Behind the Magic at Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland
Anyone who knows me (or has access to my Facebook photo albums) knows Christmas is my favorite holiday. I host an annual kick-off-to-Christmas party on Nov. 1, where I, along with my very closest friends, hang the lights and garland, make Christmas cookies and coffee, decorate the tree and watch a holiday movie.
With the Christmas season fast-approaching, I was fully prepared to make my annual pilgrimage to Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland, the world’s largest Christmas store, in Frankenmuth, Mich. So, imagine my surprise and delight when CAWLM’s editor Emily Caswell coordinated a day for me to work there.
In the days leading up to my red-white-and-green adventure, friends and family asked how excited I was to work at Bronner’s. The truth is, I was a little nervous that the magic of the store would be forever lost on me. I had day-mares of boxes full of broken bulbs, tin-solider and nutcracker graveyards. Who knew what I might see?
When we arrived at Bronner’s on a crisp morning in late October, I was introduced to Lori Libka, the communications assistant who coordinated the effort. After sensing my overzealous excitement, she quickly handed me off to Carla Halazon, who led me to the dressing room. Lined with Santa suits, bright red vests and pressed black pants, I knew I had made it.
Carla gave us a wonderful tour of the storage floors (all four of them) explaining the organized and detailed process of stocking the world’s largest Christmas store. She almost lost me in the craft area, where talented ladies create wreathes, swags, trees and other decorations for shopping malls across the nation and the store itself.
After the tour I was led to my station for the day, where I quickly learned the art form of packaging purchases for customers. Sue Mills kindly set up a practice station for me to explain the importance of separating glass from resin ornaments, the proper amount of tissue to use when wrapping them (one is not enough and too many can crush them), the various types of boxes they have on hand to package them and the different types of bags they stock under the register.
I was paired up with Vi Willey for the few hours I worked the front lines. She rang up the items and I would package them. It definitely was not as easy as they make it look. Thankfully, my largest order of the day came from Tiffany Dowling, CAWLM’s publisher. She was exceptionally patient with my novice packing abilities, and all three of her large bags of decorations made it safely back to Lansing.
Perhaps my favorite, and unplanned, experience of the day (aside from the shopping and eating an early dinner at Bavarian Inn) was sneaking away from the register to work the south entrance information desk with Doris Reda. A close friend of originator Wally Bronner, Doris began working at Bronner’s in 1962. Save for a 10-year “retirement” Doris has dedicated a majority of her working life to spreading Christmas cheer and helping people navigate their way through the upside-down candy-cane shaped store.
No matter the mood of the guests entering the CHRISTmas Wonderland, one thing is certain — very few come to the register wearing a frown. Perhaps it’s the 350-plus decorated Christmas trees, the 50,000 trims or 6,000 unique styles of ornaments, there’s something to be said about the magic of Bronner’s. And two million customers annually would agree — it truly is the most wonderful time of the year — all year-round.
The record number of Bronner’s guests in one day was 25,981 on Nov. 26, 1994
As many as 100,000 lights illuminate the sales room
As many as 2,900 guests have walked through the front door in the first half hour after opening on a Sunday
Bronner’s electric bill averages $1,250 per day
During peak season, Bronner’s employs about 650 staff members
Bronner’s is open 361 days a year
Tags: bronner's, christmas, holiday