You might say Eric Callahan has worked most of his life. He’s been actively involved from a young age doing different chores at the family business, Callahan’s of Calabash. His father, Clark Callahan, with the help of his nephew, Dean Spatholt, started the business in 1978. Eric’s grandfather, also Clark, one of the original developers of Carolina Shores, knew of a small gift shop for sale at the corner of Beach Drive and River Road. He urged Clark, working for a freight company in Akron, Ohio at the time, to make the trek to Calabash to view the store and property.
In a leap of faith, 33-year-old Clark quit his job and moved with his wife and two small children, with a third child on the way. He purchased the property and asked Dean to make the move along with him. What started as 2,500 square feet of space, offering seashells and beach wares, has since expanded to more than 35,000 square feet, with eight building additions – the first being the Christmas Shop, which was built in 1984.
Callahan feels the store works because they do their best to keep it different and change /add inventory every year. Visitors embark on a unique experience on each visit. Some individual sections of the store include t-shirts and apparel, Christmas merchandise, fudge counter and gourmet foods, YETI coolers, jewelry boutique, outdoor garden, and beach treasures, just to name a few.
“There’s no other store like it in the area,” Callahan says.
With his grandfather’s and dad’s foresight on location, Callahan’s is nestled in the heart of town, surrounded by a few great seafood restaurants. Customers can grab a bite to eat, and then head to the store for shopping.
“Some people just refer to it as the Christmas Store,” says Callahan, “recognizing it’s been there for 40 years.”
Nostalgia, tradition, and the variety of merchandise offered draw customers to the store. Both out-of-towners and locals are repeat patrons, with a customer base encompassing all the Brunswick beaches as well as the Myrtle Beach area.
“There’s just so much growth going on in this area,” says Callahan.
Surprisingly, a steady stream of visitors buy Christmas merchandise year-round. Families to the area who vacation here one week annually are eager to visit the store, knowing they’re not going to be back until next year. Summer months are hectic, as is fall. Their busiest weekends are between Thanksgiving and Christmas, when shoppers lose track of time perusing the store for hours.
“When this happens, there’s plenty of outdoor seating for the spouses,” laughs Callahan.
Customers look forward to the hundreds of styles of ribbon available each year from the Christmas Shop. With each ribbon purchase, a complimentary bow-making service for the customers is offered by store staff – each an exquisite creation! Callahan is proud of his team of cashiers and associates – some have been employed for 30+ years.
“They’re familiar with all the repeat customers, as well. They all work to create a great family atmosphere,” Callahan says.
In keeping with the spirit of Christmas, each year a Calabash resident steps forward and presents the town with a live tree, some as tall as 25 feet, from their acreage or property, for the Calabash Christmas Tree Lighting and Parade. Callahan’s cuts down the tree and donates handmade bows as decorations and upwards of 4,000 lights as decorations. The tree sits adjacent to the stop light and flagpole, in Callahan’s parking lot. The ceremony is followed by a parade of festive golf carts and floats. This year’s event is slated for December 1.
During the holiday season, the grey-hued storefront is enchanting, with twinkling lights and red bows, and wide porches for relaxing. Magic comes alive for all those driving past or stopping to browse.
Callahan admits he’s purchased toys for the store just because his son liked them. The store carries a larger variety of Hot Wheels, due to his child’s obsession with the miniature cars. His son runs around playing with toys he loves, stopping to visit the Christmas Shop section.
“I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was influenced by my son’s choice in toys,” says Callahan.
Eric admits he’s fully committed to Callahan’s. His cousin Dean is heavily involved, as well. With two restaurants (The Boundary House and Clark’s Seafood and Chop House), he’s busy with the marketing/advertising aspect of all three businesses.
Callahan says, “It’s never crossed my mind I’d be doing anything else.”
He doesn’t work as many hours as he used to – he has his five-year-old son, Eric, to think about.
His hope is that the store becomes part of everyone’s family tradition. The 40th anniversary is in March 2018.
Visit Callahan’s of Calabash
Callahan’s of Calabash
9973 Beach Drive SW
Calabash NC, 28467
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