Rowan folks flock to lots in search of perfect pine

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 26, 2011

By Shavonne Potts
SALISBURY — Ever since Chris Bisbe was a child, his family has had a live Christmas tree. It’s a tradition that he continues with his wife and family.
The family begins the search the day after Thanksgiving. This is the second year they’ve stopped by the Christmas tree lot near Rack Room Shoes.
The trees are from Ashe County grower Sandford Fishel of Grouse Ridge Christmas Tree Farm in Grassy Creek, N.C.
“I like the fact of getting a real tree. It’s not the same with the artificial,” he said.
Chris said he likes the smell of a live tree.
The Bisbes search for a tree they can lift off the ground to place on a box Chris built.
The family has a Coca-Cola holiday village that is displayed beneath the tree.
On Saturday, Chris and his son, Cameron, 13, searched for the family’s tree.
Afterward, the family will decorate the tree together.
The children also have smaller trees in their rooms.
“We get them early to get them as fresh as possible,” Chris said.
Lynn Kiser has co-managed the lot for more than 30 years.
“It’s a different experience. You have to have it in your blood. You have to want to do it,” Kiser said.
Grouse Ridge has sold trees in Salisbury for about 50 years, Kiser said.
Kiser received a job from Fishel’s father and has worked for many other family members throughout the years, he said.
Kiser and co-manager Chris Harris begin selling trees the day after Thanksgiving.
There are customers who Kiser has seen year after year along with their children and grandchildren.
The lot has sold fewer trees over the last few years because of the economy, but Kiser said many people still want a live tree.
The trees will last through New Year’s Day, he said.
The lot will wrap up its sales a week before Christmas.
Alan and Annette Fullam of Landis returned this year to buy their tree after having bought one at the lot last year.
The couple said they like the trees from this lot. They look for a good height and “fluffiness,” she said.
“We will be going home to decorate it,” Annette said.
This year the couple’s granddaughter will help them decorate.
The Fullams arrived Saturday to “beat the crowd,” she said.
Savannah Ware, 17, chose her family’s tree and will enjoy decorating it.
Each year she goes to the lot with her parents and chooses a tree she likes — one that is full. Savannah likes this particular lot because she can always find a pretty tree and she’s been going her whole life.
It doesn’t matter how tall the tree is just as long as it’s taller than her, she said.
In 1997, a Christmas tree from Grouse Ridge was chosen to be placed in the White House.
The lot near Harris Teeter also sells Fraser fir trees and has been doing so for the last five years. Dean Miller has been selling trees at the Jake Alexander Boulevard location for three years.
The trees are from Ashe County grower Jessie Davis and Rusty Estes of River Ridge Tree Farm in Crumpler, N.C. In November 2008, one of its trees was selected to be on display in the White House.
The lot sells table top trees that are a few inches tall to trees that are 12 feet tall, Miller said.
Each week, new trees arrive to replenish the stock, he said.
The lot is open daily from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.
“We started selling them the day before Thanksgiving,” Miller said.
The lot sells not only Christmas trees, but tree stands, wreaths and decorations for the wreaths.
Desiree Johnson, her husband, Anthony, and their three daughters were in search of the perfect tree to place in their great room.
“We want one with some height, fullness and symmetry,” she said.
While the women of the house look for a full tree and are not as concerned about how tall it is, Anthony, likes height. The taller, the better.
Each of their daughters chooses a favorite ornament that will be featured somewhere on the tree, some of which were made by them. The tree is mostly a mixture of handmade ornaments and others bought throughout the years.
The family also has an artificial tree that Desiree said is usually decorated in a particular color.
The Johnsons walked away with a tree that was more than nine feet tall.
Carl Girelli and his family have been buying their trees from the same location for the past five years.
“It’s close to home and they have a variety and the trees are pretty,” he said.
The family’s main objective is to get a tree that is not too tall, but tall enough to be visible from their front window.
The Girellis usually buy a teardrop-shaped tree. Although they bought the tree on Saturday they won’t decorate it until today.
The tree has always held an eclectic mix of handmade and store-bought ornaments, Girelli said.
His children have made ornaments throughout the years that are always placed on the tree.
He said one year the family bought a tree that lasted through February, so they decorated it for Valentine’s Day.
Dolly Canup bought a wreath from the lot for her church, St. Paul’s Episcopal in Salisbury. She returns every year to the lot for a wreath.
Most of North Carolina’s trees are grown in the western part of the state.
More than 5 million Christmas trees are harvested annually from the state’s 1,000 or so growers, making it the second-largest producer in the country. In 2010, the industry generated about $85 million for the state’s economy.
Contact reporter Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253. The AP contributed to this story.