The Original Christmas Store

Today's photos come from The Original Christmas Store, which had shops in Orange and Newport Beach during the 1980s. (These postcard images are from the Newport location.) These stores carried all kinds of Christmas decor, but are best remembered for their large and elaborate animated displays, some of which cost as much as $50,000 (in 1980s dollars). Examples included life-sized elephants, storybook scenes, and an Alpine Village featuring 50 Steiff toy animals.

Opening its first shop in Dallas in 1972, the chain eventually grew to have stores in five cities throughout the American West. They were open during the holidays, and sometimes also from mid-July to mid-August for the tourist season.

The Original Christmas Store first came to Orange County in 1979, setting up shop at The City Shopping Center in Orange (now the site of The Block, or The Outlets At Orange, or whatever it's called this week). A few years later, they opened a second O.C. location at Fashion Island in Newport Beach.
Orange Coast Magazine described the store as having, "All types of Christmas decorations, from 60 different countries... Creches, music boxes, nutcrackers, stockings, ornaments, wreaths, angels, garlands and beads line the walls. You can buy Christmas trees to decorate yourself or trees pre-decorated, delivered and set up for you. Whatever you need to prepare your home for the holidays is there..."

The store at The City stopped making its seasonal appearances in the early 1980s, leaving the Newport location to continue through 1986.

By 1987, the chain was having financial problems. Owner George R. Grubich hoped that taking the company public would save it. In an interesting move, he reached out to his customers. That Christmas season, about 55,000 customers signed cards indicating their willingness to purchase stock in the company.

But it was too little too late. The business filed for bankruptcy in early December 1988. Only the Houston store remained open through the end of that holiday season, and then it was gone.

I suspect, however, that many Orange County families still have favorite Christmas decorations that were purchased at The Original Christmas Store. I know our family does.