Everyone knows Santa Claus lives in the North Pole, but a little known fact is several of his elves live in North Georgia.
A few wooden toymakers, or “elves” as they tend to refer to themselves, are busy beveling, drilling, nailing and sanding away at blocks of wood in small toy shops in White County.
Marie Carr, manager of Elfmade Wooden Toys in Sautee Nacoochee, said wooden toys are a classic that will never go out of style.
“That’s your very unique classic, old-fashioned style,” Carr said. “I think it will be around forever. It started with cave men when they picked up a stick and made things with wood and stone. I don’t think it will leave us. We have a lot of plastic in our world and a lot of toys from China, but wooden toys are always going to be around. There aren’t a lot of people who make them anymore.”
Carr’s store, which is stocked by her husband and “head elf” Thomas Carr, focuses on using recycled wood.
Swords and shields are an extremely popular toy as they have been for ages, Carr said.
“It looks more like a real sword in our history,” Carr said as she grabbed the hilt of a sword with one hand and a shield with another.
Jolly Nichols, owner of Jolly’s Toys in Helen, said she loves nostalgic toys. Her store sells handmade wooden toys along with store-bought old-fashioned and folk toys.
Nichols laughs and said she loves the nostalgia of toys. Children and adults seem to enjoy walking around the store.
As for the toys she makes herself, trains and crayon holders are among the most popular items.
Tim Bramlett, owner of Tim’s Wooden toys in Helen, said he’s seen an increased demand in toy cars and bulldozers this season.
Bramlett added a lot of parents are interested in natural wood toys since several imported toys were recalled for lead paint.
Making toys during the holiday season also keeps the toymakers very busy creating their speciality items.
“The weekend pretty much wipes me out,” Bramlett said. “So every week I’m starting fresh this time of year. It’s a never-ending chore.”
Bramlett’s small workshop in the back of his store is covered in sawdust. A window allows children to watch as he makes their new toys.
Three-year-old Colin Wasik happily tested Bramlett’s wares on top of a large wooden toy box Monday afternoon.
Colin’s father, Aaron Wasik of Winter Garden, Fla., said he likes the simplicity of the classic toy store.
“Any toy shop is a good toy shop,” Wasik said. “(Colin) loves all the toys. He’s really into the wooden stuff. All the natural stuff is great, because you can’t break it.”
Bramlett took a break from making ping-pong guns to point out some of his favorite toys to Colin.
“I like seeing kids smile,” Bramlett said. “Something so simple that can bring that much joy is pretty good.”