The Enchanting Spirit of a Christmas Store
By NancyLee Honey Marsh
Photography by Christian Lee
“The Spirit of Christmas is the spirit of love, generosity and goodness.
It illuminates the window of our soul.” - Thomas S Monson
In Sea Pines’ Harbour Town there is a spot where the magic and spirit of Christmas are apparent daily, except for Christmas Day. On December 25th the magic moves from the very popular and beautiful Harbour Town Christmas store to the lovely home of its owners, Michael and Linda Oliver. There the warmth of Christmas explodes in a day long sharing of family traditions with their children and grand children.
Not exactly a natural pathway for a 32-year investment banker, Michael moved from the riggers of Wall Street to the wonderment of a Christmas Shop. The Olivers’ love of Christmas tugged at their heartstrings until they purchased the little corner shop in Harbour Town several years ago. “It’s been a challenge,” admitted 30-year New Jersey native, Michael. “I was like a bull in a china shop, and don’t know what we would have done without the wisdom and expertise of Marcia Layman and Annie Corley, long time employees of the shop. In early learning stages,when we went to markets, Linda and I discovered we tended to gravitate toward items we especially liked. Objectivity is difficult when faced with so many buying options, and we had to adjust our thought patterns toward the philosophy of appealing to a larger arena.”
And that they did. I met Michael at Harbour Town Christmas, and as we strolled through the eclectic shop, its warmth and charm offered not only the spirit of Christmas, but also a special family touch. The Olivers are fortunate enough to have captured their son Craig to manage the shop. He appreciates the magic as much as the many residents and tourists who frequent the shop for unique and personalized items. “Since we are such a small shop, there is not too far to go,” laughed Craig. “Communication is easy, and I really enjoy the close interaction with our customers. The shop reminds me of our growing up years when our parents gave us themed ornaments, often based on something special we had done that year. As adults, we gave our parents ornaments and Christmas offers the time to decorate our tree and reminisce.”
Busy at the register, Craig left Michael and me to weave our way through the array of 1400 items. (Harbour Town Lighthouse renderings are their best sellers.) I was struck by the creativity of the former banker and his wife, Linda, still in the educational field. The Olivers’ delightful miniature rendition of the red rockers in Harbour Town quickly brought back wonderful memories of sitting there with my parents over many years. The clever RBC ornaments dressed in plaid honor our Heritage Golf Tournament and intricate little bicycles proudly display the Hilton Head Island logo on their baskets. Not surprising, at least 50 percent of items toast Hilton Head, which make them perfect gifts, not only for tourists, but for residents whose family and friends can’t make it home for the holiday. My son and I loved sailing here in the 80s, and the limited edition Santa holding the lighthouse and ship’s wheel looked perfect for him, now 1,000 miles away. Santa stands on a beautiful runner of cool blues and whites woven by Linda. “It was inspired by Frozen,” she told me later. Upon request Linda will create quilts depicting Christmas or other desired themes.
Michael and I explored more delights and, like a naughty child, I had to touch each one. Brightly colored bracelets, earrings and vivid ornaments to personalize on site for newlyweds, anniversaries and other special occasions sparkled around me. Christmas books are plentiful, and local author Kathryn Wall’s intriguing mysteries found a comfortable home in the shop. With each new item Michael pointed out, I giggled with delight. Smiling, Michael said, “You really love Christmas, don’t you? “
The dozens of NFL ornaments drew my attention, and I quickly searched for The Patriots, sold out of course, as the most popular one! Nestled in what used to be a closet, a stunning Nativity scene quietly waited to grace its new home. “It’s lovely,” I said to Michael. When he told me the amazing price, I exclaimed, “Is that all?” With a devilish grin he quipped, “We could raise it!” Hands filled with goodies, I couldn’t help but notice the humorous cocktail napkins stationed by the register. Oops, I had to add several of the “Happy Whatever Won’t Offend You” ones to my pile of joy.
The lively Oliver family member that's missing—a Christmas gift to Linda from her children a few years ago—is Holly, a black lab, who is more effective than a bull. She is not allowed in the shop.
Long after the Santas, stunning ornaments and trinkets have disappeared into the hands of their
new owners, the cherished spirit of family and Christmas lingers happily in Christmas Harbour Town and is generously shared year round.