Christmas Night Blog Nativity Sets, Outdoor Christmas Displays
and Fontanini Creche Figures

Archive for the ‘Customer Stories’ Category

From Our Wonderful Customers

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

After we ship an order, our system automatically sends an email to our customer asking them to review the product they received and the service we provided. Once in awhile our review link doesn’t work and our customer writes us directly. It seems that when this happens, our customers shower us with compliments. Being human we wanted to share two of these wonderful emails with you.

From Brenda Robbins:

Camel with Rug Outdoor

Camel with Rug Outdoor

I clicked on the “review me” link but couldn’t understand what to do after it opened, so I will give my review in the form of this email.

The camels exceeded all my expectations, being even more beautiful than the lovely picture online. The quality, colors and detailing are amazing. We purchased all the other Nativity figures last year and were delighted with the beautiful display. I know the addition of our camels will make it even more spectacular this year. What a beautiful way to share the miracle of Jesus’ birth!

I worked with Don Henderson in putting together my Nativity and found him to be incredibly helpful and professional. He was patient and thorough in answering all my questions and dealing with my somewhat exuberant personality. He dispelled all the stereotypes about New Yorkers’ not being warm and friendly and made a convert of this Texas “gal”.

Brenda G. Robbins.

Brenda is very sweet, but shy, so she declined to provide a picture. Instead we are showing the Nativity Camel she purchased and wrote about!


From Milt Westmoreland:

milt-westmorland

Milt Westmoreland

Don,

I was unable to use the enclosed links to praise your product, but I did want to express my gratitude for my beautiful nativity.

When I was a little boy, I always wanted one of those plastic lighted nativities, but my parents would never buy one because we lived so far off the road that no one would see it. I have always wanted one. I began searching for one years ago and never saw one that looked as good as yours. – they all had ugly paint, were unrealistic looking and were very expensive.

When I saw your 12 piece 54” life size nativity, I had to have it. Each piece is a sculpture in itself and the detail on them is marvelous. Their facial expressions almost make them look real.

My nativity arrived promptly (a little early) and intact. I is the most beautiful decoration I have ever owned. I have a large front yard where thousands of people pass each day. During the Christmas season, drivers-by will see this nativity as the testimony of my love for Christ.

I am keeping this purchase a secret from my family and will surprise them in early November. Surly my home will be spectacular this holiday season. I will be sure to send you pictures.

I rate this product 5 stars PLUS!!!

God bless you all!!


The Five Things Our Customers Want (We Hope)

Thursday, April 5th, 2012

As a direct marketing business, selling mostly to consumers, we are constantly trying to identify and focus on what will please our customers and keep them coming back. The solid foundation for this effort is our set of values. This can be summarized quite simply as the paraphrased  biblical “Golden Rule” Treat Others as You Would Like to Be Treated. Of course if we didn’t plan, organize and manage for profit we wouldn’t be around to please our customers. Here are the five things we do that we hope  please our customers and keep them coming back.

1. Offer Christmas Products They Can’t Find Elsewhere. This  is easier to do for Christmas Night  because we maintain a sharp focus on large Christmas figures, primarily for outdoor. That means no tree baubles nor tree skirts  and no trees either. Just Life Size Nativities, Nutcrackers, Toy Soldiers, Reindeer and other large figures associated with the celebration of Christmas.

2. Provide Superior Customer Service. I answered a customer call the other day and was happy to take an order for 27″ Nativity Set. When  I asked the customer (as I usually do ) how he found us, he said we were number two on the Google page but we answered our phone and helped him, which the number one ranked  store did not. The term “superior customer service”is a cliche  these days as so many companies claim to offer it. Few companies follow all the way through as we do, even after delivery.

3. Offer Good Value. We don’t always have the lowest prices on our products, we offer free shipping on a limited number of products and we rarely  discount our  product prices. Nevertheless, the product reviews and customer comments seem to confirm that we provide good value. The items which arrive broken are replaced as soon as possible and defective items are repaired or replaced.

