George Rodriguez wants you to think cool thoughts for the next nine days.
The owner of Rogers' Christmas House Village wants you to replace images of cool lemonade with hot chocolate. He wants you to think football, not baseball. He wants you out of the swimming pool and in front of a roaring fireplace.
In other words, think Christmas in July.
Starting Saturday, that's what the folks at the Christmas House will be doing. The annual summer sale, meant to clear out excess stock, has become something of an annual tradition, said the owner of the 37-year-old Brooksville business.
"When we started doing it a couple of years ago, it was to raise money to keep the doors open," Rodriguez said. "Now, things are a little better. It's more of a fun thing for us."
Rodriguez, an employee since the business opened in 1971, took over ownership of the Christmas House in May 2008 after its then-owner filed for bankruptcy.
Like almost every other merchant, the landmark business is facing the challenges of a slumping economy, Rodriguez says. But things are a bit brighter than they were two years ago, when he rescued the business from the brink of closure.
"We're slowly getting people to come back," he said. "It may never be the way it was in the old days. But I'm a believer that it can still be a profitable store."
Founded by longtime Brooksville resident Margaret "Weenie" Rogers Ghiotto, the store blossomed into a year-round Christmas village that attracted thousands of visitors each year in search of unique holiday ornaments and gifts. After Ghiotto's death in 2005, the business was bought by Donna Jones of Spring Hill, who quickly ran into financial troubles.
Rodriguez remembers that the first Christmas In July sale helped save the store from certain ruin.
"It showed us that the community wanted to keep us around," he said. "People came and bought a lot of stuff. It was sorely needed at that point."
Customers who visit the store over the next nine days will be treated to free refreshments. Select days will feature local artisans, musicians and storytellers, and experts giving cooking and gardening demonstrations and sharing tips on decorating the home for the holidays.
Saturday's kickoff will feature a rare summer visit from Santa Claus from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
"We've tried to have something that will interest everyone," Rodriguez said. "The idea is to show people that this is a fun place."
Logan Neill can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1435.