It’s only a few days into December and Jason Ray is almost out of Christmas trees to sell.
Earlier this weekend, the owner-operator of Emmy’s Christmas Trees loaded the makeshift stand with fresh evergreens on a new lot along First Avenue East in Newton. Foot traffic was consistent all weekend, and Ray had even sold a few trees before families celebrated their Thanksgiving feasts.
“We were officially supposed to be open on Friday, the day after Thanksgiving,” Ray said. “But I started setting up that Monday and had everything set up by Tuesday and had some trees here. We had actually had some customers call and I literally delivered them right to their house, right off the trailer as soon as I got them. They were still wrapped up and everything.”
Emmy’s Christmas Trees set up shop Wednesday and sold a few trees right off the bat. Then Ray sold a few more the next day. And then Friday was “chaos.”
On Sunday morning, there were only four trees left. By noon, they were all gone.
Ray estimates Emmy’s Christmas Trees sold 70 live trees to families in and around Jasper County, surpassing last year’s total of 60 over the course of the season. Ray reckons the increased demand may have something to do with a nationwide Christmas tree shortage.
Experts hypothesize local weather and the 2008 recession has something to do with the scarcity of these traditional evergreen trees.
Ray also thinks a disease affecting Scotch pines — the most common Christmas tree in the states — may have attributed to shortage, too; Emmy’s Christmas Trees sticks to Fraser firs and Canadian firs, most of which Ray acquires from Michigan.
There may be a decline in Christmas tree volumes across the United States, but the public’s demand for a live tree to cover with holiday decorations and tuck presents underneath only seems to be growing.
“It sounds like we got a lot of families that would be disappointed if we don’t continue to do it,” Ray said, noting requests for live trees was high in 2018 as well. “Last year we sold out around Dec. 8, if I remember. We were getting low on trees. I remember we had a deal for Santa Claus to be there on a Saturday for a couple hours and I was nervous of not having trees.”
Although his supplies are nearly depleted, Ray is pleased to see the interest in live Christmas trees is still a tradition people are interested in. Emmy’s Christmas Trees, named after Ray’s daughter Emerson, has been keeping that tradition alive for the past three years in Newton.
Word is spreading fast, too. Ray noticed lots of new faces mixed in with his regular clientele. Families were traveling from Poweshiek and Polk County to get their hands on a live Christmas tree. The tall, eight- to 10-foot Frasers sold fast at Emmy’s Christmas Trees.
One customer even preordered a 12-footer to fit inside their home.
Recognizing how fast trees are selling, folks have begun to schedule preorders for the 2020 holiday season, Ray said. Both he and his daughter are happy to see families add live Christmas trees to their holiday traditions. To Ray, a live variant emboldens the holiday.
“They’ve got a unique smell to ‘em, and the smell of that Christmas tree kind of puts you in the Christmas mood — I think that’s the advantage of having a real tree,” Ray said, adding that he wants to keep expanding his services and reach in the community, and perhaps one day grow his own Christmas trees on a nearby acreage.
“What I enjoy about it is seeing the families come down here and they absolutely love coming here. We’ve had a lot of them say, ‘This feels like something we’d see in a Hallmark movie.’ To see the kids get out and pick out a Christmas tree and to see the families continue to keep coming back — that’s what I get a joy out of.”
Contact Christopher Braunschweig at 641-792-3121 ext. 6560 or firstname.lastname@example.org