Year-round themes Christmas time alive at Santa’s Station

Published 12:00 am Sunday, December 23, 2001

NATCHEZ – Santa’s Station is more than a Christmas shop. Owner Kim Gammill said the name of her business often fools customers. &uot;We have something for every holiday,&uot; Gammill said. &uot;In fact, we have many new Mardi Gras things, but haven’t put them out yet.&uot;

Christmas is the big season for the store, Gammill acknowledged. And this year has been no exception. Still, she has put emphasis on building up the other facets of the business, selling gifts for all occasions, including births and weddings.

And now, she is experiencing success with a new way of selling Christmas items and other lines of gifts and decorative pieces.

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&uot;A few years ago, we began to sell on the Internet,&uot; she said. &uot;We would not be here if it were not for the Internet.&uot;

Orders from the Web site now make up 35 to 40 percent of the shop’s sales. &uot;It took us from 1997 until last year to get the Web site posted in some of the right places,&uot; Gammill said.

Now every customer leaves the store with a card that includes the address,

&uot;This year we’ve shipped to England, Singapore, South Africa and Switzerland, among other places,&uot; she said.

Orders also increased within the United States, perhaps as a result of the September 11 incident. &uot;I think people stopped traveling and began to shop more on the Internet,&uot; Gammill said. Still, the 2001 season has presented its challenges. The loss of riverboat travelers from the Delta Queen Steamboat Compny boats and a noticeable drop in tourist numbers have affected her shop, Gammill said.

&uot;And with the economy down, we have had to compete with the big department stores, putting our merchandise on sale before Christmas rather than waiting until after Christmas,&uot; she said.

She already has plans to make the shop attractive to convention attendees, as her shop, at the corner of Main and Canal streets, is located just across the street from the new convention center that will open in the spring.

Out-of-town shoppers make up a good number of her customers, and Santa’s Station ships items for those buyers no matter the size or fragility of the purchase, she said.

&uot;The biggest item we’ve shipped so far was a seven-foot angel. A man bought it for his church in Georgia,&uot; Gammill said. &uot;We ship anything anywhere.&uot;

Packaging is a big deal for her assistants in the store. Big rolls of bubble wrap and many boxes of all sizes stand around the warehouse and shipping area of the store.

&uot;We insure everything, and we have very little trouble with breakage,&uot; Gammill said.

Many local customers are decorating more than usual this year.

Some, at least four so far, have ordered trees straight from the floor of the shop, complete with ornaments and lights.

Christmas merchandise may take center stage during particular seasons. &uot;You’d be surprised how many people buy Christmas things during the year,&uot; Gammill said.

She opened the business in 1993, operating in the old Main Street bus station that was razed as part of the preparation for the convention center.

&uot;We didn’t have anywhere to move at first, and we were afraid we’d just have the Internet business,&uot; she said. That was in 1997.

&uot;We were able to move into a part of this building in 1999,&uot; she said. &uot;And then last year we expanded into the rest of the building.&uot;

Why a store with a Christmas theme? &uot;I always wanted to so something on my own, and my mother loves Christmas. I got my love for Christmas from her,&uot; Gammill said. &uot;Her home looks like this store.&uot;

Her mother, Martha Gammill, assists her at the shop and does much of the decorating at the store. Her other assistants are Anna Hudgens and Becky Foster.