Yule store owners full of cheer

Sheridan couple hoping to make Christmas last all year

Courtney and Brody Channell opened the Tree Boutique in Sheridan in September. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Aaron Gettinger)

SHERIDAN — Courtney and Brody Channell, Sheridan natives who moved back to their hometown as adults, opened the Tree Boutique in September, one of only a few Christmas stores in the state. They hope to parlay its initial success into a year-round operation, further developing their business footprint and the small city’s downtown.

Courtney, a real estate agent, has experience in retail, having worked at a Christmas store in Sheridan 15 years ago. When that store closed, she couldn’t find the holiday decoration and sundries she sells today at the Tree Boutique anywhere else but national retailers. She decorated trees as a side job and observed that Amazon can’t teach customers how to decorate a Christmas tree or tie a bow the way she can.

A year ago, Brody, who builds houses and has also worked retail in the past, suggested that they open a Christmas store. Brody said the business is profitable.

“We kind of fly by the seat of our pants,” Courtney said. “We have an idea, we talk about it, and then we just kind of do it and see what happens.” For a holiday with so much nostalgic appeal — a holiday of family and religious tradition and children rushing to see what gifts Santa left them — its aesthetics do change over time. Coral pink was en vogue as a compliment to red and green during the 1960s. People are re-thinking artificial trees because, although convenient, they are impossible to recycle, and real, fragrant conifers can be mulched.

“Fifteen years ago, we were using mesh. You were seeing the trees full of mesh. Well that is not a thing anymore, and you don’t see a lick of mesh in here,” Courtney said. “The trends do change, and we are kind of seeing more of the retro trends coming back.” Trends aside, the Tree Boutique’s vibe as a historic building, nearly a century old, was important for her to maintain. The Channells hand-chiseled 5 tons of stucco off the walls to expose the brick beneath. The roof has been redone; though they lost a skylight as a safety hazard, they were able to save the crown molding. They installed electrical, heating and cooling systems, and a bathroom. New front windows expose the whole store interior to the street.

“The whole point of walking by a store is to see what’s in it to make you go in it,” Courtney said. “You can’t stand at the front and look all the way to the back and see everything that there is to see. It’s kind of like a journey.” The boutique sells trees, garlands, ornaments, home decor, lights and ribbons. The demand for religious items came as a surprise, as the store sold out of nativity scenes within a month of its opening. Having tangible inventory instead of items sold online attracts customers.

Courtney is trying to meet a variety of price points. She sells, for instance, $3 ornaments as well as ones made out of glass for $30.

With good sales so far over the fall, she expects sales “to blow the top off” once the season really gets going after Thanksgiving.

Courtney compared buying inventory for a Christmas boutique to stocking up a clothing store: wholesale markets in big cities where retailers can see merchandise and place orders, mostly in January. Orders placed then start coming in over the summer, though retailers can put orders in anytime through the second week of November, when manufacturers run out of time to complete them.

“It’s honestly Christmas from January to December, and then you start all over. It’s Christmas all the time,” Courtney said.

The Tree Boutique is seasonal, for now, with plans to close in January. After redecorating, the Channells plan to open again in September 2024.

But the Channells have an agreement to buy the building on the other side of Oak Street from their business, an old movie theater whose current owners are liquidating an antique store they run there. All told, the Channells will own a half a city block. Beyond retail space, they are considering opening short-term rentals in the building. Courtney envisions bringing the theater marquee back to life.

“It’s probably three- or four-times the size of what we’re sitting in now,” she said. “We’re going to move [the Tree Boutique] over there after this season and next season. Then after that, we may dabble in year-round, because we’ll have the space for it.” She suggested an autumnal section with Halloween merchandise, more home decor and gift items. Christmas-wise, she would like to do personalized gift-wrapping.

Once the boutique moves, Courtney wants to keep its current building as retail, a creative space where customers could paint or make home decorative arrangements, or an event space.

“Right now, we have really good places that are here already, but to me, I think we need more,” Courtney said of Sheridan, suggesting a need for more retail. “What we do have is fantastic, but I do feel like we could offer more.” “We really love it here. We just kind of want to put some glitter on it.”