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A whole Christmas village all under one roof; can you imagine it? Although there were many doubts thrown her way (including some of her own), Jo Ann Hershberger knew that God had a plan for her. She pursued the first ever all year Christmas store of its kind in the area: Tis The Season Christmas Shoppe.
The building was originally a part of a farm purchased in 1988 and was transformed into Shrock's Amish Farm and Village. "It was an empty building and at the time we didn't know what to do with it," said Hershberger, owner. Well, almost empty. The basement was a dirt floor stock full of farm implements, equipment and lumber.
Hershberger began brainstorming ideas for a Christmas store in Berlin. "Every good tourist place has one," she said. No one was doing anything like it in the area. "At the time the community was not into decorating. The town was mostly conservative Amish and Mennonites and we weren't sure if it would do well."
With 20,000 sq. ft. to work with, Hershberger had decided she would give it a try.
"This is such a big building," said Hershberger. "I came out here when it was empty. I stood in the middle of the floor and just asked God what I should do."
She began visualizing breaking up the space into different rooms that would each have their own themes. In the end, she would create a Christmas village that would flow throughout the large, round room and continue up the stairs to the balcony.
Hershberger didn't know where to begin or where to purchase her Christmas inventory. There was a large, traveling Christmas show that went from city to city and would be in New Orleans that coming winter. Hershberger was unsure if she should make the trip and wondered if it would be worth it, so she asked God for a sign.
She looked to her co-workers for guidance and one suggested she ask God for a rainbow. It was January and Hershberger explained that she had never seen a rainbow in January. Her co-worker suggested that is exactly why she should ask for one. So she asked God for a Rainbow.
The next day she was driving home from Canton and right there, streaking across the cold January sky, it appeared. A rainbow! "I thought to myself that no one was going to believe me," said Hershberger. "But Dick Goddard had even talked about it on the news that night."
That was the sign Hershberger needed. God had painted it across the sky clear as day. So Hershberger made her way to the Christmas show.
After attending the Christmas show and stocking up on inventory and inspiration, she returned to Berlin to begin plans to create her Christmas village. She hired an Amish carpenter crew and drew her ideas out with chalk to describe exactly what she had envisioned.
Her village began with the first room which resembled a cozy log cabin. She hired a log cabin company to build up the walls and had a large stone fireplace installed. Large windows look out onto the little Christmas village. The customers experience begins with a walk through the log cabin room which is full of primitive and rustic Christmas décor items to match.
The log cabin is complete with a beautiful, log porch that leads out onto the rest of the store. A quaint, Victorian house sits just to the left complete with a large bay window, white wooden porch, siding and trim. This room holds a selection of Byers Choice figurines.
The Chapel takes center stage in the village. "It is the biggest building and is the center of the store," said Hershberger. When conveying her ideas to the crew, she explained that she wanted the building to extend up past the balcony with a large steeple.
At first the contractors did not share her vision and thought it would never look right, but Hershberger insisted. After the building was built, her ideas finally began to take shape and the crew saw what she had imagined.
"They really started getting into it and suggested that I get real slate for the steeple and install a real bell," said Hershberger. "They even started designing some of the rooms."
The words "Oh come let us adore him" were painted just above the doorway to the chapel and can be seen from throughout the village.
Little by little, Hershberger's Christmas village came to life and the store opened for business in 1996. They began with only the first floor of the building being used for the store and rented out the balcony rooms to different vendors.
They quickly determined they would need more space. They opened up the basement in 2000 and decided they would no longer rent out the balcony spaces. Christmas was all around them.
There is something for everyone at Tis The Season. Rooms are themed with everything from snowmen and music to farm and southern décor to even tropical and safari inspirations. Traditional Christmas items such as tree skirts, stockings and Nativities can also be found.
Tis The Season also carries several lines of collectables such as: Byers Choice, Jim Shore, Possible Dreams, Fontanini, Snowbabies, Radko, Steinbach and more. You can find something for the skier, the swimmer, the hairdresser or the scrapbooker in the family, explained Hershberger. Make the gift even more special by having it personalized.
There are places to sit and relax on every level of the store which is perfect for the men who just want to relax while their wives shop. Sink down into one of their large, overstuffed couches and you might just find yourself dozing off before you know it. "It's not unusual to hear people snoring," joked Hershberger.
In the basement, you will find a sports bar theme corner serving up free coffee and ESPN all day long. Pull up a seat at one of the tables catch up on the game.
Karolin Steinbach will be at the store December 7 from 2-6 p.m. signing her popular nutcracker collections. Customers may bring in a nutcracker from home to be signed along with the purchase of a nutcracker from the store.
Christmas Down on the Farm will take place throughout Schrock's Amish Farm and Village. (See calendar of events, page 17, for details.)
Santa will stop in December 7 and 14 to get the Christmas wishes of all the good little girls and boys.
With Christmas taking place all year round at Tis The Season, one would think you would have enough of it after a while. "I don't get tired of it at all," said Hershberger.
"If it was just red and green or silver and gold (like old Christmas traditions) I might get tired of it, but it is so much more." You can decorate a tree with an old fashioned theme, primitive, vintage or even in animal print. "There are so many different looks to it."
Everything from religious to traditional Christmas music can be heard throughout the store as you shop and get into the holiday spirit. "It's a feel good happy place. It puts people in a good mood," said Hershberger.
Tis The Season is located at 4363 St. Rt. 39, 1 mile east of Berlin. Store hours: 9 a.m.-7 p.m. through December 14 and 10 a.m.-6 p.m. from December 16 through the end of the year. For more information call 330-893-3604 or visit www.tistheseasonchristmas.com.