Romancing the Home’s holiday preparation is no subtle event. In fact, it’s become such a Benicia tradition that dedicated shoppers began asking owners Rob and Deb Machado as far back as September when the store would launch its seasonal merchandise and décor.

For the past 17 years, when the Machados bought both the store and its existing name, they’ve closed their doors for three days, while they and employees change its focus to Christmas and related holiday themes.

They don’t reveal their plans and ideas ahead of time. Instead, they want each year’s themes to be a surprise, revealed only when the store reopens.

Once again, they’ve pulled off their secret redecorating, and opened Nov. 6 so guests could see scenes of a gingerbread house and its gingerbread people, candy cane signs, fairies and elves.

Customers frequently describe the unveiling with a single word – “Magical.”

But just as illusionists work hard just to make sure their magical acts appear effortless, the Machados work hard for nearly a year to create looks that capture the holiday spirit.

Planning for this year’s look started as far back as January, during a business trip to Atlanta, Ga., where the Machados get sneak peeks at the type of holiday merchandise that will be available to retailers for the coming season.

That trip lasts 10 to 11 days each year, and the first two days are spent viewing the products and deciding what to buy, Deb said.

“We want what’s fresh and new,” she said.

In addition, she keeps an eye on the prices, to get the best value for Benicia shoppers. Sometimes she has an idea what the next seasonal display will be; other years, she gets her inspiration during this annual shopping trip.

She places the store’s order, and items begin arriving in May. Shipments continue arriving through September. The items are stored until it is time to redecorate Romancing the Home, transforming it into one of the few holiday specialty stores during this season.

The store has various decorated Christmas trees full of beautiful ornaments and the personality-filled Mark Roberts fairies and elves, seasonal home décor as well as gift items, all set against a backdrop of floor-to-ceiling lights and garlands in the store’s windows.

Romancing the Home’s Christmas décor opening encourages Benicia visitors to get into the holiday mood. Like many First Street businesses’ November holiday events, it serves as a lead-in for Benicia Holiday Open House and Tree Lighting, a collaboration of the city of Benicia and Benicia Main Street that starts at 6 p.m. December 6.

Visitors welcome Romancing the Home’s annual unveiling, Deb said. Some have told her it eases the stress some feel about holiday shopping, because the store keeps up its variety of merchandise, covering home and tabletop décor, garden decorations, specialty gifts gourmet items, luxury bath products and children’s merchandise.