A Shiny Brite Christmas

I like things that have a lot of character.  Given the choice between a new BMW car and a restored 1946 Chevy truck - I'd take the Chevy Truck any day of the week!  It is a true work of art made during a time people took pride in what they built.  Other than peace on earth, this is one thing I wish for!

When it comes to Christmas, I feel just as passionate about the ornaments I put on my tree as I do about the Chevy truck.  I love the old ones.  The shapes and colors are endless.  Many were hand painted, some hand blown, but all were unique works of art with their own story.  Out of all the ornaments, my absolute favorites are those made during the 1940s and 1950s by the Shiny Brite Company.

When I first started buying these ornaments, I checked to see if they were still being made.  Unfortunately, the company closed its doors in the 1960s, but the story is quite interesting.  In the 1880s, American businessman F.W. Woolworth and German immigrant, Max Eckhardt, began importing German glass ornaments to America.  Americans fell in love with the hand painted creations so  Eckhardt decided to produce his own line of ornaments.  And, so, Shiny Brite was born!

Pre WWII Ornaments

Pre WWII Ornaments

Shiny Brite stenciled ornaments feature a variety of beautiful scenes.

Shiny Brite stenciled ornaments feature a variety of beautiful scenes.

In the 1930s, as the possibility of war drew closer, Eckhardt realized his ability to import ornaments from Germany would end.  In 1937, Eckhardt and a representative from F.W. Woolworth joined forces to see if they could persuade the Corning Company of New York to find a way to make American ornaments.  Corning had a machine that made light bulbs, but if modified, it would be the first ornament machine in the USA.  With a guaranteed order from Woolworth and Eckhardt, Corning's engineers spent 6 months making the ingenious machine that took a pound of glass and turned it into 30 ornaments.

Notice Santa shaking Uncle Sam's hand!

Notice Santa shaking Uncle Sam's hand!

shiny bright scout.png

By the 1940s, Corning was producing 300,000 plain ornaments a day and sending them to other companies for decoration.  Their largest customer was Max Eckhardt's Shiny Brite - one of the first all American made ornament companies.  Initially Shiny Brite ornaments were machine lacquered and silvered on the outside and then painted by hand.  The following year, Eckhardt began silvering the ornaments on the inside as well so thy would remain "shiny brite" for longer periods.  WWII material shortages caused the company to decorate the glass balls with thin pastel stripes, which didn't require as much metallic oxide pigment.

As the war persisted, so did the changes being made to the ornaments.  Early Shiny Brites had metal caps and hangers, but the war classified them as non-essential.  Soon the metal caps were replaced with cardboard tabs and homeowners used string to hang the ornament.  To make them appear brighter a small piece of tinsel was put inside the ornaments.  But, even this small use of metal was eventually prohibited. 

shiny bright stripe.png

After the war, restrictions on metal receded and the metal caps returned proudly stamped with the words "Made In the USA".  Shiny Brite became the largest ornament company in the world.  So, what happened to this once flourishing company?  In the late 1950s, plastic ornaments came on the scene, and soon durability was preferred over beauty.  Shiny Brite sadly closed its doors in 1962.

Shiny Brite Indents

Shiny Brite Indents

Shiny Brite UFOs or Atomic Age

Shiny Brite UFOs or Atomic Age

As I write, I sit looking at my Christmas tree decorated with Shiny Brites.  I realize they are much more than ornaments - they are fragile pieces of history, keepers of memories we have shared with our family and friends.  They take us back in our minds and hearts to a more uncomplicated time.  Shiny Brites - small works of art that remind us how fragile life is, but with a  little love and care can be enjoyed for years to come.  

This year, may your Christmas be Merry and "Shiny Brite"!

shiny bright.jpg

Wrapped with Care

Growing up it was a Christmas tradition for all the moms in our family to take their daughters to Granny’s house and teach them the fading art of gift-wrapping. It was a big deal and something to be taken seriously. 

Preparations for this family tradition actually began the day after Christmas when the local Hallmark stores would put their Christmas paper on sale. My mom was always first in line because Hallmark was the Rolls Royce of wrapping paper and this was the only time she could afford to buy it. Once she made her selections the paper was carefully put away like fine china.

The following year with our prized gift wrap in hand, we would head to Granny’s where we would find the house meticulously prepared. The dining room table was cleared, rolls of beautiful wrapping paper lined the walls, tissue paper laid in crisp neat layers, bows and ribbon sorted by color, and gift tags ready to be attached. It was as if you had walked into the art studio of one of the great masters. I could imagine the gifts themselves anxiously waiting their turn to receive the love and attention from one of the “master wrappers”. 

