Kevin Jenness quite literally keeps the spirit of Christmas alive every day of the year at his home decor store, The Peddler’s Wagon, in Eustis.
Jenness’ shop features a year-round Christmas room filled from floor to ceiling with thousands of holiday items, from mermen, seashell and seahorse ornaments to Nativity pieces, custom wreaths, decked-out trees, and small collectible figurines. Throughout the fall, the entire 7,000 square foot store transitions into holiday mode, selling water globe lanterns, centerpiece arrangements and tabletop Christmas trees among other items.
“Wow” is often the first word customers say when entering The Peddler’s Wagon, said Jenness, who described his store as “not for the faint of heart.” The shop even smells like Christmas – a combination of cranberry spice and winter wood scented candles that provide a festive aroma.
“Christmas is a joy that should never really go away. I don’t think it’s something you should box up and only bring out for a month of the year,” Jenness said. “Be happy all of the time.”
Jenness first took over the store in the 1980s, back when it was known as The Peddler’s Wagon Cinnamon Factory that specialized in gifts made from cinnamon sticks. He expanded over the years into home decor, turning The Peddler’s Wagon into a retail anchor of charming downtown Eustis, and developed a special holiday niche in the late 2000s when he opened the Christmas room.
Visitors drive from throughout the state to pick up holiday collectibles they can’t find anywhere else, Jenness said.
“I’ve had a lot of people come and tell me this is their happy place. It just puts them in a lighter, brighter mood. People will come in for inspiration. They’ll come in to be uplifted,” Jenness said. “It’s an old-school style of having a shop that’s not around much anymore. We’re all about shopping and enjoying the entire experience.”
Jenness even provides food and drink to every guest, serving hors d’oeuvres like veggie pizza squares and samples of dips, jams and preserves. And shoppers can even sip the “Peddler’s Punch,” a special libation mixed in-house, as they browse the store’s aisles.
For Jenness, who runs the store with his wife, Penny, and son, Sean, the Peddler’s Wagon is home, and every customer is a guest to be treated with warmth and hospitality.
“I’m here far more than I’m at my own house,” Jenness said. “Anyone who comes in that front door is a guest in my home. The very least I can do for them is to put my best foot forward. I owe it to them to have a great time.”
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