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Photo of Ed Lilley, owner of The Christmas Company, a onetime store in Ellicott City.
Photo of Ed Lilley, owner of The Christmas Company, a onetime store in Ellicott City.

It stood at the top of Main Street — a kind of North Pole, if you will, for the Ellicott City shop called The Christmas Company. For 14 years, beginning in 1987, the town had a perpetual yule jewel for those seeking holiday treasures, or just a place to chill. Enter 8289 Main and one’s spirits rose, seeing the imposing copse of German nutcrackers or the elegant blown-glass ornaments from Europe.

“The store was absolutely wonderful; it had such a different take on Christmas,” said Lori McDermott, who owns Southwest Connections, one block away. “They had beautiful lighthouse ornaments that I collected each Christmas. And the owner [Ed Lilley] was one of the first to carry these nostalgic little buildings, specific to Ellicott City, that represented the stores here. Then the rest of us [shop owners] jumped on the bandwagon.”

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Lilley and his sister, Ann Bindy, ran the store, filled with keepsakes from the old country. Routinely, when visiting relatives in Germany, Lilley attended Christmas fairs and bought goods for the shop, like hand-carved wooden smoking men (incense burners whose smoke curls out of the figure’s pipe) and decorous German pyramids — seasonal carousels moved by the lit candles at their base.

“We did well and we had a lot of fun,” said Lilley, 72, of Catonsville. "When people came into the store, I’d act like Ebeneezer Scrooge and greet them with ‘Bah! Humbug.’ "

In truth, Lilley said, “some customers invited us into their homes to see what they’d done with our ornaments.”

The store closed in 2001.

“Things began to change,” he said. “One major German supplier moved the business to China. Then eBay came along so people could buy these things online. It was time to go. When we started, it was way more fun than work, but at the end, it was way more work than fun.”

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