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‘Magical experience’: Christmas City Santa to open Bethlehem store dedicated to ‘all things Christmas’

BETHLEHEM, Pa. – A festive retail destination – filled with hand-crafted nutcrackers, Christmas tree ornaments, retired reindeer bells and other yuletide cheer – is coming soon to the Christmas City.

Dear Santa, a business offering unique Christmas gifts and decor along with family-friendly, Christmas-themed activities, is expected to open by mid-April at 458 Main St. in downtown Bethlehem.

Ryan Kneller

Dear Santa, a business offering unique Christmas gifts and decor along with family-friendly, Christmas-themed activities, is expected to open by mid-April at 458 Main St. in downtown Bethlehem, owner Tom Dubreuil said.

For the past five years, Dubreuil has been downtown Bethlehem’s Santa, dubbed “Christmas City Santa,” sporting his red suit, black boots and white beard while posing for photos with children, couples, families and pets in a sleigh near the Moravian Blacksmith Shop on Main Street.

Over the past year, he’s also operated pop-up Dear Santa shops at Musselman Jewelers and in one of the Christmas City Village huts in historic Bethlehem.

“Even though I’m opening the shop, I’ll still continue to sit outside during the holidays,” Dubreuil said.

“I think it’s an honor to be Santa in the Christmas City. I love Christmas, and I love that a lot of the other shops on Main Street also sell Christmas items. I’m not trying to step on anyone’s toes, but I just really wanted to open a place dedicated to all things Christmas. Hopefully, for adults, it gives them a feeling of nostalgia when they were little. And for kids, we hope to bring a feeling of magic to them.”

Dubreuil, of Bethlehem Township, has held various positions in higher education for more than 30 years, with his current role being director of student affairs at Penn State Lehigh Valley.

After he and his wife moved to the Lehigh Valley in 1997 to work at Lehigh University, they fell in love with the charm of historic Bethlehem’s Main Street, especially the expansive selection of unique Christmas items at the Moravian Book Shop.

“Every time we had family or friends come to town, we took them to Main Street in Bethlehem and made sure to show them the Christmas shop at the Moravian Book Shop,” Dubreuil said.

After the book shop became home to Moravian University’s student bookstore and ownership transferred from the Moravian Church Northern Province to the college in 2018, Dubreuil was disheartened to see the business’ vast selection of Christmas merchandise had been condensed.

With Dear Santa, he’s looking to bring “more smiles and cheer” to historic Bethlehem’s Main Street via a dedicated Christmas shop, offering a “magical experience for kids and adults alike.”

Unique items will include hand-crafted German incense smokers, wooden Christmas coins, decorative snowmen, nutcrackers and plush Santas.

Several pieces, including hand-thrown mugs, laser-cut ornaments and hand-crafted soy candles, will be sourced from Lehigh Valley artisans.

The entire store will be Christmas-themed, but there also will be a small seasonal selection with items for Easter, Fourth of July, Halloween and other approaching holidays.

In addition to offering Christmas gifts and decor, Dear Santa also will be heavily focused on experiences.“We are going to have a section in the back where we’ll do activities with kids,” Dubreuil said.

“So, when a family comes in and mom and dad want to shop, they’ll be able to color pages to hang on our wall or write a letter to Santa to drop off in our mailbox. We’re also going to have other year-round activities, like storytimes with Santa, build a toy or ornament with Santa and decorate cookies with Santa and Mrs. Claus.”

Dear Santa will occupy a recently vacant space that previously housed Young’s Magasin de Quartier, a business offering jewelry, soy candles, novelty items and more.

Dubreuil expects to start renovations, which will include new flooring, wall paint and retail displays, in the coming weeks.

He also plans to enlist the assistance of students from the Lehigh Valley Charter High School for the Arts to help with the store’s design.

“Working in education for over 30 years and still an educator at heart, I just think it’s great if I can give local students some real-world experience under the tutelage of their faculty,” Dubreuil said.

“They have so many great, wonderful ideas, with one display that’s going to look like a large advent calendar. I also hope to have them design one of our windows each year. We’ll probably change the front window up every six months or so.”

Dubreuil traces his love of Christmas back to his childhood, and his foray into playing Santa began in the early 2000s at his son’s daycare facility. For his first Santa event, he wore a strap-on beard.

In 2015, he grew out his beard to resume the St. Nick role for a Penn State Lehigh Valley alumni party.

“I just fell in love with the experience and started to advertise myself a bit,” Dubreuil said. “Tammy from the Downtown Bethlehem Association and I can’t even remember how we got connected, but it turned out to be a really great fit.”

Dear Santa will be located between two popular retail stores, The Foo Foo Shoppe and Hand Cut Crystal featuring Bethlehem Christmas Shoppe.

The latter store also features a wide array of Christmas items such as unique advent calendars, locally made beeswax candles, Byers’ Choice Caroler figurines, LED Herrnhuter stars and hand-crafted Christmas tree ornaments and toppers from around the world.

Dubreuil hopes to be able to partner with neighboring businesses for year-round events.

“My wife and I love Bethlehem, and we feel this is something that will be a great asset to the community,” Dubreuil said. “We want to keep the Christmas spirit going all year long, especially with Bethlehem hopefully becoming a World Heritage Site this summer.”

For the latest updates on Dear Santa’s retail store, follow the business’ Facebook page. Info: