Want Christmas in January or July? Head for The Shop - A Christmas Store in Santa Fe. It’s Christmas there all year round. Believe it or not, shoppers can’t resist the unique ornaments that hang from the shop’s many Christmas trees no matter what the time of year.
Walk into the East Palace Avenue shop, and you’ll feel as if you’re transported back in time. It could be the reproduction Victorian Saint Nicholas figures stationed near the door, the plethora of retro ornaments or the high ceilings in this circa-1900 building.
Whatever the reason, it feels like an old-time emporium.
Trees, trees and more trees lead to a mantle hung with stockings and graced with nutcrackers and other whimsical finds — Photo courtesy of Steve Collins
Visitors to the shop are greeted by a host of Christmas trees, lined up, one after another. They all share a common denominator: they’re all hung with an array of unique decorations. The tough part here is figuring out which ones to buy.
The shop’s main focus is on handcrafted, New Mexico-made ornaments. Top sellers include the clay creations from artist Jil Gurule (the shop’s featured artist), Spanish Colonial tin tree decor from Richard Gabriel Jr., clay replicas of NM churches made by David Gallegos and Pueblo-inspired clay ornaments from Isleta Pueblo artist Kimo De Cora.
The hand-carved angel ornaments crafted by Larry Jacquez are made from driftwood gathered from along the banks of the Rio Grande. Some artists like Gurule are exclusive to the store.
Perhaps the hand-blown ornaments in The Polonaise Collection, imported from Poland, are more your style. Each is created by blowers practicing an art handed down through generations. Every piece is silvered, lacquered and hand-painted. The retro look of these delicate pieces takes you back to Christmases past.
Handmade New Mexican Christmas soft sculptures — Photo courtesy of Steve Collins
You can get a classic fairytale character like Cinderella or Aladdin, a historically inspired ornament such as a Napoleonic soldier or a contemporary one such as Betty Boop 2000. In addition to individual ornaments, The Shop - A Christmas Store also offers boxed sets of these limited edition ornaments. These timeless ornaments make perfect gifts.
In addition, the shop also has a selection of tree decorations from Germany, Sweden, Italy, The Czech Republic and Russia.
The Shop - A Christmas Store is packed with other Christmas-themed merchandise, including tree-toppers, Christmas stockings, Nativity scenes, Santa figurines and an assortment of angels. There are also nutcrackers, created by the renowned Steinbach family in Germany. They have been crafting these colorful figures for six generations.
Need some holiday lights? There’s an electric version of the traditional farolitos (the traditional paper bags filled with sand and topped with a candle) dubbed “fauxlitos” by locals. They also sell strings of chile lights. You can opt for red, green or yellow.
Other novelty lights include Star Wars collections, Superman, Snoopy and Betty Boop.
Besides all the Christmas-related merchandise, the shop also stocks some Chanukah items as well. They also sell novelties for Halloween and Easter, as well as chainsaw animals made by a Santa Fe carver.
St. Nicolas times two, greeting visitors as they enter the shop — Photo courtesy of Steve Collins
The Christmas-themed shop has been a Santa Fe fixture for almost 40 years. Now owned by Rick and Janice Griego, it was originally opened by Ed Berry in 1977. The first location was in the Santa Fe Village, a small mini-mall on Don Gaspar Street. It was an antique shop with a corner dedicated to locally handcrafted Christmas ornaments. Year by year the holiday section grew and grew until Christmas-related items just about took over the store.
The store has been in its current location, the fourth, since 1995. Four seems to be the charm. Rick began working at the shop part-time after college. As the shop grew and more help was needed, the job expanded to fulltime. He became manager in 1989. When Berry decided to retire in 2002, The Griegos bought The Shop – A Christmas Store. These days, the busy emporium is staffed by Rick and Janice and assorted family relatiives.
“It’s all family here,” Janice says.
The shop is busy throughout the year.
“We don’t really have a off season,” says Janice. “People buy ornaments and nativities year-round.”
But business does heat up for the holidays. Starting the day after Thanksgiving, shoppers coming in from the cold are greeted with warm cider and bizcochitos (the official New Mexico state cookie). There might even be a visit from Santa Claus.
“You never know when Santa might show up,” says Janice. “He surprises us from time to time.”
If you love unique ornaments and holiday decorations, your time in Santa Fe won’t be complete without a visit to The Shop – A Christmas Store. Take home a piece of holiday cheer. Every year when you take it out for the holidays, you’ll be reminded of your time in "The City Different."