A pioneer in the Georgia film industry and the driving force in bringing the Lakewood 400 Antiques Market, located at 1321 Atlanta Highway, to Forsyth County has passed away.
Edwin D. Spivia, known to many as “Big Ed,” passed away on Saturday, July 27 after a lengthy battle with Lewy Body Dementia. Members of Spivia’s family said he will be remembered for his love of Lake Lanier, bringing the antiques market to Forsyth County and playing a pivotal role in Georgia’s rise to becoming one of the top places in the world for television and movie filming.
“Probably the biggest thing is we started the Georgia Film Commission and grew Georgia into just a hub for motion picture and television production,” said Greg Spivia, Ed’s son. “And we did a lot of the stuff with Burt Reynolds, a lot of the ‘Smokey and the Bandits’ and ‘Cannonball [Run’ movies] and became real good friends with him.”
In fact, longtime friend and business associate Diane Dominick said it was a Reynolds film that led Spivia to pitch filming in the state to then-Gov. Jimmy Carter.
“He had a great personality and he blended well with movie people — the workers, the stars, whatever — and they always call him to do things,” Dominick said. “He was sort of a one-man show, and he just saw the possibility when he saw them making ‘Deliverance,’ and he went back to Jimmy Carter the governor and spoke to him about it, and the next thing I knew Ed was flying to California meeting with people.
“He came back to Governor Carter and he said, ’Set it up.’ They both went on a couple of trips out there, then he just got everything rolling and everybody came to him.”
Dominick said Spivia worked with a number of governors before being tapped by Sonny Perdue in 2006 to help develop incentive offers to get productions to film in the state and lead the newly-formed Georgia Film Video and Music Advisory Commission.
“I think he left behind a fact that Georgia could play with the big boys and go toe-to-toe with LA and New York and has done so because we’re one of the top three,” Spivia’s wife, Barbara, said. “But Georgia has the capability as a state and has the infrastructure and has the talent source to pull it all together, which they’ve done. With all the counties that are film-ready and with all the film studios now and with all of the schools that teach what the film companies need, that’s what’s going on and he was proud of it and really hoped that continues.”
Barbara said her husband was proud to see the work continued by Lee Thomas, who serves as deputy commissioner of the Georgia Film, Music and Digital Entertainment Office.
In a roundabout way, the film industry is even responsible for bringing the popular Lakewood 400 Antiques Market to town.
In 1983, Spivia and business partners formed Filmworks, USA on the site of the former Lakewood Fairgrounds in Atlanta, which is currently home to EUE Screen Gems Studios of New York.
In 2006, the city of Atlanta purchased the lease from Filmworks.
Among the uses of the former fairground was its well-known antique market, which Spivia brought to Forsyth County in 2003.
“He was very proud of Lakewood 400 Antiques Market and Forsyth County and it being located where it’s located because it’s a tremendous area,” Barbara said. “It’s a rapidly-growing area, and he felt like it was in the right place at the right time, and it’s still growing.”
The market is open on the third weekend of each month and brings thousands of customers looking to purchase antiques, furniture and other items from the market’s 500 vendors.
“People love this kind of stuff. If you can’t get it at Walmart, you can’t get it at Ross, you can only get it here,” said son Rhett Spivia. “We’ve got clothing and furniture, and all the dealers that followed dad from Lakewood, they’re an eclectic group. …
“He wasn’t really too worried about maybe the fact that this might have been rural in nature when he first came here, but he was really attracted to the facility because it’s perfect for what this is, and then the dealers and the crowd followed him.”
Spivia was preceded in death by his parents, Mildred Graves and Edwin Spivia and his stepfather, Burton Graves. Along with Barbara, Rhett (Paula) and Greg (Amy), he is survived by daughter Cole; stepsons Philip Beegle (Jennifer), Brian Beegle and Kevin Beegle; grandchildren Tara, Brandon, Kamryn, Philip IV and Jackson plus great-grandchildren Ava and Landon; sister Nancy (Spivia) Anderson, (Clay), brothers Ronnie Graves (Pat) and David Graves (Jill) and a host of nieces and nephews.
The family is accepting donations in Spivia’s honor to the Lewy Body Dementia Association at 912 Killian Hill Road SW, Lilburn, GA. The association can also be contacted at 404-935-6444 or online at https://www.lbda.org/donate.
“Lewy Body Dementia is a tough one to diagnose, and you really can’t diagnose it without an autopsy, but with all the symptoms, they can figure it out. It’s often confused for Parkinson’s,” Barbara said. “The association has just a wealth of information and a wealth of community support, and it’s a great organization. They were very helpful to me because I had a lot of learning to do.”