7 Wholesale Facts About Christmas Tree Shops

Lauren Siegert, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Lauren Siegert, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Newsflash: The HoneyBaked Ham Company doesn’t just sell hams, and the Christmas Tree Shops doesn't just sell Christmas trees. If you have a hankering to buy a turkey sandwich at the former and a bottle of sunscreen at the latter, well, you’re in luck! Yes, it’s a crazy, mixed-up world we’re living in these days, but that’s the cold, hard reality of it. (Interestingly enough, you can buy a real ham at the HoneyBaked Ham Company but you cannot buy a real Christmas tree at the Christmas Tree Shops.)

Since its original founding as The Christmas Tree Gift Shop in the 1950s in the sleepy Cape Cod town of Yarmouth Port, Massachusetts, Christmas Tree Shops has grown from one modest location to more than 70 outposts in 21 states nationwide. So since it’s that time of year again, why not get into the holiday spirit with some facts about everybody’s favorite Christmas-themed (but not really) liquidation outlet. Plus: We’re going to give you seven facts for the price of five. “Don’t you just love a bargain?”

1. THERE’S A SIMPLE REASON WHY IT’S "SHOPS" AND NOT "SHOP."

The Christmas Tree Gift Shop (as it was originally called) was founded by couple Mark and Alice Matthews in the 1950s in a barn in Yarmouth Port, Massachusetts. The business was purchased in 1970 by Chuck and Doreen Bilezikian, who converted the original store into three, separate spaces: The Barn Shop, The Front Shop, and The Back Shop. Which is how "Shop" turned into "Shops." See? It makes perfect sense!

2. IT WAS ORIGINALLY JUST ABOUT CHRISTMAS.

Christmas decorations for sale in a store
iStock

For the novice shopper, "Christmas Tree Shops" brings to mind thoughts of wreaths and jingle bells, not suntan lotion and lawn chairs. In the 1950s, before the Bilezikians bought the store, one would have been right. Originally The Christmas Tree Gift Shop was exclusively about Christmas. It was only open May through October and sold strictly Christmas gifts and ornaments to summer tourists.

3. IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT CHRISTMAS ANYMORE.

Little boy shops for a beach shovel
iStock

Once the Bilezikians purchased the store, they had far greater aspirations than just selling stocking stuffers and tree ornaments. They turned the store into a year-round liquidation outlet selling everything from home decor to beach umbrellas to a 26-piece flashlight set for $3.99. Of course you could still get your fill of stocking stuffers. Immense popularity and success forced the Bilezikians to rapidly expand. They built their first Shops outside of Cape Cod in 1981 and by the time they sold their empire to Bed Bath & Beyond in 2003, they had amassed 23 locations.

4. THEY HAD A BRANDING PROBLEM.

Christmas trees for sale
iStock

In 2003, Bed Bath & Beyond spent $200 million to purchase Christmas Tree Shops and began a rapid expansion of the bargain chain. But BB&B quickly realized that they had an image problem: They determined that customers seemed to associate the Christmas Tree Shops exclusively with, wait for it, Christmas! In an attempt to make it clear to would-be customers that this was far from the case, in 2013 they began renaming their new stores Christmas Tree Shops andThat!, or, just andThat!

5. THE OWNERS LIVED RIGHT ABOVE THE ORIGINAL SHOP.

Shelves in a retail store
iStock

When then Bilezikians first bought the store, they actually lived in an apartment above it! “On Friday nights—because everything was so geared to the weekend—we would put the kids in pajamas, go downstairs, and stock the store,” Doreen recalled. "We grew up in it,” the Bilezikians' eldest son, Greg, told the Massachusetts Institute of Business. “That was our life. I remember stocking shelves in our pajamas.”

6. CHUCK BILEZIKIAN HAD A GREAT MEMORY.

JJBers, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Chuck was known for being very close to his employees and for remembering intimate details about all of them, even after the Shops expanded and his staff grew significantly. “He would walk over to an employee and say, ‘Hi, Mary. How are you? How’s your son John? Is he still having problems with math?" Ed Mullin, a company executive for many years, said of his former boss, who passed away in 2016.

"When we had a few stores, he did it, and when we had a lot of stores, he did it," Mullin conintued. "He just had that love of people. He would engage in conversations with his employees, and it wasn’t just a thing to do. He enjoyed it, and he remembered them. You can’t put a value on that.”

