Christmas with Her Millionaire Boss

By: Barbara Wallace

“Hammond’s customers might, but you can’t visit a Christmas wonderland via a computer.”

That again. He turned to look at her. “Do you really think kids five or six years from now are going to care about visiting Santa Claus?”

“Of course they are. It’s Santa.”

“I hate to break it to you, but kids are a little more realistic these days. They grow fast. Our greeting card fantasy holiday is going to get harder and harder to sell.”

“Especially if you insist on calling it a fantasy.”

What should he call it? Fact? “Belinda wasn’t kidding when she said you were loyal, was she?”

“The Frybergs are family. Of course I would be loyal.”

Not necessarily, but James didn’t feel like arguing the point.

“Even if I weren’t—related that is—I’d respect what Ned and Belinda created.” She crossed her arms. Again. “They understood that retail is about more than moving inventory.”

Her implication was clear: she considered him a corporate autocrat who was concerned solely with the bottom line. While she might be correct, he didn’t intend to let her get away with the comment unchallenged.

Mirroring her posture, he tilted his head and looked straight at her. “Is that so? What exactly is it about then?”

“People, of course.”

“Of course.” She was not only loyal, but naive. Retail was all about moving product. All the fancy window dressing she specialized in was to convince people to buy the latest and greatest, and then to buy the next latest and greatest the following year. And so on and so forth.

At that moment, the elevator opened and before them lay Fryberg’s Toys in all its glory. Aisle upon aisle of toys, spread out like a multicolored promised land. There were giant stuffed animals arranged by environment, lions and tigers in the jungle, cows and horses by the farm. Construction toys were spread around a jobsite, around which cars zipped on a multilevel racetrack. There was even a wall of televisions blasting the latest video games. A special display for every interest, each one overflowing with products for sale.

“Oh, yeah,” he murmured, “it’s totally about the people.”

A remote-control drone zipped past their heads as they walked toward the center aisle. A giant teddy bear made of plastic building bricks marked the entrance like the Colossus of Rhodes.

“It’s like Christmas morning on steroids,” he remarked as they passed under the bear’s legs.

“This is the Christmas Castle, after all. Everything should look larger-than-life and magical. To stir the imagination.”

Not to mention the desire for plastic bricks and stuffed animals, thought James.

“Santa’s workshop and the Candy Cane Forest are located at the rear of the building,” she said pointing to an archway bedecked with painted holly and poinsettia. “That’s also where Ned’s model train layout is located. It used to be a much larger section, but now it’s limited to one room-size museum.”

Yet something else lost to the march of time, James refrained from saying. The atmosphere was chilly enough. Looking around he noticed their aisle led straight toward the archway, and that the only way to avoid Santa was to go to the end, turn and head back up a different aisle.

He nodded at the arch. “What’s on the other side?” he asked.

“Other side of what?”

“Santa’s woods or whatever it is.”

“Santa’s workshop and Candy Cane Forest,” she corrected. “There’s a door that leads back into the store, or they can continue on to see the reindeer.”

“Meaning they go home to purchase their child’s wish item online from who-knows-what site.”

“Or come back another day. Most people don’t do their Christmas shopping with the kids in tow.”

“How about in April, when they aren’t Christmas shopping? They walk outside to see the reindeer and poof! There goes your potential sale.”

That wouldn’t do at all. “After the kids visit Santa, the traffic should be rerouted back into the store so the parents can buy whatever it is Little Susie or Johnny wished for.”

“You want to close off access to the reindeer?”

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