Step foot inside Christmas Rocks in Upper Kirby any day of the year, and you’ll be greeted by wall-to-wall holiday décor and, perhaps, co-owner Dalia Browning Stokes.
“All of this was a law office,” Stokes, wearing red-and-green-plaid reading glasses and a Snoopy- and Astros-themed Christmas shirt, explained the day we visited her incredible shop. Stokes herself is a lawyer. She and her partner, Bobbie G. Bayless, have run their practice—specializing in estate and probate law and business litigation—in the Houston area since 1983.
They bought their building on quiet Ferndale Street in 1993, and for years the firm took up both floors. But in the early 2000s the duo decided to convert the downstairs. “We thought about how much we liked Christmas,” says Stokes, “and we said, well, you know, we can put in a little Christmas shop.”
After debuting Christmas Rocks in 2005, they quickly learned something important: “There’s no such thing as a little Christmas shop,” Stokes says, laughing. In short order the place attracted a cult following for ornaments, snow globes, nativities, Santas, and “all sorts of things people get a bee in their bonnet about,” says Stokes. And because they have storage upstairs, the entire downstairs is a showroom, full of thousands of decorations.
The busy season, starting in September, gets full-on crazy by November and December, when long lines form at the register in the law firm’s former reception area, which is festooned with stocking stuffers, stuffed animals, Peruvian nativities, German matchbook scenes, beaded Mexican reindeer, and nesting bears. Other areas that were once conference rooms full of law books are now home to all manner of treasures: exquisitely hand-painted Russian Santas, puzzles, pillows, Houston-themed ornaments, winter scenes, and myriad trees decorated with pink poodles, blown-glass balloon animals, velociraptors, armadillos, llamas, and Santas on phones or playing banjos or riding snowboards. What about this thing over here, hung with sports-themed ornaments and Santa smoking a pipe? “That’s my man tree,” Dalia says.
Wander over to the store’s kitchen, and amid the holiday dish towels, red-and-green-confetti-filled Tervises, and toy soldiers, you might also catch the neighborhood cats—Star the tortoiseshell, Blondie the Burmese, Ringtail the tomcat, Nibbles the squirrel, who just thinks he’s a cat—feasting outside the window.
The New Year brings just a short respite for Stokes and Bayless. By mid-January they’ll head out to the holiday tradeshows, perusing next season’s hottest items. Then, finally, they get a break, right? Not really. “People will come in the off-season, in from out of state or out of the country, visiting MD Anderson. And they’re looking for something uplifting. They’re usually a spouse, and sweet, wonderful people. And we’re glad they get a moment for something that cheers them up.”
Now if that doesn’t put you in the Christmas spirit, Scrooge McDuck, nothing will.