By Ron VandenBoom
Jackey Wassmann has always loved Christmas, so perhaps it shouldn't seem all that strange that she would open a Christmas store downtown in the Atrium.
She calls the store the Petal Pusher Christmas Store and it's located just around the corner from her other love, Petal Pusher -- a flower and gift shop she has owned since 1993.
"I've always loved Christmas," Wassmann said. "We've always had good memories, good family, and three healthy kids ... I've always been into it."
She first opened the Christmas store four years ago and although she skipped last year, she's back with a vengeance today.
This year the subject is themes.
"All the themes are different," she said, referring to the decorations on the trees and other greenery placed around the store.
One of the trees has everything decorated in gold with glimmering gold angels the dominant theme.
"Angels are hot," she said, adding that snowmen are also a big item this year.
But a theme can be anything the customer desires and several examples of possible themes surround the walls of this festive little shop. She points to the "baby tree" and the "sports tree" as examples noting that fishing seems to have big this year.
"We've also had a lot of requests for silver because you don't get silver very often," she said.
Decorating with themes still only appeals to about half of her clientele with the other half still preferring the traditional red and green motif.
But the store caters to both views and can appeal to all ages, Wassmann said.
"I think we have all ages because there's a little bit for everybody from the snowmen to the serious person," she said, "but also the fact that our prices go from one end to the other."
The Petal Pusher Christmas Store takes about nine hours to set up every year with five people doing the work, Wassmann said, but it is also in need of constant updates as new decorations continue to be added to the display.
The updates come from her designing staff of Deb Hamilton, Kayleen Hockett, and Karin DiSalvo. Between them, they design and create, center pieces, wreaths, and any other items a customer may desire.
"They can be anything they (the customers) want from real greenery to plastic," Wassmann said, referring to the designs. "Whatever they want they'll have."
Wassmann never seems to tire of singing the praises of her staff and their years of experience designing floral arrangements. She refers to them in ways that make the outsider realize the important role they play in the business. They are, without doubt, an asset and something the makes the Petal Pusher's Christmas Store a cut above.
Wassmann's right-hand, Lisa Rice, also receives high praise as does Deitra Kraske, who comes on board temporarily this time of year just to help out in the Christmas store.
Also included in the store's offerings are plush animals from Cottage Collectibles and ceramic collectibles from Cast Art Collectibles and Pitka Collectibles. Pitka Collectibles, Wassmann said, are made in Minnesota and are numbered and signed. Seraphim Angels are also a collectible and a good sellers this time of the year, she said.
Also in stock is a collection of what Wassmann called "itty-bitty Mugs." The mugs have names on them and are great for attaching to Christmas gifts or for putting on food. According to Wassmann, they were the third best selling Christmas item in the U.S. last year and are still selling well this year.
Another item high on the Christmas store's list of popular decorations are Christmas flags for the yard and home.
"And they're guaranteed," Wassmann said. "If anything goes wrong with them the company just replaces them."
Wassmann admits that running the store is really a lot of work, but she also emphasizes that it is a lot of fun as well. And part of that fun comes in September, March, and January, every year when she travels to Chicago or New York to order Christmas items for the next year.
"It's kind of neat," Wassmann said, adding that it's really strange when right after Christmas, "during a time when you just get over Christmas, and you don't want to even open a catalog you get to go Christmas shopping."
But that's only a temporary thing, Wassmann said, noting that "the minute you get there it starts over and you go, 'I can do this.'"
The end result pays off during the holiday season when Havre shoppers get to browse through one of the best and most up-to-date assortments of Christmas dcor on the Hi-Line.