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Decorating business brings glitz to Tamaqua restaurant

A Tamaqua restaurant has been transformed into a holiday spectacle with glistening snowflakes, candy canes - and a whole lot of lights.

Fifty thousand lights twinkle among the walls, ceilings, and almost everywhere else at La Dolce Casa/DiMaggio’s.

The Christmas wonder was put together over the past two months by Justin Startzel and his business, Just a Little Lights & Décor.

“People always say, ‘How can you outdo yourself from last year?’ But every single time I’m doing something, I’m always trying to perfect it,” said Startzel, of Tamaqua.

By the looks of it, Startzel and his business partner, Jason Hedrick, achieved that perfection.

A Nativity scene is above the kitchen area, and a glowing angel gently fans her wings.

Christmas trees dusted in snow line an aisle leading to booths, and presents wrapped with holiday-themed paper cover the walls. High ceilings are tacked with more than a thousand snowflakes.

And then there are the lights.

Startzel, who has decorated the restaurant for the past five years, strung 20,000 lights in 2022.

But this year, he more than doubled that number. He swapped in energy efficient LED lights, which allowed him to add more while negating the risk of a blown fuse.

“We wanted to be efficient but also be able to dazzle people,” he said. “Everything is brand-new this year.”

The lights produce vibrant colors, he said.

“There are lots of reds and greens, and you have your golds - your deep, beautiful Christmas colors,” Startzel said.

The 16 W. Broad St. restaurant, he said, is the ideal place for the holiday display.

“It’s almost a perfect set up. You walk into the door, and you see the grand staircase, and you see the Spanish tile,” he said. “You have this picturesque moment when you walk in there. I wanted everything to be seen, you know, the reason for the season.”

Startzel is hoping that visitors take in the sights, and forget about anything negative in their lives.

“I want them to be awe-struck and taken back to those moments of their past Christmases, and this year, I think we have that tenfold,” he said.

The recent second annual Lighting of the Lights brought 650 customers to watch as lights flicked on to the sounds of Christmas carols.

Startzel thanked restaurant owner Alfonso “Alfie” Picone for sponsoring and hosting the display and for allowing Just a Little Lights & Décor to be creative.

“Alfie shares the same vision. We want everything to be memorable and beautiful, and to have that ambience,” Startzel said.

He’s heard quite a few kind words.

A couple shared that they’ve been to light displays in places like New York City and Las Vegas - but said it’s the Tamaqua display that has the “it factor” and the “heart factor.”

“That’s what I love. That shows that people really see my heart in our work,” he said. “It’s amazing to hear the feedback from people who’ve been to other areas but come here and say that this is magical.”

Some folks travel from out of the area to see the display, and many return several times throughout the Christmas season, he said. He’s happy that it’s becoming a tradition.

“I want to see Tamaqua’s Christmas spirit grow even more, and add more positivity to Tamaqua,” Startzel said. “Decorating has always been my passion. Now, being able to share it, spreading joy, and allowing people to escape the negatives, even if just for a short time, is truly special.”

The holiday decorations will be in place until January. He’s already planning for 2024.

“I can’t wait until next year because this is a tradition now,” Startzel said.

Since it was founded almost two years ago, Just a Little Lights & Décor has decorated for weddings, birthday parties, graduations, homecomings and competitions.

For more information, visit Just a Little Lights & Décor on Facebook or at www.justalittlelightsdecor.com.

Singer Cindie Gunderman performs on the grand stairway leading to a balcony dining area at DiMaggio's La Dolce Casa Restaurant in Tamaqua. Justin Startzel of Just a Little Lights and Decor uses his talent for color and design to add holiday elegance to the eatery each holiday season. DONALD R. SERFASS/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS
More than 50,000 lights adorn the interior of Tamaqua's La Dolce Casa Restaurant, drawing visitors from throughout eastern Pennsylvania.
Every inch of La Dolce Casa Restaurant celebrates the holidays, including entryways, service areas and three large dining rooms. DONALD R. SERFASS/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS
Creative partners Jason Hedrick, left, and Justin Startzel pause for a moment to celebrate success after transforming Tamaqua's La Dolce Casa into Christmas Wonderland.