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December 2003 | Vol. II - No. 12
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North Pole Magic: The Santa Claus House


There really is a Santa Claus.


Santa Claus´ House
When Con and Nellie Miller moved to Alaska territory in 1949, they had $1.40 in cash and two hungry kids. Con became a merchant and fur buyer. When Mr. Miller put on an old red suit and the village children noticed that St. Nick had arrived…it was magic.

Since 1952 the Santa Claus House has intrigued a worldwide crowd. Built as a trading post 13 miles from Fairbanks, this unique gift shop and espresso bar is the home of an original letter from Santa with its attention-grabbing North Pole postmark.

Susan Miller, operations manager, credits the store´s success to integrity.

"Fifty years of business in one location means that we value our reputation and our commitment to our community,” Miller said. “Consistency of service and products that work for us is vital. We are continually evaluating our products and our service, making constant improvements for ourselves as well as for our customers. We are making technology improvements, growing our website, and improving and expanding catalog opportunities. Marketing has become a priority."

When asked for the family´s motivating business philosophy, Miller reiterates the importance of keeping the Christmas spirit alive throughout the year. In addition to excellent customer service, the holiday ambiance keeps people coming back. Music and décor featuring “Santa´s Toy Cache” have turned this distant winter wonderland in a borough of only 86,000 residents into an American tourist attraction, drawing 100,000 visitors from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

"The number of people visiting is dependent upon Alaska highway traffic, tour companies and incoming visitors to events in our area,” Miller explained. “We are nestled between two military bases, six hours by car from Anchorage. We capitalize on these visitors by providing a positive experience and taking the opportunity to give them materials that will entice them to visit us again and again on the Web, via our catalog and by phone."

Although 20 percent of their orders are international, many of which are repeat customers, Santa Claus House strives to maximize its service to the local customer base.

"We change displays, adding new products and services seasonally," Miller says.

Japanese groups tend to visit between January and March. Spring means summer preparation and low traffic. From May through Labor Day, the Santa Claus House has long store hours and high in-store traffic. September through October is consumed by filling mail orders and letter preparation. November through December brings more activity to their mail order department and attracts in-store shoppers and visitors for Santa. Capitalizing on the Christmas theme, the North Pole location, and the Santa Claus name may be the greatest influence on the Miller family´s success, but hard work has given them a competitive edge.

Miller says the Santa Claus House receives most of its sales from American baby boomers, men and women, and the young at heart. The children visit with Santa, view the reindeer and pose for photographs. Christmas ornaments, custom merchandise, Alaskan-themed gift items and apparel, and the famous letter from Santa are their biggest sellers.

"We carry more adult collectibles now,” says Miller. “Our toy selection tends toward classic toys. It is a smaller section of the store and hosts Santa´s throne."

Given the proximity, who can blame him for stopping by for a cappuccino?




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Writer's Bio: Julia Ann Charpentier is a Milwaukee-based freelance writer and an editor for book publishers. Read more articles by this author

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