The popular Montecasino Christmas Village is much more than a great outing and a fabulous Christmas shopping experience for the thousands of visitors who flock to it every year. It is also a structured effort on Montecasino’s part to contribute to the growth of small enterprises that otherwise would not have the opportunity to promote their products and services on such a significant scale.
“This event is a proud achievement for Montecasino,” says Glenn Joseph, GM of Montecasino. “We are celebrating Christmas in the most festive manner – getting people and families together in an enchanting setting – while also supporting small businesses and non-profit organisations by giving them a platform to sell and create awareness of their products, services, giving them a boost that could potentially kick-start other business ventures for them. It really is the spirit of Christmas at work.”
He says the careful selection of the exhibitors at our Christmas market is based largely on quality of product. “The overall Montecasino experience must always be one of quality – and it’s no different when selecting exhibitors to bring their products to our Christmas Village.”
This year’s Christmas Village at Montecasino will take place on the Piazza from 30 November to 4 December from midday to 9pm daily, featuring about 55 exhibitors selling beautiful handcrafts, delicious Christmas treats, wonderful gifts and gift wrapping, handmade decorations, crafted toys, Christmas trees, and much more, as well as festive entertainment with movies and a Christmas Carols evening with Swing City.
Several of the exhibitors have been part of the Christmas Village since its inception and their businesses have reaped the benefits.
Erica Wolter, The Toy Lady, imports wooden toys from Europe and at Christmas she also sources hand-crafted decorations and makes advent wreaths. “Demand has increased since I started exhibiting at the Christmas Village – and both I and my little business have grown through the experience. Orders from Montecasino visitors have increased and I am constantly looking for more woodcarvers in Europe to supply me,” says Wolter. “I love the Christmas Village and the Montecasino organisers are fantastic. Everything is taken care of – management, marketing, security, and cleaning.”
She adds that visitors have frequently commented how the Christmas Village has captured the atmosphere of the old style of German Christmas markets (known as Weihnachtsmarkt). “I have also been told many times how much better our market is because of the high quality of goods we sell.”
Tanya Steyn of Jingle Elves makes and imports Christmas decorations, stocking stuffers, and small gifts that all reflect “attention to detail and an energetic passion for Christmas,” says Steyn. Her business has doubled in size over the past three years of exhibiting at the Christmas Village. She’s very enthusiastic about the Christmas Village. “Being at the Christmas village feels like working right there along Santa and the elves in a sunny North Pole! The magic feels alive and everyone is happy. For me it’s like living Christmas every day – it’s really an event that shouldn’t be missed.”
Marti Webb of Pinki’s Splendour bakes on demand, producing a range of delectable biscuits, rusks, Christmas cakes in season, as well as traditional wedding cakes and baking for special occasions. None of the recipes can be found in any recipe book, says Webb, “I always tamper with recipes and make them uniquely mine.”
Webb moved to Johannesburg from the Free State in 2009 and battled to find a market for her products. Pinki’s became an exhibitor at the Montecasino Christmas Village – and things changed. “The Christmas Village is the only place where we sell our products and all the growth we have had is through Montecasino. Over the years we have seen demand increasing as visitors came back looking for us year after year.” She adds that making the cakes with their little decorations takes hours and a lot of patience, “but there is no greater reward than seeing the delighted reactions on people’s faces when they visit our display of cakes. We just love the interaction with the visitors at the Village.”
Webb says the vibe and energy at the Christmas Village is amazing. “As long as we are able, we will be at the Montecasino Christmas Village – we love everything about it!”
Santa’s Workshop offers a lovely selection of sewn, knitted, crocheted, and quilted items – from toys to aprons and women and children’s jackets and jerseys. Owner Dorothy Wilmore says the Montecasino Christmas Village “turned my life around!” Her business has grown from a small market table to a year-round supplier of crafted items, with demand having increased for school and conference items as a direct result of networking at the Montecasino market. “Being at the market helped me regain my confidence and my independence after being a stay-at-home mom for 10 years. It’s awesome working with the team at the Christmas Village – they have inspired me and helped me to sell my products.” Wilmore’s business has grown to the extent that she employs otherwise unemployed women who help with the sewing.
It’s Christmas all year round at Nela’s Workshop, where beautiful Christmas chair covers, cutlery bags, table runners, hand painted cushions, and many other handcrafted items all on the Christmas theme are made. Nela Pino makes it all herself. Business has grown in the last couple of years and while Pino would previously start making products in August, she is now busy all year – with more orders than ever before coming in in time for Christmas. She enjoys the spirit and ambience of the Christmas Village, as well as the caring management of the vendors by the Montecasino team.
Joseph says, “Corporate social investment is always an important part of our business strategies – and we are constantly on the lookout for areas where we can incorporate it into the programmes within Montecasino. The Christmas Village is the ideal opportunity for us to give Gauteng residents a delightfully authentic Christmas experience, while also supporting self-employed entrepreneurs, small local businesses, and not-for-profit enterprises.”