Santa’s Little Helpers

November 2018

As the leaves fall, thoughts turn to the season to come. As soon as Labour Day passes, we start to think about Thanksgiving, and as soon as the last piece of pumpkin pie is served up, we start to think about Christmas…that is, unless you are one of the artisans or local business owners whose job it is to make sure it really is the most wonderful time of the year. Luckily, they are a few steps ahead of us.

Brent Park Store

Getting ready for Christmas at Brent Park Store means ordering before the snow is barely melted in the spring. Founder Heinz Willman opened the store when he emigrated from Germany, bringing with him traditional German delicacies that are Christmas must-haves for many. To be sure of delivery in time for the Christmas season, current owner Paul Trevisanutto begins ordering in April. “Some of my most popular items at Christmas are traditional German cookies and confections. The Dominosteine, a cube made up of a layer of soft gingerbread, marzipan, and jelly all coated in chocolate, is one such item.

Its only available at Christmas time and people always stock up.” says Trevisanutto, adding that he has some customers for whom this has been a Christmas staple for over 60 years.

The store is also busy with pre-orders. The most popular items are hams for Christmas dinner, prime rib for New Years and cold cut and cheese trays. If you can’t remember what you ordered last year, never fear. The staff at Brent Park keep the order book from the previous year to help customers remember what they got last year. Does it get any better than that?

Being this focused on the success of the season for others takes a lot of time.

I asked Paul Trevisanutto how he prepares for his own Christmas with his busy schedule. “I try to plan as early as I can” he says, “and I have got some gifts bought already”.

Thunder Bay Potters Guild

This year will be the 41st year that the Thunder Bay Potters Guild is presenting its annual Christmas sale at the Baggage Building at Prince Arthur’s Landing on Nov 24 and 25th.

Sixteen potters prepare approximately 5000 pieces to have enough inventory for the shoppers who return every year for locally made, unique items for gift giving. Guild member Noël Keag says the most popular items are wine tumblers, casseroles, salad bowls and mugs. “Every potter has their own particular works and style that customers are attracted to.” Says Keag.

Some of the potters begin working on their inventory right after their Spring Sale in June. Others start several months before the event. The process is very involved and it takes a long time to produce a single piece. I asked Keag if potters use this opportunity to get some of their own Christmas shopping done. The answer was a resounding yes. “I never go home with all of the money I have made…ever!” jokes Keag.

Both Hands Wood-Fired Pizzeria & Bakery

Both Hands Wood-Fired Pizzeria & Bakery at the corner of Algoma Street and Park Avenue takes advance orders for breads, specialty cookies and sweets. Staff normally start at 6 am, but the week before Christmas, they start even earlier to fill the extra orders, then continue with the regular day to day operation of the restaurant and bakery. By the time most of us are just getting to work, they have already put in almost half a day.

Orders for his wood-fired pizza also pick up, with workplace celebrations and families needing something quick for dinner as they continue with their holiday preparations. “Lots of families and businesses will order pizza in that week prior to Christmas, so we are busier all around.” Says owner Derek Lucchese.

Both Hands is dedicated to using only local ingredients, so they also let their suppliers know that they will need to order extra to ensure they have enough quantities of supplies on hand to fulfill their orders and increased demand.

Once all of orders are filled and pizza oven has cooled off, the Lucchese’s head out of town to spend Christmas with their family. “It’s basically a mad scramble to get through the business part of Christmas, and then another one to pull everything together to get the family on the road. Can’t say it’s ever easy or graceful.” smiles Lucchese.
These are only a few examples of the many businesses and groups that we all rely on during the Christmas season. Thank you to these “Santa’s Helpers” for going the extra mile and thinking ahead so that we can enjoy the good times with family and friends over the holidays.

Kathy Shilliday is a regular contributor and a hawk eye for stories to share. She can be reached at

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