The Moore American

December 18, 2013

Christmas Expressions spreads cheer year-round

By Joy Hampton
The Moore American

NORMAN — Despite its name, Christmas Expression, a locally owned and operated gift gallery of traditional and whimsy merchandise isn’t just about Christmas, according to owner Kathy Merkel-Cox.

Well, except maybe at Christmas time.

It’s the time of year when Christmas Expressions at 2214 W. Lindsey St. in Norman really shines.

Walk in the door and you can literally smell Christmas.

The Frasier Fir scent is very popular at Christmas because some people hang the sachet in artificial trees to impart that real Christmas tree smell. The scent also is available in candles and diffusers.

The Smell of Christmas potpourri has a cinnamon scent that blends well with the Frasier Fir, so people can use both in their homes during the holidays, Merkel-Cox said.

She comes from a background as a corporate buyer, but she missed Norman and moved back home, eventually starting her unique gift business. She said the secret of the store’s success is that she listens to what her customers want.

“Our community has shaped our store,” Merkel-Cox said.

Perhaps that’s why Christmas Expressions carries so many distinctive lines, like dolls from Byers Choice, a woman-owned company that started in the late 1970s. The company is famous for its handcrafted carolers. Byers prides itself on bringing Christmas memories to life through its extraordinary dolls.

Inspired by porcelain figures in an English shop, Joyce Byers began designing carolers in her home. Eventually that hobby took over and grew into a full-fledged business, but the hand-crafted, loving detail remains the same and appeals to customers, Merkel-Cox said.

“We have a great following of people who collect them,” she said. “I personally love the Santas.”

The Byers dolls are typical of many of the unusual offerings at Christmas Expressions. Some customers come in just to enjoy the experience — and to get decorating ideas.

Displays inspire shoppers, some of whom buy several elements of a display, Merkel-Cox said. The shop carries many traditional and heirloom-quality items but also packs in some fun with a touch of whimsy and modern flair.

Many items in the shop can be personalized, including Christmas ornaments, Santa art, mugs, luggage, cutting boards and anything that can be monogrammed.

Jon Hart luggage is durable and is one of the many items that can be personalized, Merkel-Cox said. The luggage is made of coated canvas — the same material convertible tops are made of — and trimmed with English leather.

Jon Hart luggage is handmade in San Antonio and must be custom ordered. It takes about two weeks to arrive. In addition to luggage, Jon Hart also manufactures handmade totes and wallets.

A popular gift that’s affordable for most budgets are artist-designed Christmas dish towels made from flour sacks by Mary Lake-Thompson.

Christmas shoppers also love dolls by Hearts & Ivy. The unique characters are hand-crafted in Minneapolis by a group of ladies in limited edition groups.

Owner Donna Hamilton started with a single Christmas angel in 1993. Now, Hamilton and her crew create 70 styles in a neighborhood studio. The collection includes Santas, snowmen and angels.

Christmas Expressions also carries a variety of ornaments in various price ranges, including the Merkle Family’s Old World Christmas and Christopher Radko designs.

“These are ornaments to commemorate the moments of your life,” Merkel-Cox said.

The store also has cook books, baby gifts, lotions, creams, sorority gifts, fabric, jewelry and more.

“We do complimentary gift wrapping on purchases from here,” Merkel-Cox said. “Like any small business, those are the things that set us apart.”