Andrew Melton remembers standing by the front door of his grandparents’ Glen Allen home decades ago and giving baskets to the shoppers who showed up by the throngs to take part in the Clifton family’s annual holiday craft show, Christmas at Granny’s.
His grandparents, James and Margaret Clifton, dressed up like George and Martha Washington and greeted the guests who wandered around their large two-story house, in which every room — even bathrooms and closets — was decorated for Christmas and held holiday treasures made by local artisans and vendors.
James Clifton’s player piano would send music across the six-acre property, and McLean’s Restaurant — a family favorite — would sell burgers, barbecue and Brunswick stew to hungry shoppers outside on the patio.
It was a family affair that started in 1980 on a whim and ended in 1998, when the Cliftons turned their sprawling home off Mountain Road into a bed-and-breakfast called The Virginia Cliffe Inn.
But that tug of nostalgia, that holiday spark that fed a family’s desire to open their home and their hearts to friends and strangers alike, was too great.
Christmas at Granny’s was brought back to life in 2017 by Janice Clifton, one of the Cliftons’ four children and now owner and operator of The Virginia Cliffe Inn, and it returns this weekend for three days of holiday cheer.
Christmas at Granny’s Craft Show is Friday to Sunday at The Virginia Cliffe Inn, 2900 Mountain Road. More than 60 vendors will be selling everything from handcarved wooden furniture and housewares to homemade jellies, jewelry, stationery, German-inspired holiday ornaments and more.
The show, which is free to the public, will be from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday; and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. Henrico County culinary students plan to sell baked goods, and a portion of the proceeds from the show will benefit St. Joseph’s Villa and, specifically, the Sarah Dooley Center for Autism.
(While you’re strolling the grounds, say hi to the inn’s resident love birds — two swans, Romeo and Juliet — who reside in the pond out back.)
Janice Clifton said the inn, her family home, was built by her father using repurposed materials from an 1850s house that stood on the property when her parents bought it in the late 1960s.
During the 1970s, she and her mother ran a consignment and craft store called Granny’s Attic, and one day they decided it would be nice to host a holiday open house at their home using the vendors from their store. That first year, they were expecting about 100 people, but more than 800 showed up.
“We kept doing it and it grew and grew,” she said about the craft show, which at its peak, ran for an entire week and brought in about 10,000 people.
The craft show stopped in 1998 so the Cliftons could run the bed-and-breakfast, but “every year, people would still show up at the door for Christmas at Granny’s, and I’d get a ton of phone calls,” Janice Clifton said.
“My kids still say that [their] favorite memory growing up is the craft show,” she said.
Janice Clifton took over ownership of the inn 12 years ago and, in early 2017, felt the desire to resurrect the craft show. In doing so, she also wanted to give back to the community.
She has ties to St. Joseph’s Villa, because in addition to helping her parents with the B&B, she was a director at the school for 21 years.
“It’s just so deep in my heart — those kids need a lot,” she said, adding that future craft shows will also benefit the school and the autism program. “I want to do what I can to benefit them.”
Andrew Melton is Janice Clifton’s son, and he said by email that his grandfather, now deceased, would love that his home and his family are once again hosting their beloved craft show. He called his grandfather Buddy, he said, and recalls that many people often came to the event simply to eat, socialize and listen to the piano.
“My grandfather, more than anything, loved people and wanted people to really enjoy” their home, Melton said. Of the show today, “my grandfather would be so proud.”