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By Elizabeth Tanner
Walking into Santas, Hares and Bears feels a bit like entering Santa’s workshop with the illumination of Christmas flocking the newly renovated storefront and giving customers a warm sense of nostalgia.
Theresa Doggett, who never dreamed of owning her own retail store, originally bought the former house turned doctor’s office, located at 315 N Broadway, with plans to spruce up the location with her husband, Lee.
“My husband and I loved this old house,” Doggett said. “We watched for years while trees and shrubs took it over. When we drove by it one day, we saw a ‘for sale’ sign out front. We bought it and fixed it up, thinking we would just flip it, but since Jackie Cruse, who used to have a Christmas store here in Post, was no longer in town, I thought that I could put a retail Christmas store here myself. I have never wanted a retail store, but here I am.”
Doggett and Cruse, former business partners, began working together in 1994. However, not making the Santas the pair are so well-known for, but rather wedding cakes.
“I met Jackie after he graduated from college and we became good friends,” Doggett said. “We decided to start decorating wedding cakes. I bought edible gum paste and we sculpted flowers, butterflies and hummingbirds to put on the cakes. After about six months, we then thought we would start sculpting small characters and sell them. We ended up selling our creations to six different Christian stores around the area.”
Not too long after, Cruse and Doggett started branching out, sculpting different characters, including the one that would change their lives, Santa Claus.
“Our next adventure was to sculpt a cute Santa,” Doggett said. “So, we purchased some sculpting clay and made our first face. We worked to make the body out of wood and wire. Then came the design of the cloths and, voila, there was a beautiful Christmas Santa.”
A Christmas Santa so beautiful that it earned a spot in Neiman Marcus’s Christmas décor selection.
“We took the Santa to the Dallas World Trading Center,” Doggett said. “Long story short, a Neiman Marcus buyer saw it and it soon went into the Neiman Marcus Christmas Store. We designed our first life-size Santa for Neiman’s and they purchased 10 of them for their Christmas line.”
The pairs’ Santas also made it into a handful of other impressive locations.
“We were able to send one to Oprah,” Doggett said. “We also had two in the White house, one in the Austin Governor’s mansion and one in the Vatican Exhibit in Lubbock. A few years ago, I also gave a life-size Santa to the Children’s Wing of the UMC Hospital in Lubbock.”
Back in Post, Doggett and Cruse’s Santa sculpting team was just as busy with two factories producing the handcrafted décor.
“Mr. McCrary here in Post became our backer,” Doggett said. “We had two factories running with about 35 workers including women who sewed out of their homes, others who worked putting the bodies together and some who dressed each piece. Jackie and I were even awarded business of the year. After three years of selling at six World Trade Centers, we sold to Boyd’s Bears and sculpted a Christmas line of Santas for them.”
In 2003, things took another turn for Doggett and Cruse as they left Boyd’s Bears and began separate journeys.
“Jackie wanted to start a retail store,” Doggett said. “He now has a beautiful Christmas shop in Lubbock that is just breathtaking. But, at the time, I decided that wasn’t for me, so I continued to sell wholesale to stores in Midland, Odessa, Lubbock and Amarillo. I’ve always had wholesale businesses. Even when my husband and I lived in Italy for three years, I sold my handmade macrame to different flower shops in Catania, Italy.”
Now, 17 years later, Doggett has recently opened a retail store of her own, selling the art she spends days putting labor and love into.
“To sculpt a face, it takes days to get it just right,” Doggett said. “The doll starts talking to you and tells you if its nose is too small or long or if it needs squinting eyes or wide-open eyes. It really takes on a personality of its own. The process of the mold making takes about an hour and pouring the resin mixed with the flesh color takes about 10 minutes. Then, I make the body form followed by the muslin and patterns for each Santa which takes another day or so. Cutting the fabric, sewing and putting it all together with the beard, hair, hat and all the special trims takes days as well. After I finish the Santa, I decide which gifts he will carry, such as a train, rocking horse or toy nutcracker, and stitch those onto him or around his feet. So many hours are put into each piece along with the best quality of bear or doll fabric in the finest velvet and silks. It truly is a work of art.”
So, why choose Santas as an area of expertise? Doggett says it’s all in her love of the Christmas spirit.
“There is no holiday that means so much to me as Christmas does,” Doggett said. “Christmas is full of excitement and expectations. The children are all excited when they see the beautiful Christmas lights around town and can’t wait until they get a Christmas tree put up in their own house. Christmas brings people together and brings out a spirit of giving that no other holiday does. It’s a time to reflect on what the season is all about, Jesus.”
Back in her hometown, Doggett is excited to bring her favorite season’s holiday cheer to the local business scene year-round through her newest venture.
“I love Post,” Doggett said. “The older you get – and I’m getting up there – the more you fall in love with your small hometown and all those who live there. I’m hoping to get to know the other merchants here and hopefully we can work together to make our small town a place where people want to shop and take a look around.”
Santas, Hares and Bears is open Tuesday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. The store will be closed for Christmas from Dec. 24 through Dec. 31.