When I was a new bride and living in Philadelphia, I worked downtown at an ad agency.

Spending Christmas time in a big city was very exciting to me, so during the holiday season, I would wander through the little shops around my high-rise office building while on my lunch break. In one of those shops one day, I came upon what I thought would be the perfect topper for my very first Christmas tree with my new husband.

She was a beautiful angel, with a golden gown and downy wings rising from her back. I took her home and she went atop our Christmas tree — that year and for almost 30 years afterwards. That is, until she got crushed in our garage last year.

When I found Robert’s Christmas Wonderland in Clearwater a few weeks ago, I had a feeling I might be able to find a suitable replacement for our girl, and I was right.

If you love, and I mean love, all things Christmas, this is the place for you. From the time I walked in the door and saw the hundreds of decorated artificial Christmas trees, as well as every single type of decoration imaginable, I felt like I had been dropped down into the middle of the North Pole, minus the elves and toys, of course.

In the front room, there are collectibles, all set up in village-like settings behind Plexiglass partitions, so you can see exactly how they look together. There are also lots of fully decorated Christmas trees, most of which are themed. For instance, I saw a red, white and blue patriotic tree, a neon green Grinch tree and a merman/mermaid tree, among many others. But my favorites were the state trees, which were decorated with themed items from that particular state.

The beauty of all the decorated trees is that you could either buy the tree exactly as it was, with lights and ornaments, or you could pick whatever you’d like right off the tree and just buy that.

In the “Tree Room”, a separate building that was accessed through a covered walkway, it truly was a winter wonderland. Twinkling lights and mirrored walls gave the feeling of walking through a tree farm at night. These were realistic-looking trees of all sizes and shapes and were mostly just decorated with lights, which gave them a simple, elegant appearance. And if you would like your artificial tree to feel more “lifelike,” you can even buy special scented spray that smells just like a pine or spruce tree.

In the back of the Tree Room is where I found exactly what I was looking for. Up on a shelf were all the tree toppers, sparkling stars and glowing angels. After careful consideration, I picked out our new angel. Though I realize that no one can truly replace your first love, I’m going to give this one a chance. We’ll see if she can last 30 years, too.

Debbie Flessner writes the Live Like a Tourist column for the Sun newspapers. You may contact her at dj@flessner.net.


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