By Keysha Drexel
Christmas is still 83 days away, but when you walk into a little shop on Old Rocky Ridge Road, it might be difficult to remember it’s only October.
And that’s exactly why the loyal customers at the Holiday Shop start calling Joyce Ann Jackson in September.
“It seems like the calls about when we’re opening for the new season start earlier every year,” Jackson said.
The Holiday Shop opened for the new season on Oct. 1. It’s open by appointment only January through September.
Every nook and cranny of the former dairy barn sparkles with unique ornaments, dazzling lights, Old World-style decorations, nativity scenes of every imaginable size and several themed Christmas trees featuring ornaments for sports fans, teachers, nurses, musicians and even coffee lovers.
The Holiday Shop is the brainchild of Jackson’s mother, Inez Acton Jackson, who passed away at the age of 91.
“This will be the first time I’ve opened the shop for the new season without my mother, so it’s a bittersweet time for me,” Jackson said. “I miss her terribly, but I know she would want everything here to go on because she loved the customers so much and loved bringing them joy.”
Inez, the only daughter of George W. Acton and Mattie Jones Acton, and her husband, Carlton K. Jackson, raised Joyce Ann, their only child, on the same property Inez’s grandfather bought in the 1930s.
George W. Acton was one of nine Acton brothers and was quite the entrepreneur, his granddaughter said.
“Pap–that’s what we called my grandfather–originally planned to build the Rocky Ridge Country Club here when he first bought these couple hundred acres,” Jackson said. “They had 13 holes of the golf course built and had plans to construct a swinging bridge across the Cahaba River to build the rest of the holes when the Depression hit. The whole project was scrapped, and my grandfather decided to use the land to start a farm.”
Jackson said her mother grew up working on Acton Dairy Farm and said she herself has many fond memories from being on the farm as a child.
“My grandfather also had two large barns that were down where the baseball fields are now (at Hoover East Sports Park),” Jackson said. “He also had about 5,000 chickens, and my mother, father and I lived in a little house down there by the chicken houses. I had my own special cow on my grandfather’s farm when I was about 5 or 6. It was just a wonderful way to grow up.”
Jackson said she and her mother were in business together for several years before the Holiday Shop opened in 1970.
“We actually had an egg route, and we’d go and collect the eggs in the chicken houses and deliver them to our customers’ homes,” she said. “We also delivered eggs to several mom-and-pop stores in Vestavia Hills and Mountain Brook.”
Jackson’s mother worked as a florist and was a creative person who loved Christmas.
“In 1970, Mom had the idea to open a shop that would help preserve some of the Old World Christmas traditions,” she said. “Her faith was very important to her, and she loved Christmas because without Christmas, we’d have no hope in this world.”
Jackson’s mother opened the shop, and to promote its wares, she would invite garden clubs and other women’s clubs to hold their meetings at the Holiday Shop.
“She’d talk about different Christmas traditions and teach them how to make wreaths and bows,” she said. “She just loved it.”
After Jackson graduated from the University of Montevallo, she worked side by side with her mother at the Holiday Shop.
“We had a lot of fun working together, and we made a lot of friends over the years,” Jackson said.
Most of those friends started out as customers, she said.
“People came in year after year and they shared their lives with us, and we always felt humbled to be a part of their family’s Christmas traditions, even in some small way,” she said.
In 1976, the shop started carrying Dept. 56 Christmas Village collectibles, which have become enormously popular over the years, Jackson said.
“We started out with the Snow Village the first year it came out, and now there are villages of all kinds and all sizes. People love to collect those, and it’s wonderful to see them come in each year to add a new piece to their villages. It gives adults a chance to play again,” Jackson said.
The shop also offers a wide variety of nutcrackers and nativity scenes, including Fontanini nativities. A special section called “Inez’s Corner” is stocked with holiday gifts Jackson said her mom loved.
“People were always asking her advice on what to give this person or that person for Christmas, so we set up Inez’s Corner with those things my mother recommended. There was not a person who met my mother who didn’t adore her and trust her advice,” Jackson said.
Jackson said she works all year to get ready for the coming holiday season and that this year has been more challenging.
“My mother and I were a really good team. She was the creative one and had all the great ideas for the different tree themes and displays, but I paid attention to her all those years and I hope she would like what I’ve done this year,” Jackson said.
Jackson said one of her favorite themed trees in the shop this year is the Owl Tree, which features both cute and sophisticated owl ornaments.
“My mother would always tell me, ‘I want you to be as wise as an owl,’ so that tree, I think, would make her smile,” Jackson said. “I had a lot of fun looking for all the different owl ornaments for it. It was a real hoot, pardon the pun.”
Jackson said this year she has added a collection of handmade, etched glass ornaments from Egypt to the season’s offerings.
“I like to find things that are handmade and unique, and I think our customers will appreciate all the new stuff we have this year,” she said.
On Christmas Eve, the Holiday Shop will host its annual open house event.
“We serve mulled cider and sing songs, and it’s just our way of saying thank you to our customers,” Jackson said. “It’s just the perfect way to wrap up the season.”
The Holiday Shop at 2721 Old Rocky Ridge Road, in unincorporated Jefferson County between Hoover and Vestavia, is open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Saturday. For more information, call 988-4810.