Old World Christmas outlet designs thousands of handmade glass ornaments seen in stores across the country

<p><p>Last year, a worldwide pandemic changed shopping habits – mostly for the worse. But for the Old World Christmas Factory Outlet on Main Street, they saw more customers than ever during the 2020 holidays.</p></p><p><p>“People wanted to embrace traditions and come back to what makes them feel comfortable,” said sales manager Rob Waples.</p></p><p><p>Old World Christmas opened more than 40 years ago after husband and wife artist duo Tim and Beth Merck decided to close their antique store to focus on making more ornaments. The idea gained immediate success in Spokane.</p></p><p><p>The factory outlet is under different ownership after private equity firm Gladstone Investment Corp. purchased it for $24.4 million, T<a href=”https://www.spokesman.com/stories/2018/dec/25/slugs-emojis-narwals-you-name-it-spokanes-old-worl” target=”_blank”>he Spokesman-Review reported in 2018</a>. The outlet acts as the epicenter, sending its ornaments to retailers across the U.S. and even some to the United Kingdom, Waples said.</p></p><p><p>“But most of our retailers are the smaller mom-and-pop shops,” Waples said.</p></p><p><p>Slices of pumpkin pie, intricately designed presents, rosy-cheeked angels and nutcrackers – the outlet includes all the expected holiday-themed ornaments. There are Christian-specific icons, but the outlet also stocks menorahs and the Star of David.</p></p><p><p>But more quirky designs are also scattered in the store: beagles with glittering gold ears, cheese graters, bottles of mustard and ketchup, chili dogs and hot wings, astronauts and space shuttles, planets Jupiter and Saturn.</p></p><p><p>“We just traveled with my daughter, her husband and their new baby to Mount Rushmore, so I made sure to grab that,” said Kennewick resident Pattie Kovolyan, who was passing through Spokane on her way to her holiday cabin in Montana on Sunday. “And then they just had a baby, so I grabbed a blue snow baby.”</p></p><p><p>This year also added newly relevant designs, with the outlet now carrying generic brand hand sanitizer and toilet paper ornaments.</p></p><p><p>“Most of the suggestions come from our retailers and what they’ve noticed customers are looking for,” Waples said.</p></p><p><p>The process begins with that suggestion, and then the outlet’s lead designer Sooki Carrano will usually draw a mock design by hand. The outlet also commissions five local artists, most of whom Waples said have worked with the outlet for at least 17 years, to paint and work the glass.</p></p><p><p>Using this two-dimensional blueprint, artists will carefully shape molten glass by blowing on it, hence the term “mouth-blown glass.”</p></p><p><p>“It’s a very involved process,” Waples said.</p></p><p><p>The results are finely detailed ornaments strategically dusted with glitter.</p></p><p><p>Retired Spokane resident Charlotte Mangan grabbed a mustard bottle as she shopped Sunday afternoon, laughing that her son as a child went through a phase where every piece of food was coated in the condiment. And then last year, her granddaughter enrolled at Gonzaga University, so Mangan came to the outlet to get her a GU ornament.</p></p><p><p>“You can find something that reminds you of that person, and it makes it extra special,” she said.</p></p><p><p>The outlet also debuted wooden ginger cottage ornaments, Waples said. With both Christmas- and Halloween-themed designs, the cottages were designed to hold miniature lightbulbs in them that illuminate a “surprise” object seen through the windows of the structures.</p></p><p><p>For some, the warm light will show waving miniature gingerbread men or tiny black cats in the Halloween-themed cottages.</p></p><p><p>Though recent national supply chain and cost inflation issues have affected shipping, Old World Christmas has mostly been able to keep costs low, Waples said.</p></p><p><p>Ornaments at the outlet have suggested retail values of between $15 and $23, but they go for around $6 to $14 at the store on 4007 E. Main Ave. in Spokane.</p></p><p><p>“It’s not just that they’re attractive and personalized, it’s also that they’re so inexpensive,” Mangan said.</p></p>