A Bond that was Built on Tradition
Writer // Janelle Morrison Photography // Theresa Skutt
“There is nothing more beautiful than someone who goes out of their way to make life beautiful for others.” – Mandy Hale
Residents of Zionsville and Boone County know there is a special “small town” magic that permeates throughout the county, especially during the holiday season. Friendships created here are built on more than just common interests – they are forged over actions that become intimate traditions, events and epic tales shared over meals and libations throughout the years.
One such tale of tradition and special bonds began in 1994 in a shop known as Captain Logan (currently Lesley Jane) on Main Street in downtown Zionsville. Steve Jacob, present-day Boone County council president, was walking along the street in the late fall when he first noticed an ornate Santa that was quite tall in stature, standing in the window of Captain Logan. Steve’s occupation at that time had him traveling out-of-state in early December during the week of his wedding anniversary. Unsure as to what he was going to do for a gift for his bride, Janet, Steve contemplated his options and recalled the Santa from the storefront window.
“I believe that I was in Austin, Texas, that year and really didn’t want to wait to get a gift for Janet,” Steve recalled. “I was going to send flowers, but then I remembered that Santa and called Bill [Logan]. He told me that he would deliver it to our house on our anniversary, December 5. That was pretty cool.”
This became an annual tradition for the couple’s anniversary, and Steve would visit Captain Logan and pick out a Santa that had been ordered and stashed away especially for him to select and then present to his wife.
In 2004, Lesley Hunt, current owner of Lesley Jane, purchased Captain Logan. Upon the changing of hands, special instructions were given to Hunt on the special annual purchase of Steve’s Santa.
“I bought Captain Logan from Bill and started at the store in early December,” Hunt recollected. “One of the first things that he said to me was, ‘Now you need to order some Santa Clauses.’ Those were a popular item that we sold at the store, and then he explained to me that I would have to order one or two of the very best and biggest [Santa Clauses] that I could find for Steve Jacob. I didn’t know who Steve was at the time. Bill went on to tell me that I would order them and not put them out on the sales floor but store them until Steve could come in and pick the one that he wants and that I would do this every year before December 5 as an anniversary present for his wife.”
Once Hunt changed her store from Captain Logan to Lesley Jane, Hunt admits that finding a vendor to sell her only one or two Santa Clauses versus a large quantity has become a bit of a challenge over the years, but she remains committed to the annual task that she has been charged with.
“When I stopped being Captain Morgan and started selling clothing, it’s become a real challenge,” Hunt admitted. “I’ve had to get creative with finding vendors who will sell me such a small quantity, but I’ve managed to do it so far, and I will take the secret as to how I’ve done it to my grave.”
Over the years, a friendship was built between the Jacobs and Lesley and would grow stronger with each presentation of an “anniversary Santa.” Steve had built enough trust in Hunt to let her seek out what she thinks is the best and/or biggest Santa and then delivers the Santa to her neighboring business, Cobblestone, where owners Kent and Liz Esra have participated in their own special roles in this long-standing annual tradition.
“I pick out what I think is the year’s best/biggest Santa and what I believe that they don’t already have, and then I bring it over to Kent and Liz,” Hunt said. “It has become a surprise for both Steve and Janet. Liz hides the Santa until they [Jacobs] come in for their anniversary dinner.”
The Esras met Steve and Janet in 2001 as customers of their restaurant on Main Street.
“They [Steve and Janet] came in as customers, and then the next thing we know, Liz and I are sitting on their front porch having a beer,” Kent shared. “They have become family – no question about it. Steve and Janet are beyond our best friends. They have helped us with our business since we’ve known them. They are a wealth of knowledge and are the best kinds of people and friends that you could ever have.”
Liz added, “Once we get the Santa from Lesley, we hide it until their anniversary and then set it on their favorite table. In 2001, when our original chef, Chef Michael, was here, he made a special menu for their dinner that anniversary.”
The custom menu featured Szechuan shrimp with lemongrass broth, grilled lamb chops with apricot demi-glace, Ehu Snapper with cranberry chipotle beurre rouge and chocolate raspberry torte for dessert.
The level of this exemplary service goes above and beyond the standard in customer service but is rather customary among the merchants and proprietors in Zionsville and their regulars. It is part of the town’s unique culture.
“When Lesley bought the store, Bill asked her to keep this [tradition] going for us,” Steve said. “And Lesley has kept it going. Who thinks like this? Over the years, it [the Santa] just shows up at Cobblestone, and Kent and Liz have it all set up. It’s a pretty awesome thing to do for someone.”
The vast collection of Santa Clauses represents more than just the number of anniversaries celebrated by the Jacobs. The collection represents tradition and strong bonds. The couple is going on 48 years of marriage, and when asked what role tradition and strong bonds play in a successful marriage, both Steve and Janet emphasized the importance of creating and building upon traditions.
“This collection represents so many happy memories,” Janet emphasized. “It certainly represents anniversaries but also all of the Christmas holidays with friends and family who have so enjoyed all these Santa Clauses, especially our grandchildren. There are so many different kinds of Santa Clauses in our collection – a hippy Santa, cowboy Santa, dancing Santa – and even the kids have applied their own stories to a lot of these Santa Clauses.”
Janet hopes that readers will think about building on their own traditions and, if they haven’t any yet, start their own.
“Our tradition has become one where Steve and I are both surprised with what Lesley has picked out for us on December 5, and it’s become a tradition for friends who get enjoyment out of this as we do. The whole thing started with a Santa in a window on Main Street and has blossomed from there.”
Steve concluded, “I think it’s important to protect traditions – extremely important. I just can’t speak enough about what Bill, Lesley, Kent and Liz have done over the years and their continued participation in all this. It’s a pretty amazing thing to do.”