For generations of Alexandrians, it’s known as the happiest attic in town, the only place where Christmas is celebrated the other 364 days of the year.
Last week, the venerable Christmas Attic, an Old Town mainstay for 37 years, was honored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce with its vaunted Blue Ribbon Small Business Award.
The award was presented April 17 by President George W. Bush at a Small Business Summit in recognition of the Christmas Attic’s dedication to excellence.
The Chamber recognizes a handful of the nation’s top small businesses with the awards each year. The businesses are measured by how they excel in such key categories as financial performance and business history, staff training and motivation, community involvement, customer service and business planning.
It was such a thrill to be honored at a national level for our hard work and team effort. We have always been proud of being a woman owned small business but to be recognized for our successes is fabulous, said Fay Hobbs-Carter, the president of The Christmas Attic.
The Christmas Attic is a family-owned, year-round Christmas store located a block from the Potomac River.
Until her passing in 2006, Nita Hobbs-Whitesel ran the shop she founded, aided by family members and assorted elves. She watched as the earliest little customers grew up, then their children and now their childrens children came into the store to gaze in wonder at the displays, and leave with a red apple from the barrel she kept at the door.
Whitesel was survived by her husband, Thomas K. Whitesel Jr, and two daughters Fay Hobbs-Carter of Del Ray and Cheri Hennessey of Fairfax Station. She was also survived by 11 grandchildren and two nieces — many of whom still work at the little shop at 125 North Union Street.
You can find almost anything Christmas-y in the store, from $2 shimmering snowflake ornaments to splendiferous $500 Nutcracker figures and $600 Nativity sets, amid classic ornaments many customers may recall from childhood.
In the store, the antique model train loops tirelessly on the track above. It has been there almost as long as the shop, Whitesel started with $500 in a little upstairs. Hobbs-Carter runs it today, with Whitesel’s granddaughter, sister, niece and Santa’s helpers.
Whitesel was always a collector of special Christmas ornaments for the family, and Carter continues the tradition. Customers appreciate this. Carter told of one man who ducks into the shop occasionally throughout the year. He doesnt come for ornaments, but just walks around looking at things, and tells her he seems to leave happier for it.
Some Alexandrians give back to the shop that has entertained them over the decades. For instance, Carter said the little train overhead once acquired an unexpected green car from a young admirer. As they told it, the boy came into the shop with his father, who said, The Christmas Attic has brought us so much joy, we wanted to do something for you; heres another car to hitch to the engine.
Danielle Vendetti and Donna Shor contributed to this article.