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Rogers' Christmas House is closed

Hernando Today
Published:   |   Updated: May 10, 2013 at 05:46 PM
BROOKSVILLE -

Rogers' Christmas House Village, long considered the biggest tourism magnet in Brooksville, has closed its doors.

Owner George Rodriguez confirmed the closing when contacted over the phone Friday afternoon, but declined to comment further. He said he was still discussing the matter with his attorney.

"It's very distressing news," said Brooksville Mayor Lara Bradburn. "Rogers' has been one of the greatest businesses our community has ever known."

The business is famous for its vast inventory of Christmas ornaments and collectibles. It ran into financial difficulty not long after its original owner, Margaret Ghiotto Rogers, sold it to Donna Jones in January 2006.

Jones filed for bankruptcy and Rodriguez, who was the general manager for more than three decades, took over the business in 2008 and sought to buy the property from Rogers' relatives.

George Weiland Rogers, of Brooksville, remains principle owner.

"Of course I'd hate to see it close, yes," he said when contacted over the phone Friday. "Am I surprised? No."

Rogers said the store closed because the insurance policy on the property was canceled due to lack of payments. Rogers said the business also was having difficulty paying the power company.

A spokeswoman with Progress Energy could not discuss whether the company had turned off the power. Such matters are confidential, she said.

The business has been closed since Thursday afternoon, Rogers said.

Rodriguez is still telling friends and neighbors he plans to reopen soon.

"We certainly hope he can do that," said Tricia Bechtelheimer, who owns a shop across the street. "He seems to have plans to hopefully be reopened by next week. He wants to get his financial situation worked out."

It wasn't the first time Rogers' Christmas House, located at 103 S. Saxon Ave. in downtown Brooksville, was forced to shut its doors.

When Jones ran the business, she delegated many of the day-to-day affairs to her sister and her husband. In early 2007, while Jones was hospitalized, the couple reviewed the finances and closed the store.

An irate Jones fired her sister and reopened the business. She filed for bankruptcy less than a year later.

Rumors of the store's closing have since dogged the Christmas-themed store. Rodriguez told Hernando Today earlier this year it was an ongoing challenge to get banks to grant him a loan or to find investors.

He continued to put on a brave face and assure customers and suppliers that he was going to purchase the property and the business would be solvent again.

"I don't know what his intent is right now," said Rogers. "He owns the inventory and I'm sure he wants to get rid of it somehow."

In December, Rodriguez signed an agreement giving 49 percent of ownership of the business to Matthew Senge, who also had plans to purchase the property.

Senge was arrested Jan. 27 on an outstanding warrant out of Alabama, where he failed to appear for court for a theft by deception charge, authorities said.

Rogers said he and his family did not want to take over the business after Jones foreclosed on it. They thought they had found a worthy businesswoman to run it, but after she failed, it seemed too far gone for them to resuscitate it.

"I for one did not want to take all of that on at that point," Rogers said. "We would have been starting pretty much from zero."


Reporter Tony Holt can be reached at 352-544-5283 or wholt@hernandotoday.com.

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