LAKE ALFRED – Autumn may seem like more of a date on the calendar than an actual change of season in Florida, Molly Hannon freely admits, since late September and most of October are not known in Central Florida as a time when the air conditioners get shut off.
Still, there’s just something about the arrival of fall, she said, that even heat-and-humidity-weary Floridians find simply irresistible.
“People just get into the mood, even though it’s 91 degrees out,” she said. “I think people get into the mindset.”
One way to do that, she added, is to take the time to decorate your home and property in ways that conjure up thoughts of fall …. whether it’s an array of pumpkins on the front porch, to something positively spooky in anticipation of Halloween. Either way, Hannon said, it doesn’t matter how hot the weather gets this time of year, it’s still possible to embrace the mood and look of autumn, which officially started on Friday, Sept. 23.
Hannon runs Potpourri Antiques, a shop at 142-144 W. Haines Boulevard in downtown Lake Alfred, which offers its customers a wide variety of items, including country furniture, collectibles, glassware, jewelry, gourmet foods …. and, of course, decorations — plenty of decorations that cry out that fall has finally made it, and the season has truly changed.
The windows at her shop now reflect the change, with a variety of items that signal summer is over. Quite a few of the items are geared toward Halloween being on the way: creepy, but in a fun way.
“I love Halloween,” Hannon said. “It’s a special day for us.”
And September and October are a time when her shop brings out decorative spiders, witches, ghosts, and smiling pumpkins – the perfect gifts for anyone, she said, looking to get their home ready for spooking the trick or treaters.
“We try not to make it too scary for the kids,” she said, which is why Potpourri Antiques sells goodies like ghostly lollipops.
“It’s a Halloween sucker,” she said. “These Halloween pops are made in Utah.”
Another neat gift for the kids, she added, is a night light shaped like a witch, ghost, or cat.
“These are Light Ups,” she said. “You turn them on, and they change color.”
Not surprisingly, anything shaped like or resembling a pumpkin can be a big seller this time of year, Hannon said – although she added that ironically, they may be in much shorter supply this fall than in previous years.
As it turns out, there could be a genuine jack-o’-lantern shortage this Halloween, because Hurricane Irene – which struck the Northeast in August — destroyed hundreds of pumpkin patches across that region.
In some places, wholesale prices have already doubled, and farmers have cautioned that the shortage this year could get severe.
“We bring in pumpkins this time of year,” Hannon said, but added, “We’re still waiting for the pumpkin patch at the Methodist Church.”
Although a load of pumpkins had been expected in at the nearby church by Tuesday, Sept. 20, they’re already late, Hannon added.
Lake Alfred is known as the ideal place for antique shopping. The quaint town sandwiched in-between Winter Haven and Haines City off U.S. 17/92 has so many antique shops, including Potpourri Antiques, that another shop, Sherman’s Antiques, recently started a weekend Flea Market to draw in more patrons. Located in an open field behind Sherman’s Antiques, the Flea Market brings all the local shops together on a Saturday morning.
“The town used to be very known as the antique Mecca,” said Jerry Sherman, the owner of Sherman’s Antiques, a reputation that he hopes stays with the town as the Flea Market gets bigger and draws in larger crowds.
That reputation still exists today, Hannon said, since customers love finding older items they can’t get at the big box stores anymore.
“The old antique decorations are getting harder and harder to find,” she said.
And these shops, she added, also draw in customers by helping them decorate for the changing of the seasons, even if it doesn’t feel yet like a fall afternoon in New England or the Midwest.
“We decorate heavily for Christmas as well,” she said.
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