Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland: The World’s Largest Christmas Products Store
Who would have thought, when Wally Bronner was decorating a hardware store window in Bay City, Michigan in the 1940s that his passion would eventually turn into the world’s largest Christmas store.
But that’s exactly what happened.
Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland is located in Frankenmuth, Michigan, which is also known as little Bavaria. The entire complex occupies 320,000 square feet, or 5.5 football fields, explains Lori Libka, communications assistant at Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland. Additionally, there is an off-site warehouse that spans 48,000 square feet.
“While Wally was decorating a hardware store window, city leaders from Clare, Michigan came in looking for Christmas lamp post decorations,” Libka explained. “They hired Wally to design and make them, and the Christmas-decorations business was born.
“Wally began holding Christmas decorations showings in rented buildings and invited city leaders from the Midwest,” she added. “Ladies attending began asking for decorations for their homes, too, and Wally obliged. His father, a stone mason, built Bronner’s first store.”
The Christmas business eventually grew to three buildings in downtown Frankenmuth before moving and expanding in 1977 to the current 45 acre site.
Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderful sells both retail and wholesale.
Visitors From Everywhere
“Bronner’s welcomes customers from all over the world,” Sandra Schafsnitz, salesroom personnel manager said. “We try to keep up-to-date on product, not only ornaments, but also lights, trees, outdoor décor and more. Bronner’s is really five businesses in one: our retail store, on-line store, resale and custom ornament department, catalog, and commercial division that supplies product to cities, churches, shopping centers, etc.”
Keeping point of sale areas fresh with so much space is something the company spends a lot of time and attention on, Schafsnitz explained.
“All year we are observing the flow of the shoppers and their expressions when they enter the store, and noting and reviewing feedback from their overall shopping experience,” she said. “Our sales staff is well informed and knowledgeable about product in each section. We like to keep displays themed, well stocked and lighted properly for shopping ease. Our huge staff (250 year-round and over 700 during the busy season) are ready to help each guest have a fun and relaxing experience while they are here.
For shoppers at Bronner’s Christmas Wonderful, Schafsnitz said, “The experience actually begins outside. Many, many display pieces and about 100,000 lights decorate Bronner’s half-mile long Christmas Lane and other areas of the property. (The lights are lit from dusk to midnight each evening.) Bronner’s Silent Night Memorial Chapel, a memorial of the original in Oberndorf (Salzburg), Austria, is open for viewing during store hours. Inside the store, Bronner’s changes some major displays each year to keep interest and show returning guests that we do care about them and want them to see something new and exciting. We keep our display windows on the outside of our complex fresh and interesting, too. We have many talented staff that are up for a new challenge each year, and they often surprise us with the beautiful displays they create! When guests enter the store, greeters at the information booths at each entrance greet them with a smile and offer them a store directory. Christmas music plays throughout the store and across the grounds. Our Season’s Eatings snack area offers snacks and light lunches and decorated Christmas cookies year-round.”
Gift Shows Play Role
Attending gift shows is an important part of how Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderful identifies new products, Schafsnitz added. “Bronner’s listens to our customers looking for specific items, and we always are looking for new, innovative ideas and products to offer. We send our buyers to various other specialty shows as well.”