Thursday, May 24, 2018
News Roundup

Rogers' Christmas House Village sold

BROOKSVILLE — At one time, travelers from across the country rolled up in busloads at all times of the year, ready to enter Florida's own winter wonderland, complete with a banana tree out back.

"Christmas, 364 days a year," the old signs said. Because, of course, it was closed on the actual Christmas.

Years after this heyday, Rogers' Christmas House Village now sits off Saxon Avenue near downtown Brooksville with chipped paint and stray strands of garland hanging from the rafters.

But its era of neglect ended Friday when Lutz residents Dorothea Stephens and her husband, Greg, closed on the sale of the former site of Brooksville's world-famous Christmas store.

"We're going to fix it up," said Dorothea Stephens, 54, who paid $230,000 for the property. "And it's going to be beautiful."

After near sales that fell through and an unsuccessful auction, Brooksville residents are relieved the rundown collection of houses will be resuscitated into a new business, said City Council member Lara Bradburn.

"It's been a long journey to get someone to step up and buy this piece of property," she said. "You couldn't ask for a more prime location for a business."

The building will serve several purposes. Stephens said she will use it to store decorations from Saxon Manor, a once-decaying historic home that she bought about two years ago and turned into a wedding venue.

She also plans to clean up the courtyard of the Christmas House property to use for wedding ceremonies and designate a prep room inside for brides. And she'll rent out space in the front to the Tilted Teacup Tea Room & Boutique, which has outgrown its building on Fort Dade Avenue.

On Tuesday, Tilted Teacup owners Aimee and John Gans walked through the house, pointing out the early stages of renovation. The carpet had been ripped out to reveal wood floors, broken glass and wood debris were swept into neat piles. The scent of sanded wood had started to overtake the musty smell of an attic filled with old holiday decorations.

"It has so much potential," Aimee said from the kitchen, which is more than twice the size of the one at the restaurant's current location.

Both the Ganses and the Stephenses are familiar with renovations. The early 20th century home that currently houses Tilted Teacup was in even worse shape than the Christmas House is in now, the Ganses said. And with Dorothea's vision and Greg's carpentry skills, the Stephenses took Saxon Manor from a dilapidated eyesore to a white Victorian beauty with gardens and reception space out back.

The prime years of the Christmas House ended when the owner, Margaret "Weenie" Ghiotto, passed away in 2006. Her nephew, Weiland Rogers, took over the business. He maintained ownership of the property, but leased the business to a succession of owners. In 2010, it closed and the inventory was emptied. Earlier this year, the property went up for auction but drew no bids.

"I'm glad someone is going to go in there and improve it," Rogers said. "And Brooksville ought to be glad, too."

Councilwoman Bradburn said the purchase is a good sign for the city's economy. Saxon Manor has already brought people into the city for weddings, and the addition of the Christmas House property will attract more.

"Obviously, they see the investment potential," she said. "They're optimistic that their business is going to keep growing here."

For Bradburn, the sale has personal meaning as well. She remembers venturing into the Christmas House as a child and especially remembered the vibrant owner, a "one-woman Chamber of Commerce."

She said Ghiotto used to fix up the outside of rundown houses in Brooksville to preserve the city's beauty.

Now, someone is doing the same for her.

Kathryn Varn can be reached at (352)754-6114 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @kathrynvarn.

 
Comments
Pushing the stroller, mashing the gas pedal: A fatal encounter on Bayshore

Pushing the stroller, mashing the gas pedal: A fatal encounter on Bayshore

TAMPA — Jessica Raubenolt seized on the sunshine and blue skies at mid-day Wednesday to take her daughter out in the stroller for a walk along scenic Bayshore Boulevard. Visiting from Ohio, the family had been cursed by rain all week.At the same time...
Updated: 9 minutes ago
One day after fatal accident, Tampa moves to lower speed limit on Bayshore Blvd

One day after fatal accident, Tampa moves to lower speed limit on Bayshore Blvd

TAMPA — City officials announced Thursday they are reducing the speed limit on Bayshore Boulevard, one day after a mother was struck and killed by a speeding car while pushing her 21-month-old daughter across the street in a stroller.Starting today, ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
When will the Lightning run out of wait-til-next-years?

When will the Lightning run out of wait-til-next-years?

TAMPA — Disbelief will eventually give way to acceptance.The Lightning isn't there yet.It isn't there yet in a lot of ways.Will it ever be?Just wondering.Really, what guarantees are there?Late Wednesday night, Washington Capitals captain A...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Behind the deal: $52 million boutique hotel coming to Ybor City started with cafe con leche at La Tropicana Cafe

Behind the deal: $52 million boutique hotel coming to Ybor City started with cafe con leche at La Tropicana Cafe

TAMPA — Joe Capitano Sr. invested in the 1400 block of E Seventh Avenue in 1985, never doubting the huge potential of the property for Ybor City.But the deal to build a $52 million boutique hotel on the site didn’t start to come together until six ye...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Rays tripling down on starting relievers vs. Orioles this weekend: Romo, Stanek, Romo

Rays tripling down on starting relievers vs. Orioles this weekend: Romo, Stanek, Romo

The Rays aren't kidding about being serious in using relievers to start games.After unveiling the strategy last weekend against the Angels, manager Kevin Cash said they planned to use it again, and he made that official on Thursday, naming Sergio Rom...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Sprouts Farmers Market to open new store in Riverview

Sprouts Farmers Market to open new store in Riverview

RIVERVIEW — Sprouts Farmers Market is opening a new location in Riverview, the chain announced Thursday. The new store will be located at Summerfield Crossing Shopping Center, though Sprouts did not have a specific opening date.The announcement comes...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Pasco sheriff: Man stabbed driver, kicked officer

Pasco sheriff: Man stabbed driver, kicked officer

DADE CITY — A 42-year-old man was arrested Tuesday night after the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office said he jumped on top of a car, stabbed the driver multiple times and then kicked an officer.Roscoe James faces charges of attempted murder, two counts ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Tampa Electric to shut down Big Bend coal unit that killed 5

Tampa Electric to shut down Big Bend coal unit that killed 5

APOLLO BEACH — Tampa Electric Co. is taking a big step away from coal. The Tampa-based utility is spending $853 million to convert its coal-fired Unit 1 at its Big Bend Power Station to natural gas and retire coal-fired Unit 2 in 2021.Five workers di...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Bucs union rep Ali Marpet questions legality of the NFL’s new anthem policy

Bucs union rep Ali Marpet questions legality of the NFL’s new anthem policy

Bucs offensive lineman Ali Marpet questioned the legality of the NFL's new  policy that requires players to stand for the national anthem if they are on the field during the performance but gives them the option to remain in the locker room if t...
Updated: 3 hours ago
USF wins doubleheader to stay alive in AAC tourney

USF wins doubleheader to stay alive in AAC tourney

Its American Athletic Conference tournament hopes flat-lining, USF's baseball team has spent the past 30 or so hours reviving itself with plain ol' CPR.Clutch Pitching and Resolve.Needing back-to-back wins on a humid Clearwater day to remain alive, t...
Updated: 3 hours ago