Naperville native brings back ornament for the holidays
The Naperville Ornament is back.
Created last year by stage actor and Naperville North High School graduate Michael Notardonato, the limited edition, engraved ornament was such a success that he decided to make it a holiday tradition.
Like last year's piece that sold out quickly, the 2021 edition features local icons sure to be recognized by Naperville residents.
"I didn't expect it to take off as much as it did," Notardonato said. "People kept asking me if I was going to do another one this year, so I decided to do another design and another limited run."
Notardonato, 28, has spent his entire adult life acting. A graduate of the Boston Conservatory, most of his work has been on the stage.
Until March 12 of last year, he was performing in an off-Broadway show titled "Romeo and Bernadette." It's a date he remembers well because that's when the COVID-19 pandemic shut down everything.
With no income for the foreseeable future, Notardonato returned home. As he walked along the Riverwalk with his mother last summer, she reminded him of how their family used to buy ornaments from all the places they visited.
No trips in 2020 meant no new ornaments, so Notardonato was inspired to create the Naperville Ornament to honor his hometown. He sketched a design, found a manufacturer in Massachusetts and started selling them through thenapervilleornament.com at $24 apiece.
"I was very open that I'm an actor who suddenly lost any available stream of income," he said. "This is my passion project for the pandemic, and I'm grateful for the support.
"As an actor, everyone tells you to prepare for a really inconsistent lifestyle. I prepare for everything, but no actor prepared for March 12."
Notardonato does a limited run of ornaments for two reasons: He wants them to be special, and he doesn't want to be overwhelmed by the amount of work it takes.
He's commuting between Naperville and New York City, which makes it difficult to focus solely on the ornaments. This year's edition is already nearly sold out, and he's brought back a small batch of 2020 ornaments for those who missed out last year.
"I do want it to be a limited piece," he said. "I'm a one-man band. It's a lot of work."
Notardonato is about to become much busier.
He recently heard from producers that rehearsals start up again for "Romeo and Bernadette" in January. Shows are slated to begin in February at Theater 555 on 42nd Street.
The timing is perfect.
He'll wrap up what he learned to do during the pandemic and return to what he was born to do on the stage.
"I'm going back to work on the stage," he said, "but I'm still going to find time every holiday season for the foreseeable future to release an ornament."