Owner Peg Fenstermaker loves to celebrate the holidays, and her ever-evolving store is proof.
No one loves the holidays more than Peg Fenstermaker, and it definitely shows in her work.
She and her husband, Doug, own Seasons By Peg, 111 E. Van Buren St., Woodstock, Ill., a charming holiday décor business located on the downtown square. Opened in 2006, the shop sells gifts and décor for every season, along with candy, coffee, ice cream and gourmet food. Seasons By Peg celebrates every major holiday and other special events, selling figurines and collectibles, including Mark Roberts fairies and Katherine’s Collection.
“I didn’t want an all-Christmas store. That’s boring,” says Fenstermaker. “After you’ve been in it a couple of times, you know where everything is. I wanted a theater-style store, where everything is changed over, where you don’t know what you’re going to find next.”
It could be said that, for Fenstermaker, celebrating every holiday has become a labor of love. “I think holidays can bring family and friends together,” she says. “This is a fun business because we help people do that. It celebrates life.”
The decision to open her own business didn’t happen overnight. With her children grown and living away from home, Fenstermaker needed something to occupy her time. She had spent most of her working career as a school nurse and elementary teacher; in fact, she has a master’s degree in education. But this time, she was looking for something different, a way to express another of her passions – home decorating. She has always enjoyed entertaining guests in her home and loves to decorate for the holidays. “I always had the scariest home on the block during Halloween,” she says.
Fenstermaker spent considerable time working on a business plan and saving up her money before hanging an ‘open for business’ sign in the window. “A lot of businesses don’t make it because they’re underfunded,” she says. “We needed a good plan before we felt like it was time to launch.” Since she lacked business experience, Fenstermaker turned to Doug, who worked many years in the health care industry, and now serves as a consultant. “He’s my mentor,” she says. “He directs our business and keeps us on the right track.”
Seasons By Peg has seen plenty of growth in its first four years. In fact, the Fenstermakers bought the right to use the brand name of another nearby business, Cobblestones on the Square, earlier this year, and moved from their 1,000-square-foot space into Cobblestone’s 3,200-square-foot location, also located along Woodstock Square.
The move was a good one for the Fenstermakers, who also purchased the building, which includes storage space in the basement, office space on the third floor and residential units on the fourth floor. “We’re three times bigger in space, and revenues have been good,” Fenstermaker says. Joining her staff is former Cobblestone owner Jenny Serritella. “Jenny has added a lot to the business,” Fenstermaker says. “It’s really been a good blend to have us together.”
A visit to Seasons By Peg is more than a shopping excursion; it’s a festive experience. The store’s motif is fun, whimsical and sure to bring a smile to first-time and longtime customers alike.
An artificial tree was built from floor to ceiling, which can be decorated to show off items for any holiday. A cobblestone path was painted along the floor by a local artist. Shelves sparkle with items like candles, lamps and tableware to celebrate holidays such as Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Mardi Gras and more, as well as traditional family fun like camping trips or beach visits.
“We have a range of collectible brands that are a little bit more expensive, but we have more affordable things, too,” Fenstermaker says. “We try to cover all bases, and we never run out of ideas.”
She enjoys all holidays, but her favorite is Halloween, which also happens to be her birthday. “Halloween makes fun of the scary things in life,” Fenstermaker says. “You can be scared, but it’s not going to really hurt you.”
But what makes Seasons By Peg truly memorable is the transformation the store makes every few months. When one season is over, the staff gets to work changing the look and feel of the store. It’s hard work with little time. Extra staff is brought in, props are swapped out and new decorations are hung from top to bottom. The staff works diligently behind dark curtains, as excited customers wait in anticipation for the next season to appear. The work can be tiring; the staff spends about 12 hours a day for two weeks turning the store over. “We like to design and decorate, and this gives us an excuse to do it,” Fenstermaker says. “It’s like breaking down a set at a theater.”
Amy Weiler has been a faithful customer since Seasons By Peg first opened. The Crystal Lake resident stops in to browse or shop at least once or twice a week. From candy to decorations to holiday gifts, Weiler’s purchases run the gamut. She occasionally leaves the store empty-handed, but she’ll make mental notes on certain items she’s sure to pick up on her next visit. “It’s such a neat concept,” says Weiler, who is director of corporate events for a tool and die company. “When they select things, they look for uniqueness. If you go to other stores, you always see the same things. But Peg always has one or two pieces that are unique to the region.”
In addition to selling novelty items, Seasons By Peg hosts in-store seminars, instructing guests on everything from trimming the Christmas tree to decorating cupcakes. The sessions, held twice monthly, fill up fast.
“It’s been something that customers have really enjoyed,” Fenstermaker says. In addition, Seasons By Peg offers a variety of professional services, including store window and in-home decorating, and wedding planning services. In fact, Fenstermaker is hosting a small private wedding in the store over the upcoming holidays.
Heather Clark has worked for Fenstermaker for the past three years. She started out by helping to clean and decorate the store; now she’s responsible for advertising, marketing and updating the business’s Web site. It’s easy to get caught up in the spirit of the store, she says, thanks to its energetic owner. “Peg is one of the most generous people you’ll ever meet. One of the reasons we all love working here is because Peg’s passion is infectious.”
Customers feel the vibe, too, many of whom come from Chicago, and as far away as Wisconsin. Recently, Rod Grimaldi of Twin Lakes, Wis., popped in for the first time. His wife, Tricia, used to live in Woodstock and urged her husband to visit. “I’m in heaven,” he says. “This store is amazing. People tend to gravitate to the unusual, and I’ve never seen anything like this before. I could be here for hours.”