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Dr. Joe Ales creates fetching holiday display for OPTIK Birmingham

In-Focus | Published December 13, 2023


BIRMINGHAM — Eighteen years ago, he celebrated the most dapper of birds. He then paid homage to those perennial workhorses of the insect world. Even when Hollywood’s offerings provided little inspiration, he still found motivation to ensure his store’s holiday-themed displays caught the attention of passers-by and, more importantly, would brighten Christmas morning for children in need.

Dr. Joe Ales of OPTIK Birmingham began decorating his windows in 2005 to coincide with that year’s sleeper hit “March of the Penguins.” Two hundred stuffed penguins were at home amid the contemporary and vintage eyewear with an icy scene as the backdrop. Two years later, with the arrival of “Bee Movie,” he hung 150 six-inch bees from the ceiling. “I spent the entirety of a Sunday threading string from the ceiling … I hung the bees at different lengths to create a swarm effect,” Dr. Joe explained.

Owls and bears, among others, have followed; this year’s theme is puppies. And while the animals change, what’s stayed constant is what comes next: the toys, approximately 250, are donated to an Oakland County children’s charity. This year, as he did last year, Dr. Joe is donating to Care House.

“I stood in front of the window days ago to check the lighting. A girl put her face on the window. ‘Look, puppies!’ I asked about her dog and told her mother about the donation … such great interaction form something so simple,” said Dr. Joe.

Dr. Joe said his goal is for other downtown merchants and offices to build similar displays to benefit the greater good. “Imagine,” he wondered, “an entire community donating thousands of stuffed animals to our neighbors in need, bringing smiles to so many faces.”

Sounds like the ultimate Christmas wish.