Although the year-round Christmas store is almost entirely dedicated to the holiday, Jenkins-Gibson said that business has been good enough to keep the Christmas Cottage open seven days a week. The store is closed twice a year, on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.
“In 48-and-a-half years, I’ve never had a day that I didn’t make a sale,” she said.
The 75-year-old Southeastern Oregon native envisioned opening her own business after she graduated from the University of Portland in 1969 and spent several unfulfilling years as a secretary for Portland General Electric. With no prior business experience, she decided that she needed a unique business model that would allow her to learn the trade without competition.
“At that point, I had high hopes in life,” she said. “I was young and wanted to be independent and on my own and create something that nobody else was doing.”
Jenkins-Gibson said that she initially struggled to get the business up and running. Rejected for a small-business loan by every bank she approached, she decided to open the unlikely shop using her life savings.
“I went to the banks for loans, and they all told me to go to psychiatric counseling,” she said. “They didn’t want to talk to me, so I took my life savings, put it in the bank, borrowed it back and started my business.”
The Christmas Cottage officially opened on June 6, 1974, and has been in business ever since.
Avoiding products that she finds in big-box shops, Jenkins-Gibson said that she tries to offer unique, high-quality items like German-made nutcrackers and ornaments imported from all over the world. She also prides herself on selling personalized holiday items that cater to as many human experiences as possible.
“We are inclusive,” she said. “We include all religions, sexual orientations, colors of skin, countries, whatever I can find. I try to include everybody in the world so that everybody has something here.”
After dedicating her life to the holiday, Jenkins-Gibson said that the true meaning of Christmas is to honor your personal relationships with love and forgiveness. Married for more than 30 years, Jenkins-Gibson said that she plans to celebrate Christmas with a quiet day at home with her loving husband.
“It’s pretty hectic this time of year,” she said. “I’m thankful every day for this. Every night when I get home, my husband and I pour what we call a “happy day.” He has sparkling water and I have a little glass of wine and we toast to how fortunate we are that we’re healthy, love each other and business is good. We toast how wonderful life really is if you try to make it that way.”
The Christmas Cottage is located at 3305 Highway 101 in Lincoln City. The store is open to walk-in customers and mail orders customers through phone or email from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.