WEST OCEAN CITY — Somewhere there is an old photograph of a very young Chuck Dondero messing with the display in his family’s Boardwalk shop. While it’s not, strictly speaking, a point of dispute, Dondero claims he was showing his budding talent as a stock boy, arranging the items for sale. His wife, Linda, claims he was just caught playing. Whatever he was actually doing is really secondary to the point that Dondero has spent the better part of his life in his family’s Ocean City shops.
Christmas Pointe moved round the lower Boardwalk for decades before settling in the 45th Street Village and spent the better part of its first decade of existence as a seasonal Ocean City shop. So much so that it was with more than a little anxiety that the couple moved across the bridge to Ocean City Factory Outlets five years ago and decided to make an all year go at running the shop.
Setting aside the kind of exhaustion that comes with running a large store full time looking back they could hardly be happier with their decision.
Nestled among national and international retail chains, the small independently-owned business has thrived over the last half-decade expanding both the scope and the depth of their stock in response to demand and market conditions.
While much of their success can be attributed to the store’s apparent focus, they both agreed that the attraction the big retailers have for some shoppers happens to benefit them as well. People can shop nationally and locally without traveling more than a few yards.
Their customer base has grown as well. While they used to rely primarily on foot traffic born of the volume of people wandering around Ocean City, they have now become a destination stop for their many return customers.
In fact, Linda said it still pleases them when people come in just to check and see if they are the same folks who used to have a place on the Boardwalk.
It isn’t only the new place that makes people wonder if the store is the same. It is also that, as a full time business, Christmas Pointe has incorporated items other than seasonal ones to help secure shopping interests beyond the drive to pick up unique Christmas-themed gifts and decorations.
“We stay with things people can afford,” Linda said. “We stay with functional things.”
The idea is, since they are a year round store, they ought to have some year round stock. Among their most popular items are the hand-painted signs used both as indoor and outdoor decoration but other home decor items such as their extensive collection of framed prints have remained popular since their relocation.
Another decision they have benefitted from was that to begin carrying collectables in addition to the various Christmas scene figurines Christmas Pointe has has for a long time.
Adding the Jim Shore collection is one of the other aspects that makes them a destination store even in when it isn’t Christmas time. Using American folk art as an inspiration Jim Shore has found a particular collectibles niche that remains popular with the initiated and an attractive option to the less so.
Similarly, the popularity of the hand painted Christmas wine glasses over the years encouraged them to find other outlets that provided hand painted glasses that were, if not more “everyday” at least more appropriate to have on display and in use all year long.
Lately, though, Christmas Pointe has expanded to include fashion accessories including a significant selection of off-beat jewelry.
“We try and have a nice balance,” Dondero said. “We just go all over to look for the right things for the store.”
The idea is to keep growing and changing what might be called the satellite aspect of the business while remaining steady at the core. People who want a specific Christmas-themed item they carry will almost always be able to fid it, but the stock changes sufficiently that Christmas Pointe is always worth browsing around.
As the Christmas season gets underway, Christmas Pointe really has the opportunity to excel at their specialty. Linda’s particular talent has always been for preparing pre-decorated trees and wreathe — items that remain popular — but in recent years has been able to return to creating specialty ornaments.
The ornaments, often painted glass balls, have finely detailed and highly localized scenes reproduced by hand with a fine brush. Created with exclusively beach scenes, exclusively Christmas scenes and clever combinations of the two, they represent one of the more popular year-round products. Serving as souvenir, handcrafted gift or personal ornament, the highly unique items have an appeal for all comers.