HOLIDAY — When Skip Maslowski was a child, he, like many young people, had a strong love for the holiday season. And he always looked forward to one Christmas ritual in particular.
"I loved to decorate," the New Port Richey native said. "I loved to pretty up the trees."
This great love for yuletide decorating extended into adulthood, when Maslowski opened his own florist shop in 1982. He always made it a point to deck the halls for the holidays.
"And one year," Maslowski said, "we decided not to take the decorations down."
Since the 1990s, Skip's Florist and Christmas House, at 5324 Mile Stretch Drive, has served the Pasco area as a purveyor of seasonal ornaments, collectibles, novelties and floral arrangements. And aside from supplying florals for weddings, funerals, other special occasions and a range of holidays, Skip's is a place where people can go when they need a little Christmas.
"Many customers tell us this is their happy place," Maslowski said. "It's a stress-free environment."
The 5,000-square-foot store features seven rooms filled with reminders of the yuletide season. Towering Christmas trees trimmed with all varieties of ornaments, from designer Lennox Classics and Kurt S. Adler pieces to Snow Babies, Peanuts and Charming Tails. Themed trees feature ornaments that resemble cupcakes, lollipops and other sweet treats; symbols of the beach and Florida life that range from gators to merfolk; Irish-themed ornaments, and peacock-patterned decor. Collectibles range from nativity scenes and angel figurines to whimsical reindeer and Santa figurines — some of them automated — that show Father Christmas doing everything from baking pies to playing golf to driving a truck. An entire miniature village is lined with Department 56 collectible houses.
Wreaths, garlands and florals of all varieties adorn the walls of the shop, which also sells novelties that include candles and nutcrackers, elf dolls and nutcracker teddy bears, music boxes and even yuletide-themed bathroom tissue, salt and pepper shakers and bookmarks.
"We come in here every year," said Will Ihrig of Port Richey. "There are so many different things. You can look and look, and still see."
Also lining the store walls are numerous plaques that honor achievements in floral artistry. Skip's consistently has been named a Top 200 Teleflora dealer, and the Florida West Coast Florist Association has named Maslowski Designer of the Year for the West Coast of Florida. The business creates special displays for holiday charitable events that benefit Lighthouse for the Visually Impaired and Blind and the Good Samaritan Hospital, and has featured floats in the Chasco Fiesta parade.
Store employees express enthusiasm for their employer and their workplace.
"This place gives you a good feeling the moment you walk in," said floral designer Linda Squillante.
And, employees stress, people don't just come for Christmas decorations.
"People come to us for floral arrangements for weddings, funerals. ... We're very qualified," said floral designer Cheryl Swartsel.
"We meet people during the best and worst times of their lives," said Jeanie Murrell, also a floral designer.
It is this level of customer dedication, Maslowski said, that has allowed his business to thrive and survive through many a Christmas season.
"No matter what request we get, we do the best we can for people," he said. "And we give back to the community."
For more information about Skip's Florist and Christmas House, call (727) 938-3391 or visit skipsfloristandchristmashouse.com.