The Family Christmas Experience
By: Tyler Vespa
For more than 50 years, English Gardens has been the place for Christmas decorations in Metro Detroit. As a small, family-owned business currently run by the second generation, English Gardens strives to adjust to an ever-changing market. Providing the best value and finest quality products is a top priority.
Starting in November, each store is transformed into Christmas Wonderlands with the area’s largest selection of Christmas trees, lights, trim and décor. For three second-generation family members this is the culmination of nearly a year of planning.
Dean Darin, Linda Vespa Yugovich and Lynette Walker have been buying Christmas products for several decades; and although each one specializes in a different category, the three share the same vision: Something for everyone.
Linda Vespa Yugovich, daughter of co-founder the late Henry Vespa, buys all the Christmas decorations and ornaments for English Gardens. She travels to Germany and cities throughout the US to hand select each ornament sold in the stores. She stresses the ability to identify trends as an important skill to her buying.
Her holiday decorating philosophy is: Don’t be afraid to blend the old with the new. She says, “We know everyone has different favorites, and some play it safe by sticking with tradition. That’s why we have all different sizes, shapes and colors of things like ornaments, trim, dishes, candles and center pieces.”
Linda’s favorite part of buying is meeting and working with people. “I think our vendors know we put our heart and soul into each and every decision, so it makes it a win-win for everybody,” she says.
For Dean Darin, the youngest son of co-founder John Darin, it all began in the late 1960s when he first visited the store as a child. Back then, everything was fresh-cut. He still remembers “the smell of Christmas” that went through the Dearborn Heights store. “We hand made all of our wreaths and grave blankets, drilling and wiring every pinecone that was used. Everything was produced right in the store,” recalls Dean.
Dean has been buying the lights along with life-like trees, wreaths and garlands since 1988. He prides himself on working with the manufacturers to ensure the stores get the most innovative, highest quality and longest lasting products available. Over the years, he’s made recommendations on product improvements and has even specially designed life-like Christmas trees.
Among his most innovative developments were green extension cords instead of orange for outdoor decorating, and brown cords on light sets instead of green for wrapping tree trunks.“
I use these products for my house, and am always looking for improvements,” he says. “Manufacturers are very receptive to our ideas.”
And this year, one of the manufacturers took his suggestion and revised the specification on an outdoor electrical timer, expanding the maximum run time to 10 hours instead of 8 hours, making it a better item for when it’s getting dark around 4:30 p.m. in Michigan.“Most of the life-like trees, wreaths & garlands now come with the lights already installed making them so much easier to use, and they have become very realistic looking,” says Dean. “We also have a huge selection of lights for every need. Our quality makes decorating less stressful.”
LED lights took outdoor Christmas decorating to the next level, according to Dean. “English Gardens has offered LED lights for six years. Their low energy and long life span make them great investments; but their brilliant colors are what everyone loves.”
Sapphire blue, ruby red, green, winter white, warm white as well as multi are among the selections in LED lights.
The English Gardens Landscape Company uses these LED lights for the spectacular outdoor holiday lighting displays at The Village of Rochester Hills, the City of Royal Oak, and The Mall at Partridge Creek. “Their lighting ceremonies are great events that bring people out for the holidays, and inspire people to do more outdoor lighting at their homes,” says Dean. “They’re great family events.”
Lynette Walker, youngest daughter of co-founder John Darin and Dean’s older sister, buys all the giftware, fashion accessories and gourmet food for English Gardens’ stores. Every year I search out what’s new and exciting in garden decorations, and holiday gifts so we can offer endless possibilities for our customers. There is definitely something for everyone.”
English Gardens sells a lot of the Vera Bradley line during the holidays. “Bringing in this line of purses and accessories was one of the boldest moves I’ve made as a buyer, and the results have exceeded our expectations,” says Lynette.
“I love to promote Michigan-made products”, she says. The stores offer goodies from Detroit-based Sanders and Rocky Peanut Company. Rounding out the selection of delicious holiday treats are Famous Caribbean Tortuga Rum Cake and Georgia’s own Claxton Fruit Cake.
This Christmas, count on English Gardens for everything from Christmas trees to yes, rum cakes. Visit one of our eight locations including our new Christmas Store in The Village of Rochester Hills and see how our family works year-round to provide a truly “family Christmas experience” for your family.
English Gardens was founded in 1954 in Dearborn Heights by three brothers-in-law. The company now has eight stores in Metro Detroit, as well as an award-winning, full-service Landscape and Holiday Decorating company.
Tyler Vespa is part of English Gardens 3rd generation. He’s a graduate of Albion College, and works part-time as a sales associate in our West Bloomfield store.