Saturday, December 16, 2017
Deals & Shopping

What's old is new again when it comes to Christmas decorations

CLEARWATER — Once or twice a year, Teri Bridenback makes the trek from Jacksonville to Robert's Christmas Wonderland in Clearwater to shop and bask in the yuletide spirit.

"It's so peaceful I could just sit here all day," she said as lights from a thousand bulbs reflected on her sequined blouse.

Whether to sit in the "tree room" and enjoy the music and sights of 150 lit trees, or to stop by for a new piece of Christmas decor, Robert's supplies the requisite seasonal fix.

The 35,000-square-foot store, open all year, is owned by Bob and Rita Frank, 72 and 71, respectively.

"We spend nine months creating the magic in the store so we have it ready for our three-month selling season," Bob said.

Oh what fun shoppers seem to have as they snatch up items for their nativities, trees and front yards.

Robert Franceskino came equipped with a video shot from a drone detailing his elaborately decorated home in Tampa's Westchase community. He was back at Robert's to find a Santa and sleigh to complete the look.

"I come here because I can't find blow molds like these anywhere else," he said.

Blow molds, those lighted plastic figurines, are definitely back in style with people collecting vintage midcentury models and manufacturers producing new ones.

Another vintage comeback: plaid. Robert's has decked out a beige holiday tree with stunning black and red plaid ornaments and plaid poinsettia stems.

Though traditional ornaments and décor abound, the color purple (as well as teal and blue) are the trending big this year.

Energy-saving LED lights are all the rage with more options like sequencing, colors and music being added each year.

"Some are so durable now you can walk on them and they won't break," Bob said.

Laser-cut ornaments, churches and gingerbread houses continue to be big seller at Robert's because of the striking detail that is achievable with lasers.

Themed ornaments for pets, food items, wine, beer and liquor, and the national parks are always a hit. Robert's carries a large selection of global ornaments from countries such as Kenya, Ireland, Germany, Italy and Scotland too.

Trees with molded plastic needles are in style because they look so natural, Bob said. Spinning trees, upside down trees and trees to match every room in the house continue to be fun attention-getters.

Not necessarily new, but a growing trend is for parents to let their child pick out one ornament each year, with the idea they will be given the whole collection when they are grown.

"It's like a little Christmas biography of what was important to them when they went through life," Bob said.

Jaxson Moore, 2, was trying to decide what ornament he would take home — a chocolate-covered cupcake or that of a baseball.

"Cupcake," he said with resolve.

Then he picked out a puppy.

***

Bob used to be a high school teacher. Rita, a social worker. After relocating from New York and a year of unemployment, they took every penny they had, maxed out their credit cards, and opened their first Christmas shop in Pinellas Park in 1973. A few years later, they opened a second in Tampa. The first two stores have since closed and in 1989, they consolidated operations at the current location, 2951 Gulf to Bay Blvd.

They said what they love most about running the store is the people — from the old-timers who sit and watch the goings-on to the young families, some who bring in a fourth-generation of wide-eyed youngsters.

Even in their 70s, the Franks have no plans for retirement but their son Josh is ready to fill their shoes when the day comes.

"This is our passion, not just a job," Rita said. "We love to see all the smiling faces."

Reach Terri Bryce Reeves at [email protected]

Comments
Fueled by indulgence and machismo, restaurants are a hotbed for sexual harassment

Fueled by indulgence and machismo, restaurants are a hotbed for sexual harassment

When Brenda Terry was 16 and living in St. Louis, she was a hostess and food runner at a sports bar where female employees wore cute, little cheerleading skirts. One night, she said, a patron grabbed her crotch. She ran to her management team and the...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Double the shopping opportunities at Mastry’s Brewing Co. and find funky gifts at ARTpool

Double the shopping opportunities at Mastry’s Brewing Co. and find funky gifts at ARTpool

Make it a Double: Winter Solstice ExtravaganzaEver since it opened on St. Pete Beach, Mastry's Brewing Co. has been hosting all kinds of events, including markets and a semiannual fashion show, which returns Saturday as part of the Winter Solstice Ex...
Published: 12/14/17
Plan your weekend Dec. 15-17: Katy Perry, boat parades, Star Wars parties, comics Gilbert Gottfried, Michael Carbonaro

Plan your weekend Dec. 15-17: Katy Perry, boat parades, Star Wars parties, comics Gilbert Gottfried, Michael Carbonaro

Superstar Katy Perry: In the ever-escalating arms race to be the most eye-popping pop star on the planet, sometimes you have to call in for backup. Even if you’re Katy Perry. When plotting her lavishly spectacular Witness Tour, which arrives i...
Published: 12/13/17
Updated: 12/14/17
Top things to do this week: Star Wars parties, comics Gilbert Gottfried, Michael Carbonaro

Top things to do this week: Star Wars parties, comics Gilbert Gottfried, Michael Carbonaro

NEW HOPE: Star Wars partiesWith the opening of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, the force of fan excitement is strong, so of course there are Star Wars parties this weekend. The giant movie complex Riverview 14 GDX is having celebration with characters from...
Published: 12/13/17
5 things to do under $5: Gasparilla Bowl beach day, Hanukkah on Ice, boat parades

5 things to do under $5: Gasparilla Bowl beach day, Hanukkah on Ice, boat parades

1 Battle at the Beach: The Gasparilla Bowl is coming to Tropicana Field on Dec. 21, but before that the bands, cheerleaders and dance teams from Florida International University and Temple University will have a day of beach-related games and competi...
Published: 12/13/17
6 gift ideas for grandparents and grandchildren to spend more time together

6 gift ideas for grandparents and grandchildren to spend more time together

A grandparent can be a tough person to buy a Christmas gift for. Likewise, many grandparents are stumped on what to get the kids besides some cash. Why not make your Christmas gift something you both want more of: more time together making memories. ...
Published: 12/13/17
Time to shine: Embrace this holiday season’s beauty trends

Time to shine: Embrace this holiday season’s beauty trends

The holiday season has officially arrived, bringing all the glitz and shine of twinkling lights and tinsel. It's also bringing festive get-togethers, and whether they're office parties or fancy soirees, the instinct is to look as shiny and bright as ...
Published: 12/08/17
From Hogwarts Castle to your home, digital projectors give a real light show

From Hogwarts Castle to your home, digital projectors give a real light show

At night, Hogwarts Castle is suddenly dusted with snow in steamy Florida. It’s not really snow, but light causing this trick of the eye. Projectors and sophisticated software then send ghosts across the castle towers. A turret spins and turns i...
Published: 12/08/17
Glass art jewelry shines at Zen Glass and another round of markets

Glass art jewelry shines at Zen Glass and another round of markets

Art Jewelry: Pendant PaloozaI can tell you from my experience working in a gallery, people love art glass jewelry, particularly pendants. They make great gifts. Find a plethora at Zen Glass Studio's Pendant Palooza on Saturday. They're showcasing jew...
Published: 12/07/17
A guide to holiday events at Disney, Universal, Busch Gardens and more theme parks

A guide to holiday events at Disney, Universal, Busch Gardens and more theme parks

Instead of shoveling snow, Christmas in Florida means celebrating the holiday season in shorts and T-shirts at theme parks and local attractions. Some parks even haul in “snow” for an authentic holiday vibe. While the last two weeks of t...
Published: 12/06/17