4.Maintain High Quality. We have replaced several suppliers who have let their product quality slip, we spot check our incoming shipments and we  constantly work with our factories to improve molding and painting.

5. Make Our Products Easy to Find Online. How many times have you entered a key word or phrase online and the search engine takes you to a website which offers nothing even close to what you want, but owes its prominent  position to search engine tricks. With us, when you have taken the trouble to define exactly what you want, that’s what you get. No “bait and switch”

So there you have it, an opinionated list of what we see as our strengths. Perhaps you don’t agree and think we are off base or blowing smoke. Please tell us. We really do want your feedback

The Best Things About Christmas That I Miss the Rest of the Year

Friday, March 2nd, 2012

Contrary to what the National Weather Service reports, I maintain that January and February are the darkest months of the year. Valentine’s Day doesn’t count because lights and lawn decorations aren’t involved.

The Christmas season is bright and brilliant. Outdoor nativity scenes shine across streets, in front of homes, and next to churches. Houses are flooded with twinkling lights inside and out. Colorful reindeer dot snow-covered lawns while each barren tree branch boasts a string of lights.

These magical pools of light illuminate the forgotten streets of our cities and vacant alcoves in our homes. They cast honesty and hope during the darkest month of the year. Even if you tried, it’s hard to find darkness during the Christmas season.

My yuletide creativity was stunted by growing up in a city where delicate white lights were the only acceptable outside Christmas decorations. As a kindergartner, I lobbied passionately for two, fuchsia and gold life-size nutcrackers on our front lawn – a plan that was promptly thwarted by the decorative restrictions of my town’s Historical Society. “Permissible lighting displays only,” indeed.

When I moved 500 miles away to my current residence, the colorful Christmas displays made me feel like a kid in a candy store. The church two doors next to my house erected a stunning outdoor nativity scene that outlined each figure with a delicate thread of white bulbs. The family next door to me proudly anchored a 25-foot fiberglass Snowman with interior illumination on their front lawn.

This exquisitely detailed fiberglass, giant Snowman, who I’ve named Bob, glinted and glistened from the Church lights across the street. And when the sun set each evening his carrot nose shined brilliantly against the snow.

I foster dogs from my city’s Animal Care and Control Center and each new dog seems wary of Bob the Snowman, but only briefly. With enough exposure, each new dog realizes that Bob, the fiberglass snowman is harmless and we continue our walk without incident.

Desensitizing my foster dogs to Christmas season decor was added inspiration for decorating the outside of my house. I drew design concepts and took measurements. Yes, I was going to enshrine my house with enough wattage and Christmas cheer to crash an electrical grid.

One week before Thanksgiving my lights went up. I quickly realized that I lack the balance necessary for safely stringing lights around every outside window, so I concentrated my efforts on my porch. I spent that Saturday tightly coiling any accessible fixture with lights of every color.

Against my shrubs, I stationed my very own white lighting display of a nativity scene. Small bulbs of green, red, yellow and blue flashed rhythmically beneath my porch overhang and clapped my hands with all the delight of a four-year old when I finally plugged in the extension cord.

The volunteer fire department was less enthusiastic about my megawatt display and told me so two days later with a fire-hazard citation warning. I reluctantly removed a third of my coiled lights.

I loved watching my tree lights and porch lights reflect simultaneously off my window. I toyed briefly with the blinking and rolling functions but decided against it after my friend said I shouldn’t let anyone with a history of seizures near my living room.

Perhaps in the summer time I’ll replace them with a set of tropical fish lights. I haven’t decided. But for now, those tiny lights wrapped around the pillars and banister of my porch do a fantastic job of casting warm, Christmas light into my living room.

Charleston at Christmas

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

Our Christmas vacation this year was a trip to The Kiawah Island Golf Resort in the Low Country of South Carolina, not far from the historic city of. Charleston. We took a day to drive into the city, which was bustling with tourists like us and holiday crowds. South Carolina low country has a profusion of churches and Charleston is the same. What is interesting about the churches in the city is the age, history and variety of  christian denominations represented.

