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Historic rural church houses holiday gift shop

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SISTER BAY — Ron and Sue Ann Flittner share a love for holidays, especially Christmas.

So as they considered business opportunities in rural Door County, it was only fitting they gravitated to a holiday gift store housed inside a historic church building just north of the quaint village of Sister Bay.

The couple are approaching their 15th anniversary as owners of Tannenbaum Holiday Shop, which specializes in Christmas items but also offers an array of other products for other times of year.

The uniquely situated rural business started in 1978 on a front porch before establishing a store front location in a log cabin just south of the village. In 1992, the congregation at Zion Lutheran Church opted to build a new church nearby, and the previous church, which dates back to 1879, was sold to Tannenbaum Holiday Shop.

The structure’s religious past remains evident. Two original stained-glass windows adorn the walls, and the choir loft (with a new stairway) provides an overlook of the church architecture below. Original lighting and church symbols also can be seen, and nativities are among the items available in the former altar area.

“We feel it is important to maintain the church symbols,” Sue Ann said. “We have kept some of the original windows, beams and lighting. We like that you can still see the bones of the church. We think the church itself adds a lot of character to our store.”

“Customers who attended the church and some who were married here will stop in and take pictures.”

Sue Ann, a native of Dubuque, Iowa, and Ron, from Evansville, Ind., were married in Davenport, Iowa. The couple discovered Door County after moving to Wisconsin in the mid-1980s.

“We liked and enjoyed that Door County offered a wide variety of activities from horseback riding, hiking, playing by the beach and, of course, shopping and lots of great places to eat,” Sue Ann said. “We felt there was something for everyone in Door County.”

Like parishioners before them, customers flock to Tannenbaum Holiday Shop throughout the year. The former church building is across the road from Door County Ice Cream Factory, and a stone’s throw from the bay of Green Bay.

Business picks up in May as the tourism season heats up throughout Door County, and sales peak in October as fall colors blanket the countryside and set the scene for the holidays ahead.

“This time of year customers are still coming to visit Door County,” Sue Ann said. “We like it, because we have more time to visit with our customers.”

As for being surrounded by Christmas items, Sue Ann added: “It is great being around Christmas year-round, because it makes our customers share their traditions and happy memories. And it doesn’t dampen our own holidays, because then we are celebrating with our own traditions.”

For more about Tannenbaum Holiday Shop, 11054 Highway 42, Sister Bay, visit or call 920-854-5004.