Connection and stories.

That’s what Shopaholic owner Debbie Gaydos said she wanted when she first opened her store in the spring of 2014. At that time, goods for sale included repurposed furniture, vintage items and local handmade gifts — anything that could have a story attached.

Then the Christmas moose — each with their own antics and personalities — came to the store, and Christmas hasn’t really been the same for a lot of people in Enterprise.

“As time moved on and trends changed, we went to more of a gift center (at Shopaholic),” Gaydos said. “The one thing that didn’t change was our customers still wanted a story. After opening in March, I went to my first international market in July. I had to order for Christmas. While walking through one of the beautiful showrooms, I saw a wall of Christmas moose.

“Everyone had a different look whether it was their clothes, crazy hair, googly eyes or whether they were sitting, standing, lying down or tall or short. They made me laugh immediately.”

She bought 50. They arrived on Oct. 15 and the story started.

“They were brought in to help us get ready for Christmas,” Gaydos said. “They would stock, price and help with Christmas set up. Some of the moose were very tall and seemed a bit more mature than others. They were called the Elders and they got everyone ready for the season.”

Gaydos staged pictures of the smaller moose on the floor and the Elders standing high on chairs, providing guidance. As the moose developed their own personalities and customers grew more intrigued, some moose eventually left the store via adoption.

Gaydos recalled some of the first moose to have their own stories.

“It began with one of the moose having a broken neck, so he would fall on the floor,” Gaydos said. “I took a picture, and he became the first big story. He was obviously drinking at night and not working. We went through the season with all the shenanigans of a moose named Otis, from the Andy Griffith Show. The day after Christmas, I had him by the back door to take home and a lady came in and wanted to adopt Otis.”

Quickly, the remaining moose were adopted. In the years since, Shopaholic has increased the stock of moose. In the third year, over 250 moose — the full supply — left the store in less than a month. The store had also started issuing adoption certificates. Customers could name the moose and provide information about themselves and where they live.

Shopaholic also asked customers to post their adoption certificates to the store’s Facebook page.

“Mid-December we draw from people that post and we give something from the store to that person,” Gaydos said. “It helps us track the moose. There are hundreds all over Europe and in every state. We’ve got two in Paris right now and three in Afghanistan. It’s a story that you can’t really make up, and I don’t understand why exactly it happened.

“We’ve got pictures of one in a seatbelt in a car traveling and another one eating at a restaurant. That was hysterical. The customers send me stuff, and it’s just really amazing. I was out for a few months (recently after) an accident. I had a customer that keeps hers out all year and dresses it — it wears a size two in children’s. They put it in a full doctors’ white coat with a stethoscope and everything and sent me a picture that said, ‘Mike just wants to tell you he hopes you feel better soon.’

This year, the store also started giving some of the moose away to families who could not afford them.

“We didn’t talk about it until this year,” she said. “I decided that maybe by us keeping it private we might be missing an opportunity to grow this action even more. It was like a Hallmark story.”

In Oct. 2019, Shopaholic received 600 moose. In three weeks, the majority of them were gone. As of now, there are just over 20 — and those are expected to depart by next Tuesday. Shopaholic also donated this year to Coffee County Family Services/Toy for Tots and to 23 families.

This weekend, as part of the Downtown Holiday Open House, Shopaholic will hold an adopt-a-thon for the remaining moose.

Christmas moose — which, by the way, come to the store from “staffing agencies,” according to Gaydos — can run anywhere from $19.95 to $49.95.

“We aren’t finished yet,” she said. “This town and the people in it continue to amaze me and touch my heart in a way that I never dreamed, and they remind me that when we all work together — it’s a Hallmark moment. The story continues with the Christmas moose. If you walk in to Shopaholic, you will probably hear us talking to them.

“A man came in the other day and said, ‘You talk to these moose as though they are real.’ I looked at him and smiled and said, ‘I will have to pretend you didn’t say that.’”

The goal next year is to order close to 750, and Gaydos is excited to see the stories that continue to come from the Christmas moose.

“You can’t make this up,” she said. “There’s a story on everything in this store and with the Christmas moose. I think stories are important because they help us create connections and build relationships. People just continue to show caring, love and excitement around the Christmas moose, which is what I think is the magic in it.”

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