TRAVERSE CITY — Marty Rhein takes his three children to downtown Traverse City every year to see the Christmas tree lighted and to visit Santa’s House.
This year, thanks in part to Rhein, that isn’t just any house. It’s a professionally designed blend of “Victorian cottage” and “Up North rustic,” complete with Victorian-style siding, cottage shingles straight from a scene in “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and an arched window topped by an old-fashioned cast-iron clock. There are even wall sconces to suggest a fireplace.
“When you think of going to visit Santa, you want it to have some nostalgia,” said Rhein, whose Santa is the glowing, rosy-cheeked version depicted on vintage Coca-Cola trays.
Santa’s previous house was built at least 15 years ago and was falling apart despite periodic maintenance by community groups, said Downtown Development Authority marketing director Colleen Paveglio. Moss had even grown on the roof.
“It’s pulled by a crane and we knew we’d have to have actual structural changes for that to happen this year,” she said.
So instead, Downtown Traverse City Association President Jeff Jourbran contacted Dean Adams, owner and president of Bay Area Contracting, to see if he’d be willing to build a new house for Santa.
Adams went one better. He approached Rhein, his sister firm’s senior designer, and contacted nearly two dozen vendors to ask for their help with the project.
“There was no hesitation out there,” Adams said. “Anyone I called said, ‘Absolutely.’ I never had to call back to talk to someone else.’”
The 8-by-12-foot house was built over about three weeks, starting at the Bay Area Contracting office site. Then Team Elmer’s picked up the house and moved it to the company’s heated shop for completion.