For decades, merchants have used window decorations to entice shoppers into their businesses. Holiday window themes in seasonal colors catch the attention of those who intend to buy.
Someone with an eye for dressing a window is an asset for any business, especially a small town business competing with malls and discount stores.
Beverly Dillon loved downtown holiday windows as a child. That fascination remains today as she works to create an image inside the window rather than looking at what someone else has designed.
“I grew up in Harper,” Dillon said. “I always loved looking at store windows, especially at Christmas time. I remember my parents taking me to Wichita when I was little and we would walk around downtown. It was magical — a trip to the city, seeing all the decorated holiday windows. They seemed so special.”
After her children were grown, she worked in retail stores where she created promotional and holiday displays.
“I didn’t do many windows,” she said. “I worked in flower shops and at Perfect Peace, which carries Christian merchandise, books, and school supplies. However, all retailers put together displays to promote their merchandise.”
Dillon moved to Peabody two years ago to be closer to her daughter and son-in-law, Ginger and Mark Whitney, who own Peabody Hardware and Lumber.
“I started helping around the store and eventually worked on decorating the windows,” she said. “The first year I was here we did one for Operation Celebration, the World War II celebration downtown, and I really enjoyed doing that.
“I am sort of a pack rat and I like picking up unusual vintage things at garage sales or estate sales. And I like the historical angle, so it was easy to rummage around in my collections and come up with old World War II newspapers with the big headlines and wonderful old ads.”
Dillon said she enjoys coming up with ideas for the windows and finding the right decorating items to make them effective.
“Mark is good about letting me do them,” she said. “He said I could do whatever I wanted as long as I didn’t make it too ‘girly.’ He said he doesn’t want customers to think it is some kind of boutique.”
Sometimes Ginger helps her mother when her schedule allows.
“She is the really artistic one. She’s a perfectionist,” Dillon said of her daughter. “Boy, not me. It doesn’t have to be all even-Steven in my book. It just has to grab the customer walking by on the sidewalk.”
This month the windows at Peabody Hardware and Lumber are filled with examples of gift items from many of the lines the Whitney’s carry. The merchandise is set off against big gingerbread men and red and green ornament cutouts.
The centerpiece of one window is a mechanical Santa figure sleeping and snoring in a canopy bed. Although the Whitneys do not often plug in the display because of concerns about its electrical system, the figure is one that has fascinated small children in Peabody for decades.
“I am not sure how long the Santa has been around,” Mark Whitney said. “But I think maybe since the 1960s. It has been part of the Peabody Christmas scene for a long time.”
He and his mother-in-law agree that any Christmas window at the hardware store would not be quite the same without the sleeping Santa.
“It is always fun to come up with new ideas for the windows, but there should still be a place for traditions,” Beverly Dillon said with a smile, as she tucked the blanket around the snoring old gent in the red suit.