Saturday, May 18, 2024

Southern Christmas Show big help to small business

Ben Vanpelt, the lead turner at DirtWorks Pottery in Seagrove, was busy Friday night. He was working alone and a steady flow of customers were not only coming into his designer room at the 56th annual Southern Christmas Show in Charlotte, but they were also buying.

Many of the shoppers were getting an early start on Christmas, others just preparing for the holiday season, he says. Others are annual customers at the nation’s largest holiday bazaar who regularly add to their collections.

“It’s the Christmas season,” says Vanpelt. “You have Thanksgiving coming up and you need something to display all that fancy food and a great piece of pottery is great for that.”

The Southern Christmas Show began Thursday, Nov. 9, and continues through Sunday, Nov. 19, at the Park Expo and Conference Center. There are more than 400 vendors, some of whom set up simple booths to sell their wares, while others displayed their goods in elaborate miniature stores. Admission tickets are $18 at the door for adults and $8 for children ages 6 to 12. Tickets for children 5 and younger are free with a paying adult. Tickets can also be purchased through the end of the show at participating Harris Teeter stores for $15.50 with a VIC card.

Artwork from DirtWork Pottery available at the Southern Christmas Show, which continues in Charlotte through Sunday, Nov. 19

DirtWorks Pottery has more of a miniature store, selling everything from single coffee cups and Christmas ornaments to vases, pitchers and more. Seagrove is a small town of about 250 residents about 40 miles south of Greensboro, but it has acquired a national reputation for its pottery. People who collect pottery from across the nation and beyond visit Seagrove to buy pieces and support the artists who work there.

Vanpelt joined his uncle, Dan Triece, in the family business in 2006. Triece started the business in 1986, according to his website. The permanent store is located at 1226 N.C. 705.

Thousands of people will attend the Southern Christmas Show, says Vanpelt, making it a good place to attract new customers and reconnect with old ones. Artisans, food vendors and craftspeople sell a variety of goods, much of it unique.

Brenda Biberdorf of Brenda’s Fused Glass has traveled from Dallas, Georgia, northwest of Atlanta, for the past few years to sell her products – mainly commemorative soft drink bottles from college athletics. She also sells wine, liquor and beer bottles that have been melted and turned into clocks or other items.

The flattened bottles can be used in the kitchen to hold cooking spoons or as an ashtray for cigars. People tend to like them, she says. The process to make them involves carefully washing them to remove any glue or dirt residue, and then putting them into a special kiln that heats them to about 1500 degrees for 14 to 16 hours.

“They soften and fall on themselves,” she says. “It’s time, temperature and gravity that flattens them.”

Brenda’s Fused Glass is one of more than 400 vendors at the Southern Christmas Show, which runs through Sunday, Nov. 19, in Charlotte.

She buys the commemorative bottles at flea markets or estate sales, she says. The spirits, beer and wine bottles come from recycling centers, people she or her husband meet at shows, and bartenders.

She sells some bottles year-round online, but that method proves difficult. “You can’t advertise a (legendary Alabama football coach) Bear Bryant bottle because you may only have one of them,” she says.

Santa Claus is at the Southern Christmas Show and more than a few exhibitors. The Metrolina Model Railroaders Club has its HO scale French Broad and Catawba Railroad on display. The fictitious railroad is set in the Piedmont area during the 1950s. Gastonia attorney Rick Beam is one of the club’s leaders. “The difference between men and boys is the price of their toys,” says Beam, borrowing a quote from the late American entrepreneur and magazine publisher Malcolm Forbes.

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