Our Tribute to the Original Village Architect

on August 24, 2018

Many of you have heard the story about how our Villages came to be, but some have not. In a very condensed version, here is how the Villages came to be:

One Christmas evening, a group of friends set off to enjoy a dinner of celebration at a small country inn nestled in a quiet river town. As they rounded a bend in the road, they saw the small, old-fashioned village decorated for the holidays. The lights, like fairies, glowed and sparkled amid the freshly fallen snow. All evening, the conversation was full of Christmas memories and the visions the tiny town had evoked. Amidst the jovial banter and magical memories, the idea for a lighted Christmas village was born. That spark of an idea became a reality when, in 1976, Department 56 introduced a series of six hand-painted, ceramic buildings. The rest is history.

The group of friends included Department 56 founder Edward Bazinet and the quiet river town was Stillwater, MN. It was during that dinner, and in many conversations that followed that the idea to produce little lighted ceramic houses was born. Ed was already designing and manufacturing giftware items that would form the basis for a new startup business that started under the name EBI (Ed Bazinet International) and later became Department 56. The name was borrowed, with permission, from friends and former employer, Bachman’s, who used a simple numbering system to identify each department at the company. Bachman’s was a floral company in Minneapolis where Ed worked as a floral designer and later as the giftware buyer. When he struck out on his own, he thought that it was appropriate to use the name of the department at Bachman’s that inspired him to start his own business – and Department 56 was born!

The company grew like topsy, and more and more designers and employees were added. In 1997 Ed stepped down to pursue other interests, but left the company in good hands. Employees like Kristi Jensen Pierro, Cathy Kramer, Lisa Johnson, Melinda Seegers, Scott Enter, Barbara Lund and Tom Bates, have all been part of this journey for more than 25 years and continue to embrace the love of the Villages just as Ed did back in 1976.

Sadly, we lost Ed in November, 2017 and he will be greatly missed.

Snowbabies’ artist Kristi Jensen Pierro shared a story about Ed and a new startup business proposal he was working on shortly before he passed away. “Ed had a sweet tooth, and was working on a concept to open a retail confectionary selling high quality chocolates and other sweets that he would make and import from the finest chocolatiers around the world. He had already purchased some antique store fixtures and marble slab candy counters to create an old world elegant environment to display the candies.”

When Snow Village artist Scott Enter heard about this, he knew that he had to produce a piece honoring Ed and this dream that did not quite come to fruition. Working with accessories artist, Tate Yotter, a very special gift set was designed to honor Ed. “B. Sweet Shop”. The building is an elegant city style with classic architecture that Ed would love. There are holiday decorations and drifts of snow, both must have features for a Snow Village piece. Accessories include our signature van, painted with the store logo of “B. Sweets” and Ed, himself, dressed in a crisp white apron carrying some of his latest confectionaries to the truck. This will be a hand numbered limited edition of 1,976 pieces, representing the year the company was started. Whether you collect Snow Village or not, Village lovers will want to have this set in their collection and we are honored to bring this tribute set to you.