CHRISTMAS MAGIC: Stepping inside Noble Passage during the Christmas season is magical
By Erin Coggins / Photos by Sarah Brewer
That is what Deborah McDaniel feels when she thinks back on the time, she visited her grandfather in Chicago during the Christmas holidays. The family would take the train into the city to see the storefronts on Michigan Avenue—stores like Macy’s with elaborate displays.
“My grandfather was an artist. He attended the Art Institute in Chicago,” McDaniel said. “His home was always decorated beautifully. We would get roasted chestnuts, hot cocoa, and walk down Michigan Avenue. It was magic.”
That Christmas magic, the smells, the sights, and the feeling, is what McDaniel captures in her downtown shop, Noble Passage Interiors.
“I want to capture that on a small scale. We do not have the large stores like Macy’s downtown, but we can still make children’s eyes twinkle,” McDaniel said. “I feel my shop feels magical and feels like childhood.”
The storefront windows may not be as large as downtown Chicago, but McDaniel and her employees have represented a variety of holiday décor options in their windows. One is decorated in the traditional red and green with Santa and his reindeer while the other represents the more spiritual side of the holiday with golds and Nativity scenes.
“Decorating is so individual,” McDaniel said. “We like to cater to all tastes.”
McDaniel says nativity scenes are big this season and her shop offers a plethora of them. From elaborate to a simple white porcelain, nativity scenes are in every room in the shop. Customers can even purchase a miniature one with Joseph, Mary and baby Jesus in a manager that comes in the perfect box for gifting or a “paint your own” nativity scene for children.
“I think because of COVID and other things, people need a reminder that they are not alone,” McDaniel said. “A few years ago, it was tough to find nativity scenes and religious items. I told my vendors that if they make it, I will buy it. We actually offer them year-round.”
One room in the store is dedicated to Mark Roberts elves and fairies, a brand unique to Noble Passage. Most are limited edition pieces that come with a collector’s certificate for registering the piece. The bright colored, detailed, whimsical fairies and elves are posable and can hang from chandeliers, candlesticks and lamp shades.
“Mark Roberts is a California artist that I have known for years and years. I even have his number in my phone contacts,” McDaniel said. “He offers unique items. Some of the nativity scenes and other items are elaborate and expensive, and others are affordable. We try to offer a variety of affordable pieces.”
McDaniel says customers often purchase the Mark Roberts pieces as family heirlooms or to begin a collection for a daughter or granddaughter. Sometimes they purchase eight to 10 pieces at a time. The ones that do not sell during the current season are packed away and brought back the next year.
“Some of the pieces we bring back out are retired. These make a great find,” McDaniel said. “We also keep the prices the same for these items even if they were brought in from years back.”
Mark Roberts is a draw for customers, but Noble Passage is packed from floor to ceiling with merchandise. A couch in one of the rooms offers a great vantage point for taking it all in. In fact, McDaniel says a recent visitor did just that.
“The lady was visiting family from Germany. She kept walking around the store a little bit and then would go sit on the couch. Walk and then rest,” McDaniel said. “When we asked if she was doing okay, she responded that she had to sit so she could look from top to bottom.”
There is a reason customers come from as far away as Atlanta to purchase décor at the shop. McDaniel strives to make her store “feel like home.” The shop which has been open for 11 years has become a family tradition for some customers.
“During the holidays, we see a lot of our clients bring in their families that are visiting,” McDaniel said. “Then those family members become repeat customers.”
Inventory is also a draw for customers. Despite the shipping crisis currently affecting the nation, McDaniel has been able to provide a vast amount of merchandise for her customers this season. She purchases her holiday merchandise right after Christmas, something she is fortunate she does with the supply issues this year.
“The majority of our Christmas merchandise is warehoused by June or July,” McDaniel said. “For the most part, it is all here. Items are also still trickling in. I spoke to one of my friends who owns a florist in Nashville, and they are unable to get inventory. It’s sad.”
The silver lining is that McDaniel’s customers are aware of the shipping shortage and have started their Christmas shopping early. This has made the store unusually busy earlier in the season.
“We have been late getting some of our decorations out because it has been like December around here,” McDaniel said.
That is okay with McDaniel and her employees who claim to be “Santa’s helpers.”
“Everybody who works in here loves Christmas,” McDaniel said. “One of my employees has Christmas music on her playlist and when she walks at the beach, she takes her walks listening to it. We could do Christmas all year long.”
Noble Passage Interiors is located at 204 Main St, Madison. You can find them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/NoblePassageInteriors.
From the December 2021 issue of Madison Living Magazine