Bronner's Christmas Wonderland started from humble beginnings, quickly growing through several expansions to become the World's Largest Christmas Store with beautifully landscaped grounds covering 27 acres. But for originator Wally Bronner, the journey has always been about CHRIST, and "decorating hearts with peace and love."
Wally was a permanent fixture in Bronner's, working only on days "that end in Y " as he always said. His warm smile and colorful jokes brought JOY to all he met. That legacy is still passed on to the millions of guests who experience Bronner's CHRISTmas Wonderland each year since his passing in 2008.
Bronner's website is pleased to offer a sampling of the over 50,000 trims and gifts found in the store for all "seasons, reasons, and budgets"!
At age 12, Wally got an early start on building his customer service skills by working as a clerk in his Aunt Hattie Hubinger's grocery store.
At age 16, Wally starts an "after school hours" sign painting business in his parent's basement. 1945, his graduation year marks the official start of his business career.
Wally marries his sweetheart and dear soul-mate, Irene Ruth Pretzer.
While designing window displays for Jennison's Hardware in nearby Bay City, MI, Wally meets merchants from Clare, MI, looking for Christmas decorations for city lampposts. He creates a custom line of panels that mark the start of his career in Christmas decorations.
Wally and Irene venture to construct their first permanent building in the middle of Frankenmuth. Much of the construction was completed by Wally's father, Herman Bronner, a skilled contractor and stone mason. (See pictures above)
Bronner's experienced many expansions over these years: First, adding on to the original building; then purchasing the old bank in 1966 (Bronner's Tannenbaum Shop). Then in 1971 adding the Hattie Hubinger grocery location (Bronner's Bavarian Corner).
A need for consolidation became imminent. Bronner's three stores moved under one new roof on a 45-acre site south of town aptly addressed "25 Christmas Lane."
Bronner's continues to experience blessings and growth. A 1991 building addition nearly doubles the size. In 2000 an expansion was added to the Shipping department. In May 2002, another major expansion opened, bringing the total building size to 5.5 football fields.
In 1992, Bronner's proudly sees completion of a project dear to Wally's heart since his visit to the Stille Nacht Kapelle in Obendorf, Austria, in 1976. Bronner's authorized replica of the Silent Night Chapel is dedicated in thankfulness to God, and greets guests daily.
Wally & Irene transfer leadership of the CHRISTmas Wonderland to the second generation but remain an active part of the business, serving on the board.
Marks the year the man widely known and loved as "Mr. Christmas" was called home to be with his loving Savior Jesus after a brief illness. He leaves behind a legacy that his family proudly carries on of sharing CHRISTmas daily.
Want to dig deeper? Try these fascinating reads: Bronner's rich history, Wally's inspiring life, or Wally's reflections and more!