The Shell Factory's Christmas in July brings out collectors and shoppers alike. It's a haven for those who collect Christmas collectibles. There is Department 56, Jimmy Shore, Snowbabies, Fontanini, Seraphim Angels, Willow Tree, Annalee, Charming Tails and more.
Rita Glosson, aka Mrs. Claus, dresses for the event.
"This is my sixth Christmas in July," she said.
Children are in awe as she shows them the virtual Santa's Workshop, where you can see a look at Santa himself streamed digitally from the North Pole, and she runs a train that encompasses a ceiling track high above the Holiday Palace or Christmas Store.
"I think my favorite part of this is seeing how the kids react," she said. "I also give out cookies all through July at the store."
Glosson is a key employee at the Holiday Palace. Another best part is seeing all the new Christmas items and collectibles coming out this year.
Besides Department 56 and numerous more, they carry Santas from Possible Dreams.
"And of course we have the Snowbabies line - everyone loves the Snowbabies," she said.
"We also have lots from artist Jim Shore that people collect, and the Fotanini Stable Collection."
There is also a Halloween collectible store nook, adjacent to the Christmas area.
Decorated trees can be bought on the spot or ordered. Mrs. Claus posed with the famed Upside Down Tree, which always delights customers. There's also pink, purple and gold trees for sale.
"It's a great opportunity for people to get ready for Christmas and save a little money," said Anne Sheridan, general manager/buyer. "It is worth the trip to see the 12 different collectibles areas, including Department 56 and Painted Ponies, Jimmy Shore, Willow Tree, Fontanini and Annalee. Some people have collected them for their entire life, through generations, and some may not be aware the Shell Factory has them right here."
She also said that in the spirit of Christmas, the entire retail store will be giving 20 percent off on all items including Christmas and collectibles and regular priced items.
Besides the sales, there will be Christmas music throughout the store, and a free drawing for the last 12 days of July, from all that visit the Shell Factory from through July. The drawings celebrate the Twelve Days of Christmas, she said.
Drawings will be held from entries now through the end of July. You do not need to be present to win.
"It's a collectable, every day through July. The drawings will be held from July 18th through the 31 excluding Mondays. (The Shell Factory is closed Mondays in the summer.)
If you put in your name and entry, you can be part of this now through the end of the month. And anyone who purchases $30 or more gets a free gift."
There s always free Christmas cookies by Ms. Claus, and great picture spots for kids if you want an early spot for family Christmas cards.
"The fun thing about the Shell Factory is that there is always something new in the store," said Sheridan.
The Shell Factory & Nature Park is at 2178 N. Tamiami Trl. The phone number is 995-2141 and website shellfactory.com .