Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Original Christmas Store

Today's photos come from The Original Christmas Store, which had shops in Orange and Newport Beach during the 1980s. (These postcard images are from the Newport location.) These stores carried all kinds of Christmas decor, but are best remembered for their large and elaborate animated displays, some of which cost as much as $50,000 (in 1980s dollars). Examples included life-sized elephants, storybook scenes, and an Alpine Village featuring 50 Steiff toy animals.

Opening its first shop in Dallas in 1972, the chain eventually grew to have stores in five cities throughout the American West. They were open during the holidays, and sometimes also from mid-July to mid-August for the tourist season.

The Original Christmas Store first came to Orange County in 1979, setting up shop at The City Shopping Center in Orange (now the site of The Block, or The Outlets At Orange, or whatever it's called this week). A few years later, they opened a second O.C. location at Fashion Island in Newport Beach.
Orange Coast Magazine described the store as having, "All types of Christmas decorations, from 60 different countries... Creches, music boxes, nutcrackers, stockings, ornaments, wreaths, angels, garlands and beads line the walls. You can buy Christmas trees to decorate yourself or trees pre-decorated, delivered and set up for you. Whatever you need to prepare your home for the holidays is there..."

The store at The City stopped making its seasonal appearances in the early 1980s, leaving the Newport location to continue through 1986.

By 1987, the chain was having financial problems. Owner George R. Grubich hoped that taking the company public would save it. In an interesting move, he reached out to his customers. That Christmas season, about 55,000 customers signed cards indicating their willingness to purchase stock in the company.

But it was too little too late. The business filed for bankruptcy in early December 1988. Only the Houston store remained open through the end of that holiday season, and then it was gone.

I suspect, however, that many Orange County families still have favorite Christmas decorations that were purchased at The Original Christmas Store. I know our family does.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the article. I always wondered what became of this magical place. I'm from Houston and it was never really Christmas until we made our pilgrimage. Ah!!.. As I walk through the building that used to house this winter wonderland (now a .99 cent store.., if I close my eyes... let my mind wander a little... I can still hear those Christmas tunes piping and smell those waffle cones baking fresh at the ice cream bar. DAMN!! $15K for a freakin' Christmas tree?!?! "But, it's German." my sister would say. haha!! ;))

donald hughes said...

i worked they back in the early 80's just blew in houston and need a job. it was a very nice place to g-friend and me both worked there,i'm from upstate n.y out in the woods so it was a huge change for me. i could not take the fast pace,i went back to the fall.the owner mr grubick was a very nice man for sure. he saw i was a young kid with a background of working. i drove truck was a do it all man. was a very fun time for sure! i will never forget how well they all tread me, very sad to see to shut down, don hughes from remsen n.y. 6/19/2015