The New York Times once called Christopher Radko the "Czar of Christmas Present," and with good reason. The company that bears his name designs about 500 exquisite glass Christmas ornaments each year and other holiday decorations. Learn about the beginnings of the Christopher Radko brand and company, along with where it is today.
The Beginning of Christopher Radko
While many companies don't often start in tragedy, the Christopher Radok brand starts with a Christmas disaster. As the story goes, Christopher had always had the job of cleaning and storing his family's old, rusty, cast-iron Christmas tree stand. When the 22-year-old was at the family home for the holiday in 1984, he decided it was time for a replacement, and the family's 14-foot tree was placed in a new red-and-green stand. They decorated it with over 1,000 European mouth-blown glass ornaments, some of which had been in the family for four generations. Each ornament had its own story, making the collection a kind of living diary.
While the decorating of the tree went perfectly, the stand didn't do its job. The following day, the stand collapsed, and the tree crashed, smashing almost all the ornaments. The lack of glass ornaments to replace them led Christopher to a small glassblowing factory and an artisan who was eager to revive the art once practiced by his own great-grandfather. Radko sketched some of his family ornaments and a few of his own designs, and the glassblower produced several dozen.
Friends bought some of the ornaments, and Radko realized he had a desirable product. While still working in the mailroom of a talent agency, he spent his lunch hours showing his designs in New York stores. His first retail account was Georg Jensen, a top-of-the-line jewelry store.
Marketing a Brand
In its early years, Radko sold his designs through a company catalog. However, this was enough to get the brand booming. In addition to the catalog, Starlight Magazine, written for the Radko Collectors Club, was produced by Radko. In 1998, the company created the website to give fans a source of information on the ornaments, and the online store opened in 1999.
Becoming an Icon
With a great marketing strategy and products people loved, the Christopher Radko brand flourished. In fact, Radko's ornaments are found in the collections of celebrities such as Elton John, Oprah Winfrey, Robert Redford, Kim Basinger, Elizabeth Taylor, John Travolta, Dolly Parton, Robert DeNiro, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. His first Hanukkah ornaments were produced at the request of Barbra Streisand. Additionally, a coffee-table book, Christopher Radko's Ornaments, was published by Clarkson Potter in 1999.
Christopher Radko Collectibles
Early Radko designs have become highly desirable collectibles. One ornament, the "Partridge In a Pear Tree," was originally priced at $38. It has sold for over $1,000 on the secondary market. Radko ornaments are sold through dealers, auctions, newsletters, and on the internet. About 40 percent of Radko's ornaments are retired each year, which adds to earlier designs' value.
The Sale of Christopher Radko Company
Christopher Radko sold the company in 2005 to Rauch Industries, which is a family-run business since 1952. Christopher Radko completely separated himself from the brand and went into retirement. Rauch has redesigned the brand into what it currently is today.
Christopher Radko Today
Currently, the Christopher Radko brand is still run and operated by Rauch Industries. New collections are created yearly for customers by the creative design team, which works to keep the original feel and artisan of the Christopher Radko brand alive. This is mostly done through the Design Director, Joseph Walden, who has been with the company for several years.
The Beautiful World of Christopher Radko
Presently, Christopher Radko's creations are available in over 2,500 stores carry ornaments, cookie jars, snow globes, and other Radko collectibles. These include retailers such as Bloomingdale's and Saks Fifth Avenue and London's legendary Harrods, and Fortnum and Mason. Many fine independent gift shops carry the line all year long. You can also find these delicate pieces on the Christopher Radko website.