Of the 50,000-plus item inventory and myriad of Christmas trinkets and tinsel inside Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland, not many objects date back to the 1950s. The two relics that do, however, mark the origin of the Frankenmuth-based company.
While in high school in 1945, Wally Bronner started his own business as a window dresser and sign painter in his parents’ basement. Soon after, Bronner was approached by merchants from Clare, Mich., about decorating the city’s lampposts for the holiday season.
With the help of his friend and first employee, Bronner customized wooden-paneled, decorative signage for the occasion. When the devout Christian decided to pay homage to the Christmas holiday year-round and sell his decorative creations, Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland was born.
Nearly 70 years later, Bronner’s has grown to occupy a 45-acre complex that’s decked with some 100,000 lights. It’s considered the “world’s largest Christmas store” as well as a staple of Michigan tourism. Around 2 million annual visitors stop into the store, and nearly half travel from metro Detroit to witness the 365-day spectacle.