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Home accents and gift shop supplies Lutz homeowners

Sisters' Secret Garden shifts its inventory to maintain shoppers' interest in its wide range of accessories.

By JANET ZINK
© St. Petersburg Times
published October 25, 2002


LUTZ -- Tucked away as it is alongside the rush of traffic on U.S. 41 near County Line Road, it would be easy to fly by Sisters' Secret Garden.

But it's well worth coming in for a landing at this little Lutz home accents and gift shop.

It's one of the few such shops in the area.

"I wish there were a couple more," said New Tampa resident Megan Camp.

Camp said she makes a point of stopping in the store at least once a month to check out the constantly changing inventory.

"They always have something that's really unique," she said, comparing the shop to the boutique stores that are much more common in South Tampa.

The two sisters who own this Secret Garden are Debbie Lane, a South Tampa resident, and Dawna Auerbach of Brandon. Their mother, Mary Anne Fernandez, has run Country Place Antique and Gift Shoppes from this location for 15 years. They began sharing space with her five years ago, and have benefited from the Lutz building boom.

"They're building $400,000 houses up here," Lane said.

Their business has doubled every year for the last five years, Lane said, thanks to a steady stream of new homeowners looking for unusual accessories.

Shoppers find everything from feathered garlands to furniture, in a wide price range. The eight rooms in the 3,000-square-foot building are packed with items that can add a tiny interesting detail to a home or serve as a room's centerpiece.

Drain stoppers with mermaids, alligators and turtles sell for less than $12, and an old French buffet sells for $799. A candle embellished with Swarovski crystals has a $16.99 price tag. Embroidered slipcovers sell for $95 and an embroidered organdy tablecloth with rosebud appliques sells for $135.

A large selection of lamps come with shades trimmed in fur, beads or crystals. A collection of hand-painted glassware -- wine glasses, bowls, tumblers, salt and pepper shakers, and soap dispensers -- fill a shelf in the back of the store. Sisters' Secret Garden stocks a huge assortment of holiday decorations by Department 56, and collectors can choose from a wide variety of Byers Choice carolers figures.

Lane likes to say the store offers "country charm with city sophistication."

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