As much as we all love the holidays, the Christmas holiday is essentially aimed at children (and the child in you). Who else — other than you, of course — stares endlessly at the living room tree and its sparkling ornaments until they’re dizzy with dreams of gifts and memories?
It’s like a magical circus of lights and music and glitter. And who better to provide circus-style memories for the holidays than an actual former circus ringmaster?
Kristopher Kyer, the owner of Christmas Corner—set to open Friday at the corner of Pasadena Avenue and Green Street—has a career which spans over three decades as an actor, performer, teacher, singer and director.
And, yes, ringmaster.
Kyer says he was the youngest Ringmaster and only the 27th in the entire history of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. He is also the author of the autobiography Ringmaster! My Year on the Road with the Greatest Show on Earth.
And how’s this for a secret on his resume? Kyer says he played an uncredited role as the actor Dick Van Dyke, in the film, “Saving Mr. Banks,” the story of the development of the original Walt Disney Mary Poppins films.
His showbiz travels have naturally taken him around the world, and it was that travel that hooked him on the world of Christmas decorations.
As Kyers told Pasadena Now in an interview this week, “Years ago, I was collecting hand-blown glass ornaments from Europe and it got out of control.
The addiction turned into a passion, and would turn into me traveling the world, looking for treasures. And I had to open a small store the first year to offset my habits.”
“And then,” he continued, “It went through the roof and people would travel from all of the states to come see my collections. It was really a museum for Christmas. (The shop) has vintage things, a lot of vintage things, and treasures from all over the world. I traveled to Europe, I traveled to Italy. I traveled to Germany. So you’re going to see a lot of European glass and nutcrackers from Germany, as well.”
Kyer also pointed out that in Germany, for example, there are families that have made hand-blown ornaments for years.
“It’s their tradition,” he explained, “and year after year, they’re painting and making these hand-blown nutcrackers and ornaments.”
Unable to travel over the last year, Kyer simply shipped his inventory to the US from Europe for his newest pop-up store in Pasadena.
“I have plenty from my collection,” he said. “What I do is I bring back yesteryear. My windows are going to be animated like the old windows of the fifties and sixties, the animated characters. You’re going to see vintage ceramics that your mother and your grandmother had. You’re going to say, “Oh my God, I had this as a little kid,’ or ‘I broke this as a little kid. I’m so glad to find it again!’”
As Kyer waxed poetically on the impact of simple Christmas decorations, “I’ve heard gasps in my store. I hear people starting to sniffle and cry and tear up because it brings them memories. It hits a chord with them when they walk into my store. It’s an experience. And it definitely is an environmental experience for people to escape reality.”
And Kyer’s circus history looms large in the store’s overall atmosphere, to put it mildly. He even wears a top hat because, of course, as he says, “I was the ringmaster of ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’ for a year.
“So,” he continued, “I bring in all of the flavor of yesteryear, and it’s mom and pop. It’s not a cookie cutter place. There are so many one-of-a-kind items in my store.
As Kyer recommends, unabashedly, “People should buy something they like as soon as they see it. They learn their lesson at the first visit because when they come back, it’s gone. As I said, ‘I don’t have multiples of things. They’re all-one of-a-kind items.”
Kris Kyer’s Christmas Corner is located at 169 W. Green St., Old Pasadena. Open Tuesday- Sunday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. (Closed Mondays). More information is available at www.kristopherkyerschristmascorner.com.