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Christmas all year long

Immersed in thousands of Christmas decorations, crèches, snow globes, Santa Clauses, lights, tinsel, religious icons and statuary, Tinseltown is where 42-year-old proprietor gets to play Christmas everyday of the year.

Audy Czigler's passion for Christmas runs so deep, he opened Tinseltown, the Hintonburg store that sells nothing but Christmas decorations.

Immersed in thousands of Christmas decorations, crèches, snow globes, Santa Clauses, lights, tinsel, religious icons and statuary, Tinseltown is where 42-year-old proprietor gets to play Christmas everyday of the year.

It's a hot July day, and customers are wearing shorts and sunscreen, but inside Tinseltown, it's December. The Christmas tree's decorated, the lights sparkle, and Bing Crosby's singing “White Christmas”, just as he does every day of the year.

“It's a magical time of the year, one that people connect with,” Czigler says. “People feel like children again. They find it here.”

Growing up in Ottawa, Czigler became obsessed with Christmas at a young age.

“I am, what you would call a diehard Christmas fan,” Czigler admits. “Since I was three years old I had a tree in my room all year. I'm obsessed with Christmas decorations.”

Clearly more interior decorator than novelty merchant, Czigler's bringing the same finesse and passion to Christmas as he does to French cottages.

He sources his high end product mostly from the USA, and even though he has a robust website www.tinseltownchristmasemporium.com, most of his sales are in-store, the result of Czigler's displays.

“We try to keep Christmas as tasteful as possible,” he says. “At the same time, it's Christmas, and Christmas is kitschy. It's part of the charm. What other time of the year are you going to find sparkly reindeer?”

Then, as if on cue, his phone rings Tchaikovsky's “Nutcracker Suite” music.

Czigler's career as a Christmas retailer began in 1997, when, the 17-year-old began an apprenticeship at Christmas in the Capital, a Christmas decor store on Elgin Street, where he worked for 10 years, and eventually spilled over into home decorations in general, with a flair for French and European home design.

Formerly in the cosmetics industry in Toronto, Czigler chance to open his Christmas store came in July, 2012, when the landlord of the Richmond St building, his mother, offered him the vacant storefront.

It turned out to be an offer he couldn't refuse. With space for two stores, Czigler was able to open Tinseltown and his other design store Marie Antoinette and Co., a store for “shabby French country chic” for a fraction of the rent he would have paid in Toronto.

“I wanted to open Tinseltown in Toronto, but the rents were unaffordable,” Czigler explains, rolling his eyes in disbelief. “The challenge with operating a Christmas store is you need a lot of space to show the trees and all the decorations. Stores in Toronto that was renting for $20,000 a month. I couldn't afford that. So, I came back to Ottawa.”

You'd think after spending half his professional life, and most of his personal life loving Christmas that every now and then, Czigler might be tired of the holiday season, think about spending next December 25 in Cuba, the same way you might think that the last thing shoppers would want to shop for in July would be a Christmas ornament.

Not a chance.

Sustaining a store that sells nothing but Christmas decorations would be difficult were it not for Czigler's single-minded love for the season and a designer's eye and knack for finding saleable products. Yes, sales are slow, albeit briefly in the first quarter, and accelerate through the year until they peak in the fourth.

Then there was COVID. Two pandemic years were Tinseltown's best years for sales. Stuck at home during a series of public health lockdowns, people turned to home renovations to keep themselves amused, and turned family holidays like Christmas 2020 and 2021 into elaborate pageants.

“I love Christmas more in the summer than November and December because in December, it's Christmas everywhere and you're run off your feet busy shopping and preparing,” Czigler explains. “But during the summer, the pace of business is nice, not crazy and I get Christmas all to myself.”

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