Terrence Howell of Seasonal Window Art decorate the windows for the holiday season at Omelette Express in Windsor, California on Thursday, November 8, 2012. (BETH SCHLANKER/ The Press Democrat)

Windows that welcome you inside

Window shopping is a favorite activity during the winter holidays, allowing shoppers a dose of holiday spirit along with a glimpse of what's inside the store before they venture in to find gifts for loved ones.

Display windows rise to the season: The decor can be sublime, reflecting a holiday or winter theme or even a popular Christmas story. Store managers plan their window fronts months in advance, creating elaborate scenes to entice shoppers to step in out of the cold.

"Window presentation is very important to me. That is your first impression and invitation to come in," said Monti Gantt, owner of Nicole's Fashion Boutique in Petaluma. Gantt decided to go with a cheerful and bright-colored motif this year, sticking within the Christmas theme for a whimsical and fun look to draw shoppers towards the popular clothes styles within.

The theme of Ooh La Loft, a fashion boutique in Petaluma, emphasizes the hopefulness in the holidays. The store plans to add a "Wish Tree" to their window display, allowing customers the chance to write out their wishes on a slip of paper and add them to a special tree visible to all who pass by, so they can read what others have wished for.

"Holiday windows have always been a huge deal for us," said Michelle Wilson, who owns the shop with her twin sister, Cristina Wilson. She uses the sisters' travels as inspiration in their year-round window themes, something that has proven popular among guests to their store.

"We have had customers in the past take pictures of our windows and post it on their personal social media which in turn brings their friends in," she said.

Robindira Unsworth, owner of the Petaluma store under the same name, has also decided to celebrate the positive and hopeful.

"This holiday season for me is always a time to remember all that I am grateful for and to share that message," she said as she described her store's window holiday decor.

Incorporating pieces of her jewelry collection in a "Twinkle of a Starry Night" theme, Unsworth is brightening the store window with shimmering silver trees, sparkling lights and dangling twinkling stars.

But while she puts a lot of love into the windows of her own store, Unsworth also turns a curious eye towards the efforts of the shops around her during the holidays.

"I always like to see how other businesses express themselves with their own windows and am always on the lookout for something that surprises and feels special," she said.

Those passing by Cupcake in Santa Rosa will be in for a playful treat as child-sized mannequins romp around near a full-scale snowman that owner Jenny Romeyn created from papier-m?h? They'll be playing in a flurry of snow and snowflakes, wearing holiday styles found inside the store.

In past years, Romeyn has used everyday materials to create impressive displays, including a Christmas tree made out of coffee filters and a spring window that utilized spray-painted paper plates.

"For me, holiday windows truly mark the beginning of holiday festivities," Romeyn said. "They add a great excitement and energy to the neighborhood they appear in and give both window shoppers and those planning to venture in a little taste of the treasures they'll find inside."

Railroad Square in Santa Rosa is another mecca for displays worthy of perusal. Whistlestop Antiques brightens up its large windows every year with festive lights and various relics, creating a vintage appeal under an old-fashioned-holiday theme. Cast Away, the yarn shop known for its highly creative displays all year round, is a highly anticipated window display as the holidays get close. Le Jardinier has become one of the newest holiday treats, thanks especially to the expertise of owner Juan Mendoza. Known for his designs and flower creations, Mendoza is also hired as a decorator for some of the surrounding stores, including Traditions in Railroad Square.

The store windows of all the shops in Railroad Square will be at their finest come Saturday, December 1, when the historic section of Santa Rosa hosts its annual holiday Open House and shopping event.

Adding to the festive spirit, several stores even take part in a friendly competition with ... their competition. Downtown Petaluma annually holds a City of Lights tour, that features both homes and businesses on a map for a self-guided tour. The community is then invited to vote for the "People's Choice Awards" among the listed, decorated establishments. Details are at

Facebook fans of Downtown Courthouse Square also have the opportunity to choose their favorite windows in downtown Santa Rosa stores through a photo contest at The photo of the window that garners the most votes in the "Holiday Decorations 2012 album" is considered the winner. Voting begins on November 26th.

You can reach Crissi Langwell at

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