Kris Kringle Haus is not the North Pole and owner Jim Gierucki only looks like Santa Claus with a bushy white beard. But the store in Orland Park is definitely filled with the Christmas spirit.
Kris Kringle Haus opened last month at 15210 S. LaGrange Road in Orland Park’s Ravinia Plaza (the same location as last year) and the store is filled with all things Christmas from cards to Nutcrackers.
Jim and wife Cleo have been operating Kris Kringle Haus for 22 years. For the first 16 years, the store was open year-round in Geneva; which made for a lengthy commute for the Palos Park couple.
Changing times led the couple to close up the Geneva store in 2006 and try their hand at a seasonal shop in Palos Heights. They moved the shop to Orland the next year and have been a seasonal fixture on LaGrange Road ever since.
“When we were in Geneva, we did a lot of collectibles that helped carry us through the off season,” Gierucki said. “Then the collectible business started to decline and malls hurt the downtown Geneva business district.”
Today, Kris Kringle Haus is known for its celebration of Christmas and the quality of its offerings.
“We’re both Christmas nuts,” said Gierucki, 64, describing how the couple started their business. He had owned a janitorial supply service before that.
They visit Europe at the end of January every year to put in their orders for the following Christmas. The shop carries European imports from places such as Poland, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Italy, Russia, Sweden and Germany.
“We order a lot from Germany,” he said. “Germans are into Christmas more than anybody.”
Prices at Kris Kringle Haus are often better than what the decorations sell for in their native land.
“We import directly and because we don’t pay the Value Added Tax, our items are sometimes more than 40 percent cheaper than in Europe,” Gierucki said.
Gierucki said the store has increased its American-made items this season.
“We found a new group of American goods from artisans and one-person workshops,” he said. “The quality and uniqueness is top rate.”
Business starts out slow at Kris Kringle Haus and builds as the holiday approaches.
“It really takes off after Thanksgiving,” Gierucki said. “Early on, we sell decorations and ornaments. Later on, the gift buying picks up.”
“It’s been a lot of fun,” he said. “We’ve found some great friends.”
And more than a few regular customers.
“We have 14,000 names on our mailing list,” Gierucki said with a twinkle in his eye worthy of Kris Kringle himself.
The store is open through Jan. 8 Hours are Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m.
Upcoming events include Black Friday specials with hot cider, cookies and peppermints as well as a Dec. 4 visit from Karla Steinbach, head of Germany’s Steinbach GMBH, who will personalize Nutcrackers and other Steinbach decorations.