The big-box stores may already be lining up this year’s trendiest Christmas trappings, but it’s a safe to bet there won’t be any 1960s musical train sets on the shelves.
On Oct. 25 at 10 a.m., the Eureka Et Cetera Shop will open its annual Christmas Shop; an impressive assemblage of donated Christmas items that are sure to bring back holiday memories for most who shop there.
“We get so many unique and unusual items donated to us,” Et Cetera manager Jaimie McFarlin said, pointing out a wooden cutout rocking horse ornament. “They used to mail order ornaments like that from catalogs.”
Though there’s a special area dedicated to vintage holiday items, more may be found around the shop; among the nativity sets or with the hanging ornaments.
The entire lower level of the Et Cetera Shop on Main Street is dedicated to Christmas, and the impact of the income it generates is nothing to “Ho Ho Ho” about.
Last year, the “red key rings” tallied nearly $35,000. “We have a red key on the register that we use to ring up Christmas, but we get so busy, it’s easy to miss the red key,” McFarlin explained. “The amount is actually more, but we’re human and we don’t always ring it under Christmas.”
Still, all the money goes into the same fund, and in June, when the Et Cetera Shop celebrated its 40th anniversary, the Mennonite Central Committee held an appreciation dinner to applaud the Eureka store for its four decades of contributions.
“We were awarded at the volunteer dinner with a picture from the Central Committee thanking us for our relief, development and peace efforts from our thrift store,” she said. “Since 1978 the store has contributed $4,126,614. 86, and we started out as just a little bitty store.”
That averages at more than $100,000 a year in sales, with the 2017 holiday income contributing around one-third of that year’s annual income. What those numbers really boil down to is donations.
Alone, the Christmas Shop receives enough items that, at the beginning of the new year, all of the previous season’s items, down to the last strand of tinsel, are boxed and sent to other missions, and volunteers begin restocking with new donations for the coming Christmas.
“All of the shelves are emptied. We pull everything and send it along to other missions all over the world,” McFarlin said. “People like to come in and see different things in the shop than they saw the year before.”
Volunteer Joanne Neumann began managing the Christmas Shop while Et Cetera was still at its first location at the corner of Main and Center Streets. The store moved three doors down, to its current location, in 1993.
“Joanne has been with us for quite a long time,” McFarlin said. “Her daughters come from Indiana now to work with her. Then, in January, she’ll kind of go, ‘I’m done for a while,’ but she comes right back.”
Most of the year, there’s no demand for Christmas decorations, so everything that’s donated goes down to the basement where volunteers begin again to clean, restore, organize, tag and shelf the entire stock holiday goods.
Those items include wreathes, bows, candles, wrapping paper, lights and Christmas trees, which are, McFarlin said, fast sellers.
“Christmas trees are one of the things that go first, then we keep getting them out and restocking them as long as we can,” she said. “We have a volunteer who only works on Christmas trees. Others only work on ornaments.”
There are volunteers who manage the pins and bows. Some take care of tablecloths and linens, others, floral and wreaths. More than 240 people volunteer at the shop, upstairs in the retail area and downstairs in the Christmas area.
Only three people are employees of Et Cetera. McFarlin was an assistant manager for 13 years before being promoted to manager last year. There also are three assistant managers and a small cleaning crew.
Nearly everyone here is a volunteer, and many have been with us for a long time,” she said, “and everything here is given to us. It’s amazing what this little shop does, and the reach it has around the world.”
ABOUT THE STORE:
The Christmas Shop will remain open from Oct. 25 through Dec. 21. A week before Christmas, all holiday items will be marked down by 50 percent, then by 75 percent after Christmas.
Any donations that come in through the holidays will shelved and sold, along with the other items. Et Cetera is located at 125 S. Main St. More information on the shop’s hours and ways to donate, visit their Facebook page, “Eureka Et Cetera Shop.”
—- Eureka’s Et Cetera Shop dressed for a vintage holiday —–