With everything in place, the lessons began. The paper was chosen with great care, tissue paper was placed in every box (in part to prevent those who like to shake their gifts from guessing what was inside), the ends of each box were folded with precision, the paper wrapped tightly, ribbons adorned boxes in a dozen different ways, and bows of every type - curly bows, star bows, confetti bows - were made to complete the gift.

After several hours a few new “master wrappers” were added to the family. Their works of art beautifully displayed under the tree. This tradition went on for years in my family but slowly disappeared. As I look back I realize something else disappeared that day – time. Time we spent with one another. Time we took to make a gift a little more special. Time to share family traditions.

Life gets busy and when it does we sometimes forget how precious these simple traditions are. So, in honor of all family traditions and as a reminder to spend time on the simple things, we decided to offer a FREE Christmas Gift Wrap Station to our customers. Take a moment to sit down and wrap a present on us. We even have a station for kids so parents can begin their “master wrapper” classes.

A Most Unlikely Way

If you were to visit WM right now everything would probably look calm, much like ducks on a pond. But beneath the surface, our feet are churning a mile a minute to bring you another spectacular Christmas Window Display. 

As a small independent retailer we are often asked why we go to such great lengths for our Christmas Window Display. For us the answer is simple. We do it for our customers and our community.

As a native of Atlanta I remember going downtown to Rich’s Department Store for the lighting of the Great Tree, a quick ride on Priscilla the “Pink Pig”, and the reveal of their magical Christmas windows. You could feel love and joy in the air as thousands of people crowded those downtown streets because everyone knew that night meant Christmas had officially begun in Atlanta.

The Christmas events that began at Rich’s were one of Atlanta’s most beloved traditions. And to think they began in a most unlikely way – by a Hungarian born Jewish man named Morris Rich, founder of Rich’s Department Store. Sadly, in 2005 Rich’s Department Store closed their doors and with them went the beautiful Christmas windows.

As a small business we too are carrying out Christmas traditions in a “most unlikely way”. We don’t take up a city block or have the resources of a big department store. What we do have is a love and appreciation for our customers and a desire to keep one of Atlanta’s most beloved traditions alive with our Annual Christmas Window Display.

Join us Friday, November 7 at 7 pm for the unveiling of this year’s Christmas window – Santa’s Steampunk Workshop – where a playful group of elves accidentally let Santa’s sleigh get away before all the toys are loaded. Then, come inside and snap a few pictures with your family and friends at our new Christmas photo booth.

It will be a fun night and we truly hope to see you there!

A Few Interesting Facts About the Christmas Window

  • It took 15 individuals over 2,000 hours to design and build WM's Christmas Window.
  • Approximately 90% of the window is made out of polystyrene foam.
  • To make the foam durable it is sprayed with a hard coat similar to truck bed liner.
  • The theme for this year’s window was decided before last year's window was completed.
  • Due to the size of the window, pieces had to be built in 4 different locations and will be brought together and assembled Nov 6-7.
  • Lowe's generously donated all of the paint used in the windows.
  • Some pieces built for the window will be available for sale after Christmas.

Last Year's Christmas Window

Last week on the Woodstock Market blog, we shared sneak peeks of artist renderings of this year's 80-ft Christmas Window Display, Santa's Steampunk Workshop. The design will be revealed Friday, November 7th at 7pm. We hope you will make plans to join us!

2013's Christmas Window Display, A Candy Land Christmas, featured a peanut brittle cottage complete with peanuts on a motorized see saw, enormous confections and a candy land path leading to a huge sleigh laden with goodies. 

We were stunned and honored to be included among the 50 best holiday window displays in the world by VMSD Magazine. Woodstock Market was recognized alongside Macy's Herald Square, Selfridge's London, and Myer Melbourne in Australia.

Our store will be closed November 6 & 7 for the installation of the window display. This year's design features a steampunk photobooth and two wrapping stations - one for grown ups and one for the littles!

We will reopen for the big reveal Friday evening (11/7 at 7pm). There will be Dickens style carolers, hot cocoa and an appearance by Santa. 

On Saturday and Sunday (11/8 &11/9), the fun of the Christmas Open House continues with 20% OFF Store-wide! Enjoy early shopping at 9am Saturday with $5 donation or a toy donation. 

We hope you'll make plans to join us. This event is our way of saying thanks to our great shoppers and the community.