Story and photos by Ted Simpson
Selling comfort and nostalgia is nothing new for Hintonburg’s year-round Christmas shop. But in the year of COVID-19, more than ever, the products at Tinseltown Christmas Emporium are proving to be a much-needed medicine for the soul.
Coming out of the spring lockdown, Tinseltown owner Audy Czigler knew there would be an endless string of long work days ahead of him as he tried to recover from three months of store closure and lost revenue. What he didn’t expect upon reopening was to be met by unprecedented crowds of shoppers, all eager for a dose of holiday cheer.
“People just wanted to buy something other than groceries and booze, for months it was either that or shopping on Amazon,” said Czigler, as he explains the rush of customers that awaited his return. “The clients are what has been keeping me going: they’re so excited, and I feed off that energy — everyone just wants to celebrate and have a good time.”
For Czigler and the few staff he was able to retain, 2020 has been go-go-go since the reopening. So busy that even finding the time to unpack new inventory has been a struggle. Czigler sees it as people needing their fix of something comforting.
“Our store is a feel-good store. People come in when they’ve been having a bit of a rough day and need a moment to relax, kind of like going to the bar for a drink,” he said.
You’d think that desire for comfort and joy would take people as far away from the pandemic reality as possible, but the customers at Tinseltown have come to see the new normal as something that should be commemorated. Czigler said they’ve seen a high demand in COVID-19-themed decorations.
“We had very high demand for the COVID ornaments, those were things like Santa wearing a mask [or] families wearing masks,” said Czigler. “At first, when I saw those from the supplier, I thought that was the last thing we would want to sell. But by late June, it was email after email, and phone call after phone call of clients wanting these COVID products.”
And they sold out in record time. With so many special orders, he won’t even be able to get the COVID-19 ornaments on the shelves.
Something there has been no shortage of at Tinseltown this year has been good, old-fashioned holiday cheer.
“I feel like everyone is happier this year, of course people were always happy when they came in the store, but it’s something different, they want to forget about the bad things going on outside and they connect with that feeling of nostalgia and joy and celebration,” Czigler said.