People who spend weeks, or even months, preparing for Christmas have nothing on Toni Shadid.
“Once July Fourth hits, that’s all I think about is Christmas,” said the owner of Toni D’s Deli & Catering.
Her business depends on it because about 40 percent of her annual sales happen between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
“It’s very significant.”
It means a month full of 18-hour, 19-hour and even 20-hour days.
“Sometimes I will fall asleep here,” Shadid said of her Carriage Parkway shop. “My husband will come in, wake me up, and I’ll go home.”
A wide variety of businesses depend on this time of year, and they work extraordinarily hard to make sales happen.
“We have to have it or we’ll never make it,” said Farris Farha of the Farris Wheel candy shop in Piccadilly Square at Central and Rock Road.
“The profit all comes from this last month.”
Farha said about 40 to 50 percent of his store’s business comes during the holiday season. That can lead to long, tiring hours and frenzied moments.
“The last two weeks are the heaviest,” he said.
“It seems like they come in bunches,” Farha said of customers. “We haven’t been able to figure that one out.”
He tries to keep the season in perspective.
“It’s very easy to get upset with people,” he said. “There’s no need for it. It’s the best time of year. Everybody should be happy.”
Farha admits it’s a little easier for him to say that than some business owners.
“One nice thing about the candy business (is) most people are happy when they come in,” he said.
Prairie Pines Christmas Tree Farm owner Bob Scott admits he’s similarly lucky with his line of work.
“The pleasure is 90 percent, and the stress is 10 because people are happy,” he said. “If you’re a department store or a grocery store, you might get pepper sprayed, right?”
Preparation is key, Scott said.
“We do have stress, but that’s getting ready for it.”
Sometimes no amount of preparation is enough to deal with a crush of customers.
“Saturday was a zoo,” said Mary Gehrer, one of the owners of Forever Yours Jewelry & Boutique at Maple and Ridge Road.
“It was all you could do to even go potty.”
The holiday shopping season accounts for about 15 to 20 percent of the annual sales at Forever Yours. The store is only 2,600 square feet, but on one recent Saturday, there were 10 salespeople working.
“We had every staff (member) on the floor,” Gehrer said. “There would be one person after the other to ask a question. … We needed every one of us.”
Her advice for dealing with the madness?
“Put on a smile and be prepared to run,” Gehrer said. “Remember, in January you’re … like the Maytag repairman.”
No one has to remind Liz Anderson. She and her husband, Jim, own the PostNet store in the Village at Greenwich at 21st and Greenwich. Printing, not shipping, is the biggest part of their business, but 50 percent of their shipping business comes between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
“The trick of it is managing our normal production with the influx of business,” Liz Anderson said.
Not that she’s complaining.
“I love the added business,” she said. “We love every minute of it. It’s a little crazy. … I hope it just gets crazier.”
On one busy day this month, Anderson was helping her first customer at 8:15 a.m. before the store was open.
“We haven’t sat down since,” she said.
There are moments of levity that help.
“A lady came in and shipped a log,” Anderson said.
Anderson has been planning some relaxation for today, though.
“Maybe I will be having some spiked eggnog.”
Shadid recommends trying to have some fun all through the month.
“You have to enjoy it,” she said. “This too will end. Remember that.”
Even though the economy is down, Shadid says this has been her best holiday season in years. So how does she keep going?
“You just do it because you have to.”
She even eagerly anticipates the work – you’re likely to find Shadid in the kitchen carving dozens of tomato roses or making a snowman mold – in part because of the appreciation customers show.
“It’s the delight on the customer’s face and the ‘thank you’ that you get and the hugs,” she said. “It’s just like this high. You just run on it. And then comes time to crash, I’ll crash.”
Shadid guesses that will be Tuesday.
“And I’ll probably be in bed – probably the whole day.”