE?
CHRISTINA: I am already seeing it. Progress and change can take time, but I am already seeing the wheels turning, and you can see the difference we have made over the past decade. To know where we have been and to start to see our collective goals come to fruition is an extremely rewarding feeling. As I locked up my shop after a great day, I stepped out onto First Street. I heard live bands singing classic rock, whispers of polka music and echoes of laughter and ‘Prosting.’ The Limo Cycle tour rolled down the street with happy patrons cheering at the crowds of people filling the sidewalks heading to their evenings of fun. Craft cocktails were getting sipped while they lounged on imported furniture at The Imperial. The life and energy of the town was so vibrant and inviting. To see that vision come to life from where Downtown Sanford night life was 10 years ago is such a remarkable change that I almost thought it impossible.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE SANFORD EVENT?
CHRISTINA: I will have to say Alive After 5’s Oktoberfest. I love seeing 5000+ people flooding the streets while polka music echoes between the buildings and everyone is donning their lederhosen and dirndls. MATTHEW: I love the couch races that happen on 2nd Street. I had the fortune of participating in the first one they held. With all the bumping, it felt like a scene from Ben-Hur.