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The Store Where the Christmas Season Begins in September

A little before noon on Oct. 5, Richard Morrison was hanging a glass ornament that resembled a head of garlic on a small metal tree at a John Derian store in Manhattan’s East Village neighborhood. This year marks the earliest start of the Christmas season at John Derian’s store, where he and his colleagues had been setting up holiday décor since Sept. 30, 1995.

Mr. Morrison, 36, was one of five employees unpacking and arranging ornaments at the shop on Oct. 5. As he hung the ornament, he wiped a streak of glitter from his brow, commenting, “It’s a hazard here.” Claire Cook, 28, a store manager who was also decorating, added, “If you work here, you can’t be bothered by glitter.”

The store is dedicated to holiday decor featuring a dozen trees bearing hundreds of ornaments, wreaths, vintage garlands made of glass, papier-mâché tree toppers, and a giant snowman named Tony. Mr. Derian also mentioned that he has around 50,000 ornaments for sale both online and at his stores this year.

But on Oct. 5, the day before the holiday shop opened to the public, it was still in disarray. A variety of unique ornaments were on display, including glass peacocks, dragons, pickles, mermaids, and more, with prices ranging from $32 to $352.

As ornaments are sold or broken, they are replaced, with some extras stored for easy access. Mr. Derian estimated that a couple of ornaments were broken each day at his stores, but there is no you-break it-you-buy-it rule.

Near the back of the store, a towering artificial spruce tree dappled with fake snow was being adorned with fungi ornaments of various shapes in colors like red, green, purple, pink, and aquamarine. Mr. Derian mentioned that sales related to the holiday season make up around a quarter of his stores’ sales.

Mr. Derian has also introduced a rope stanchion to limit the number of customers who can shop at a time, which he started using in 2020 due to pandemic restrictions. He believes it creates a better shopping experience for his customers. Additionally, he mentioned that he is a creative person running a business and that around a quarter of his stores’ sales are holiday related.

On Oct. 5, just after 2 p.m., a cloud of smoke appeared outside the shop’s entrance as the employees were preparing its displays, wafting from a bunch of sage leaves lit by Thomas Little, whose company, Urbangreen, has done landscaping and planting work at Mr. Derian’s stores for the last decade.

Mr. Little, 59, said he began every project for Mr. Derian with a saging ritual, emphasizing the sacredness of the store.

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