Small businesses rely on holiday retail season

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(Host) Holiday shopping surveys often focus on how the big-box retail giants are doing. But what of the thousands of small business that depend on Christmas?

VPR’s Nina Keck visited two holiday related business owners in the Rutland area to find out what kind of season they’re having.

(Keck) Anni Lee’s Cuttingsville garage smells great. Everywhere you look tables are piled high with pine boughs – permeating the air with the scent of Christmas.

Lee owns Anni Lee’s Wreath Barn and she sells about 2,000-3,000 wreathes and other holiday decorations each season. Her twelve employees work in shifts. They trim branches, make kissing balls and feed pine boughs into a machine that spits out yard after yard of garland.

(Lee) “It’s money for Christmas, you’re not getting rich on it. It’s hard work, but there’s just something about it that brings you back each year.”

(Keck) Lee started the business 20 years ago to make extra money. She goes through about a ton of pine boughs every two days and sales to local businesses are especially strong.

(Lee) “Yeah, they do they order more and more every year. I started out with a guy that he only ordered about five wreaths and now he’s up to 50. This order is for a florist and she ordered 50 five-yard lengths of garland. And then they’ll call back and order more.”

(Keck) Bill Gormley also makes wreaths, but his main holiday business is growing and selling Christmas trees at his farm in Chittenden.

(Gormley) “Just around the building we have 50, 75 maybe 100 trees. But out in the back there are 3,500 trees in that block, then there’s a thousand trees there and then there’s probably another 1,500 trees there. And then up on top of that hill there’s another thousand trees there.”

(Keck) Gormley sells between two and three hundred trees a year. While it’s clear he loves what he does, he admits it’s not a great way to make money.

(Gormley) “It’s a terrible business, if you look at the capital investments, you look at the labor, and everything involved. It doesn’t make sense.”

(Keck) Gormley says he and his wife started the business in 1987 as a way to fund their children’s college expenses. Back then he says there weren’t many people who sold Christmas trees in the area.

(Gormely) “And it seems now on every street corner there’s a pile of Christmas trees. From Rutland to here you probably pass five places that sell Christmas trees.”

(Keck) He says they do have an edge because their trees are fresh. Families can even cut their own, and then enjoy some mulled cider in Gormley’s holiday shop.

While both Gormley and Anni Lee admit they don’t get rich selling trees and wreaths they say they do get happy.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Nina Keck.

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