October 17, 1995 in City

Christmas Season Gets An Early Start At Ornament Shop

By The Spokesman-Review

It’s a clear and bright Saturday morning. Normal Americans are lounging around their homes, reading the paper, drinking coffee.

Yet, I am standing outside in a line of about 100 good-humored zealots. My new comrades have that steely, resolute stare common to war survivors and those waiting for Garth Brooks tickets.

These people, however, are worse off.

They willingly have sacrificed creature comforts so they can be among the very first to invade a warehouse the second the doors open and load up on dozens and dozens of - ta-dah! - Christmas ornaments.

Excuse me?

Halloween, by my calendar, is still half a month off.

Thanksgiving is another season away.

Christmas? Humbug.

The leaves haven’t dropped, for goodness’ sake. Who in the name of Santa’s elves wants to think about Christmas?

These folks, obviously. They are into tinsel and mistletoe like Mariners fans are into pain.

This is like Day 1 of the World Series: the start of yet another season at the Old World Christmas factory outlet, 4007 E. Main. Until Dec. 30, the outlet will be open from noon to 4 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays.

Each year, this Spokane business sells, at wholesale prices, thousands of genuine mouth-blown German tree adornments and other festive figures.

Early-bird collectors are as tickled as kids on Christmas morn. They buy mass quantities of ornaments ranging in price from a buck to $30.

“Too much of a good thing is wonderful,” says Dan Brown, one of the few men here.

Dan says he makes a living as a therapist. Therefore, he is well-aware of the danger signals indicating obsessive behavior.

Dan has 187 wooden nutcrackers at home. Dan may need to call himself for some professional advice.

I am not a shrink. However, like Freud, I do smoke cigars, and this looks to me like an outbreak of Yuletide Madness.

“Jane has so many ornaments, she doesn’t know what she has,” says Wendy Budge of her friend, Jane Cox.

“We have enough ornaments for three trees,” adds Malia Veltrie.

“I’ve got over 400,” says a woman who will identify herself only as Jasmine.

“I need a penguin,” says another woman who won’t give her name because “I read your column all the time and I know what goes on there.”

For Tim and Beth Merck, Old World Christmas appears to be decking their halls with boughs of greenbacks. Their story is like the ending of “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

The Mercks sell their heirloom-quality decorations worldwide. The ornaments even have beautified the White House Christmas tree.

It all began humbly 20 years ago. The couple went on a buying trip to Germany to stock its antique store.

Tim has a degree in European history; Beth has a degree in fine arts. They both speak German.

They returned with a large assortment of ornaments. The items sold quickly, and the Mercks eventually realized these decorations might turn into something huge.

So they scouted old ornament molds. Beth began designing her own line of lovely ornaments and nutcrackers.

Nostalgia-driven baby boomers and traditional Christmas lovers can’t get enough.

The variety boggles the brain. There are vegetable ornaments, garlic ornaments, dogs, pickles, ruby slippers and, yes, even penguins.

There’s even an ornament that looks exactly like a red devil’s head. According to Tim Merck, the horned creature is not Satan but a traditional character called Krampus.

According to Bavarian lore, Krampus rode with jolly old St. Nick. His job was to whup the tar out of those who have been naughty, not nice.

Hmm. I’m making a list and checking it twice. Those goobers who shot down the Spokane Science Center had better watch out.

Krampus may be coming to town.

, DataTimes

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