Like many retail businesses, Gig Harbor’s Christmas Shop depends on the holiday season for about half its revenue, but it sells mostly Christmas decorations and mementos year-round.
“I never get tired of Christmas,” says manager Kim Stokke, “the spirit comes at this time of year, but you can enjoy Christmas things year around.”
Her shop used to close from January to April, but the popularity of collectors’ items and attraction for tourists now keep it open throughout the year. “People wanted to bring guests here, so six years ago we started staying open,” Stokke says.
Tourists make July her second busiest month, and she belongs to the merchants association, which coordinates hours, promotions and events.
“People come from all over the world, even planning their vacations around open houses and events here,” says Stokke. Her shop was the only stop on a late November national signing tour by Marco Fontanini, whose family has made hand-painted ornaments in Italy since early in this century.
Besides Italy, inventory at the shop comes from China, Germany, Czechoslovakia, Germany and the U.S. Its proprietor and her parents go to Atlanta, Ga., shows to find suppliers, mostly buying from American distributors rather than importing goods themselves. At least one local artist, Eleanor LaBerg, also markets her painted disks through the shop.
All told, thousands of Christmas items crowd shelves on three floors with a total value Stokke says she can only guess is ” well into the millions.”
Many items are serial collectibles, with special new pieces that come out each year. Some are displayed on themed trees or arranged by subject, such as nutcrackers or candles. Although many are blown glass or otherwise fragile, there’s a poly-vinyl nativity set appropriate for small children in the creche collection.
“Some people are overwhelmed by the selection, totally confused, and have to come back later to make a choice,” says Stokke. They buy for newly-weds, a child’s first Christmas, to add to collections or create memories or traditions, she says. “This is a happy, feel-good place.”
Customers come back again and again, and she thinks of many of them as friends, says Stokke. “One customer has been ill, and I worry about her. That’s why people shop in small stores.”
The family business on Harborview Drive is a subspecialty of the Beach Basket next door, on a site that had been Austin & Erickson Saw Mill before Stokke’s parents, Julian and Leslie Schmidtke, made it a gift and clothing shop 22 years ago.
They also have a shop at Lakewood Mall and a warehouse with gift shop at 10th and Martin Luther King Junior Way in Tacoma.
By Janice Smith, Business Examiner staff