STONE HARBOR - Customers who step into Jim and Janice Murdough's store on 96th Street trade the sizzle of summer for the cool greens and reds of Christmas.
The couple owns Murdough's Decor Inc., which operates two Christmas-themed shops in Stone Harbor and Robesonia, Pa. The couple and their son, Adam Murdough, sell ornaments and decorations for all tastes - from traditional to contemporary to campy, such as the Yoda with the holiday-green lightsaber.
The store is one of the oldest Christmas shops in New Jersey.
The third-generation business started with Jim Murdough's parents, who had a garden center in Pennsylvania that had a generous supply of Christmas decorations.
"When they opened here, it was unheard of to have a Christmas-themed store. Even when I started working here in the 1970s, it was unusual. It was definitely a novelty," she said.
Christmas instrumental music plays over the store's sound system. The store burns yule-log incense. With the twinkling lights and ample Santas, customers are immersed in all things Christmas.
The store is open seasonally from late April through October and weekends through Christmas.
"We're careful that the music we play is not annoying. When the CD player stops, I'm surprised by how much I miss the music," Adam Murdough said.
The shop is dependent on its customers' discretionary income. But it weathered the recession reasonably well, Janice Murdough said.
"It's not recession-proof, but they'll still go out of their way to have a nice Christmas," she said.
The Murdough family is Christian and celebrates Christmas, as well. The couple's golden retriever, Kasey, greets customers from behind the counter in Stone Harbor's dog-friendly downtown.
The store has ornaments celebrating professional sports, mostly Philadelphia-area teams.
"We've had people ask if we sell any Mets ornaments. Those requests are cheerfully ignored," Adam Murdough said.
Many of their decorations are unique, such as the carved Russian Santas or the Kenyan-made wildlife masks and banana-leaf figures featuring Santa's zebra-drawn sleigh. They come from a family relation who has a business called Acacia Handmade Imports in Nairobi.
And the store carries the Byer's Choice collection of carolers clad in Avalon or Stone Harbor sweatshirts made by a crafting company in Chalfont, Pa.
The store does a brisk business in gifts and mementos from South Jersey. A local craft paints conch shells with Christmas themes.
"For many people, the Christmas tree is a scrapbook. People take each ornament out and it brings back memories," she said.
Kathy Bennett, of Perkasie, Pa., stopped in the store on a stormy morning.
"They have a beautiful selection here. We usually like to get an ornament when we go on vacation," she said.
People often decorate for Christmas during the Thanksgiving weekend. The decorations stay up through New Year's.
"People are willing to put more money and thought into it when they have to look at it for a month," she said. "You should never forget that Christmas is about memories. So things should be more traditional and not too contemporary."
Contact Michael Miller:
Murdough's Decor Inc.
Location: 256 96th St., Stone Harbor
Owners: Jim and Janice Murdough, Stone Harbor
Employees: 5 to 10 seasonally
Revenues: Not disclosed