Rogers’ Christmas House sold to owners of Saxon Manor

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BROOKSVILLE — Closed for four years, Brooksville’s historic Rogers’ Christmas House may see its halls decked again.

But the new owners will jettison the holiday theme for more practical uses.
Rogers’ Christmas House, at 103 S. Saxon Ave. in Brooksville, will undergo remodeling. MICHAEL D. BATES/STAFF

Dorothea and Greg Stephens, owners of Saxon Manor, at 200 South Saxon Ave., will renovate the five buildings and use them mainly for storage.

Dorothea Stephens said there will also be a space set aside as a waiting room for brides, who hold their weddings next door at the Saxon Manor.

Another building will be rented out to the Tilted Teacup Tearoom & Boutique, which will relocate from its current downtown location to the Christmas House.

Stephens said she may keep the name Christmas House in the title, since there will be artificial Christmas trees sold in a gift shop on the premises.

“I haven’t decided on a name yet,” she said.

Stephens said she bought the entire facility at 103 Saxon Ave. for $230,000.

She hopes to open by November.

“I need storage and it’s really a neat place,” Stephens said. “It’s got big basements in it. I want to make it look nice.”

Stephens said the community benefits because the five vacant and decaying buildings will be renovated and there will be activity, albeit not Christmas-themed.

Saxon Manor is used for various ceremonial events, including weddings. There is a Victorian-themed, climate-controlled Garden Room on the site, which is enclosed in glass and lit with chandeliers.

The bride and groom arrive in a horse-drawn carriage and are treated like royalty.

Stephens said given that the Christmas House is in walking distance, it will make it more convenient to store supplies and free up room at the manor.

There are also periodic bridal shows held at Saxon Manor.

Rogers’ Christmas House closed in May 2010, after being a Brooksville institution since the early 1970s, when Margaret Rogers Ghiotto became the proprietor.

The store was profitable for most of its run, attracting tourists who browsed through the holiday-themed buildings and purchased ornaments, artificial trees and other items.

Throughout the years, Ghiotto purchased the surrounding cottages and expanded the business.

In 2006, Ghiotto sold the business to Donna Jones, who owned a denture clinic in Hudson. Soon thereafter, Ghiotto died.

Jones spent more than $750,000 in building improvements and new inventory, but by the following year, Jones filed for bankruptcy and the Rogers family regained ownership in early 2008. They sold the business to George Rodriguez, whose ultimate goal was to find investors and earn enough money to buy the property.

But efforts to revive the business were unsuccessful and it closed.

John and Aimee Gans, owners of the Tilted Teacup for the past two years, believe their business complements the Saxon Manor. John Gans said he’s hoping the new location will receive even more visitors than the current location at 200 W Fort Dade Ave, about five minutes from the Christmas House.

The new location will seat about 68 people, compared to the current 40 or so.

“This town is a nice quaint town,” John Gans said. “My wife and I love this town and we just want to bring it back to life.”

The Tilted Teacup serves a variety of teas, scones, soups, sandwiches, desserts and other items in various themed nooks. The boutique offers products such as jewelry, hair items and accessories.

Gans said the Teacup will remain open in its current location until the move to the Christmas House occurs later this year.

County Commissioner Dave Russell said he is glad the closed facility will once again be alive with activity and that will be an asset for the city.

“I wish them all the luck,” Russell said of the new owners.

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