We first visited St Michael’s Church on the site of the first Anglican Church built south of Virginia. Erected in 1680 as St Phillips Church and subsequently rebuilt several time to replace buildings destroyed by fire or grown too small for the congregation, the current building was opened for services in 1761. The church exterior is dominated by a near 200 ft steeple and weathervane. The interior is very intimate with the native cedar pews almost on top of the altar and galleries hanging over on three sides. The pews have doors at each end, perhaps to ensure the the right people sit there. To the left of the very high pulpit is a small platform where the very small Nativity Set was placed. We thought this an insufficient display for such an historic and inspiring church.

We had been advised to visit the French  Huguenot Church, built in the ” French Quarter” of  Charleston in 1844. The Huguenots were French Calvinists who faced suppression in France and were very nearly wiped by successive Louis Kings. Growing up English Protestant in Montreal. I can remember being surprised to hear of a French Protestant school surviving in a sea of French Catholics. The present Huguenot church in Charleston, like St Michaels, was rebuilt after a fire and survived damage from the Civil War and the Charleston Earthquake. When we visited, the church was closed for major exterior renovation. Not surprisingly services are conducted in English, except for an annual service in French to  celebrate spring.

We then visited the main Roman Catholic Cathedral of St John the Baptist, which is a newly constructed but large and inspiring version of classic church design.As is usual in Catholic churches, there were about five different things going on at the same time. I have always been impressed with their level of activity and utilization of their facilities on days other than Sunday. A very good business model.

We had lunch at S N O B, which is not elitist but stands for Slightly North Of  Broad (street). Reservations were required and the food was a wonderful blend of southern and foreign influences.

After lunch we went looking for a Nativity customer who had purchased our Christmas Nativity 40″ and had asked us to drop by when we were in Charleston. The city is a small area and much easier to walk around than drive. Our customer was in a classic Charleston house on a corner of the Historic Area south of Broad Street and  sheltered from the street by a wall and wrought iron fence. With luck, we found the creche and had a nice chat with the family. They plan to buy a a larger stable and add new pieces to the Nativity,  including the  camel.

Keeping the Holiday Spirit Alive

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

110/365 Winter Fun!Now that Christmas has come and gone and the holiday season is behind us, many people start to feel like something is missing in their lives. With the holidays always comes a certain feel – it’s in the air you breathe, it’s in the people you meet, it’s in the home you’ve decorated to be so welcome and warm. It’s the holiday spirit, and when the holidays are over, the spirit seems to disappear with it.

That doesn’t have to be the case, though. The holiday spirit is one that people should work to spread all year long, and it can start with you.

Decorate

Decorating doesn’t have to just be for the holidays. When you take down the Christmas decorations and your nativity sets, try putting up something else in their place. Maybe keep some white lights around to mimic the ambiance of having a Christmas tree in your home. Keep winter-scented candles out and burning to bring back that cozy, wintery feel in your home. Stick with winter-themed colors (whites, reds, greens, even some shades of blue) when adding decorations for now, and come springtime, switch it up with brighter hues to lighten up your home.

Keep Baking

There’s just something about holiday baking that brings the whole family together and really warms up a home. So keep baking! Think about cinnamon breads or muffins – even baking something as simple as blueberry muffins can bring back that warm holiday feel to your house. Gather the kids and make some good old fashioned chocolate chip cookies. Get back in the giving mood by sharing with family members and neighbors.

Start New Traditions

Every family has its own holiday traditions, whether it’s putting up your outdoor Christmas decorations together or setting up life size toy soldiers for your annual Christmas party or gathering around the fire for a holiday story. So why not continue the trend by creating some new wintertime traditions? Maybe you take the whole family sledding after the first big snow storm every year. Or maybe you all go to a huge ice skating rink in a nearby city for a weekend every winter. Maybe it’s just that you all sit down and enjoy the same movie on the same weekend of every year. Get creative – and start making traditions that you can keep throughout the winter, not just around the holidays.

