story and photos by Angie Kay Dilmore
A person can’t help but smile upon entering Melinda Coker’s recently opened holiday shop, called Not Just Christmas. It’s a colorful, multi-sensory experience of pine scent, a roomful of ornaments, Santas, and other holiday décor, with Christmas music playing softly in the background. Though Christmas is a primary focus of the shop, Coker offers more than tinsel and tree ornaments, as this delightful shop’s name implies. She also sells Halloween decorations, and seasonally rotates other holiday décor such as Fall/Thanksgiving, Mardi Gras, Valentines’ Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, and Independence Day.
Needless to say, Coker has always loved decorating for holidays, especially Christmas. “For years now, I have been working to make my home look like the North Pole. Every room has a different theme. My decorating got serious when I began to inherit my grandma’s Department 56 Dickens Village collection. It’s the first thing that goes up every year after I take down Halloween. I have loved her house collection for as long as I can remember. I now try to add to it by going to estate sales.”
Coker got the idea for opening a holiday shop from her numerous trips to visit her mother in the Great Smoky Mountains region, where Christmas stores abound. She longed for Lake Charles to have something similar. Coincidentally, Coker was browsing in one of her favorite Christmas shops in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee when she received a call from her realtor that the house she and her husband, Jay, had been pondering was available to purchase. The couple, who have experience flipping homes, converted the small, quaint home into a charming shop.
Coker offers a variety of décor and merchandise brands such as Jim Shore, Department 56, Karen Didion, Kurt Alder, and other smaller businesses around the country, as well as items from local artists. She also sells books written and illustrated by local teacher, Jason McGee. Coker adds, “I try to find things that can’t be found at Hobby Lobby, Michael’s, or Amazon.”
Find Not Just Christmas on Facebook @Notjustchristmasbymel or call 337-403-9183.