The Business of Christmas

It’s the most wonderful time of the year – and the most hectic for local businesses that put together holiday gift boxes. 

Though the Peninsula Pulse reached out to around 10 such businesses, only two responded in time for our press deadline. Hearing from the two business-owners who had time for an interview, it was easy to guess why many others didn’t – both Ann Renard of Renard’s Cheese, and Christiana Trapani of Door County Candle Company and Door County Delivered, described busy work days leading up to Christmas. 

“During the season, we get in around 5 [am] and stay until about 6 [pm,]” Trapani said. “They’re very long days.”

The extended shifts are required for the amount of holiday orders Trapani’s two Carlsville businesses receive. Door County Delivered, which assembles gift boxes full of locally-made products, brings in a smaller number of orders, with a few hundred coming in throughout the holiday season. Meanwhile, Door County Candle Company racks in about a hundred orders a day.

Trapani works alongside her mother, her husband and a small team of employees, as well as some volunteers who help with the company’s Support A Cause Candles, which benefit various charities. But even with the help, Trapani still finds herself juggling a laundry list of tasks as the holiday season ramps up. 

“I will jump in and do everything from emails to marketing to packing boxes to helping with candle production to [working in] the store,” Trapani said. 

The newness of Door County Candle Company adds an additional challenge; Trapani bought the business in 2021, and at that point, its ecommerce component wasn’t as fleshed out as it is now. 

“We’ve seen a huge uptick” in online sales in the past two years, Trapani said. “It’s been fun, but it’s a challenge because we don’t necessarily know what to prepare for.”

Trapani has a better idea of what to expect when it comes to Door County Delivered, which she has operated since 2020. Usually, Door County Delivered orders start flying in around Black Friday, then slowing down a few days before Christmas.

For Renard’s Cheese in Sturgeon Bay, the holiday season stretches on even longer; orders don’t typically die down until the second week of January, according to owner Ann Renard. Soon after that, Renard’s management starts preparing for next Christmas.

“We will begin planning the second or third day in February for the following holiday season,” Renard said.

During the holidays, Renard’s crew is supplemented by high school and college students on break for the holidays, and former employees who return to help out. They prepare orders out of three semi-truck trailers, which arrive in early November. One refrigerated trailer stores extra cheese; another stores pre-wrapped and create-your-own gift boxes, the latter of which are available in-store; and a third is full of extra gift boxes, coolers and other materials required for shipping perishable goods through FedEx and UPS, which pick up orders daily.

That amount of space is necessary when you’re shipping out 10,000 to 12,000 orders every four to five weeks – a number that has increased through the years, Renard said.

“Our holiday gift-giving [operation] grows every year, which makes it a little bit more difficult to coordinate,” Renard said.

That’s why the company is planning to make an addition to their workspace that will benefit future holiday seasons: a 5,000 square-foot add-on, around the size of a semi trailer, that will include a cooler and freezer to store more products.

For both Renard and Trapani, the busyness of the weeks leading up to Christmas means atypical holiday celebrations of their own.

“We don’t even think about our holidays,” Trapani said. “We’re so focused on getting everything out as quickly as possible that when Christmas hits, we’re like ‘Oh, yeah.’”

The Renards find time to celebrate early, knowing they likely won’t get a chance to do so once the season starts in earnest.

“We’re not really a big ‘gift family’ anyway,” Renard said. “We’re more of a ‘spend time together’ family. So we spend our time together preparing for everybody else’s holiday to make their gift-giving easier.”