Rebecca Kilborne: Hi John. We are so happy you joined the team at President Lincoln’s Cottage this year! Thank you for taking time during the busy Holiday season to introduce yourself to our extended Lincoln family and talk about the shop.
John Nembhart: My pleasure!
RK: We spend a lot of time looking forward to the holidays, but I want to ask you to look back. What is your favorite holiday memory from growing up?
JN: I grew up Christian, and my favorite memory is a tie between going to pick out a Christmas tree and decorating the tree. Picking out a tree was wonderful because I love the whole idea of negotiating a price for any deal, and I would watch my uncle work the salesman down to $20 for a 12-foot tree plus a stand. Now, on the other hand, decorating the tree came with cookies, cakes, and eggnog to make it a sweet and rewarding time. The colors of the lights and ornaments always made me feel warm and safe.
RK: Are there any other holiday traditions you love?
JN: The one big tradition that stuck with me is building a gingerbread house. In my family we always made it a competition: kids vs. adults. The winner would be the master builder and get to put the star on the top of the tree on Christmas Eve (another favorite tradition).
RK: Speaking of traditions, let’s talk gift-giving. What is the best holiday gift you have ever received?
JN: The best holiday gift I have ever received is my wife. I proposed to her on Christmas Day of 2020, and she said yes. Can’t get any better than that.
RK: No, that’s difficult to top! Honestly, it can be hard to buy a gift for a significant other. Any tips this holiday season for those of us who aren’t in a place to “pop the question”?
When you buy that gift for that special person make sure it has meaning for the both you— like a memento from a place you visited together that reminds you of happy times.
RK: What should parents think about when buying presents for their children?
Since I’m a parent myself, I think about balance for a gift– something fun but educational. Whether it be an art set or a game console, make sure it teaches a lesson!
RK: With all of your stellar retail experience, what drew you to the shop at President Lincoln’s Cottage. What sets this place apart?
JN: To discover the Cottage is to learn more about Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln has long been one of my favorite presidents because he was a man of the people and believed in equality, along with the importance of family. I believe in the same. I also enjoy purchasing and selling products that support those beliefs. I think that’s what sets us apart from other museums and shops: a genuine care for others that you feel when you step in the building. The shop is your first stop when you come to the Cottage. It’s where you first feel like you came to visit family with all of these great trinkets and gifts that show heart and give you reason to keep moving forward.
RK: What is your favorite book we sell in our store, and why?
JN: My favorite book is How the Word Is Passed by Clint Smith because the author really told the story of slavery and what went on when people were freed.
RK: Okay I’m adding that one to my 2023 reading list. One final question: when you aren’t talking shop, or manning the shop, what do you like to do?
When I’m not at the shop I spend time with my wife and two little girls doing what we call “adventures.” Our adventures are usually visits to a museum or hiking expeditions. When I’m not adventuring, reading is my go-to for fun.
RK: Your relationship-building, holiday traditions, and gift-giving ideas are all inspiring, John! Thanks again for your time, and we wish you all exciting things in the new year (including another incomparable holiday gift: the upcoming birth of your baby girl!)
Did you know Lincoln could see the unfinished Capitol dome from the veranda of the Cottage? Our 2022 ornament features the 16th president looking out from the historic structure, which was lovingly restored this year.
This is just one of our unique ornaments, each of which highlights a different aspect of the President Lincoln’s Cottage experience. Best sellers are available online. For the full selection, come shop in person. The museum store is open seven days a week 9:30am – 4:30pm.
Graduate students from Howard University’s Chadwick A. Boseman College of Fine Arts will be assisting Georges Adéagbo with assembling his installation Create to Free Yourselves.
The exhibit, which will open January 17th and run through February 15th, 2023, will explore themes of freedom and bondage in vignettes throughout the Cottage comprising sculpture, assemblages, and handcrafted signage. “We are pleased to partner with Howard and offer a number of passionate, talented art students the chance to work closely with such an important figure in the global art world,” said Executive Director of President Lincoln’s Cottage, Michael Atwood Mason.
Support our educational programs, preservation efforts and public events by making a contribution to President Lincoln’s Cottage. Donate online today.