Keith Taylor epitomizes a jolly calm when he ushers his guest into the White Pillars Christmas House before hours on an early fall morning. With Christmas still three months away, he and his wife, Yolanda, are preparing for the seasonal rush, confident that what they have to offer not only competes with, but surpasses, what one may obtain in a sterile online transaction.
As he guides his guest inside the house, a room of collectible Willow Tree items and Dept. 56 Villages yields to another room featuring collectible Jim Shore ornaments, Regal angels, and Christopher Radko snowglobes. Shelf after shelf and room after room cries out, Christmas! It’s almost more dazzle than the eye can take in.
The secret to embracing it, Yolanda says, is to slow down.
“This is a house of no hurries, no worries,” she says. “Once you come in here, it’s like stepping out of reality into a Christmas welcoming environment. You may come in in a bad mood, but you can’t leave in a bad mood.”
The Taylors partnered with Trent Cubbison to reopen White Pillars Christmas House and More several years ago after a five-year hiatus. The previous owner had retired and closed the business during the Great Recession. Cubbison is the principal of East Muskingum Middle School. Yolanda is chief operations officer at Muskingum Behavioral Health. Keith, a Methodist minister, was the credit manager at Guernsey-Muskingum Electric Cooperative.
When the manager whom the partners had hired to operate the Christmas House decided to retire in the spring, Keith reflected and conferred with Yolanda before deciding to make a leap of faith. After 12 years of service to the cooperative, he submitted his resignation and took on the responsibility of running the business. It was a move that surprised his former colleagues.
“Keith is a phenomenal guy, and we regretted seeing him leave,” says Brian Bennett, Guernsey-Muskingum Electric’s manager of member services.
While some might question the wisdom of opening any kind of brick-and-mortar store in these days of Amazon, the Taylors believe their business will not only survive, but thrive — not just because of their merchandise, but because of their philosophy and who they are.
“I feel that Trent, Keith, and I are hospitable people,” Yolanda says. “We like welcoming you into our home, and we try to make you feel like you are a part of the family.”
Christmas is more than a time of giving gifts, it’s an experience — and the “millennial” generation craves experiences, she believes. The Taylors want their shop to help engender that sort of Christmas spirit that sometimes seems difficult to conjure in the modern age.
Built in 1882, the house at White Pillars seems to evoke a time when life moved at a slower, more graceful pace. The house still has no indoor plumbing, the Taylors report. What it does have is character; from the hardwood floors to the baluster staircase, the house bespeaks charm. “This house is conducive for a shop like ours,” Keith says.
Beyond the ambience, White Pillars Christmas House and More offers a wide array of Christmas-themed treasure. In search of the best items, the Taylors have traveled to trade shows around the country.
“I work very hard to not copy what Hobby Lobby has or what Elder-Beerman gets in their Christmas shop,” Yolanda says. “What you find here is truly unique.”
“Oh, and the collectors’ items we mentioned, you’re not going to find in Walmart,” Keith says. “Now that the economy has come back around, people are excited to have a unique place to shop.”
White Pillars draws visitors from near and far. People who knew the store before it closed are coming back. For many, a visit to the Christmas House has become a tradition, and tradition is something the Taylors respect and honor.
John Lowe is a freelance writer from New Concord.