Spread the Cheer

Have you ever noticed how everyone seems to be in such a good mood around the holidays? Some of that cheeriness tends to disappear after the New Year as people start to focus on their resolutions and starting a fresh year. Keep that cheer alive. If you start by smiling at 5 people every day, those 5 people will likely smile at others throughout the day, and the cheer will spread as quickly as it does around the holidays. Remember what Christmas feels like, and try to mimic that feeling in your every-day life, then share it with others.

With these few simple ideas, it will be easy to keep the holiday spirit around all year long, and come next Christmas, you’ll be prepared to spread even more cheer than you already have for the past 11 months!

Outdoor Nativity and Christmas Displays – How Early Is Too Early?

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

I don’t think anyone follows the current trend of shopping malls and stores – that is, putting out Christmas displays next to the Halloween candy! (Yes, I’ve seen it, and I’m sure you have as well).

But how early can you put out your outdoor nativity set and various other Christmas decorations? (Make sure to follow the plastic reindeer rule!)

Traditionally – at least in my area, and the area that I grew up, most will wait to start putting up decorations until after the Thanksgiving Day Parade in Manhattan, or the lighting of the tree at Rockefeller Square – this year the tree lighting is on November 30th – so at the end of the month.

But when you put up your Christmas display (including your outdoor nativity set) what do you include? What gospel tradition do you follow?

As I’m sure you are aware, there are a good number of different depictions of the nativity. Perhaps the most interesting to me is not the difference in the two Gospel traditions (the inclusion of the shepherds and the angel, or the three Magi and the star of Bethlehem) but the difference in the nativity between the Eastern Orthodoxy and the Western traditions.
unique outdoor nativity scene
In the East, the focus of the birth is more on the fact that the Christ child is mortal – Mary is usually depicted as laying down after the birth in the East. In the West the focus is more on the divine aspect of Jesus Christ – Mary is usually depicted as sitting serenely with the Christ child on her lap.

Or, you celebrate the nativity in your own way, mixing and matching traditions and including those things that have personal meaning to you – that is what the holiday is all about, after all – finding personal meaning in the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ.

I’ve seen nativity sets with saints, or within elaborately constructed buildings; I’ve even seen nativity sets that include Elvis!

Whatever nativity set that you choose to depict – be it as elaborate and grand as the display at the Vatican, or something more light-hearted like the Christmas villages, make it your own, and enjoy it!

But my question stands – how soon is too soon to create your Christmas displays and put up your outdoor nativity scene?

Nativity Scenes in Other Lands

Saturday, September 3rd, 2011

reforma-1A few years ago we were visiting Mexico City at Christmas and our friends told us about the displays of Nasciamentos or Nativity Scenes on Avenida Reforma, a main thoroughfare in the City. Each display had been sponsored  by local businesses, non -profit organizations, government departments and charities. They were then rendered by artists from the area. In the tradition of  Saint Francis of Assisi, there was a live Nativity Scene with adult and child actors and animals.

At Christmas, Mexico City is warm during the day and cold at night but mostly sunny, when the sun  can cut through the smog. Reforma is a six lane boulevard with a large city park at one end and statues of revolutionary heroes and majestic fountains dominating the round-abouts at major intersections. Traffic, as with all traffic in Mexico City, is always heavy, so crossing the boulevard to view and photograph the Nativities was a challenge.

reforma-2Many viewers of the scenes were foreign tourists like us, but many were Mexican families, perhaps from villages and rural areas. There were busloads of children and adults from schools and affinity groups and city dwellers out for a stroll. The whole scene creates a pleasant memory for us and a contrast with our own country where a display like this would be nearly impossible.

5 Steps to Buy a Christmas Nativity Set

Tuesday, August 16th, 2011

60550stWe often talk with groups looking to raise the funds to buy a new Nativity scene for their organization, church, hospital, municipality or charity. They may be looking to replace a Nativity that they have had for years or they may be buying a Nativity Set for the first time. In this blog, we offer some steps and suggestions to help you and your organization achieve this objective.

