Go over the river and through the wood to find the perfect holiday trimmings
This year, the store‘s theme is “Over the River and Through the Wood.“
“Who doesn’t need a rainbow unicorn?” asks Laura Geouge, holding up a colorful felt ornament. “Or bacon? Or a banana slug? Or Willie Nelson?” She cracks a smile at the scruffy country star, perfectly captured as an ornament, one of hundreds that she and her team of industrious elves have hung to transform the Hyams Garden Center’s Christmas Store.
For 26 years, Geouge has designed the winter wonderlands inside the accent and gift store on Folly Road, drawing inspiration from the Lowcountry as well as the holiday songbook. Every year, she creates intricate, themed landscapes with thousands of pieces, ranging from quirky ornaments to traditional wreaths with handcrafted ribbons, all hung by hand with care. “When you come in, it’s more of a feeling, like an experience,” says Geouge. “That’s what Christmas is all about.”
The Christmas Store opens annually on October 1, with a cult following of customers lined up out front. While it typically takes six weeks to bring the theme to life, this year, COVID-19 caused shipping delays so everything came together at the last minute. The theme, “Over the River and Through the Wood,” celebrates nostalgia and Charleston’s local rivers: A forest created using recycled crepe myrtle branches and twinkling lights winds through the 5,000-square-foot store, Geouge says. At the end of the journey, shoppers find a perfect “Grandmother’s House” with a hand-made, wood-pallet porch.
“When you come in, it’s more of a feeling, like an experience.” —Laura Geouge, Hyams
Much of their stock is cherry-picked by eager holiday shoppers before Thanksgiving, bringing in about 10 percent of Hyams’s total revenue in three months. The store’s huge variety of ornaments attracts the most business as customers take home golden oysters and Mason jars. “We’re so small and always want to have a lot of things, not a lot of the same things,” Geouge explains. “If you want this mouse with a strawberry, you have to buy her today.”
In spite of the pandemic, owner George Hyams expects this year’s sales will remain strong. “There’s no way to put a value on the store or what we do; it’s a lot of fun,” he says. “I think for everybody Christmas this year might be pretty special.”
Oh, Christmas Tree
On the other end of the lot, business booms as people flock to claim one of the massive evergreens curated by owner George Hyams