The demand for vintage Christmas ornaments has exploded, according to Michael Messinger, owner of the Christmas Gift Shoppe on Route 50 just east of Saratoga Springs.
He said people are looking for ornaments and other items that date back to the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s.
“It brings back wonderful Christmas memories for them,” Messinger said.
What’s vintage? A good example is the Shiny-Brite ornaments that came onto the market just prior to World War II.
Max Eckhardt, a German-American businessman, had been importing hand-blown Christmas ornaments from Germany until the late 1930s when the clouds of war started drifting across Europe. Eckhardt realized he needed to find an alternate source for the glass bulbs and established the Shiny-Brite company. The glass ornaments were mass produced by Corning Glass in upstate New York and then shipped to the Shiney-Brite plants in New Jersey to be painted in a variety of holiday colors and packaged for sale.
One of the Eckhardt’s first customers was F.W. Woolworth, with five-and-dime stores across the nation. The ornaments were reasonably priced and extremely popular until the early 1960s when plastic ornaments began to dominate the yuletide market.
The iconic Shiny-Brite cardboard box that held the colorful glass ornaments stressed that the items were produced in the United States. The box had a cartoon of Santa Claus shaking hands with Uncle Sam to emphasize that the decorations were American made.
Messinger said people love the tradition and story behind the old ornaments. He also has vintage ornaments from Germany, Poland and other countries as well as the popular bubble lights.
Being close to Saratoga Springs means that the Christmas Gift Shoppe sees people from all over the United States and other countries, especially during the summer Saratoga thoroughbred horse racing season.
Messinger said a woman from “out west” was visiting the Saratoga area in recent months and stopped into his shop. She started to cry while she was looking at the vintage ornament tree in his shop.
Wit’s End Giftique in the Parkwood Plaza off Route 9 in Clifton Park carries a reproduction line of Shiny-Brite ornaments. The glass ornaments have the same type of box that the original ornaments came in, said Lucinda McCarthy, who is in charge of the shop’s ornament department.
The Christopher Radko Company started making reproductions of some of the favorite Shiny-Brite ornaments as well as a line of Radko’s own glass decorations. The Shiny-Brite company went out of business in 1962.
“They are highly collectible. We are almost sold out. It’s something people remember (from their childhood),” McCarthy said.
Messinger said the house where the Christmas Gift Shoppe is located in Wilton has been in his family since 1936 when his grandparents purchased it. At one time the building was a country store and Sinclair gas station.
“Family is important to me; family, tradition, and goodwill,” he said. His mother worked with Messinger in the store before becoming ill. She still comes to the shop now and then and customers continue to ask about her.
This fall, Messigner said he helped a local couple find a part they needed to make an old tree display light up again. He said he found the old part in his “bulb drawer” and gave it to them without charge. The next day the woman brought Messinger pumpkin bread with raisins.
“Christmas traditions are not forgotten things,” he said.