Dolls, nativity scenes, wreaths, lighthouses with candy cane stripes and a plethora of stuffed animals covered the tables of the conference room at Family Service Inc. on Thursday, a day after the opening of the the Christmas Store.
It’s the second year that Jim Wallman, his wife and two of their fellow volunteers have staffed the special sale area, he said. They have served in a variety of capacities in their nine years of service to the organization.
They decided to offer the special store after trying to figure out what to do with all of the Christmas-themed items that people regularly donate to the Family Treasures Thrift Store, 1824 First Ave. N.
“We had so much stuff and couldn’t get it all in the store,” he said.
In mid-September, before most Billings residents even began thinking about the holidays, the Wallmans headed upstairs to the storage room and began sorting through nearly 200 boxes of items that are set aside for the holidays.
“We go through and we price them,” he said.
The volunteers also make sure all the electrical and battery-operated items are functioning.
“We have a ball in here,” he said. “We love to play with this stuff.”
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The store is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day, except for Wednesdays which open at 10 a.m. and Saturdays when they open at 9 a.m.
During regular hours, the volunteers learn more about the items when customers with knowledge of their knickknacks stop by.
One such customer is self-proclaimed shopping expert Cindy Butler.
If she finds something that is not priced correctly, she will bring it to the staff’s attention so it can be tagged with the appropriate amount, she said.
“I don’t appreciate people who find total steals and sell them online,” Butler said.
Butler said she shops at many of the local thrift stores and and has been looking forward to this year’s Christmas Store since last year.
“I am a frequent and avid shopper,” she said clutching a nativity set made in Peru, a dish shaped like a Christmas tree and an ornament in the shape of a fake nose and glasses.
Thrift shopping is fun because you never know what you’re going to get,” she said, examining a tapestry with the word “Noel” on it. “I mean, where else can you find this?”