Broken Arrow business owners reopen Winter Wonderland after family crises
BY ZACK STOYCOFF World Staff Writer
Friday, November 23, 2012
11/23/12 at 4:19 AM
Broken Arrow: Read previous stories related to Broken Arrow and get contact information for Broken Arrow officials.
BROKEN ARROW - For five years, Christmas hasn't been the same in Broken Arrow.
The seasonal Christmas store that Mac McDaris, his wife, Jamie, and friend Darlene Kitt had operated since 1992 in the city's farmers co-op closed in 2007 when Mac McDaris sold the co-op to a group that later closed the business altogether.
The same year, each of their mothers died. One year later, so did Kitt's husband. Mac McDaris' sister and father died the year after that.
"That's why we didn't come back earlier," Mac McDaris said. "For the last few years, it's been dealing with the aftermath and all the arrangements."
When the trio reopened Winter Wonderland during the city's holiday kickoff celebration Nov. 8 - this time as a year-round Christmas store at 217 S. Main St. - the place was packed, Mac McDaris said.
"There were people wall-to-wall," he said. "They come in the door and say, 'Hey, I know you.' "
Winter Wonderland and its operators had been Broken Arrow fixtures for decades.
Mac McDaris, who still has a permanent booth in the Broken Arrow Farmer's Market, operated the farmers co-op for 60 years. Kitt had been involved for about 30 years.
Their collection of Christmas figurines, wreaths, tree ornaments and miscellaneous gifts made the co-op's Main Street building a popular holiday destination but had been in storage until this month.
The rows of decorative mice, Precious Moments figurines, Santas, nativity scenes and angels now crowd display shelves once more.
The revived store even has an "Angel Room," where countless heavenly figurines line the walls from floor to ceiling.
"Hundreds of angels - just a lot of them," Kitt said.
But the building is smaller than the space the store had at the co-op, which has forced some of the collection to remain in storage to be rotated in throughout the year, Mac McDaris said.
The previous store was in a large greenhouse at the co-op. That gave the greenhouse a purpose during the winter months, Mac McDaris said.
Over the years, the collection grew as fast as the store's recognition.
Mac McDaris said it was featured three times on "Discover Oklahoma," a weekly television program produced by the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department. Tour buses stopped at the store, and thousands of people visited each season, he said.
"It got pretty big down at the co-op," he said, adding that it was hailed as one of the only Christmas stores in the state.
It was so big, in fact, that it took two to three months to install and remove shelves and merchandise between growing seasons.
That's one reason to keep the store open all year this time - even if business will slow during summer, Mac McDaris said.
"Everything is already up," he said. "We're already here."
Mac McDaris will focus on farming during the summer, leaving the store to Kitt and his wife.
The trio have known each other for 40 years, and Mac and Jamie go back even further. They were together in middle school and remained boyfriend and girlfriend at Broken Arrow High school, where they graduated in 1962 among a class of 120.
With the death of their mothers in the same year, the trio's bond strengthened.
Mac McDaris' mother had Alzheimer's disease but died of a stroke. His sister died from complications from diabetes, and his father had a stroke.
Kitt's mother died of a bacterial infection, and her husband had cancer.
"I went to all the funerals, but I was in the hospital with my mother when her (Jamie McDaris') mother passed away," Kitt said. "That was the only funeral I didn't go to."
Original Print Headline: Winter Wonderland reopens in BA
Zack Stoycoff 918-581-8486
Owners of Winter Wonderland Mac (left) and Jamie McDaris and Darlene Kitt are seen in their store in Broken Arrow on Wednesday. STEPHEN PINGRY/Tulsa World
Woodland-themed holiday ornaments are displayed in the Winter Wonderland Christmas store in Broken Arrow. STEPHEN PINGRY/Tulsa World