Mike Golomb became a Christmas devotee after a search to find the perfect vintage ugly holiday sweater resulted in a collection of over 30,000 of them. More than a decade later, this unintended hobby is now a flourishing side business.
Christmas was in Kelli Girsch’s blood. She grew up in a home that celebrated the season year-round, complete with a trimmed tree. Kelli’s Christmas store is her third subscription-box business—and her most successful to date.
Mike and Kelli built Christmas stores on the bet they weren’t alone in their passion for holiday cheer—and they were right. While signs of the season creep into retail shops and onto Netflix earlier and earlier (even before the jack-o’-lantern hits the compost bin), for these two, Christmas is evergreen. It’s not a holiday or even a season—it’s a way of life.
Regardless of your feelings about Christmas, Mike and Kelli’s stories show that whatever your interest, there’s probably a niche market that shares it.
7 unique and inspiring Christmas stores
In the spirit of the season, peek inside seven Christmas stores selling holiday cheer. From Christmas decorations to festive gifts to bags designed just for wreaths, these founders snagged their own unique corner of the holiday market.
Learn from these seasonal entrepreneurs as they share how they brought their ideas to life—and let them also inspire you to turn what you’re into, into a business.
1. Jammie Claus
Christmas store: A family pajama tradition
Location: Cleveland, Ohio
Head elves: Megan R. Holmes, Linda K. O’Dell, Laura Coghlin, Scott Holmes
Jammie Claus is the result of four generations of daughters who created a family tradition around the character of Mrs. Claus as the bringer of Christmas Eve pajamas. They invited customers to celebrate that tradition through an online Christmas store. The concept? A storybook about Mrs. Claus adds depth to the character and a gift bag (magically filled with fresh pjs each year) that helps other families start their own tradition.
Jammie Claus is also a social enterprise committed to empowering women through story—Mrs. Claus as a strong leader—and through profits from the brand’s Empowerment head scarves, which support organizations providing skills and employment to underserved communities. “Every decision we make, we ask if this aligns with our mission,” says Laura. “If the answer is no, then we don’t pursue it.”
On launching in just eight months
“As a family business, we divide out what needs to get done and share the responsibilities,” says Megan. “Each of us carry separate professional careers, and our complementary talents have helped us prepare quickly for this holiday season. [We also] have three young kids, so often long hours are put in after the kids are in bed.”
2. My Green Christmas
Christmas store: Holiday crackers with less waste
Location: London, UK
Head elf: Joshua Wood
Joshua realized that Christmas produces a lot of plastic waste. Hard pressed to find Christmas crackers without disposable plastic toys, he created his own. My Green Christmas crackers still contain the silly paper hat and a dad joke—some things are sacred—but instead of a cheap plastic toy, the cracker is packed with seed kits to grow your own veggies or flowers.
The company has grown to a remote team of three but, for now, Joshua only does elf work during the holidays. His career in the software industry keeps him busy in the off-season.
The fringe benefits of running a holiday shop
“Since we started this project, we have been inspired to become more environmentally friendly in other areas of our life,” says Joshua.
Christmas store: Rental trees and decor
Location: New York, New York
Head elves: Judah Parness, a.k.a. Skeeter Gumdrop; Kristen Parness, a.k.a. Sparkles Peppermint
In 2013, Judah and Kristen were spending their first Christmas together. They wanted to kit out their New York City apartment in full holiday splendor, but there was one problem: where would they store everything come January? Why couldn’t they just rent Christmas décor? That day, their seasonal service business, Rent-A-Christmas, was born. Now, they outfit homes all over New York with the full holiday experience—then tear it all down for their customers when the season is over.
We don’t have a full-year runway in which to generate revenue, so it is imperative that we plan everything.
Judah and Kristen Parness
Timing is everything at the holidays
“We don’t have a full-year runway in which to generate revenue, so it is imperative that we plan everything,” says Kristen. “We keep a critical eye on costs, and we try to plan our expenses at times in the year when we are also generating sales.”
