Cameron Filepas in front of the window display he created for Thomas Sweet Chocolate. (Photo by Kelly Filepas)
How Cameron Filepas Creates Thomas Sweet’s Window Displays
By Donald H. Sanborn III
For two years, chocolate vendor Thomas Sweet has dazzled Palmer Square visitors with a charming window display for the holidays. The diorama depicts a snowy, colorfully lit — and lavishly decorated — village.
If the elaborate display seems to resemble a stage set, there is a good reason: Cameron Filepas, the former head chocolatier who decorates the windows, happens to be a theatrical lighting designer. His clients include both regional and educational theaters such as Luna Stage, Axelrod Performing Arts Center, Fairleigh Dickinson University, and many more.
“Ever since I was young, I always loved lights,” Filepas says, “whether it was holiday lights, Halloween lights, or lights on houses.” He discovered theatrical lighting when, “My mom would bring me to children’s shows in town put on by the Hopewell Valley Children’s Theatre; that was my first glimpse of theater.”
“We also used to see A Christmas Carol at McCarter. That was a tradition for my family,” says Filepas, who recalls that he eagerly learned as much as he could about the production.
He participated in theatrical productions in middle school and high school, taking advantage of the opportunity to join stage crews. “I realized that this was something I really wanted as a career, so I went to college for it,” he says. Filepas holds a BFA in Lighting Design from Montclair State University.
As for his interest in miniature displays, Filepas recalls, “When I was 10 or 11, every year we would visit my grandmother in Pennsylvania. We would go to a store called Cathy’s Christmas Shop.” Filepas was impressed by the store’s displays for Halloween, as well as Christmas, and was excited to see them every year.
“I told my mom, ‘I want to have a little village!’” Filepas continues. “So we went to Michael’s and bought a house, snow, and some trees. I used to set up little tables, in my bedroom, of these villages. It started off with one house, with a single road, and two little light-up deer.”
Another source of models was Department 56. Filepas adds, “Slowly, over the years, I grew these villages to the point where they went out into a hallway upstairs, and then took up the entire wall!” more