The Old World Christmas store designs thousands of handmade glass ornaments seen in stores across the country

Last year, a global pandemic changed shopping habits – mostly for the worse. But for the Old World Christmas Factory Outlet on Main Street, they saw more shoppers than ever during the 2020 vacation.

“People wanted to embrace traditions and go back to what makes them comfortable,” said sales manager Rob Waples.

Old World Christmas opened over 40 years ago after husband-and-wife artist duo Tim and Beth Merck decided to shut down their antique store to focus on making more ornaments. The idea gained immediate success in Spokane.

The factory outlet is owned by different owners after private equity firm Gladstone Investment Corp. bought it for $ 24.4 million, The Spokesman-Review reported in 2018. The store acts as the epicenter, sending its ornaments to retailers across the United States and even some in the United States. Kingdom, said Waples.

“But most of our retailers are the little mom-and-pop stores,” Waples said.

Pumpkin pie slices, intricately crafted gifts, rosy-cheeked angels and nutcrackers – the point of sale includes all the holiday-themed adornments you would expect. There are icons specific to Christians, but the outlet also offers menorahs and the Star of David.

But more original designs are also scattered throughout the store: beagles with sparkling golden ears, cheese graters, bottles of mustard and ketchup, chili dogs and hot wings, astronauts and space shuttles, planets Jupiter and Saturn.

“We just traveled with my daughter, her husband and their new baby to Mount Rushmore so I made sure to catch her,” said Pattie Kovolyan, a Kennewick resident, who was passing through Spokane to get to her cabin. vacation in Montana Sunday. “And then they just had a baby, so I grabbed a snow blue baby.”

This year, relevant new designs have also been added, with the outlet now offering generic branded hand sanitizer and toilet paper adornments.

“Most of the suggestions come from our retailers and what they’ve noticed that customers are looking for,” Waples said.

The process starts with this suggestion, and then the lead designer of the outlet, Sooki Carrano, usually draws a mockup by hand. The outlet also commissions five local artists, most of whom, according to Waples, have worked with the outlet for at least 17 years, painting and working with glass.

Using this two-dimensional plane, artists will carefully shape molten glass by blowing on it, hence the term “mouth-blown glass”.

“It’s a very complex process,” Waples said.

The results are finely detailed embellishments strategically sprinkled with sequins.

Retired Spokane resident Charlotte Mangan grabbed a bottle of mustard while shopping on Sunday afternoon, laughing that her child son went through a phase where every bit of food was coated in condiment. And then last year her granddaughter enrolled in Gonzaga University, so Mangan came to the store to buy her a GU ornament.

“You can find something that reminds you of that person, and that makes them even more special,” she said.

The store also launched gingerwood cottage ornaments, Waples said. With Christmas and Halloween themed designs, the cabins were designed to contain miniature bulbs that illuminate a “surprise” object seen through the windows of the structures.

For some, the warm light will show miniature gingerbread men or tiny black cats in Halloween-themed cottages.

While recent domestic supply chain issues and cost inflation have affected shipping, Old World Christmas has mostly been successful in keeping costs low, Waples said.

The point-of-sale ornaments have suggested retail values ​​between $ 15 and $ 23, but they sell for between $ 6 and $ 14 at the store at 4007 E. Main Ave. in Spokane.

“It’s not only that they’re attractive and personalized, it’s also that they’re so inexpensive,” Mangan said.

Luz W. German