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September 22, 2014
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Step Back In Time - Canal Towne Emporium

The Holmes brothers Lyman, left, and Gary, keep holiday traditions alive at the Canal Towne Emporium in Wurtsboro, NY.
TRR photo by Jonathan Fox

By Jonathan Fox

For those who have yet to discover Christmas at the Canal Towne Emporium in Wurtsboro, NY, this year looks to be bigger and brighter than ever before. Proprietors Gary and Lyman Holmes have gone above and beyond to bring shoppers a holiday experience that harkens back to a simpler era, keeping a tradition alive that began with their great-great-grandfather in 1869 and has flourished over the course of four generations.

The Christmas Shoppe at Canal Towne is a permanent, year-round installation, added on to the original, historic building, which opened as a general store in 1838, owned and operated by H.R Morris. Purchased by canal boat builder Joseph Holmes in 1870, the enterprise continued to expand, even after the canal closed in 1898. Operating through the years under the guidance of Joseph’s son, Lyman, the store closed its doors in 1958, but remained in the family. Determined to keep the tradition alive, Holmes matriarch Doris decided to reopen in 1976 and sought the guidance of designer Gary Eckhart, who removed past attempts to “modernize” the establishment and restored the original ambiance of a turn-of-the-century emporium.

“This was our mom’s idea,” the Holmes brothers informed, “and it’s far beyond tradition at this point. Our entire family banded together to make the shoppe what it is today. Our desire has always been to make our customers feel the same way we do. Our guests are our family, too.” Specializing in hand-crafted, one-of-a-kind gifts and furnishings, Canal Towne thrives all year ‘round, but once holiday season arrives, the 5,000 square-foot showroom takes on a life of it’s own and has become not only a tradition, but a destination for visitors who often travel hundreds of miles to select treasures that the brothers present for their discerning customers. “We start decorating the second week in November,” they shared.