Year after year, some of the most popular items in our Christmas Shop are the Ginger Cottages, which are hand-made in the heart of central Virginia. A few weeks ago I was invited to visit their factory and see where the magic is created. Of course, two of our Christmas elves (Patricia and Becky) were ready to go with me on the 2 1/2 hour drive. Patricia is a big fan: she has more than twenty of the Ginger Cottages houses. Instead of taking I-95 we decided to take Highway 301…and what a great idea that was! Leaving the dreary rain in Beltsville on Monday, we drove into sunshine in Virginia, enjoying the easy drive.
Once we arrived, we were greeted by Pam, one of the Ginger Cottages’ elves. She gave us a brief history of how this amazing company got its early start. As she was talking and we were eyeing the various houses, a tall gentleman strolled up and introduced himself. Glenn Crider–who started the company with his wife–took us to his workshop where he was assessing prototypes for 2019 and 2020. We met some of his graphic team and saw how they work on different ideas and projects. As we left that area we saw the team of “elves” (as Glenn calls them) assembling houses and beautiful carousels adorned with different animals in glorious, textured, vibrant color (we’re excited to have two of them for sale at Behnke’s).
Leaving the elves, Glenn took us to his wood shop and explained the process of making nutcrackers and how they have come a long way. Glenn is one of only four USA nutcracker makers and the only one that can make the entire nutcracker from A- Z, as he calls it. Then we watched a young man running ten different computer driven laser cutters. We also saw the painting room where still more elves painted parts of the cottages as needed. And finally, we given the opportunity to purchase some items that I might not have at our garden center. Patricia went crazy and bought four music boxes!
This company is a true ‘cottage industry’ where folks can work from their homes, assembling the tiny cottages or come in and work in the shop. I was impressed by the friendliness of everyone there and just how clean and neat the whole place was. Seeing the process of building our much-loved Ginger Cottages was another thing that really made me appreciate just how much work goes into each one. They are made from start to finish in the USA with products made in the USA. Every year I can’t wait to see what’s new.
Glenn’s mind is always working a mile a minute. He asked us questions about our customers and what we find sells well in our Christmas Shop. They also make special items for different places like Dollywood, the Biltmore, and Coca Cola. In 2008 Glenn was approached to have his nutcrackers made into USA stamps and they, along with his nutcrackers, were displayed at the Smithsonian. What an honor! You can read more about that here.
After we saw everything we were taken out to lunch at a local Mexican restaurant by our salesman Ray Stopper and Glenn joined us for more conversation. It ended up being a terrific day and a beautiful drive back home, once again avoiding all that endless traffic on I-95. I hope you get a chance to stop in our Christmas Shop and see some of the new additions to the Ginger Cottage line!
by Stephanie Fleming, Behnke’s Vice President