Hometown Tours: Bronner's CHRISTmas Wonderland
As hinted in my last update, I made another stop in Frankenmuth on my Hometown Jobs tour for part two of a special three-part series.
In part one, I visited the Bavarian Inn to prepare chicken dinners, and during part two I celebrated "Christmas in July" with a stop at the world-famous Bronner's CHRISTmas Wonderland. Bronner's means a lot to our community and is considered to be a true Frankenmuth tradition by tourists and locals alike. You almost never hear about someone coming to Frankenmuth without stopping at Bronner's.
Carla Bronner-Spletzer — Bronner's vice president and daughter of the fabled Wally Bronner — and her staff developed an itinerary that kept me busy during my visit to the world's largest Christmas store.
The tour began with a brief look at the history of the business as Carla and I slowly made our way through the Wally Bronner display and casually discussed the life and legacy of the late Bronner. As we looked over various memorabilia from Bronner's life, Carla walked me through the history of what started as a hobby in 1945 in the basement of the young Bronner's parents' house and finished with the 27-acre complex that currently stands today and now employs three generations of the family.
Carla then guided me through a maze of ornaments and lights to the cafeteria where I would be working with Bronner's snack-area staff to decorate Christmas cookies. After a rough start, the staff on hand taught me a few tricks and things began to move a bit more smoothly as I worked my way through a small tray.
After leaving the bakery, we made a stop in the ornament section and gave one of Bronner's most popular attractions a try. Under the guidance of one of the store's professional artists, I personalized two ornaments, one for my grandson Liam and the other for my granddaughter Zellie. After the painting was completed and the ornaments were given time to dry, they were walked over to the checkout area where they were carefully wrapped in a protective layer of tissue paper and packaged to safely make the ride home.
These artists are a true display of God-given talent — it was gracious of them to show me some patience as I personalized two bulbs for my grandkids. They paint around 400,000 ornaments each year, personalizing many with names and dates, and painting stock ornaments with Christmas greetings in over 70 languages.
Anyone who has been to Bronner's knows the showroom is packed with lights, ornaments, figurines and several hundred Christmas trees. The next step on the tour led me to the back room where the trees are wrapped with lights and prepared for the showroom.
What I took away most after having wrapped a few tree branches was that my own Christmas lights are apparently not very good. There is much more technique involved than I had imagined. They do a fantastic job of hiding all of the cords so it looks as if the lights are simply an extension of the tree branch.
While in the warehouse area of the store, Carla also walked me through the shipping area where the store's online and catalog orders are processed, resulting in the shipment of about 220,000 packages each year.
During the tour this area was calm and everything was going smoothly and orderly. However, as the season approaches and things get ramped up, the shipping staff increases exponentially to prepare for and handle the season rush. They have right around 250 year-round employees, but by the time Christmas season arrives, which typically runs from October to late December, they have brought on nearly 500 more seasonal employees.
After we left the showroom we stopped back for a brief look at the office side of the operation. As I made my way through, I volunteered to field some calls and try and assist a few customers. The call volume increased quickly and it was a bit more hectic than I had predicted. The office staff at Bronner's are true professionals who are able to handle the large variety of calls that come in on a daily basis.
I want to give special thanks to Wayne Bronner and Carla Bronner-Spletzer for allowing me to tour their family business and get a look at the operation that is normally reserved for employees. It was surprising how much I never knew about the world-famous store right in my own community.
Bronner's is truly a Frankenmuth treasure. The store and the Bronner family have done so much for our community and it was absolutely my pleasure to spend the afternoon learning about and seeing Wally's legacy. Stay tuned for part three of my Frankenmuth jobs, and for a hint on the location, it will be where Bronner's was originally located.
If you have any tips for a hometown job for me to add to my list, please contact my office at (517) 373-1760, toll-free at (855) 347-8032 or by email at SenKHorn@senate.michigan.gov
It's my goal to do a Hometown Job in every community in the 32nd District. July ushers in new state laws
Several important new laws passed in the spring take effect during July:
- Public Act 85 of 2016 establishes the CARE Act to help train and support in-home caregivers. Under the new law, hospitals are required to allow patients to designate a caregiver and develop a discharge plan to help the caregiver provide after-care assistance. In Michigan, more than two million residents help their aging family members and loved ones stay at home by providing various levels of care.
- Public Acts 87 and 88 of 2016 increase protections for pregnant women by expanding the penalties for assaulting a pregnant woman. The crime would be treated as a domestic violence crime with stricter punishment, especially for repeat offenses.
- Public Act 62 of 2016 raises public awareness about human trafficking. The law requires the National Human Trafficking Hotline number (1-888-373-7888) to be posted at rest stops and welcome centers, bus and rail stations, airports and other places in the state. The FBI worked on 220 cases in Michigan last year.
Military families offered free admission to Blue Star Museums
Active duty military personnel, including National Guard and Reserve, and their families can receive free admission to many museums and cultural institutions around the state this summer.
For the second year, the Michigan History Center has joined with Blue Star Museums to participate in this great family event. In all, more than 2,000 museums across the country are participating. Find more information, including a complete list of museums and exhibitions at www.arts.gov/bluestarmuseums
. Energy emergency extended to ensure gas for summer driving
Gov. Snyder recently announced a federal waiver was granted to extend Michigan's existing energy emergency. Under the extension, truck drivers throughout the state will continue to be allowed increased hours on the road to transport and deliver fuel until Sept. 9.
The extension will help make sure gas is available throughout the rest of the summer and the Labor Day holiday. The original emergency declaration was prompted following the shutdown of a key fuel pipeline in Wisconsin, which is still not operating.