St. Paul store’s festive holiday displays are steeped in tradition

For decades, a downtown St. Paul space in the Hamm Building has brought joy to customers and passersby with its giant Christmas tree display and elaborate holiday decorations.
And a pandemic isn’t going to stop Anthony Scornavacco from spreading the holiday cheer again this year. Walk inside Anthony Scornavacco Antiques, and you’ll find that he has once again put up a giant Christmas tree. Not only that, he’s transformed his two-story shop from a fine antiques store to part holiday boutique like he does every year during the holidays.
For Scornavacco, it’s all about tradition.
“I remember coming in here when I was very young to see the Christmas tree and the decorations,” Scornavacco said. “If you walked down Sixth Street back in the day, what you expected to see in the old days was a beautiful Christmas display. We decided it was such an important local historic thing to do that we decided to continue it.“
Scornavacco took over the space eight years ago. When he did, the giant Christmas tree and holiday display had been going on for more than 60 years, started when Nakashian-O’Neil antique shop was in the space.
Doing so is no small feat. To go all out for the holidays, Scornavacco must move out half of his regular inventory each year to make space on the showroom floor. There’s not only a giant Christmas tree, but European ornaments that include unique pewter and hand-painted pieces. There are also gift items available — reproductions of vintage toys, Christmas figurines, German music boxes and more. In addition to the giant tree, 15 smaller Christmas trees are dotted throughout the sales floor.
“Christmas trees, European ornaments and gifts aren’t my normal line of work — I specialize in antiques. But it was such a beautiful, wonderful thing to do that we made sure we did it when we took over the business,” he said. “When you walk in it just sings Christmas. I’m proud that we’re able to carry on the tradition.”
For regular customer Mary E. Vento, seeing the holiday display and buying ornaments is a yearly tradition that has spanned almost six decades — ever since she first discovered how unique the experience was.
“I started going here in the early ’60s when I used to work at The Emporium. Then when I married my husband, we started going there together every year,” Vento said. “We both grew up in St. Paul but he had known nothing about it. I’ve introduced a lot of people to it since.”
Last week, Vento stopped by the store with her husband, Kurt, and their grandson Michael. They go there together every holiday season to buy ornaments for their tree and for other family members as gifts.
“I’ve never seen ornaments like these anywhere else,” she said. “They’re beautifully made. Just exquisite.”
Shopping at the store during the holidays is also a family tradition for Dennis and Kaye Warning.
Dennis’ mother, Mary Ann, started the tradition about 45 years ago. Her kids and their spouses would all go together. Then the grandkids came along. Each year, Mary Ann would buy ornaments for each couple, their kids and then later their grandkids.
For the Warnings, it’s not only a tradition that now spans four generations, but a fond memory of Mary Ann, who passed away three years ago.
“Mary Ann is who we think about every time we go in here,” said Kaye Warning.
Like many families, they’re thankful Scornavacco is continuing the holiday tradition started by Nakashian-O’Neil.
“We were worried when we found out it would be changing hands that they weren’t going to do this anymore. We’re just thrilled it has continued,” Warning said. “It’s just so pretty to be in here and enjoy an hour of shopping. It’s decorated so beautifully and so festive with the huge tree and the ornaments and the music.”
ANTHONY SCORNAVACCO ANTIQUES
Anthony Scornavacco of Anthony Scornavacco Antiques in downtown St. Paul. (Scott Takushi / Pioneer Press)

Hours: 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday and by appointment. Face coverings are required and hand sanitizer is provided at the entrance.
Info: 23 W. Sixth St., St. Paul; 651-222-0046; facebook.com/anthonyscornavaccoantiques

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