When the Apple store bolted this fall for Hilldale Shopping Center, it left a 3,000-square-foot void at West Towne Mall.
But it didn't take long to fill the space. Only the iPads, iPhones and MacBooks have been replaced with a temporary deluge of all-things Christmas thanks to a Wisconsin-based, family-owned business that specializes in decorations, ornaments, gifts, snow globes and other holiday items.
Callister's Christmas opened in late October and is scheduled to close a few days after Christmas. The pop-up store has been a welcome addition to the mall and a wise business decision for Sandy Kalczynski of Muskego and her two sisters, Melanie Jensen and Michelle Zelenak.
Business has been brisk for the trio who are entering the Madison market for the first time and also operate pop-up stores this season at Brookfield Square, Southridge Mall in Milwaukee and Fox River Mall in Appleton. Their stores include more than 6,000 types of ornaments, which pack the walls and racks in the store.
"If you can't find it here, you can't find it anywhere," said Kalczynski, 56, who oversees the West Towne store. "We like to get you into our store where you can have a good experience and help you find the exact present you want. We just keep getting a wider range of ornaments."
The West Towne store opened Oct. 24 and took about 10 days to set up as fragile ornaments were carefully unpacked and hung on display racks according to theme. They include categories like occupations, weddings and engagements, family, baby, school, graduations and hobbies and sports, among others. There are cats and dogs and elephants and tigers. The ornaments also include boats, motorcycles, cars and toilets and plungers. There are lawn tractors, hatchets, cookies and snowmen along with musical instruments, miniature Green Bay Packers helmets and the Baby Jesus.
Most ornaments cost between $5 and $11 but the store also includes collectible, hand-painted Ne'Qwa ornaments, Byers' Choice figurines, Polish-made ornaments from Christopher Radko and glass ornaments made from the ash of the Mount St. Helen volcano.
"Your Christmas tree becomes a memory tree," said Kalczynski, who works at the store seven days a week and is renting a fully furnished corporate apartment in Verona through the end of the year on a month-to-month lease. "When you have stuff that can make people smile it's not a bad place to be."
Callister's was founded in 1991 as mall kiosks with about 400 ornaments but gradually grew and eventually moved into temporary retail store space that otherwise would have sat empty for the holiday season. The company has a 5,000-square-foot warehouse in New Berlin, does year-round sales through its website and also has booths at the Wisconsin and Minnesota state fairs each summer. By the time the fair season is complete, it's time to begin preparing for the pop-up stores at the malls.
"We have crazy hours the last sixth months of the year but that's what we do," Kalczynski said. "We work 40 hours a week in the off season. These are just crazy hours in the season. But we enjoy what we do."