The Rich Co. shares nutcracker collection for Tour of Homes

Published 7:25 pm Thursday, November 16, 2017

“It’s not what people are expecting when they walk in.”

The comment by The Rich Co. realtor Rosie Lilley Smith is actually an understatement. This holiday season, The Rich Co. office at the corner of Carolina Avenue and 15th Street has been transformed into a Christmas wonderland, populated by hundreds of nutcrackers.

Nutcrackers stand at attention surrounding the base of the front desk; they traipse up the stairs and down the halls. In corners, they cluster together. They run the gamut from handheld to life-sized. There are soldiers of all stripes, angels and historic figures. There are magis and leprechauns, magicians and princesses. There’s a Davy Crockett nutcracker and a Mouse King nutcracker, tucked into a shadowy corner.

These nutcrackers would normally decorate the home of The Rich Co. owners Tom and Georgia Anne Atkins, but this Christmas, they’re making a special appearance at the office, as part of Arts of the Pamlico’s Holiday Tour of Homes on Dec. 2. The self-guided tour starts with refreshments at The Rich Co., which is sponsoring this year’s tour.

“When we decided to do the holiday homes tour sponsorship for the arts council, we felt like it would be a different approach to have everybody stop in and look at the nutcrackers,” Tom Atkins said. “Each home on the tour will have a nutcracker yard sign — it’s just kind of a nutcracker theme.”

MAGICAL: A magician, complete with rabbit in hand and mouse on hat is one of the many unique nutcrackers in the Atkinses’ collection.

Atkins said he doesn’t quite recall how the collection got started; rather, it seemed to have evolved.

“I think probably when Georgia and I got married, she saw some nutcrackers and thought they’d be cool by the door. Then it got to be that that was the theme. Everything we’d find as nutcrackers, we’d buy. And it made shopping for her pretty easy because I knew I couldn’t go wrong with nutcrackers,” Atkins laughed.

Atkins said he and his daughter counted the number of nutcrackers in the collection three or four years ago and counted more than 600. There’s been more added since; this year, additions include two life-sized nutcrackers welcoming Holiday Tour of Homes guests from either side of The Rich Co. doorway. Though it’s a challenge to find new nutcrackers the Atkinses don’t already own, the old ones have become part of the family — family that comes for a visit once a year during the holidays.

“They kind of develop a personality of their own from year to year — you drag them out of the box and say, ‘Hey, buddy. How’s it going?’” Atkins said.

He has his personal favorite: a Boston Red Sox nutcracker. As Georgia Anne Atkins is a Yankees fan, there’s a nutcracker to represent her team, as well. Though they stand together on one of many shelves filled by the collection, the Red Sox nutcracker may just have a subtle place of prominence.

Atkins said they’re glad to share their collection with Holiday Tour of Homes participants as a way to help support AOP and the Turnage Theatre. As do many Beaufort County natives, Atkins has a long history with the theater, and as a realtor, he knows the building inside and out.

“I went to events at the Turnage when I was child. I sold it for Wells Fargo when it went into foreclosure,” he said. “It’s just a major centerpiece for our town, for the historic nature of the venue itself, the remodeling in ’07. … We like to do what we can to keep places like that going, even though it’s challenging in a small town that hasn’t grown much in the past 50 years.”

BABY, IT’S COLD OUTSIDE: This nutcracker is bundled up for a white Christmas.

The Rich Co.’s sponsorship is an extension of the support the company has offered AOP: the Atkins sponsor the organization’s Polar Express event Dec. 9, to which they bring the Polar Express train, complete with two snow machines and smokestack, as well the annual gala — AOP’s major fundraiser each year. The reason for their continued support is simple, Atkins said.

“I like what (AOP Executive Director) Debra Torrence is doing here. I think she’s doing a lot for the town and keeping the Turnage open and viable,” Atkins said.

Starting at 10 a.m. Dec. 2, tour-goers can see the Atkinses’ collection for themselves at The Rich Co. The self-guided tour, which also includes eight homes and the Washington Racquet Club, runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Prior to the event, tickets are $20; $22 when paid for by credit card or PayPal. The day of the event, tickets are $25 each.

For more information, or to purchase tickets, call AOP at 252-946-2504 or email