In December, when households are busily preparing to host family and friends, you couldn’t find a more supportive ally than The Home Place at Ace, owned by Belle Dowell. The Empire-Tribune caught up with her to ask a few questions about her thriving kitchen and home décor business.

Q: How long have you been located on the South Loop?

A: Since we moved in just before Christmas in 2000. We’d been in the hardware business at our original location for a couple years, of course. Then it evolved as I became more active in the business. The number of Ace kitchen stores has grown quite a lot since then, giving the Ace Co-op a lot more buying power to be competitive.

Q: What are you doing this year for the Christmas season?

A: We have Santa Claus visiting us on December 15 from 1:30 to 3:30. Also, cookies for Santa, a lot of gift wrapping and keeping up with special orders such as monogrammed gifts. And if it’s Christmas, we’re serving food every weekend here at the store.

On Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. customers can bring their own cameras and take family Christmas card photos if they like. We have a setting with a bench and a decorated tree in the background.

Also, we have our Angel Tree through this week, with eight angels left. With the recent bad weather, some people haven’t had much time to do their shopping yet, so we’re hoping the deadline will be extended a couple of days. People who are interested can call and ask about it.

Q: What’s new and interesting in your business this year?

A: We did our first after-hours Ladies Night Out this year, around the middle of November. We had wine tasting, food sampling, door prizes, discount cards and the whole store on sale that night. We had about 100 people come in during those two hours. We’ll probably do that again.

We had a book signing with Jenna Marwitz and Nicole Sparks from Brownwood, the authors of the best-selling cookbook, The Crockin’ Girls Slow Cookin’ Companion. We were really pleased with the event and we’ll probably do more things like that, too.

We’re continuing to sponsor guest chefs. We did a show in April with Extension Agent Donna White. We’ve gone to rodeos and the state fair with Chef Darlene [Brandon]. She’s a West Texas-style chef, specializing in healthy eating tips, who works at natural groceries a lot. In addition, there’s Lori Lesley and her Rolling in the Dough catering business. She makes fabulous cheesecakes and rum cakes. We often get together about something we want to serve in the store on weekends.

Finally, we’re trying to get a test kitchen built, to do more demos and invite more celebrity chefs in. Currently we don’t have enough parking spaces to get it approved, so we’re hoping we can restripe the parking lot this spring. This is something we really want to do

Q: What can you tell us about the latest kitchen trends?

A. Several brands are hot movers right now. Two popular items are silicon lids by Charles Viancin and Soda Stream home soda makers. Bright colors are still trendy for kitchen accents – especially teal and red. Fiesta Dinnerware is popular for young brides who like bright colors and want to be able to mix and match settings. Another reason for their popularity is they’re practical. Brides intend to use them every day, and if they break a piece, they can buy another one.

Q: What things are you involved in in the community?

A: We work with the sheriff’s department and several local churches and help other charitable organizations, such as helping the Historical House museum sell event tickets. Many of our donations are anonymous, and I’d like to keep it that way. You have to give without any expectation of anything in return – with the right heart. I think we need to remember that at Christmas.

The Home Place at Ace is located at 1491 W. South Loop in Stephenville. Their telephone number is 254-965-3818.