While shopping in 2013, Zionsville resident Jennifer Milliner approached Erica Carpenter, owner of Fivethirty home, and asked if she had a Zionsville ornament for sale. Carpenter said she didn’t, but the conversation inspired her to create one, and it has led to an annual Christmas tradition for some Zionsville families.
“A friend and I were in there just shopping for the holidays, and she had some cute ornaments out,” Milliner said. “I said, ‘Hey, Erica, how cute would this be if you could have something with Zionsville in it,’ because we love our town, and we like to see Zionsville on everything.”
A few weeks later, Carpenter presented Milliner with what Carpenter estimated was about a half-dozen ornaments featuring a picture of snow falling over the trolley from the town’s annual Christmas in the Village event. Milliner gave a few to friends and family. Soon, others saw them and asked Carpenter if they could get one for themselves.
“I started making more, and we made not that many,” Carpenter said. “Maybe 50 that holiday season.”
The ornaments are an in-house operation, Carpenter said. The process starts when she takes a picture of whatever the subject for the year’s ornament will be. Her husband, Jim, then uses a dye-sublimation process to make the ornament. The process includes printing on precut metal using a heat press to stamp the image onto the ornament. String and glitter is added in the store.
Demand for the custom-made Zionsville Christmas ornaments grew, and Carpenter committed to making a new one each year during the holiday season. By the next year, she struggled to make enough ornaments to keep up with demand. By the second week of December, she had to inform customers she couldn’t make enough in time for the holiday season.
Each year features a different town staple, whether it is Main Street, the Lincoln Park gazebo or another town fixture. This year, Carpenter secured a licensing deal with the town’s school district, and the store’s 2020 Zionsville ornament will feature two school logos.
“I think I’ve bought a new one from every year,” Milliner said. “One of my best friends goes in and buys them, too.”
And Milliner is not alone. Many other Zionsville families visit the store to purchase the new year’s ornament. Milliner said the ornament is one of the many items she and her family look forward to seeing when they visit Main Street during the holidays.
“We haven’t discontinued any,” Carpenter said. “We still do the old ones every year as well. Some people when they’re out looking for a Zionsville gift still go back to the original one, the trolley ornament.”