Marv and Sharon Lantz enjoyed the effect the happy, serene atmosphere of The Candy Cane Christmas Shoppe had on their legion of customers.
“Some people would come in when they were having a bad day,” Sharon Lantz said. “Some didn’t buy anything, they’d just look around. When they felt better they would leave, and that was fine with us.”
But after nearly 20 years of providing Yuletide magic year-round with Christmas displays and baubles, the Lantzes will close up the iconic Archbold shop at 22897 State Route 20A on Jan. 28. Now in their late 70s, and after years of 12-hour days, they have decided to wrap up their business and retire.
“When we see and hear the response of people now, it was well worth it,” Lantz said. “It’s amazing to me, the response we’re getting from people (about closing).We’ve made so many friends from all over.”
They have received a few bites from parties interested in buying their Christmas store but no definite offers. Lantz said closing the business is unfortunate, “but if we don’t have somebody who wants to take it over, that’s the only other choice we have. We’ve spent the biggest part of our 20 years being here from eight in the morning to eight in the evening.”
If The Candy Cane Christmas Shoppe is not sold, the Lantzes will open it one last time this summer for a Christmas in July sale, then shutter it permanently.
It was after Marv Lantz retired from a long career at Sauder Manufacturing that the idea of a Christmas shop developed. Since 1984, his wife had been operating their other gift stores, both called the The Unique Little Gift Shop, with locations in Archbold and Defiance. The couple grew tired each holiday season of decorating the stores, then facing the arduous task of removing it all.
“Christmas would come and go, and we’d always have to rush to put everything out, and rush to take everything down,” Sharon said. “We felt (a Christmas shop) would have to be a destination point for tours and people who would want to come from a distance. This seemed to be the answer to what we were thinking.”
The former Elmira School building became available after the school had been absorbed into the present Archbold school system. The Lantzes bought it at a public auction in October of 1996, but had to wait until it officially closed after Thanksgiving that year.
“Everything was block walls,” Sharon Lantz said. Working 16-hour days over the next nine months, the couple transformed the building’s gymnasium and four classrooms into the store’s children’s, collectibles, and decorations rooms, as well as Bethlehem Corner, a selling area for nativity scenes and related products.
The Christmas Shoppe opened in September that year, and after distributing brochures statewide and setting up a website the Lantzes drew national and international guests.
“We made it not only just Christmas, we made it gifts and Christmas,” Sharon said. The front porch of the business was decorated appropriately for every season, and people came from all over the United States and countries including Japan, Greenland, and China to browse the unique store.
“They come to see what we’re really like,” Sharon said. “We got a lot of tour buses, and we had a good draw from the turnpike.”
Their website business has gotten orders both domestically and globally, including from Germany, England, and France.
Amy Krueger, executive director of the Archbold Chamber of Commerce, said the shop was as much an attraction as it was a store.
“We will very much miss The Candy Cane Christmas Shoppe. It was definitely a draw for people to come from around the area. People will miss it,” she said.
Should a buyer become available, it’s possible both the shop’s name and Christmas theme could remain. As for the Lantzes, Marv looks forward to tinkering in his woodworking shop and refurbishing an antique car and truck, while Sharon may do volunteer work. “This will be Marv’s second retirement,” she joked.
Still, watching the Christmas magic of their shop end is bittersweet. “We’ll miss the people,” Sharon said.
David J. Coehrs can be reached at 419-335-2010.