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What’s the Original Calliope Ornament Neiman Marcus Featured?
Neiman Marcus was the first department store to sell Calliope Designs personalized ornaments in the United States. The buyers found us at The Beckman Gift Show of Handcrafted products in 1977, and knew immediately our darling little handmade dough ornaments would be well received in Texas, as well in the many other cities where Neiman Marcus stores were located. In these years having a Christmas store within a department store was not a big trend. Most ornaments were purchased by the box at a local drug store or at a seasonal pool patio shop that would change over to Christmas ornaments in December. But the talented buyers at Neiman Marcus knew their customers appreciated fine quality items, the latest designs, and would pay a premium for handmade products. And they knew the eclectic themed Christmas tree was in style – trees that were covered with personal items, small dolls, toys, handmade children’s crafts, strings of popcorn, and fun family items. They knew our ornaments would be a wonderful addition to their growing concept of a beautiful Christmas tree ornament department.
And our ornaments were a hit as they had projected! Customers loved the whimsical designs created by Dorr Eddy our company’s designer. The selection always included baby ornaments and wedding ornaments, some angels, teddy bear styles, and snowmen. In addition to our traditional line of products, we created a custom design each year of a Western theme, for Texas of course, of a Cowboy Santa.
This ornament became our signature product in the Neiman Marcus chain of stores and was offered as well in the world famous Neiman Marcus Christmas catalog. Our Santa Cowboy had a certain look – a big white Stetson hat with a candy cane band. He wore a red shirt with a green fringed vest with a star on his chest of course. His legs were covered with white chaps, and he wore wonderful cowboy boots. Santa still had his beard and mustache, and twinkly blue eyes, but he was a Rootin Tootin Santa and he inhabited the Neiman Marcus catalog each Christmas for 29 years.
And this is truly how a collection begins! Each year Santa would be doing something different. The first one was riding on a bucking bronco, holding his rope in one hand and hanging on for dear life with his other hand. We were sure to put the year on the ornament – very important – and this design was so successful we were making them as fast as we could, just barely keeping up with their sales week by week. The next year Santa Cowboy was riding a long-horned steer. In 1979 Santa drove a wonderful Stagecoach, and in 1980 he sat on top of the gushing oil of a Texas oil well. The years went on and on – and each year Santa did something Texan and something fun, and people from all walks of life looked forward to the catalog to see what he would be doing next.
In around 1980 we partnered with Neiman Marcus in beginning a personalization program so that these little Santa’s could have a name as well as the year added for each customer. An instantly popular parent and grandparent gift for children that greatly expanded our sales, and made us really happy that we could make a better product for each customer by including personalization.
The Santas kept coming – Santa drove a Covered Wagon, he sat on a western fence, he held a bag of toys, he was in a wreath with one of his reindeer. One year he piloted a red airplane, wearing his big white Stetson hat all the while, and another year he drove a train. He drove a red model T, went cowboy skiing, raced on a Palomino, and had a Rootin Tootin Christmas with his six-shooters.
I think we could have gone on forever with adorable creations just exclusively for Neiman Marcus, but as in life, all things must change, and our successful partnership came to an end. To this day we still receive orders from many of our lovely customers from Neiman Marcus who had to search long and hard to find us on the world wide web. We receive delightful Christmas cards and notes and emails from customers who have purchased for their children – who are now adults, and some who are now purchasing for their grandchildren. All in all, our 29 years with a partnership between Neiman Marcus Christmas catalog and Calliope Designs was a very happy and satisfying endeavor, one of which we are proud.