Saturday, July 21, 2018
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
5 things to do under $5 this week: Puppet show, bike night, shuffleboard, butterfly count

5 things to do under $5 this week: Puppet show, bike night, shuffleboard, butterfly count

1 Butterfly Count: You can learn to identify common Florida butterflies and how organized butterfly counts work. The count information will be used to populate data for Florida Nature Trackers. For ages 12 and older. Noon-2 p.m. Friday. Chinsegut Con...
Published: 07/18/18
The Sunrise Sale returns July 19, Amazon Prime Day and a back to school bash

The Sunrise Sale returns July 19, Amazon Prime Day and a back to school bash

UP AND AT 'EM: SUNRISE SALEThere have been many changes to the downtown St. Petersburg landscape, but there has been one constant for the past 45 years: the Sunrise Sale. Nearly 40 downtown merchants and businesses will open their doors at sunrise &#...
Published: 07/12/18
5 things to do under $5 this week: Chihuly glass art, Eichmann exhibit, Back to School Bash

5 things to do under $5 this week: Chihuly glass art, Eichmann exhibit, Back to School Bash

1 Chihuly Anniversary Weekend: To celebrate its eighth anniversary, admission is $5 at the Chihuly Collection of glass art from famed artist Dale Chihuly. In addition to the permanent collection of glass art, a special exhibition is on display. "Stor...
Published: 07/11/18
Creatives converge for an Etsy Craft Party and markets abound

Creatives converge for an Etsy Craft Party and markets abound

CREATIVE CONVERGENCE: ETSY CRAFT PARTYEtsy, the online marketplace for makers, artists and vintage sellers, is still going strong after being around for 13 years. It's especially cool that so many Etsy sellers are from the bay area, enough to warrant...
Updated one month ago
For Broadway fans, Capitol Theatre has a $5 summer movie series

For Broadway fans, Capitol Theatre has a $5 summer movie series

To build excitement for its fall series of Broadway shows at Ruth Eckerd Hall, the Capitol Theatre this summer will run a series of Tony winners that made it to the big screen. At $5 a ticket — $9 for unlimited fountain drinks and popcorn ­— it’s con...
Updated one month ago
5 things to do under $5 this week: Free Slurpee Day, free food for cow costumes at Chick-fil-A, Dunedin Orange Festival

5 things to do under $5 this week: Free Slurpee Day, free food for cow costumes at Chick-fil-A, Dunedin Orange Festival

1 Free Slurpee Day: Brain freeze alert! To celebrate July 11 (or 7/11), next Wednesday you can get a free 12-ounce Slurpee at 7-Eleven stores across the Tampa Bay area from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. while supplies last. Free.2 Chick-fil-A Cow Appreciation Da...
Published: 07/06/18
How to get into 13 Tampa Bay museums for $10 or less

How to get into 13 Tampa Bay museums for $10 or less

Looking for some cheap fun?
Updated one month ago
Yes, most fireworks are illegal in Florida. No, that doesn't stop anyone. Here's why.

Yes, most fireworks are illegal in Florida. No, that doesn't stop anyone. Here's why.

It’s almost the Fourth of July, that noisy time of year when — as a fireworks dealer in a Simpsons episode once phrased it — some of us will "celebrate the independence of our nation by blowing up a small part of it." Here’s ...
Updated one month ago
Top things to do this weekend: Fireworks, corgi racing, Boy George, Jurassic Quest, Toy Story Land

Top things to do this weekend: Fireworks, corgi racing, Boy George, Jurassic Quest, Toy Story Land

Cuteness Corgi Racing at horse track: Dozens of short-legged racers will take their marks Saturday at Tampa Bay Downs for Corgi Racing. The world’s cutest sport will take place after horse racing has finished for the day. The first horse race ...
Updated one month ago
Go boho at Gypsy Junque’s reveal party, dig the Plant Pop Up Festival and rummage through costumes in Tarpon Springs

Go boho at Gypsy Junque’s reveal party, dig the Plant Pop Up Festival and rummage through costumes in Tarpon Springs

MAGIC BUS: GYPSY JUNQUE REVEAL PARTYGypsy Junque, the bohemian boutique housed in a handicap-accessible school bus, has been rolling around the bay area for a few years now. The colorful bus full of hippie-chic clothing and accessories, mostly made b...
Updated one month ago