Meet The Champion Of Christmas Cheer
Do you believe in magic? Angela Thomson certainly does, and it’s her mission to bring joy to anyone who steps through her Te Puke store’s front door. The Christmas Magic Makers store on Jellicoe St is guaranteed to put a smile on your face from the moment you walk inside. “That’s what it’s meant to do,” Angela explains.
“There's too much unhappiness in the world so I wanted to create something magical. And of course Christmas is the most magical time of the year, so this seemed like the best way to go about it.”
Snowflakes and fairy lights dangle from the ceiling and the entire room is filled with incredible decorations and Christmas figurines. Santas, reindeer, elves, nutcracker soldiers, candy canes, gingerbread men, fairies – you name it, Angela’s got it. Te Puke’s famous kiwifruit also sneak in there, along with other kiwiana-themed Christmas items.
And the best part is you don’t have to wait until December to indulge in a little Christmas cheer – the store is open several days a week from July onwards, with hours increasing as the big day draws closer!
So how does a 54 year-old mum of nine children – who also happens to have a PhD in law – end up owning a Christmas store in Te Puke?
Angela and her Scottish-born husband, Phil, have always gone all out decorating the exterior of their house at Christmas time, buying items on Trade Me and collecting decorations whenever they went overseas.
“Our whole house would be glowing,” she says. “We used to live in Auckland and at times we would have busloads of people come past just to see our house. There were inflatables, lights everywhere, and wooden cut-outs of nutcrackers and carollers, that sort of thing.”
When the family moved to Te Puke in 2016, Angela insisted on buying a property that had a decent shed out front that she could decorate at Christmas.
“And then after that, I just thought it’s such a shame that we go to so much effort to put all these things up and it’s only enjoyed for a short amount of time. It’d be lovely to have a place where people can come in at any time of year and I could make them smile.”
The retail store, at the Tauranga end of Te Puke’s main street, was the perfect solution and opened in 2017. Angela has created eight delightful alcoves off the main room – each one with a different theme – to house her enormous collection of joyful items.
Each alcove is named after a different reindeer (such as Vixen’s Void, Donner’s Domain, Blitzen’s Booth and Comet’s Cosy Corner) and visitors can spend hours admiring the range of beautiful ornaments and Christmas treasures – some of which are handmade by Angela herself.
“This year I’ve been busy making gingerbread men and candy cane tree stuffers out of felt,” she says. Glittering red and silver candy canes made from polystyrene foam circles are another recent creation. “You just sketch out their lines and glitter them. It’s such a messy job though – I’ve got glitter everywhere in my lounge right now! My husband is not impressed.”
During lockdown, Angela made a life-size elf – aptly named ‘Lockie Down’ – from wood and paper mache. He now stands tall in the store’s brand new Snow Cave which will be a huge drawcard come Christmas time.
The blue and white cave glows with fairy lights and is a walk-through tribute to a white Christmas and all the excitement it brings. Kids can push different buttons to make the displays spring into life – reindeers, polar beers and penguins move about, baubles spin around, snowmen sing and there’s even a tribute to the Muppets and the Wombles.
“I just loved them as a kid,” Angela explains. “I found this collection online and just had to have them. They’re not Christmassy but it doesn't matter. It’s all about imagination and bringing back memories. In the Snow Cave it’s quite neat because you get the kids loving all the lights and the Christmassy things and you also get the adults who are reminded of their own childhoods. Just hearing the interactions between the different generations is wonderful.”
In December, Angela arranges for Santa to visit the Snow Cave to receive wish-lists and pose for photos. A special mailbox is also on hand to whisk letters directly to the North Pole.
So if you’re looking for a special Christmas stocking, a mischievous-looking elf, an animated village filled with lights and music, or a rosy-cheeked Santa of any shape or size, this is the store for you.
Angela cheerfully admits she has one of the happiest jobs in the world. “I think I do! If I'm having a bad day at home, I come here and this is my happy place. Also when I'm here I'm more creative. I can think of so many more things I want to do with this place… I want to make our Snow Cave into something absolutely massive but at the moment I’m restricted by the size of the store.”
She says her Christmas venture is more of a tourist attraction than a retail store, with regular customers coming from as far away as Christchurch and Dunedin to visit. “I’ve even had people come from the North Pole in Alaska. They were on holiday here but wanted to come and see the store. This place just brings so much joy and that's exactly what I want it to do.”
For opening hours and more information, visit https://christmasmagicmakers.co.nz