You can tell immediately that this is a year-round Christmas Shop with a difference.
The shop is dark and intimate with a definite sense of magic in the air.
As you walk through the door you could be forgiven for feeling as if you’ve discovered Narnia hidden amongst the more ordinary shopfronts in this coastal holiday town.
Except in this Narnia, it’s always Christmas, even if it isn’t winter.
home to Santa Claus’ official biographer!
The Christmas Imaginarium Story
Run by Russell & Claire Ince, The Christmas Imaginarium is the realisation of a decade’s work in Christmas product creation.
Russell is in fact Santa Claus’s official biographer and has penned a whole host of books and magazines on behalf of the Big Man himself, starting with Santa Claus: The Book of Secrets.
An utterly fascinating gent with an extremely vivid creative mind, Russell then began developing Christmas decorations and ornaments, some of which can be found on the shelves of Harrods, Selfridges & Fortnum & Mason.
And so it was a natural progression for the couple to open the doors to their very own winter wonderland in July 2018.
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Let’s sprinkle Christmas cheer far and wide!
lifted straight out of Willy Wonka’s factory
Exploring the Christmas Shop
From fabulously cheerful vintage baubles – hand-blown and hand-painted in Germany from the original moulds – through to eccentric glass busts of everyone from The Queen to the Dali Lama and a bespoke jigsaw puzzle of the storefront, there is truly something for everyone.
And Russell’s portfolio of books rightly take pride of place encased in a beautiful wooden Christmas market stall (complete with snow!), crafted by Russell himself.
Clearly his furniture-maker father’s skills rubbed off as The Christmas Imaginarium is dotted with beautifully handcrafted wood signs bringing themes from the Book of Secrets to life around the store.
And the magic touches just keep coming. ‘What’s this?’, I asked, my eyes transfixed by a huge metallic contraption that looked as though it had been lifted straight out of Willy Wonka’s factory. ‘That is a machine that children can send their letters directly to the post office at the North Pole.’
There is no way any child could possibly walk past that without wanting to send a letter!
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‘it becomes a gathering place’
The Shop Is An Oasis
Christmas is a serious business for Russell.
‘You’ve got a responsibility as a Christmas Shopkeeper’, he explains, ‘[Out of season, the shop] becomes a bit like an oasis, a gathering place … It’s just lovely to be able to kind of link [Christmas enthusiasts] together and give them somewhere where they feel they can express their love [for Christmas] and talk about it.’
And The Christmas Imaginarium has had a hugely positive impact on his work as a writer as well.
‘You learn about Christmas by talking to people, so you come to understand what inspires people, why they love it and what makes it magical for them. And that information is key to helping us deliver the right things to help… It becomes a cycle.’
Well we’re certainly hooked. Excuse us whilst we go write our letter to Santa…
PERFECT FOR: Something a little bit different and the chance to meet Santa’s Official Biographer!
FIND IT HERE: 7 Cross Street, Ryde, Isle of Wight, PO33 2AD
DATE OF VISIT: 22 July 2021
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