Chris DerDerian joined Christ Child Opportunity Shop in Georgetown as store director in October of 2016.
“I was just awed by the history and the mission,” she says.
DerDerian joins the pantheon of people who have kept the store, at 1427 Wisconsin Ave. NW, in business for more than eight decades. Established in 1933, the store is one of Christ Child Society’s programs and moneymakers, according to Marianna O’Brien, president of the society’s D.C. chapter. Chartered in 1903, Christ Child Society was founded in 1887 by D.C. resident Mary Virginia Merrick, who became disabled by a fall in childhood.
DerDerian describes Christ Child Opportunity Shop as a nonprofit, but with the concern of a lot of retailers: to bring in sufficient income. “The bulk of our sales comes around our holiday season,” she notes.
A look at the storefront indicates a focus on holiday-related items. The store is named the “Christmas headquarters of ye Christ Child Society.” Passersby can see tableware with colors and motifs appropriate for a Christmas dinner. A Christmas crèche is on display, but so is a Hanukkah menorah.
The emphasis on the holiday season goes beyond the demands of retailing. O’Brien explains that an important goal for Christ Child Society in Washington, D.C., is to help children in need in the area, regardless of race, color or creed. This sense of mission is rooted in a story about Merrick’s errand boy, who wrote a letter to the Christ Child asking for a red wagon for Christmas in 1884.
According to DerDerian, all of the money that is made in the store goes to support Christ Child Society programs, including the provisions of diapers, knitted blankets and books.
DerDerian, 65, majored in art history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She has directed museum stores for more than 30 years, at places including the Washington National Cathedral and the National Gallery of Art. For her, such work incorporates opportunities to connect with the public, to be immersed in the arts and history, to choose merchandise and to expose customers to noteworthy things. “I was hooked,” DerDerian says.
Her museum-store experience is something she carries with her in her work at Christ Child Opportunity Shop. Inside the store, one can see how diverse and varied is the merchandise, carefully curated by DerDerian and Kelly Gotthardt, the store manager. The inventory includes Asian collectibles, costume jewelry and items made of sterling silver. The prices also range widely, from one dollar to thousands. “If you have a dollar, you can still shop here,” she says.