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Collectible Santas add festivity to new coffee house

Tuesday, December 18th, 2012 | Posted by

A potty Santa sits alongside his peers at the Gazebo Café in the Marketplace Shopping Center.

Stop by the new Gazebo Café and customers will find more than piping hot coffee and pastries. The café is hosting a merry display of collectible Santas, with most available for purchase.

“We have potty Santas, sleeping Santas, snoring Santas and dancing Santas,” says café owner Dwayne Kershner, who also owns the nearby Front Door Antiques and Estate Sale Services in the Marketplace Shopping Center.

A classic Santa with a finely detailed face.

Both businesses opened about six weeks ago, just in time to display the figures for the holiday season. They are part of a private collection purchased from the estate of the late Steve Whittaker of Sonoma. The display is presented in his memory.

The Santas are from Whittaker’s expansive 40-year collection of old, new, rare and unique figures that were part of his annual Christmas celebration.

“We stopped counting at one thousand,” Kershner says of the legion of Santas.

The figures range from diminutive to a 4-foot-tall dancing Santa displayed at the café counter. The collection includes cookie jars, bells, snow globes and candles crafted with Santa’s image.

“The attention to detail on some of these is just amazing,” Kershner says.

Some items date to the 1930s, meticulously crafted of celluloid.

Kershner says most items are valued between $75 and $125, though others “can get into the thousands.”

Some are European, wearing wreaths and long gowns reminiscent of St. Nicholas or Father Christmas. Others are Hallmark productions decked out in classic red and white, with fur lining and black boots.

This Santa at the coffee house counter dances to Christmas music.

There’s a singing cowboy Santa in checkered shirt swinging a lasso, a rubber Santa resting in a bubble bath, even the cranky but kind Santa from the 1964 TV classic, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”

Kershner is especially fond of a pilot Santa flying a vintage airplane, a “fully mechanical” piece complete with a “Merry Christmas” banner.

“I’m keeping that one,” Kershner says.

It evokes memories of a department store display from his youth in New York, a likeness he hasn’t been able to locate online.

Café manager and “right-hand guy” Irwin Brown and baristas welcome browsers captivated by the jolly gents.

The Santa display even spills over into Front Door Antiques, where an Uncle Sam Santa stands alongside the shop’s antiques and vintage 1950’s costume jewelry – a specialty of Kershner’s and his business partner and mother, Frances Felix.

Once Christmas is over, Kershner plans to share other collections and exhibits.

The Gazebo Café, located in the former Barking Dog Roasters site, is open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. Front Door Antiques is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. Both are near the gazebo in the Marketplace Shopping Center, 201 W. Napa St.

– Dianne Reber Hart

Writer Spotlight

Dianne Reber Hart is our Sonoma correspondent.

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