7. THE ORIGINAL STORE IS STILL IN THE BILEZIKIAN FAMILY'S POSSESSION.

Shoppers look through the window of a store
iStock

When Bed, Bath & Beyond purchased the company, they didn't want to take possession of all the retail locations. One store that they weren't interested in acquiring was the Yarmouth Port barn where it all began. When attempts to find a new tenant for the store were unsuccessful, Greg Bilezikian decided to follow in his parents' footsteps and open a story of his own, called Just Picked Gifts, in the original Christmas Tree Shops's location.

America’s 10 Most Hated Easter Candies

Peeps are all out of cluck when it comes to confectionery popularity contests.
Peeps are all out of cluck when it comes to confectionery popularity contests.
William Thomas Cain/Getty Images

Whether you celebrate Easter as a religious holiday or not, it’s an opportune time to welcome the sunny, flora-filled season of spring with a basket or two of your favorite candy. And when it comes to deciding which Easter-themed confections belong in that basket, people have pretty strong opinions.

This year, CandyStore.com surveyed more than 19,000 customers to find out which sugary treats are widely considered the worst. If you’re a traditionalist, this may come as a shock: Cadbury Creme Eggs, Peeps, and solid chocolate bunnies are the top three on the list, and generic jelly beans landed in the ninth spot. While Peeps have long been polarizing, it’s a little surprising that the other three classics have so few supporters. Based on some comments left by participants, it seems like people are just really particular about the distinctions between certain types of candy.

Generic jelly beans, for example, were deemed old and bland, but people adore gourmet jelly beans, which were the fifth most popular Easter candy. Similarly, people thought Cadbury Creme Eggs were messy and low-quality, while Cadbury Mini Eggs—which topped the list of best candies—were considered inexplicably delicious and even “addictive.” And many candy lovers prefer hollow chocolate bunnies to solid ones, which people explained were simply “too much.” One participant even likened solid bunnies to bricks.

candystore.com's worst easter candies
The pretty pastel shades of bunny corn don't seem to be fooling the large contingent of candy corn haters.
CandyStore.com

If there’s one undeniable takeaway from the list of worst candies, it’s that a large portion of the population isn’t keen on chewy marshmallow treats in general. The eighth spot went to Hot Tamales Peeps, and Brach’s Marshmallow Chicks & Rabbits—which one person christened “the zombie bunny catacomb statue candy”—sits at number six.

Take a look at the full list below, and read more enlightening (and entertaining) survey comments here.

  1. Cadbury Creme Eggs
  1. Peeps
  1. Solid chocolate bunnies
  1. Bunny Corn
  1. Marshmallow Chicks & Rabbits
  1. Chocolate crosses
  1. Twix Eggs
  1. Hot Tamales Peeps
  1. Generic jelly beans
  1. Fluffy Stuff Cotton Tails

[h/t CandyStore.com]

10 Bizarre Documentaries That You Should Stream Right Now

A scene from Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness (2020).
A scene from Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness (2020).
Netflix

Documentaries have grown considerably more ambitious since Fred Ott’s Sneeze, an 1894 clip that documents the irritated sinus cavities of its subject in just five seconds. They can inspire, as in the case of 2019’s Academy Award-winning Free Solo, about bold mountain climber Alex Honnold. They can shine a light on cultural overachievers like Fred Rogers, the subject of 2018’s Won’t You Be My Neighbor? And they can parse political history, with films like 2003's The Fog of War shedding light on decisions that shaped the world.

Other documentaries set out to chronicle true stories that, were they presented as a fictitious, might be hard for people to believe. We’ve profiled such films in previous lists, which you can find here, here, and here. If you’ve already made your way through those tales of cannibals, tragic love affairs, and twist-laden true crime, here are 11 more that will have you staring at your television in disbelief.

1. Tiger King (2020)

At first glance, the seven-part docuseries Tiger King could be mistaken for a mockumentary along the lines of American Vandal or This Is Spinal Tap. An exotic pet breeder and roadside zoo owner named Joe Exotic practices polygamy, nuzzles with tigers, and records country music videos attacking his arch-nemesis, big cat advocate Carole Baskin. That Exotic ends up running for Oklahoma governor and alleges Baskin fed her late husband to her own tigers after putting him through a meat grinder may be the two least weird twists in this sprawling epic of entrepreneurial spirit, animal welfare, and mullets.

