At Val's Home Decor in North Tampa, every holiday is celebrated. The store carries a large selection of decorations for celebrations throughout the year, from Valentine's Day to Gasparilla, Easter, Fourth of July and Halloween, but none is as special as Christmas.
In September, the inventory is already out and Tampa residents eager to deck the halls start making their way to the 30,000-square-foot warehouse to prepare for the season.
Owned by Valerie Harding, Val's Home Decor first opened in 1989 when it went from flea-market booth to a wholesale-only store selling baskets, which were popular gifts at the time. As trends changed, the store changed with them and started to incorporate a larger variety of items and eventually opened to the public for retail. It kept two of its early characteristics, however: large quantities of each product and wholesale pricing.
Everything in the store, from Moroccan lanterns ($18.97) to patterned turquoise vases ($10.97) and table-top Christmas trees ($5.97) can be bought in bulk. Since Harding directly imports products from vendors all over the world — cutting out a distributor from the picture — prices are also kept as low as possible.
Year-round, the store carries the largest selection of silk flowers in Tampa and has two aisles dedicated solely to greenery like banana ($0.47) and fern leaves ($3.97). During the holiday season, though, the artificial-flower market and all the home-accent furniture (prices vary) get condensed to make room for bows ($4.97), wreaths ($24.97) and the endless options of ornaments (not even Harding knows exactly how many styles are available) that are organized by color for easier shopping. Eighteen decorated trees placed throughout the store give ideas to less-crafty customers, and a floral designer is available to make custom arrangements and wreaths.