It's not Christmas in June.
For all of my adult life, a visit to the Outer Banks included the Christmas Shop in Manteo. ...
It had rooms full of ornaments, decorations, trees laden with more decorations; you would look at a rack of goodies, then walk behind it and find still more things. It was pretty near impossible to leave without something -- an alligator Santa, a lighthouse ball -- to mark Christmas at home. And when the senses had overloaded from holiday displays, you could wander down the hallway with coastal-themed paintings and antiques, regaining your senses before cashing out.
Unfortunately, between our last visit and this one, the Christmas Shop closed. According to news stories from 2005, when the closing was announced, and 2006, when the antiques were auctioned off, the shop's longtime owners had decided it was time to move on to retirement and other projects. But that change was based on a good payday from the sale of the shop's stock and the property; they reportedly wanted $3.5 million for the vast shop and the land.
Then the sale didn't happen. Again according to published reports, a declining real estate market kept them from getting any offers at their asking price. So on May 10, they reopened the shop as part of a complex of different crafts, antiques, candy and other operations. As a going business, it may prove more salable.
So I went to the shop today with considerable uneasiness. Would it be as fine as memory had it? This wasn't, after all, some exaggerated childhood memory. We were last here four years ago, and the shop was a delight. I hoped it had been restored to its former glory.
It hasn't. Displays are more spartan. Shelves are empty. Non-Christmas stuff seemed to take up more space than before. Maybe it didn't, but the Christmas areas were so thin, it sure seemed that way. A sign promising that more stuff was coming did not convince me. The store reopened more than a month ago; the tourist season is in progress; I would have expected the Christmas Shop to anticipate that.
Sure, it had to start from scratch, having sold off its stock years ago. But this felt too much like a shell of a business, a beloved brand name attached to a changed, lesser product. And some people may have figured that out. The bride noticed that the parking lot had many fewer cars than the last time we were here.
We left empty-handed.