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Bellevue Business: It's Always Christmas at Bellevue's Christmas House

The longtime Bellevue store has been enchanting residents for generations, said owner Keith Galpin.

The , located in a bright 50s era red house that is nestled next to towering modern skyscrapers in downtown Bellevue, is in its element as Christmas approaches.

Many of the store’s employees have been working there almost since the store opened over on Main Street in a vacant Shell gas station during the oil crisis. The store’s current owner, Keith Galpin, was a college kid at the time, and worked for his mother and father, Shirley and Gerry Galpin, selling wreaths outside the store.

The store was very popular, and was a passion of Shirley Galpin, who continued the store with Keith after her husband passed away in 1982.

The store has moved twice since, settling into its current location, which Galpin bought  and renovated in the 1990s so it could have a permanent “house.”  At one time Christmas House also operated locations in Silverdale and at Gilman Village in Issaquah, so people from all around the area have visited the Christmas Store at one time or another.

Customers come into the store to marvel at room upon room of Christmas ornaments, glassware, and decorations, often with a special ornament in mind.

In the space of a few minutes, one woman inquired about Baby’s First Christmas ornaments, and another came in searching for a Christopher Radko ornament for her mother, a collector.

The Radko collection has been a big seller for Christmas House, Galpin says. Started about 25 years ago by Radko because his tree fell down and many of his classic molded German glass ornaments broke, Christmas House was at first concerned that the ornaments were too expensive. At the time they sold for about $16, compared with about $2 for other styles. They were successful, however, and have remained popular, with average prices now of about $45.

The store is loaded with Christmas items both modern and nostalgic, domestic and European. Though filled with delicate and beautiful ornaments, Galpin says the store welcomes children.

“The most wonderful thing for me is when adults come in and remember coming in as children, and now they’re bringing their children in,” and knowing that three or four generations of people have enjoyed the shop, Galpin said.

After a busy season, the store closes for a few months after Christmas, from January through March, during which time Galpin is busy attending trade shows and putting in orders for the next season’s stock.

Galpin, a resident of Sammamish, said he lives so much in the Christmas moment at the store, that he typically waits until Christmas Eve to put up his own tree and decorate.

“I’m so busy, and because I’m around Christmas all the time, I finally can enjoy it,” he said.

Galpin says that after his mother’s passing in 2008, the support of the store’s longtime staff has helped him keep his mother’s vision going.

“We have always been like a family, and that’s why we’ve been able to continue on. It was so special to her,” Galpin said.

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