Thirty years ago, a man named Dick Cooper had a dream.
Before retiring, Dick worked hard at Sears for three decades starting in his native Denver, then transferring to Casper in 1962.
Flush with his retirement money, he immediately started plans for a specialized Christmas store. He called it Christmas Cottage, which first opened up in the mall before moving to its current location on Second Street.
“This had always been on his bucket list,” recalls Dick’s wife Sheila, who admits she was uncertain at first about him taking early retirement.
That uncertainty quickly vanished as the couple dove into the unending world of holiday merchandising. “He loved merchandising,” said Sheila.
“He died 10 years later, and he had the most wonderful 10 years of his life in retirement right here,” said Sheila. “There was a reason he retired early.”
After the unexpected loss of her husband, Sheila had to decide what to do next. She and Dick had already ordered stock for the next season. Her son suggested she sell the store.
“I said, ‘well let me try it for a year and see what happens,'” recalls Sheila. Two decades later, Christmas Cottage still opens every holiday season.
The store opens annually on Oct. 1 and closes in December. Usually it stays open through December but this year Sheila, who runs the store with the help of four part-time employees, will close on Christmas Eve.
“It’s a happy place, people come in smiling,” says Sheila. “There’s just an atmosphere when you come through the door.”
The store offers just about every imaginable ornament, from celebrating sports teams to professions, Christian to agnostic. “Western themes we do well in, and wildlife and angels,” said Sheila about the more popular items.
She looks forward to seeing repeat customers through the years, but says this year more new people have been discovering the store.
“East Second is busy and you have to plan to stop here, but we’ve had a lot of new people,” said Sheila. “Word of mouth is key.”
Living the business of Christmas decorations hasn’t dampened Sheila’s enthusiasm during the holidays. When asked if she decorates at home, Sheila responds with a resounding “You bet!”
“With three months (open) you don’t get tired of it.”
Christmas Cottage is located at 1100 E. Second St. and is open Oct. 1 through Dec. 24, Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and Sunday 1 to 5 p.m.