Summer’s here and it seems like a strange time to be thinking about Personalized Christmas ornaments. There are a few people who DO enjoy doing their holiday shopping during these easy months – but most of us don’t give it a second thought. Since Calliope Designs has been selling Christmas tree ornaments since 1971 we’ve seen a lot of trends evolve and one of the most fun things has been the development of the Year Around Christmas store. Have you noticed them in just about every tourist location you’ve been to? It’s pretty amazing to think that our little business had a hand in this trend and became a very popular product in many many of these stores. Here’s our story!
One of our favorite chain or stores was a group called Hamilton Stores. They owned almost all of the gift shops in Yellowstone National Park and one summer they decided to try a few of our products. We had quite a few bear designs, and they asked us to add to that selection by creating ornaments with Moose and Elk as well. We did some really cute items. We had a moose family, bears climbing trees, camping ornaments, a stagecoach ornament and the like. We even had a fun design of Old Faithful spouting off with a little brown teddy bear at the top of the spray of the geyser! Each ornament was hand lettered with Yellowstone National Park and the year. We were excited to get this order, but became even more excited when after having the ornaments for sale in their stores for a month the buyer called back and placed a huge order for more items…. right away. At this point our products were being sold alongside of the rubber Indian tomahawks, the wooden carved grizzly bears, and the various other mementos and gifts of the typical tourist souvenir shop. Little did we know this was the beginning of a trend that lasted 15 or more years.
One summer the buyers for Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, and also a store in Jackson Hole Wyoming invited us to come to their stores during the busy tourist months and make personal appearances in their shops where we could meet the customers and also personalize their ornament purchases. Our children were the perfect age for this trip, and we had an amazing summer vacation ourselves. Well, they did! I was the one that got to work everyday in the stores. But that was fun too, and we did end up spending two weeks in Yellowstone Park where the average tourist visit is 5 hours. It’s an amazing place, that’s for sure. We also loved Grand Tetons, and Jackson Hole. Highly recommended for summer fun.
The word spread among the other concessionaires of the National Park gift shops and hotels, and soon we had orders from all over the United States. We were lucky to have a good ornament designer, Dorr Eddy, who created special products for Mt. Rainier in Washington, Grand Tetons in Wyoming, Rocky Mountain National Park in Estes Park CO, Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona, Mt. Washington National Park in Maine. And the list goes on.
Ornaments became such a popular summer souvenir that Yellowstone National Park actually opened up a summer Christmas Store where only ornaments and other wonderful Christmas items were sold. It was a very popular gift location in the park, and existed until it was decided that selling Christmas ornaments in our National Parks was not inclusive enough of all of the religions of our national population.
One of my favorite stories of those years was when I received a phone call from a customer who tracked us down from the sticker on the back of the ornament. She and her family had made summer vacations of going to National Parks year after year, and she had realized the souvenir ornament they selected in each park had been made by our company, Calliope Designs. She told us how much fun her kids had each Christmas getting out each souvenir ornament to hang on the tree. How they laughed and talked and remembered their past summer vacations as a family. But there was one park she had missed getting one, and she wondered if we had anything she could buy directly from us. It was for Grand Canyon, and yes, we had several styles for her selection. We felt glad we could fill in her collection.
We hope you find these short stories interesting. We’ve had our business since 1971 and many wonderful things have happened to us, things we could have never anticipated.