Inside an antique building in Leesburg, music streams through the speakers, vibrant colors are displayed in every room and knick-knacks pile high on each shelf. The one thing keeping it all cohesive? It’s Christmas-themed. Everywhere.
This is the scene within The Old Lucketts Store’s design house, which, after Labor Day, turns into a Christmas wonderland for the annual Shop in Peace event, bringing thousands of shoppers from across the country to one place. From ornaments to plateware to Peruvian, hand-knit scarves, you can find it all within one building.
“The only day we’re not doing Christmas is Christmas,” says store owner Suzanne Eblen, with a laugh.
Eblen started hosting the holiday market in 2004 when her and her husband, Pat, decided to buy more property behind the main storefront due to a lack of parking for shoppers. While it was once a small gathering featuring a few hundred products, the Shop in Peace event eventually evolved into a staple shopping affair for the region, expanding to 12 days this year instead of the typical one. After Tuesday, Nov. 12, the design house will be open every weekend through Sunday, Dec. 22 for free entry.
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“It’s so big and so crazy, so this year we are shooting for a better experience for shoppers,” says Eblen. “There are ticketed time slots every 30 minutes from Friday, Nov. 1 through Tuesday, Nov. 12, giving everyone the chance to calmly appreciate every room and calmly make their decisions, without being crammed in a crowd.”
In the past, lines for the one-day event would travel from the door of the design house, through the neighboring barn area and all the way into the fields where people park, creating a wait time of a few hours or more, according to Eblen. With the new ticketed time slots, Eblen and lead designer Amy Whyte are hoping there are only about two people per room at a time, enabling shoppers to see everything and take their time through the house.
To bring the shopping event to life, Eblen and Whyte spend the entire year preparing for the market. Following the holidays in January, the two begin their search for one-of-a-kind products by visiting trade shows and vendors from across the country. Then come Labor Day, the entire design house is cleared of its seasonal spring products, repainted and restructured with specific furniture chosen by Whyte. Once the bones are set, Whyte starts to determine how each room, both downstairs and upstairs, will be decorated.
Come Friday, Nov. 1, every room inside the house—from the kitchen to the bathroom to the bedroom upstairs—will have a specific color theme filled with carefully-curated products that Whyte chooses months in advance.
“For those 12 days, we’re putting our best foot forward,” explains Whyte of the products. “It’s a sequenced process with second-string stuff, third-string stuff and so on, but in reality it’s all great and it’s all going to sell.”
This year, shoppers can expect classic items like the vintage, ball garland that sells out every year, as well as new finds from a variety of sellers.
“We had more time at market this year where we met with smaller companies and because we really got to understand each business, we’re very proud of what we’re carrying this year,” says Whyte. “You won’t find this stuff at Target.”
When shoppers enter the house they will be greeted with hot apple cider (spiked, if you want), as well as seasonal treats cooked fresh right in the kitchen. Outside, the holiday celebration doesn’t stop. The entire property of Lucketts will be transformed into a “sweet little German village,” as Eblen describes it, featuring a sleigh and holiday mural for family photos, fire pits throughout and more.
Following the 12-day event, local food trucks and vendors such as Vanish Brewery will continue to park on-site throughout weekends.
While Whyte’s favorite memory of the event involves a customer referring to the event as Disneyland, for Eblen, it’s about seeing the families gather for hours on the property of Lucketts with smiles on their faces. No matter when you plan to visit the design house, the holiday spectacle will continue to maintain its magic.
“We’ve guaranteed from the first to Nov. 12, if you want to see it, shop it, enjoy it, have a snack, that’s what you’re going to get,” says Eblen. “If you don’t care and don’t want to pay to shop, which we get, we can’t guarantee the same experience. But something is always there for everyone.”
Interested in seeing the design house for yourself? Purchase tickets to the 12-day Shop in Peace event, here. // The Old Lucketts Store: 42350 Lucketts Road, Leesburg; $10-$25