Where to watch it: Netflix

2. Abducted in Plain Sight (2017)

When Idaho native Jan Broberg was 12 years old in 1974, her neighbor began to take an unseemly and inappropriate interest in her. What begins as a disturbing portrait of predation quickly spirals into an unbelievable and audacious attempt to manipulate Jan’s entire family. Director Skye Borgman’s portrait of seemingly reasonable people who become ensnared in a monstrous plot to separate them from their daughter has drawn some shocking reactions since it began streaming in 2019.

Where to watch it: Netflix

3. The Wolfpack (2015)

Confined to their apartment in a Manhattan housing project for years by parents wary of the world outside their door, the seven Angulo siblings developed an understanding about life through movies. The Wolfpack depicts their attempts to cope with reality after finally emerging from their involuntary exile.

Where to watch it: Hulu

4. Three Identical Strangers (2018)

The highly marketable conceit of director Tim Wardle’s documentary is that triplets born in 1961 then separated spent the first 18 years of their lives totally ignorant of their siblings. When they reconnect, it’s a joy. But the movie quickly switches gears to explore the question of why they were separated at birth to begin with. It’s that investigation—and the chilling answer—that lends Three Identical Strangers its bittersweet, haunting atmosphere.

Where to watch it: Hulu

5. Tickled (2016)

A ball of yarn bouncing down a flight of stairs is the best metaphor we can summon for the narrative of Tickled, which follows New Zealand journalist David Farrier on what appears at first glance to be a silly story about the world of “competitive endurance tickling.” In the course of reporting on this unusual subculture, Farrier crosses paths with people who would prefer their hobbies remain discreet. When he refuses to let the story go, things grow increasingly tense and dangerous.

Where to watch it: Hulu

6. Hands on a Hardbody: The Documentary (1997)

How far would you be willing to go for a new pick-up truck? That’s the deceptively simple premise for this documentary chronicling an endurance contest in Longview, Texas, where participants agree to keep one hand on the vehicle at all times: The last person standing wins. What begins as a group seeking a prize evolves into a battle of attrition, with all the psychological games and mental fortitude that comes with it.

Where to watch it: iTunes

7. My Kid Could Paint That (2007)

At the age of 4, upstate New York resident Marla Olmstead began painting sprawling abstract art that her parents sold for premium prices. Later on, a 60 Minutes report called into question whether Marla had some assistance with her work. Was she a child prodigy, or simply a creative girl who had a little help? And if she did, should it matter? My Kid Could Paint That investigates Marla’s process, but it also sheds light on the world of abstract art and the question of who gets to decide whether a creative impulse is valid.

Where to watch it: Amazon

8. Beware the Slenderman (2016)

In 2014, two Wisconsin girls came to a disturbing decision: In order to appease the “Slenderman,” an internet-sourced boogeyman, they would attempt to murder a classmate. The victim survived, but three lives have been altered forever. Beware the Slenderman explores the intersection where mental illness, social media, and urban mythology collide to result in a horrific crime.

Where to watch it: HBO; Hulu

9. The Iceman Tapes: Conversations with a Killer (1992)

For years, Richard Kuklinski satisfied his homicidal urges by taking on contract killings for organized crime families in New York and New Jersey. Following his arrest and conviction, he agreed to sit down and elaborate on his unusual methodologies for disposing of victims and how he balanced his violent tendencies with a seemingly normal domestic life that included marriage and children. (You can see an example of Kuklinski's chilling disposition in the clip above.) In addition to The Iceman Tapes, which originally aired on HBO, Kuklinski participated in two follow-ups: The Iceman Confesses: Secrets of a Mafia Hitman in 2001 and The Iceman and the Psychiatrist in 2003.

Where to watch it: HBO; Hulu

10. Perfect Bid (2019)

Price is Right superfan Ted Slauson spent a lifetime analyzing retail price tags in case he was ever called up from the studio audience. What happens when he gets a little too close to a perfect Showcase Showdown guess will keep you on the edge of your seat.

Where to watch it: YouTube Movies

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