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Columbia on the day before Christmas

Monday, December 24, 2012 | 3:14 p.m. CST; updated 10:36 a.m. CST, Wednesday, December 26, 2012
Dan Coleman, left, David Grant, Lee Grant, and Tom Grant play pitch at Bourn Feed Supply during an annual Christmas Eve party on Monday.

*CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article incorrectly spelled Bourn Feed and Supply.

*COLUMBIA — Bourn Feed and Supply planned to close up shop at noon Monday, but owner Joel Haley wasn't going to lock the doors. 

Instead, he and others at the the family business planned to push the shelves to the walls to make way for card tables and food, Melissa Quast, Haley's daughter, said. 

By late morning, customers were starting to come in to celebrate with the family — a tradition at the store on Interstate 70 Drive Southeast for at least the past 10 years, Quast, 41, said. 

It was one of the many ways people around Columbia were celebrating Christmas Eve on the job.

"There is no reason we can't be open and celebrate Christmas," Quast said. "We're all here anyway."

Although the store is closed, the doors won't lock until the card players decide to quit, Quast said. That means if anyone really needs something, they can buy it.

"The animals don't stop needing to eat just because it's Christmas," Quast said. "It is important for us to be here for our customers." 

Harry Katz/ Missourian

A tree is decorated with video game discs at Game City on Monday.

Decked with cracked video games

At Game City on West Broadway, Ray Maltbie was wishing his customers would stop stealing his Christmas ornaments. It might be his fault for decorating the store tree with old, cracked video-game disks.

“Well, right now we have 'Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2' hanging up over there. And someone will snag it and run out the door," Maltbie, 38, said. "They think they’ve stolen some big game, but really the game will have a big crack down the center and say tree decor on the back. That’s pretty entertaining to me.” 

More common on Christmas Eve than ornament snatchers, though, are the "ladies with the lists," Maltbie said.

"If it’s not exactly how it’s written on their list, they’re not going to get it. You’ll get, 'This says limited edition instead of 'Medal of Honor Warfighter,' and it’s not supposed to say that, so I’m not going to buy it,'" Maltbie said.

He attributes this to years of moms accidentally buying the wrong games for  Christmas.

Even though it's usually a busy day, Maltbie gave his employees Christmas Eve off. He said he has had to cut back the number of employees at the store and wanted to show his appreciation for the staff’s hard work.

'It's like several Christmases'

At the Columbia Mall, Ron and Pat Page of Lake of the Ozarks waited next to the carousel for their family to regroup. 

"We were married as of this morning," Ron, 72, joked, referring to his long marriage to Pat, 75.

"We're retired, so we do a lot of the traveling," he said. With family in New Mexico, Colorado and Nebraska as well as Missouri, "It's like several Christmases."

Pat called it an extended Christmas. "It starts a few weeks before and continues after," she said. "Most of our friends are that way."

Ron said that this year, the family met in Columbia for dinner at the Macaroni Grill. "It's a lot different than when we were kids," Pat said.

Whitney Hayward/Missourian

Streetside Records manager Nick Soha spends his ninth Christmas Eve in a row at the record shop, helping customers and watching over employees on Monday.

Seasonal job's staying power

The Flaming Lips played quietly in the background as Streetside Records manager Nick Soha stood near the register. He watched as his employees rang up used vinyls and shrink-wrapped CDs, which left a smell of burnt plastic in the air. 

"All of these years of holidays kind of mush together into one," Soha, 32, said.

This is Soha’s ninth Christmas Eve in a row at the store on South Providence Road, and he doesn’t mind a bit.

“My parents go to church, and I hold down the fort here," Soha said. "I work until around seven, and my parents get home around seven. It’s kind of become our tradition."

The holidays hold a special significance for Soha and his history with Streetside. He was hired as a seasonal worker to fill the gap left when college students go home for the holidays. It turned into a permanent gig.  

"Nine years ago last November, they gave me a shot," Soha said. "When I heard that I got it, it was just like, holy, this is just so, so awesome."

As a kid, Soha was a frequent customer of the store and dreamed of working there. He applied when he was 16 but didn't get the job.

"Growing up, you either wanted to work at Streetside, Shakespeare's or the Blue Note," Soha said with a smile.

All sorts of people come in on Christmas Eve, Soha said.

"We’re busy during the day, and then it dies down," Soha said. "That’s when the lone stressed crazed person comes in right before we close."

Harry Katz/Missourian

Jeffrey Lee fills water glasses at Kui Korean BBQ on Ninth Street in downtown Columbia on Monday. This is Lee's second year working on Christmas Eve at the restaurant.

Keeping family restaurant open

For the Lees, Christmas Eve is all about working at their restaurant, Kui BBQ on North Ninth Street.

This will be the restaurant's second Christmas in Columbia, but it's the first one for it to be closed. Jeffrey Lee, 23, a graduate student studying architecture at Washington University, said his parents, John and Mi Kyung Lee, are taking two days away from work this year — at Thanksgiving and Christmas. 

Jeffrey Lee said the family decorates the restaurant for Christmas and puts up a tree there, but they don't do it at home. "Probably I spend more time at the restaurant than at home," he said. 

To him, Christmas is about the family getting together, having dinner, exchanging gifts and going to the movie theater for a movie. His mother and sister usually cook Korean food or bring back food from the restaurant.

Lee recalled eating a Korean spicy soup with kimchi, tofu and vegetables and bulgogi, which is Korean marinated beef. They usually have three to four dishes, he said.

Mi Kyung Lee, 50, said being with other employees is a good way to spend Christmas Eve.

Remembering turkey fire

Battalion Chief Matt Hudson was one of those staffing Fire Station No. 1 of the Columbia Fire Department on Orr Street on Monday.

"Our shift schedule is based on the yearly schedule," Hudson said. "There are years I have to work on Christmas Day, and there are other years I don’t. ... Somebody has to be here for 24 hours and seven days a week."

Lt. Debbie Sorrell, assistant fire marshal, recalled a memorable incident from a Christmas past: the turkey fire.

"My captain, Mark Blakemore, bought the turkey as our Christmas gift," she said. "He cooked it so long it tasted horrible. You couldn’t eat it. It was like wood. We got to make fun of him all day."

Blakemore has since died, and it made Sorrell happy to remember him and the turkey fire.

"I think about that today," she said, "because everyone thinks about their families, and we also have family here."

Missourian reporters Whitney Hayward, Lindsey Miller, John Farmer de la Torre, Ayano Shimizu and Unho Yi contributed to this article.

Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.


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