BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — With its many decorated rooms and holiday music, the ambience of Wardell’s Christmas Shoppe sets the tone for a cozy family gathering and a cup of eggnog.
“I know it’s Christmas when I see the Christmas Shoppe open – and then I’m ready to decorate,” said Sara Archambeau, a regular customer. “It puts you in the spirit of Christmas.”
Wardell’s Garden Center owner Tom Wardell and employees Christa Horst, Joy Blanker and Carol Meyer put the finishing touches on the Christmas Shoppe, which includes rooms themed with snowmen, nature, Santa and gingerbread men.
“Almost everything in my home is from Wardell’s,” said Sara. “When we moved here 20 years ago, we needed trees, plants, flowers and shrubs. When Tom opened the Christmas Shoppe, I was happy. He has a lot of fabulous items at a reasonable price.”
After decorating a mantel with candles, Sara was getting the rest of her house ready to welcome back family after a year without celebration – like so many experienced. It’s not usual for Tom to see someone stop by after a hard day at work to just relax and peruse in the spacious barn, which is open during four seasons.
Located at 7713 Dutch Rd. in Waterville Township, Wardell’s Garden Center has been evolving for decades, starting as a grain farm operated by Tom’s grandparents, Robert and Modesta. By age 7, Tom was driving a tractor and helping out on the farm whenever he could, but when he graduated from Anthony Wayne in 1974, there wasn’t an opening for him. So, he took his trombone, headed to Bowling Green State University and earned a degree in music education. He was modeling famed Marching Generals director Robert Shoemaker as a band director at Patrick Henry High School when his job was cut in 1982. By then, his grandparents were ready for him.
“I started farming, then added veggies and flowers,” he said. Soon, he was adding buildings and events to help customers celebrate each season. Adding the Christmas Shoppe in 2007 made sense not only for his customers, but also for keeping his employees busy year-round. The shop started small and has expanded to take over the entire building, with Tom ordering merchandise in January for the next season.
“The themes differ each year depending on what’s popular,” he said. “Gnomes and gingerbread men are popular this year.”
While Wardell’s no longer sells live or artificial trees, the shop does offer wreaths, grave blankets and grave pillow decorations made to order.
Wardell’s is also a year-round supplier of bird supplies, including suet, seed and feeders. After The Andersons and Whitehouse Seed closed, Wardell’s saw an uptick in business.
“I like to take care of my feathered friends,” said Sara, who also frequents the shop for supplies.
Seeding for spring starts the third week in January to get the greenhouse ready for another season, Tom said.
The Christmas Shoppe is open Monday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and on Sunday from noon to 5:00 p.m.