Hall Decker

Catching up with The Christmas Dove CEO and manager Garth Svenson

Garth Svenson is one happy elf. He lives Christmas Day every day as manager and CEO of The Christmas Dove, a year-round outpost for those who never lose the spirit nor let the carols fade away. He and his parents, Linda and John, have built this huge Barrington store into a wondrous place full of intricate ornaments and holiday gifts from around the world. He also claims to have had a few beers with Santa, dispelling any doubts of the Jolly One’s existence. So ho ho ho and jingle bells, even next July.

  • My parents built the store in my grandfather Leon Calef’s chicken barn. We are a wholly owned subsidiary of a corporation based in the North Pole.
  • I was born and raised here on the property. I went to school for political theory at Georgetown University, and I worked on Capitol Hill for about five years before coming to work for my folks.
  • The politics of Christmas are definitely less stressful.
  • Mom wanted to create a beautiful place to shop. Dad once told me he was just certain he wanted to have a store with toy trains running in the middle of it. Today, we have four Lionel train layouts that are a huge draw for kids of all ages.
  • We import decorations from all over the world. From Poland, we get glass ornaments that each take a week to create.
  • Last year, we were paid a visit by Emanuele Fontanini all the way from Italy. His family has created nativities for the Vatican for generations.
  • Any weekend you can watch painters, jewelers, knitters, weavers, potters, woodcarvers, charcoal artists and more crafting their wares. They are The Christmas Dove’s real-life elves.
  • We probably have a quarter-million ornaments and decorations in the store at any given time. Hopefully less by December 26.
  • We proudly don’t sell a single thing anyone really needs. Just things that people want — or things they didn’t know they wanted until they spent an afternoon exploring the store.
  • Favorite Christmas movie? “It’s a Wonderful Life.” No question. I do a mean Jimmy Stewart impersonation!
  • Our children have essentially grown up in the store. I guess it’s not a terrible place to grow up, surrounded by toys and Christmas trees.
  • My mother-in-law likes to tell me “someday they’re going to have to learn this isn’t reality.”
  • We’re going to try and keep it from them as long as we can.

Svenson’s parents founded The Christmas Dove back in 1973, and while much has changed in the design of Christmas décor, their personalized red sled ornaments have been a constant for more than 40 years. Many families who collected complete sets for their children have come back to make personalized ornaments for grandkids. And, as the photo above shows, you can also just have a little fun with them.

Categories: Q&A