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Much-beloved Shillito's elves return to bring holiday cheer at Findlay Market

Posted at 3:01 PM, Nov 15, 2021

CINCINNATI — After three years in limbo, one of Cincinnati's favorite holiday traditions will return to public display to bring cheer during the holiday season once more. The iconic Shillito's elves will be set up at Findlay Market from Black Friday until the end of the year.

They'll be on display in the old Leader Furniture building at 130 W. Elder St. Tuesday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The elves will be animated on the weekends.

Findlay Market is also hosting a music series, pop-up lounge and other events in the Leader Furniture building throughout the holiday season, where visitors can enjoy the elves alongside other special events.

The displays, known as “Shillito’s elves” by most Cincinnatians, consisted of 70 elves and props, which were made famous during the 1950s-80s at the Downtown Shillito's department store.

Bill Spinnenweber bought the elves in 2005. He then raised about $100,000 to restore the workshop to pristine condition through a Kickstarter campaign, sponsorship and by displaying them at Newport on the Levee in 2012.

The elves were shelved after the 2017 season, when owner Spinnenweber said the previous display location in Mariemont didn't receive enough foot traffic to support the workshop.

Not all of the elves will be making the journey to Findlay Market, however. Six displays will be displayed facing outward for market shoppers to admire: Mail Sorter; Little Wood Shop, Pete the Painter, Lazzie Bear and Gift Wrap, Elves at Home and Bedtime Elves.

In 2019, Spinnenweber said he hoped to bring the elves back to the public in 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic had other plans.

“It’s a Christmas display. It’s nothing special to non-Cincinnatians, but to Cincinnatians it’s a lot of memories of their childhood or their parents’ childhood that they brought them through and they want to give to their kids,” Spinnenweber said in 2019.