Kelly's isn't your typical small-town gift shop. In addition to crafts, candles, knickknacks, novelty items, small toys, home decorations, tableware, etc., there are always antique items, old tools, and other memorabilia lining the front porch, aisles, walls, and even the ceiling, which give the place a distinctly homey, throwback ambiance. They even have a "cigar-store Indian"--the same one, I think, that's been there for decades!
And then there's the old-fashioned "penny" candy, a long counter holding jar upon jar of it: horehound, sassafras, clove, root beer barrels, licorice, lemon drops, "boston baked beans," chocolate-covered peanuts and raisins--if you remember it, they have it! And lots of homemade fudge, of course (especially my favorite, maple).
What makes this place really unique is the way it's transformed into a wonderland at holiday-time, especially Christmas. A back room is opened; the approach-way is filled with every imaginable Christmas-tree ornament and wall- or table-decoration (just how many versions of Santa Claus are there?); another short aisle takes you past a moving diorama of the Holy Family.
And then you reach it: darkened but for one of those rotating "disco" lights (I hate to call it that because it conveys the impression that the room is cheesy and modern, which it isn't in the slightest), "Santa's room" is covered floor-to-ceiling, and all over the ceiling, with antique toys, sleds, and children's whatnot. At the far end of the room sits Santa himself in a big chair--and he's about the most "real" Santa you'll ever encounter! Children and their families wait in line for a few minutes with the jolly old fellow, and hardly mind the wait, being surrounded with so much magical stuff!
What makes Kelly's so special to our family is that we're now into the fourth generation of Flemings who love to visit there! My memory is a bit hazy, but I'm sure my parents took me and my siblings there now and then over the years since the store opened in 1962 (what other small-town country store do you know of that's been around almost 50 years?) I do distinctly remember riding my bicycle there as a teenager--our house was only 2 or 3 miles away--to buy some candy and play the old coin-operated music box they used to have. I liked to visit there during Christmas break from college and law school, too. Then I got married and had kids of my own, and we'd take them to Kelly's on our annual Thanksgiving weekend visit to Grandma and Grandpa Moran's--I don't think Grandpa ever accompanied us, but Grandma did as long as she was physically able!
Here's Grandma with Donna and Robert at Kelly's on Thanksgiving weekend 1988 (sorry I cut off your head, Grandma!)
Getting pictures taken with Santa was a yearly ritual!
Now our kids are grown up, and Rob and Sheila have started taking theirs to Kelly's!
Apparently Liam had decided to rest up (on Rob's shoulder) for the momentous occasion of his first meeting with Santa Claus himself!
Because Liam wasn't in a position (yet) to actually talk with Santa, we were allowed to go to the head of the line and have his picture taken with the Jolly Old Elf. Liam was so overawed that he slept through the entire event!
He even slept through Sheila's attempt to load him into Santa's sleigh!
I got to hold the young fellow during most of the rest of our visit (after conning Melany into letting me hold him--I feel guilty now!), and he was awake for much of that time, just looking around and taking in all the sights and sounds. I didn't feel his weight at all until I handed him back to Melany--and then the soreness and stiffness hit! But it's a good pain!
Here are Grandma and Grandpa Fleming holding Liam in Santa's Room at Kelly's (we weren't really as shell-shocked as we look here).
We had a delightful time, and look forward to many more visits with Liam (and other grandchildren?) to Kelly's Country Store!