Ben and Kelly Ambrose, owners of Ambrose Christmas store, pose with the Santa that has been part of their holiday decorating for over 20 years. The origin of the Santa goes back way beyond that as it was once apart of the Christmas display for the Goldblatt’s store when it was in Rockford.

By Doug Schroder
If you’ve driven down N. Second Street in Loves Park anytime during the holidays for the past 20-plus years you’ve probably noticed the 15 foot tall Santa that has been displayed in the parking lot of the Ambrose Christmas store, located at 6715 N. Second St. Every Nov. 1 the Ambrose Christmas store owners, Ben and Kelly Ambrose, get the two pieces of the Santa out of storage, put them together, and then place him in his special spot in the parking lot where he stays until he’s taken down on Jan. 31.
While area residents have enjoyed the tradition for years and years, many are unaware that this hasn’t always been the place where the Santa has stood.
The giant waving fiberglass Santa was originally purchased by Goldblatt’s Department Store in Rockford. Goldblatt’s was located at 616 Hollister Ave., just off Charles Street in the Rockford Plaza. It was open from 1956 to 1981. In the 1960s store officials decided to invest around $5,000 in the custom-made Santa as a way to attract customers during the holidays. He was placed atop the store with spotlights shining on him. People driving down Charles could easily spot the Yuletide display.
When Goldblatt’s closed in 1981 they had a liquidation sale. One resident who lived nearby, William L. Lidster brought his son, William P. Lidster, to the sale.
William P. Lidster, who now lives in California, grew up just four blocks from Goldblatt’s. Every year when the big Santa went up he knew the real Santa was inside taking Christmas lists from children as they sat on his lap.
“It was the first Santa I remember,” said Lidster. “That’s why we purchased him.”
The Lidsters repaired and repainted the figure and placed him in front of their business at the time, Advanced Window Systems on Windsor Road in Loves Park.
Santa greeted customers there for a few years during the holidays before the Lidsters moved him to their home on Highway 70 in Burritt Township. They displayed the Santa in their yard for some years. For a few years the Santa was also loaned out to the Festival of Lights in Sinnissippi Park.
In 1997 the Lidsters decided it was time to sell the giant old elf. The Ambrose Christmas store was located right around the corner from Windsor Road and seemed to be a perfect place for the Jolly Old Saint to reside.
Stu Ambrose purchased the figure and again had it repainted. He also added a steel framework to the inside to make the Santa a little more sturdy.
Stu’s son, Ben Ambrose, took over the store in 1999.
“We’ve repainted the Santa a couple of times since then, too,” said Ben.
When you see the giant Santa now you can think of all places he has been and all of the people he has cheered up.
Ambrose Christmas store is celebrating 50 years of being in business this year. How nice it is to have a local business that carries on holiday traditions in more ways than one.

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