In Charles Dickens’ classic holiday tale A Christmas Carol, a reformed Ebenezer Scrooge proclaims, “I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.” Shoppers looking to keep the Yuletide spirit in their hearts year-round need look no further than the Christmas Rocks store in Houston.
However, you might have to look closely to find it. With only a discrete window banner and sometimes a tasteful front-porch Santa announcing the store’s presence, this unassuming shop is tucked into a white two-story house on a narrow street just south of the swanky River Oaks neighborhood. But once inside, shoppers are met with a lavish bounty of holiday-themed gifts and décor: Approximately 10,000 items fill every nook and cran-ny of the first floor, encompassing four rooms and a hallway—about 1,200 square feet in all. Shiny strings of beads dangle from door frames, ornaments spangle the walls and the bran-ches of artificial Christmas trees, and a legion of nutcrackers stand at attention on the shelves.
The proprietors of this holiday wonderland are Bobbie Bayless and Dalia Stokes, who opened a legal practice here in 1994. By 2004 their law library had moved online, and they were left with underutilized space and an abundance of shelving. They mused over what to do. “We both loved Christmas, so we joked that we should open a Christmas shop—and then we did,” says Stokes, with a wry laugh. The two filled the first floor of the house with ornaments, Santa figurines, wreaths, and other holiday décor—whatever caught their eye, they say—and opened the shop in 2005.
One section of the back room is devoted entirely to Texas- and Houston-themed baubles, another to figurines of dogs and cats of many breeds.
Christmas Rocks is truly a destination in itself, with items that cannot be found elsewhere in the city, or even in the state in some cases. Goods come from as far away as Germany, Norway, Poland, and Russia. The family-owned German firm of Wilhelm Schweizer supplies them with hand-painted, pewter ornaments; J. Brooke Patterson of JBW Studio in California ships her tiny dioramas built into quail eggs. Closer to home, Lucy Hammett of Mineola provides picture bingo games, one featuring reindeer, snowmen, and mistletoe, another highlighting the Alamo, bluebonnets, and Texas Longhorns.
The biggest sellers by far are the ornaments, which come in astounding numbers and varieties. Shoppers can find everything from affordable trinkets priced as low as $5 to high-end, handcrafted ornaments priced in the hundreds, although most fall between $10 and $25. Need a miniature banjo complete with functional tuning pegs, or a violin, or French horn, or trombone? They have it. What about a colorful, painted-glass ornament in the shape of a fringed Western shirt, a boot, or an armadillo? They have that, too.
One section of the back room is devoted entirely to Texas- and Houston-themed baubles, another to figurines of dogs and cats of many breeds, plus stockings specially designed for furry members of the family. Sports fans are not forgotten: The shop carries decorations bearing the logos of favorite Texas teams, as well as an assortment of owls in tribute to nearby Rice University. A room that once served as a kitchen now displays ornaments in the shape of pies, cupcakes, ice cream cones, and other tempting edibles. On the shelves and counters are gingerbread houses and festive plates for Santa’s cookies.
The shop also boasts a heavenly assortment of angel tree-toppers, tree skirts, needlepoint Santa pillows, tinkling music boxes, charming snow globes, Rudolph-themed night lights, and old-fashioned Christmas crackers, to name a few. No matter what you are searching for—an amusing item for a white elephant exchange, stocking stuffers for kids, a hostess gift, or a thoughtful holiday present—Christmas Rocks caters to just about every interest, taste, or whim. Where else could you find both delicate blown-glass orbs in pastel hues and a chicken dressed as a cowboy?
Not all customers carry Christmas in their hearts year-round, so Bayless and Stokes also offer items for other occasions, such as Easter, Halloween, and Thanksgiving. However, Christmas is still the main attraction, drawing numbers that have far exceeded their original expectations. “We didn’t realize the season would start in September!” Stokes exclaims. Business really picks up just after Thanksgiving, she adds. “We don’t have the time to put together a real Christmas for ourselves anymore, or go to holiday parties, but we have the fun of finding these ornaments for others. People come here in the Christmas spirit.”
Christmas Rocks is at 2931 Ferndale St. in Houston. Hours: Year-round, Mon–Fri 10 a.m.–6 p.m. From Oct. 1–Dec. 31, the shop also opens Sat (10 a.m.–5 p.m.) and Sun (noon–5 p.m.). Call 713-522-9441.