Off to the Races!


Ceramic NOEL Candle/Sprig Holders with Scrolling Holly and Celadon and Red Glazing (LEO Design)

Today is Black Friday, the so-called "Biggest Shopping Day of the Holiday Season" (more about this later).  My first "professional" Black Friday was in 1985 as a 22 year old, brand new department manager at G. Fox Department Store in Hartford, Connecticut.  The tables on my "pad" (retail speak for the carpeted area that defines the boundaries of a department) were piled-high with sweaters and poly-knit turtlenecks—all marked down from $28 to "the magic price point" of $19.99.  It was a whirlwind season for this recent college graduate.  I spent my days just getting through the day: helping old ladies find their sizes, filling-in new merchandise, keeping the cash registers humming, and marking-down new items as panicked buyers (in the central office) reacted to the hourly sales reports.  Little did I realize that I would still be feeling the tingle of "Black Friday Anticipation" some 35 years later!

The life of a shopkeeper is fueled by hope.  Rarely—in the life of a merchant—does lightening strike (or keep striking repeatedly).  Instead, most shopkeepers are driven by some type of passion, they are fueled by hope, and they get by with "just enough to keep the ball rolling," hopefully a little faster each year.  Almost any long-term merchant would gladly give-up the potential of occasional sales spikes for the guarantee of 10% annual growth.  (Maybe even 5% annual growth!)

There's a common belief that Black Friday is the biggest sales day of the Holiday Season—perhaps the entire year.  In my experience, this has never been the case.  Of course, it depends on the year (and how that year's calendar plays-out), but I have always found that the biggest sales day of the year is usually the last Saturday before people leave for Christmas.  Especially in Manhattan, where many people leave for Thanksgiving (to visit family outside the city), Black Friday is relatively quiet.  A few out-of-towners may buy a box of Christmas cards (or two), but the real money is still away, eager to get back to their city.

But, in America at least, Black Friday does represent the traditional start of the Holiday Shopping season.  In my store, it was the first time we played any Holiday music and it was the point when we began to extend our opening hours.  And it was a day I always greeted with eager optimism.  Like many a shopkeeper, I could finally see the verdant oasis on the horizon and imagined the delights of luxuriating besides its cool, refreshing stream.

The ceramic candleholders, shown above, spell-out NOEL (or LEO or LEON or NO).  They can also hold fresh sprigs of pine (or holly) and can be hung on the wall from the two small holes on the back of each letter.  They were made in Japan in the 1950's for a New York gift house called Lipper & Mann.  I used to visit them in the NY Gift Building (225 Fifth Avenue) when I first opened my shop in The Village (well after these pieces were made).  Please click on the photo above to learn more about them.


Ceramic NOEL Candle/Sprig Holders with Scrolling Holly and Celadon and Red Glazing (LEO Design)



Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (

We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques ( or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (

Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only).  917-446-4248