EAST LYME, Conn. (AP) — The ghost of Niantic's Christmas past is returning this holiday season in the form of The Silver Skate Christmas Shop, the much-beloved holiday store that for 40 years "made downtown Niantic during the holidays."
Having closed in 2007, the store is re-inhabiting its former location at the corner of Black Point Road and Main Street — which is now the Past to Present On the Corner antique shop — after owner Josh Haderski, 25, reverted the space back to its heyday over a period of a few a days this past week.
Walk inside the store now and be transported back in time. With dozens of Christmas trees decked with rainbow lights, a full-sized horse-drawn sleigh filled with stuffed Santas, Department 56 holiday village replicas and a vintage train, the store is almost as much a museum — a glimpse back into a Christmas from the 1970s — as it is a place where shoppers can bask in nostalgia while selecting from items such as German-made Christian Ulbricht nutcrackers, eggnog mug sets, ceramic light-up Christmas trees, Byers' Choice carolers and glass-blown vintage ornaments.
The Silver Skate revamp will be open for shopping, or for those who just want to re-experience childhood holiday nostalgia, through Jan 1. After that, Haderski will revert the store back to his antique shop.
Haderski said he hopes the temporary change will bring back a dose of nostalgia to the downtown just in time for the holiday season, while also "offering the memory of this place to another generation that couldn't see it before."
"They were a mainstay in town for so long. Everybody remembers it. Everybody misses it," he said.
Having just opened Past to Present On The Corner in April — an extension of his original main street store — Haderski said he never imagined he would take on a Silver Skate throwback. But after original Silver Skate owner Pat Lewis, whose family still owns the building and whom Haderski rents it from, mentioned in the early fall that she still had inventory from the store, Haderski got to thinking.
"It took a couple weeks, but then it clicked, and I said, 'How about we recreate The Silver Skate?'" Haderski said. "Little did I know that it would lead to this."
So began a whirlwind of preparation, as Haderski only had about a month to get all the inventory — a mix of original inventory from The Silver Skate, antiques discovered by Haderski throughout the state and orders from former Silver Skate vendors — in place before Thanksgiving, a "chaotic whirlwind," he said.
"Part of the reason why it clicked to do this is because everyone coming into my antique store walks in and goes, 'Oh, I haven't been in here since it was the Silver Skate,'" Haderski said. "Now they're saying, 'Oh, I remember bringing my kids there, I can't wait to bring the grandkids there.' Or, 'I remember going there as a kid, and I can't wait to bring my kids now.'"
"This is the most reacted to, the most positively responded to, thing we've done, just from a community aspect even, which is awesome," he said.
But for Haderski, public demand wasn't the only reason driving him to transform his shop back into the Christmas store. He said the Silver Skate also holds a special place in his heart, as his grandmother, who used to own the Tis' the Season store where Haderski's other Past to Present branch is located lower on Main Street, would frequently bring him to The Silver Skate as a kid to visit owners Pat and Jack Lewis.
"I would come in here a dozen times during the season with my grandma," he said, explaining that his favorite part of those visits was the antique toy train — the same one in the store now — which would run in circles around the miniature village set ups. "It was always busy here, and it never seemed to be not busy. If we are as fortunate to be a fraction as successful as they were, I would be thrilled."
Pat Lewis, while walking through and admiring the store Wednesday said she was thrilled to see the store that gave her "41 years of joy, every day I loved what I did" and which she said she thought she would never see again, recreated.
"It is the most creative thing I've ever seen. Really, it's better than a New York showroom. It really is. No one could have recreated this better than how Josh did. That's because it's special to him," Pat, who is now 83, lives in Waterford and still loves everything Christmas, said with tears in her eyes. "It has love. It has memories. He remembers this with his grandmother."
The original Silver Skate Christmas shop opened in 1967 after Pat said she visited the Pink Sleigh store in Westbrook. "I thought to myself, 'Wouldn't that be fun? We could do this,'" Pat said.
From then on, she said the store was open most of the year from Father's Day to Christmas Eve.
"Nothing is like this. You can go to CVS and walk down that one aisle and they've Christmas stuff, but no thought went into it. Someone in the corporate office sat upstairs, and there's no love," Pat said. "This, I will tell you, is so full of love."
Information from: The Day, http://www.theday.com