Probably nothing surprises the owners of Tannenbaum Holiday Shop in Sister Bay anymore. Want a Christmas ornament in the shape of a clove of garlic? Piece of cherry pie? Toilet plunger?

Sue Ann Flittner, co-owner with her husband, Ron, has found all of those off-the-wall ornaments and more in her 13 years running the shop, located in the old Zion Lutheran Church (founded in 1879).

“People come in with odd requests,” admits Flittner, a self-professed Christmas fanatic. “I like what I do,” she says, and that includes finding just the right ornament for shoppers and creating a magical atmosphere to put shoppers in the holiday spirit…even in the heat of summer.

Shoppers could have spent a steamy day on the beach and just enjoyed an ice cream cone across the street at Door County Ice Cream Factory. But when they walk across Hwy. 42 to the 3,000-square-foot Tannenbaum shop, the smells of Fraser Fir, twinkling lights and oversized trees, the holiday season has officially begun.

“If it smells like Christmas, it helps get you in the mood,” says Flittner, a marketing major who grew up in a family that loved decorating for Christmas. “I don’t even remember a time when I didn’t.”

When she and her husband began looking for a business opportunity in Door County—where they had enjoyed visiting with their children—their combined management, marketing and retail buying experience, along with their shared love of the holiday, led them to Tannenbaum.

A Holiday Haven

Walking around the shop is a treasure hunt—finding those not-so-common ornaments as well as decorations other than the traditional Christmas red and green. Flittner says that variety lets shoppers “think outside the box,” and she’s all too willing to offer suggestions.

“My trees look different,” says Flittner, who says the themed trees are all her own design. One themed tree, for example, is decorated with an array of ornaments featuring sweet treats—candy, ice cream cones, cupcakes, cherry pie, macaroons and more. One features the ever-popular woodland animals. One features everything a wine aficionado would toast to. And there are even trees featuring the traditional blue/gold colors of Hanukkah and a patriotic Independence Day tree as well.

And ornaments from just about every imaginable hobby—fishing, crafting, cooking, sports, travel, the list goes on—can be found on a search that will only lead to another whimsical discovery around a corner. “Old World Christmas (a maker of hand-painted blown glass ornaments) makes just about everything,” Flittner says.

A most popular tree—and one of Tannenbaum’s best sellers—is an upside-down tree, an Eastern European, specifically Polish, tradition.

Even those not specifically looking for Christmas decorations or a tree, however, will likely find plenty of options for holiday presents, such as religious items; plaques with inspirational quotes; Packers, Badgers or other team ornaments; candles and other home fragrances; decorative plates and figurines; linens and even items for Halloween. “Halloween is the second most popular holiday to decorate for,” says Flittner.

Tannenbaum features a niche area laden with spooky Halloween items—including talking brooms and witches, black and orange décor and even a trio of skeletons posed like the famous Hear No Evil, See No Evil, Speak No Evil monkeys.

Holiday trends change every year, and so do retail markets. Flittner admits that the recession of 2008-2009 did impact their business, primarily in the fact that several holiday vendors went out of business.

“Everything has its time,” she admits, but remains optimistic in the power of people’s passion for the holidays—a time where goodwill and happiness usually inspire decorating and gift-giving.

In a region where things slow down in the winter, Flittner holds onto that feeling—and exudes enough of her own enthusiasm for the holiday to share with visitors.

“We have repeat customers that get to be family,” she says, “and what’s better than that? It brings out good memories.”