1. Take advantage of our offer on our website under “Information Request”. Tick off the items that you want pictures and more information on , provide your mailing address and contact information and we will send you full color 8″x11′ photos of any of the sets requested, along with set data and shipping cost to your zip code. This will all be contained in an attractive presentation folder, which can be used at purchasing committee meetings or given to the decision maker. The photos are high quality and can be used to make posters and hand outs for group fund raising.

2. Successful fund raising may start with the identification of a potential benefactor. In a church or charity, this may be someone remembering a loved one, a long time supporter or congregant or a board member. This person may offer a contribution matching monies raised by the group or committee or they may provide the full amount. Remember to involve them in the process as much or as little as they want. They make the rules.

3. The keys in group fund raising is volunteers and communication. Create a committee with clear responsibilities , not just opinions and set some targets with timing and amounts. Critics and opinionated people can be challenged to either donate time or money to back up their opinions. Once an objective is agreed, the research becomes the most important next step. Use the internet search engines to locate Nativity alternatives, which are rarely available in local retail stores.

4. Once your group has decided which Nativity set to purchase, you will want to consider some money raising techniques. In a church, for example, these may include bake sales, silent auctions, “Christmas in July” and “Nativity Tree” and many other fund raising activities. Local businesses  may want to contribute or the local municipality may have a budget for Christmas celebration. Charitable organizations may be able to obtain grants which match funds raised by the fund raisers..

5. Always try to identify your target donor or donor group and tailor your communications and events to them. After a successful  campaign, be sure to give credit to the hard working fund raisers and to especially  thank the donors. At any point in this process, if you think we can help, please contact us

Exciting New Items for Christmas Decorating

Friday, June 3rd, 2011

Our major product focus has always been on large outdoor Christmas decoration figures. These include outdoor Nativity scenes and toy soldiers and nutcrackers. We realized, from customer feedback and our own research, that we had to broaden the category of Christmas outdoor decor. So we worked, with our designers and the factory technicians, to create new concepts and figures.

32700stFirst was our new four piece Caroler Set which attractively updated the conventional Dickens era dress and look for Christmas Carolers. We augmented this set with a fabric and resin Indoor Caroler set, which will arrive shortly. Other festive  fabric and resin figures, new this year include the Jester,  Santa with a Horn and Vintage Santa.

We have added more of the beautiful plush animals both for the Nativity and for other Christmas decoration. These include the life size goat and baby lamb as well as brown and white hens, reindeer, dogs, deer and polar bear. A set of two penguins completes the array.

More on our new items in the next blog.

Five Ideas to Prevent Stolen Christmas Decorations

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

My last blogpost told the story of Betty Wetmore of Columbia MO and her Santa, Sleigh and Reindeer display stolen before last Christmas. Although the police recovered her display, it was broken and she and her husband experienced a lot of stress. Every year, during the Christmas season, we are contacted by customers who have had a lamb or the baby Jesus stolen from their Nativity set, or a Nutcracker or Toy Soldier spirited away and if recovered, in poor condition. We recognize that a determined thief will eventually overcome the best security but we have some suggestions for securing your outdoor Christmas decorations that will make successful disappearance less likely.

  1. Drive a wood post or piece of steel rebar into the ground behind each standing  piece and tether the piece to the post using flexible wire, clear fishing line, or nylon ties
  2. If setting up the display on a wood surface, such as a stable for a Nativity set, screw or glue the figures to the wood surface.
  3. For smaller figures, such as Nativity animals or the baby Jesus, tether them in two places to wood pegs using clear fishing line.
  4. Some of  our larger figures have attachment brackets built in to the structure. These can be used to attach the figure to the wall behind for items such as Toy Soldiers or Nutcrackers displayed on each side of a door or to a floor or ground for such displays as Nativities.
  5. Bare ground attachments can be disguised using mulch or other ground cover.

Please note that these attachment methods can be used to prevent taller pieces falling onto hard ground or walkways and being damaged. Causes can be high winds or vandalism.

We are always looking for innovative ideas for tethering your Christmas displays. Please send us your solutions and we will feature them in an upcoming blog