When you open the front door of the Hickory Dickory Dock gift shop in downtown Nyack, jingle bells herald your arrival and you know you've entered a pretty special place.
Many friendly faces smile and greet you - elves, gnomes, angles, and wonderfully intricate and imposing Santas form a cheerful gauntlet of Christmas and holiday decorations, lining the entrance into what has become one of Nyack's warmest and lasting holiday traditions.
"Many of our customers come back from all over, year after year. Tradition is what we hope to share," says Loreen Costa Looney, whose family has owned the well-known holiday gift shop since 1988. "This is live-action story telling. It's a living history of the people who create this art, and it becomes part of the histories of the people who buy it."
And there are many to choose from. Hickory Dickory Dock, which started out as a cuckoo clock shop and had its first Christmas as a holiday gift store in 1990, stocks a seemingly endless array of unique gifts and ornaments, each with its own story to tell.
"People come in to find an ornament for baby's or newlywed's first Christmas," Loreen says. "We get to know them and we know who's taking the ornaments home. We find that satisfying - to know where they got their inspiration and how we've become part of their family holiday celebration."
Many of Hickory Dickory's vast inventory of hand-carved cuckoo clocks, nutcrackers, spun glass ornaments, delicate music boxes and unique ornaments that adorn the cozy and inviting walls of the shop are crafted in Germany, where, each year, Loreen's family makes a craft-buying pilgrimage.
"We get to go and visit so many of the artisans all over Germany who do the crafting. Certain areas are known for glass, others for woodcrafts," she says, pointing out a beautiful carved wooden replica of a church in Seiffen, Germany, which the family has visited. "Some factories have three people working in them, while others have over 200. Many of them have done this their whole lives. There's a sense of tradition and place in each and every one of these pieces."
The German traditions of Christmas have greatly influenced the American celebration of the holiday, Loreen says. The traditional German Santas are rugged woodsmen, known in their native land as "The Gift Giver."
"The month-long observation of Advent is a big deal in Germany," Loreen says. "There's a celebration of each and every day of December, with calendars and candles - a special marking of every day."
All through Advent, angels "run around, helping everyone bake, wrap presents and prepare," Loreen says. "In America, we know them as Santa's elves."
Many of the unique elves and angels that line the shop's shelves find their way to the homes of Loreen's customers, who make their visit to Hickory Dickory part of their annual family holiday tradition. In fact, Loreen and her husband, Kevin, met six years ago when he stopped by the shop once a year to buy presents for his mother in North Carolina. The couple now has an adorable son, three-and-a-half year old towhead Jack, who says he "works at the shop every day," greeting customers and spreading holiday cheer.
"Its all about a sense of place. I like working and living in the same place," says Loreen, who grew up in Rockland County and lives a short distance from the shop. "The best crafting conveys a sense of where it's from. In this day of the Internet and staccato information being thrown at us all the time, there is a sense in these handmade pieces of comfort and humanity that we don't get to experience in our every day lives. These are the stories we will tell our children of ourselves."
Coming Soon To Rockland!
Tom Chapin's Christmas Concert!
Thursday, Dec. 27th, 7:30 pm The Turning Point Cafe 468 Piermont Avenue Piermont, NY 10968
Featuring Michael Mark and Jon Cobert. See the folk music legend perform his greatest hits in Rockland's most intimate music venue at his 21st Annual Home for Christmas Concert. Seating is limited, so buy your tickets early!