(July 31, 2007)
F. "CHIP" ARCURI
Owner/Webmaster of The Yule Log.com
Summer greetings fellow Yule Loggers! Here we are in the throws of the wretched heat and humidity that this season typically brings, but take heart: the silver lining is that in no time these repressive days will inevitably give way to the cool, crisp days of autumn – which of course, will portend the dawning of new holiday season!
Speaking of that holiday season – which is fast approaching, we here in the New York metropolitan this year will unfortunately be without another Christmas store chain, as Harrows, after 80 years, has gone out of business. They now join Christmas City and Treasure Island, which have both closed their doors in the last two years as well. In addition, Fairfield Garden Center, while still in business, closed their Christmas store, which now only leaves the Branch Brook store chain and Fountains of Wayne as the only Christmas stores left in our area. Of course there is still Fortunoff, which always has great Christmas department during the holiday season, but they do not dedicate themselves entirely to Christmas alone during the holiday season as Christmas City, Harrows and Treasure Island did. For those of you outside the Tristate area (New Jersey, New York and Connecticut), the only one of these stores you might be familiar with is Fountains of Wayne. The reason is twofold: First is the publicity the store garnered from its role in the HBO hit TV series “The Sopranos.” The second reason is the rock group from New Jersey that named itself after the store. The last time I spoke to owner Don Winter, the store was doing fine and will be ready this fall to offer its vast selection of Christmas decorations and artificial trees to its patrons for Christmas 2007. They have always offered quality merchandise at reasonable prices. In fact, I’m proud to say I purchased my last Christmas tree from Fountains of Wayne. In addition, they also have a wonderful animated Christmas display they call ‘The World’s Largest Free Animated Christmas Display,’ which encompasses the entire 2nd floor. Every year a new scene with a theme is added, so be sure to check it out – you won’t be disappointed. This store is a Christmas gem in the state of New Jersey, and it’s nice to know that some traditions still abound. Hey listen, if they ever even thought of closing their doors one day, they’d have to contend with Tony Soprano and his cronies – and that wouldn’t be too pretty. Chip's Tips #1: Visit Fountains of Wayne!
It is an unfortunate sign of the times that the smaller retailers and specialty shops just cannot compete today with the superstores and mega-centers, and have pretty much fallen by the wayside in the advent of stores like Wal-Mart, Target, Home Depot, Lowe’s, Staples, Office Max, and so on and so forth. Since they have a superstore today for just about everything, you might ask: why not a Christmas Depot? Chip's Tips #2: Well, I guess the closest thing to this would be Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland in Frankenmuth, Michigan (http://www.bronners.com/). It has been in business for 62 years now and is a mega center for anything Christmas. It is also a big tourist attraction and is open all year. Sadly though, they only have the one location in Michigan. Oh well, perhaps someday they will branch out – at least we can hope anyway! In the mean time however, thanks to the Internet, there are numerous retailers online who specialize exclusively in Christmas merchandise all year through, so this has softened the blow somewhat of our smaller local shops going out of business. Just Google it!
Then too, there are some fantastic websites that are dedicated to the history and evolution of Christmas decorations. Chip's Tips #3: One of the best of these is The Antique Christmas Lights Museum (http://www.oldchristmaslights.com/). This site focuses primarily on electric Christmas lights in particular. I implore you to check this site out; I’m sure it will bring back a flood of memories for you – as it did for me, of decorations you, your parents or even your grandparents had in the past.
I hope that you enjoy these sites. In these dog days of summer, they should help you to keep the spirit of Christmas all year through.
Everyone have a Merry Summer!!
Lawrence F. "Chip" Arcuri
Welcome back Harrows!! http://www.harrows.com/