4. Santa’s Bags
Christmas store: Storage for trees and decor
Location: West Valley City, Utah
Head elves: Jared Hendricks (owner), Parker Eakin (ecommerce director)
After first getting into the seasonal lighting business, Jared went all in and has since launched three more Christmas shops. Santa’s Bags was the answer to an annual problem: What to do with Christmas decorations during the other 11 months of the year (that is, if you haven’t rented them from Judah and Kristen). Trees and Christmas lights and holiday ornaments pack up into tidy, compact bags rather than clutter up precious storage space.
On surviving the seasonal surge
“We spend a lot of time planning out our operations, automating as much as possible so that once the surge of orders hits, most of the tasks, such as order processing, shipping, and accounting, are streamlined and easy for anyone to do,” says Jared.
5. The Ugly Sweater Store
Christmas store: Vintage (and new) “ugly” Christmas sweaters
Location: St. Louis, Missouri
Head elf: Mike Golomb
Mike once sat out a Christmas party because his attempts to find an on-theme ugly sweater came up short (even though his kindergarten teacher mom owned a closetful). A year later, his mom found a goldmine of vintage sweaters at a local Goodwill and asked how many he wanted. He took all 30.
After selling the first batch on eBay, Mike continued to scale until he had amassed more than 30,000 vintage ugly sweaters. He now sells them, along with his own creations—sweaters that hold a beer bottle in a front pocket—via his own website. He even once partnered with White Castle to create a dedicated design for the fast food chain.
The Ugly Sweater Store has been a side hustle for Mike for over a decade. While the business is still seasonal, Mike says it doesn’t make sense to hire staff—temp elfs (his friends and family), after all, are willing to work for “eggnog.”
On preparing for the spikes
“Plan ahead,” says Mike. “If you have items that sell fast, pre-package them. And make sure you have a stock of packing supplies, as nothing is more frustrating than running out at 10 p.m. to find a 24-hour store that sells tape and ink.”
6. Fabulous Fairytales
Christmas store idea: High-end ornaments
Location: London, UK
Head elf: Paul Clancy, a.k.a. Magical Mr. Paul
Paul worked in the fashion industry for years before changing careers and becoming a gardener. It was one of his clients—a woman who asked him to dress her garden for the holidays—who ignited his love of Christmas. That work grew into a luxury wreath business that eventually spawned a second Christmas shop, Fabulous Fairytales, a collection of fantasy-inspired luxury ornaments and other holiday decorations.
The Christmas industry is a fast-paced business packed into a short space of time. Enjoy the ride.
Surviving—and thriving—at Christmas
“The Christmas industry is a fast-paced business packed into a short space of time. Enjoy the ride,” says Paul. “Allow yourself time to step back and pat yourself on the back for the great job you are doing.”
7. My Christmas Crate
Christmas store: Year-round holiday-themed subscription boxes
Location: Lincoln, California
Head elf: Kelli Girsch
Christmas in July (and August and February) is in full swing at Kelli’s house. She comes by it honestly. As a serial founder, Kelli’s instincts told her she wasn’t the only one who couldn’t wait a whole year for eggnog season, and she was right. My Christmas Crate—her third and most profitable subscription business—ships the spirit of the season all year long. Being Santa is her full-time job. And her elves? They’re teenagers (including one of her own) who she employs to assemble the boxes. “Teens are easy to hire and eager to learn,” she says.
Keeping up the Christmas cheer
“Customer support is key! Don’t try to outsource too much or you’ll end up in the red,” says Kelly. “I try to keep customer support in-house to reduce overhead costs. The downside is that I take each and every customer issue or complaint personally.”
Business ideas for the holiday season
If starting a seasonal business interests you, there are plenty of ideas to consider: decorating service businesses, niche handmade advent calendars (think beauty, STEM toys, or teas), or print-on-demand Christmas cards.
In 2021, the global Christmas decoration market was valued at $5.52 billion, making it a potentially lucrative industry for the right idea. Spread holiday cheer—and make money doing what you love—by finding your own niche in the Christmas business.
Illustrations by Amanda Berglund