People who visit the Arnholt & Staggs law office during the Christmas season find themselves stepping into a winter wonderland.
For the fifth straight year, office manager Debbie Sturgeon has transformed the law office waiting room, entryway, offices and welcoming area into what looks like an exquisitely decorated home at Christmas.
Father Christmas stands in the corner and stockings are hung with care near the door proclaiming a winter welcome. A large tree with delicate ornaments twinkles in the corner, with stuffed animals peering out from the tree skirt.
But the showstopper is an expansive Christmas village which Sturgeon painstakingly creates each year, featuring miniature lighted houses, a carousel, lighthouses, horse-drawn wagons, a grocery store, schools and sleigh riders.
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There’s a snowball fight among miniature village residents going on near the ice rink and a miniature marching band smartly steps through the snow playing their instruments.
A miniature train can be seen winding its way through the countertop display — which is actually the top of Spurgeon’s desk.
“It got so big, it took over the whole countertop,” said Spurgeon, who is from Seymour and has worked at the downtown Columbus law firm for 18 years. “Every year, we add a little bit more to it.”
Attorney Tim Staggs, who joined the firm in 2010, said he absolutely loves Spurgeon’s holiday decorations.
Laughing at the memory, he said when he and attorney G. Gene Arnholt moved to their present location at 422 Fifth St., Spurgeon received more space to plan her holiday decorating surprises and gladly went to work decking the extra halls and square footage.
“We have always had clients who stop in this time of year and are just in awe of it,” he said. “They stop in pretending to see us but they’re really here for the decorations.”
Family members for both attorneys always stop in to see how Spurgeon will change up the display each year, he said.
Spurgeon also decorates the attorneys’ offices, including lighted trees, stuffed animals and Christmas messages.
Staggs said while he is always amazed by the Christmas village, his favorite decoration is a wooden bench that Spurgeon themes-out each year with different Christmas remembrances.
“One year, I think she had 100 teddy bears around it,” he said. “It moves around the office every year and she does something different with it,” he said.
Spurgeon said part of her inspiration tied to decorating came from her father growing up as a child in Seymour.
“I just loved watching my dad decorate,” she said.
Another reason for the transformation is to bring some holiday cheer and make people happy, she said.
Many of the holiday decorations found within the law firm are bought year-round at local thrift stores or during after-Christmas sales, Spurgeon said, describing herself as a clearance shopper.
“Anytime I go shopping, I go and see if I can find something new,” she said.
Spurgeon also takes her decorating zeal seriously at home, too, decorating each room there on different themes.
During one holiday season, her Christmas tree was adorned with 3,000 ornaments, she said.
“I’m the one that listens to Christmas music before Christmas,” she said. “I love to decorate.”
The law firm’s decorations, will likely will remain up until the end of January, are something that everyone enjoys during the holidays, said Lena Vaughn, a legal assistant who works at the office.
“It’s amazing how well she puts things together,” Vaughn said. “She’s always into it every year.”
Spurgeon is known for her generosity in giving back to others, including handing out Christmas gifts to clients’ children, Vaughn said.
“My Christmas present is making people happy,” Spurgeon said.
— Assistant Managing Editor Julie McClure contributed to this story.
Family: Married to husband, Sonny, for 42 years; three sons, Jeramy, Jason and Justin; two granddaughters
Employment history: Has worked at Arnholt & Staggs law office for the past 18 years.