In 2005, Edward Greene was ready to leave Manteo, where his 38-year-old Christmas Shop and Island Art Gallery was a favorite stop for Outer Banks locals and tourists. Then 80 years old, he closed the store and auctioned the merchandise and fixtures. But a sagging market made it a poor time to sell real estate, and Greene and his partner, Jimmy Lacerre, missed the retail life. They reopened the store in 2008. Annual sales of $1 million are well below peak levels a decade ago, but Greene, 89, says spreading Christmas cheer remains fun. Alex Granados' interview with him is edited for brevity and clarity.
How did you wind up in Manteo?
I was a dancer and I toured with various productions, including Damn Yankees. I came down in 1953 to be in The Lost Colony [an outdoor drama staged in Dare County since 1937], the same time that Andy Griffith was in it. I decided when I got old enough to leave show business, I'd come down here and start a business.
Why a Christmas store?
In the early '60s, there was a guy looking for people with creative flair to decorate artificial Christmas trees. That was a job that I did for a couple of years. So I learned that the field was growing. And my family had an art gallery and did picture framing. So that was the other half of the business. When we started, there weren't many of them. Most people would say, "Christmas shopping in the summer time? Why would they do that?" So a lot of people came out of curiosity. Andy Griffith went around town...