Teresa Thibault sprinkles red glitter on top of a glass ornament, giving the bauble two taps before surveying her work. The front room of her Kannapolis studio is filled with hundreds of ornaments painted in a rainbow of colors, including shades of red, green, silver, and gold. Some of the ornaments are for the Billy Graham Library, The Smithsonian, and NASA. The bulb that she’s holding, though, is not just any ornament: It’s the “Justin & Lauren,” a design that has been on offer at her business, Heart Gifts, since it began 30 years ago. “That’s my son and daughter,” she says, pointing to the two painted children in front of a miniature Nativity scene. “It’s a reminder of the true story of the season.”
Heart Gifts started at Thibault’s kitchen table in Concord. She wanted to hang a Nativity-themed ornament on her Christmas tree, so she painted one herself. Her love for art and Christmas blossomed into a career in 1992, and she later relocated Heart Gifts to Kannapolis. Now, she and her team hand-paint more than 30 holiday designs that can be personalized with a heartfelt message — a reflection of the love shared between friends and family this time of year.
At Carolina Charm, Sibbie and Eddie Griggs love meeting gardeners who purchase birdhouses from their shop and return to share nest updates. photograph by Chris Hannant
For the Gardener • Point Harbor
About a mile from the Wright Memorial Bridge in Point Harbor, Sibbie and Eddie Griggs watch their daughter’s coonhound, Copper, nuzzle up to customers walking down the pathway to their garden center, Carolina Charm. “Copper’s our greeter,” Sibbie says with a laugh.
For decades, this six-acre property was a waning beauty in Currituck County. The 1892 building that houses Carolina Charm was originally a family home built by Eddie’s great-grandfather, but then it was left empty for years after his death. In 2004, Eddie’s sister and brother-in-law recognized its potential to be used for more: Their son was a landscaper, and the sprawling acreage inspired them to start selling plants and yard decor. After 14 years, the couple retired, but the Griggses decided to keep the family business alive. “We didn’t know much about plants,” Sibbie says, “but we were determined to learn.”
The Griggses have adjusted well to the job. What they love most is connecting people with the perfect garden gift, from wind chimes and yard art to 2-foot-6-inch replicas of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.
Dancing Bear Toys is known for its signature jungle-themed wrapping paper. photograph by Matt Hulsman
For the Young at Heart • Asheville
Kids explore and play in between shelves filled with LEGOs, board games, dollhouses, and puzzles at Dancing Bear Toys. Sisters and store owners Sarah and Erika Evers can usually be found moving around the store, taking in the scene. “We just love to see [the kids’] faces light up,” Sarah says.
The toy store opened in 1989 and was bought by the Evers family in 1993. After two decades of cultivating a space for kids and adults to play, the family relocated the growing business to a 7,000-square-foot building on Kenilworth Avenue, giving the shop more than three times the space to carry toys that encourage creative learning and activity. “The No. 1 thing people ask for is something to get kids off of screens and out of the house,” Sarah says. “We have a ninja obstacle course with a slackline and monkey bars, and it flies out the door during the holidays.”
Some locals specifically buy gifts at Dancing Bear because they want to get them wrapped in the store’s signature jungle-themed paper. “We’ve used it to wrap gifts since we opened, and people love it,” Sarah says. “It’s a tribute to our history and a dose of nostalgia.”
Colette Morris pulls a Fraser fir candle off a shelf, opens the lid, and passes it to a customer shopping at Robin Blu, Morris’s home goods store in Waynesville. She explains that this festive scent — a classic combination of pine and cedarwood — is reminiscent of a freshly cut Christmas tree. In addition to candles, nearly every inch of the building is filled with wall art, coasters, kitchen towels, and trinket dishes. “I want to have the kind of store that kindles excitement, gives people creativity to implement beautiful decor into their home,” Morris says. The shop was founded in 2012 by her mother and the business’s namesake, Robanne Morris. After her mother retired in 2018, Colette purchased the business the following year and added a second location on North Main Street. “My mom always made our home and the store feel so special,” she says. “I want to honor her legacy by bringing that to light.”
At French Connections, handwoven baskets made by master weavers in Senegal make for colorful gifts. photograph by Anna Routh Barzin
For the World Traveler • Pittsboro
In a yellow turn-of-the-century house in downtown Pittsboro, a colorful mosaic of merchandise is on display. Whimsical yard art from Mexico fills the lawn outside, handmade baskets and jewelry from Africa grace the walls inside, and colorful fabrics from Provence, France, cover wooden display tables. “The patterns and textures create an all-consuming sensory experience,” says Wendy Dufour, owner of French Connections.
Wendy and her husband, Jacques, opened this travel-inspired gift shop in 2000. The couple met in 1985 in South Africa, where Jacques was completing an internship and Wendy was enrolled in a foreign-exchange graduate program through the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The couple felt that Chatham County, with its proximity to the college town, would be the perfect place to raise a family and set up shop. Today, French Connections pays homage to the places where the Dufours have both lived and visited. “Our hope is to show the amazing creativity and dignity of those who make what we sell,” Wendy says. “It’s been a very nice way of keeping a link with those places and with those people from our past.”
Pick up a few recent releases for your favorite bookworm. photograph by Matt Hulsman
For the Book Lover • Southern Pines
Tall wooden shelves lined with posters of books written by Wiley Cash, Nicholas Sparks, and Frances Mayes line the aisles of The Country Bookshop in Southern Pines. “These are celebrations of the authors who have come to visit us,” General Manager Kimberly Daniels Taws says.
Taws has kept Southern Pines’s literary identity alive for more than a decade. In 2010, her cousin David Woronoff, publisher of the local newspaper, The Pilot, told her that the shop, founded in 1953, was going to close. She couldn’t pass up the opportunity to help him save it. “I love books and I love people, so I knew we couldn’t let that happen on our watch,” she says. Woronoff oversaw its purchase by The Pilot that year, and now the shop continues to serve as a local staple.
If you want to give a North Carolina-inspired book this holiday season, Kimberly Daniels Taws recommends these recent releases:
Christmas in Peachtree Bluff by Kristy Woodson Harvey
Beaufort writer Kristy Woodson Harvey’s latest installment of the Peachtree Bluff series follows three generations of women who are celebrating the holidays with a hurricane heading straight for their beloved coastal town. “The characters are on their best adventure yet,” Taws says. “It’s my favorite book in the series.”
Step It Up and Go: The Story of North Carolina Popular Music by David Menconi
From bluegrass and jazz to country and rock, Raleigh author David Menconi ensures that readers are in tune with the musical traditions of our state. “Step It Up and Go explores the rich history of North Carolina’s musical landscape,” Taws says. “After you read it, you may never hear our music the same [way].”
Art of the State: Celebrating the Visual Art of North Carolina by Liza Roberts
In this volume of stunning photography, artist profiles, and interviews, Raleigh author Liza Roberts tells the story of North Carolina’s growing reputation in the contemporary art scene. “This is a major North Carolina book for our Christmas shoppers,” Taws says. “It’s a true celebration of the beauty of our state.”
To commemorate our 90th anniversary, we’ve compiled a time line that highlights the stories, contributors, and themes that have shaped this magazine — and your view of the Old North State — using nine decades of our own words.