CORNELIUS – Hal Garmon has worked in insurance appraisals, car repair and landscaping.
No profession, however, gives Garmon the satisfaction his Christmas tree-selling business provides.
This year marks Garmon’s 25th year of selling Christmas trees to lake-area residents at his outdoor store off West Catawba Avenue. He started selling Christmas trees in 1988 in a red-dirt field beside what is now Bojangles’ and has turned the business into a thriving family affair.
Garmon’s wife, Terry, and her sister, Marcia, handle wreath and decoration sales. Garmon orchestrates selling Fraser Firs and White Pines, which range in cost from $22 to $165, depending on the size of the tree. Three generations of the family help out at the lot.
He never guessed the tree-selling business would become such a passion – or such a success. He was in between jobs when he started selling the trees, but he figured it was worth a try.
“The first three years were kind of tough, but it’s gotten better since then,” Hal Garmon said. “You build up a rapport with a lot of people. I’d say 85 percent of my customers are repeat customers.”
Some of them stop by, pick out a Christmas tree, buy it, and later come back just to chat. The business has been around long enough to see children of the younger generation return as adults to buy trees for their new families.
“It’s become a Christmas tradition for our family to come and get our tree from Hal,” Cornelius resident David Swink said. “Hal and his wife go out of their way to help us. You can’t beat the service, friendliness and holiday spirit they offer.”
Terry Garmon said the family prides itself on all three things.
“What sets us apart is that we keep a book with our customers’ (living-room) measurements, so they don’t have to worry every year about making a tree fit in their house,” she said. “I think they appreciate that.”
There are other family ties in addition to the preparation and selling aspects of Garmon’s Christmas tree business. Garmon gets his trees from relatives in Ashe County, in the northwest portion of the state.
No matter the source, residents flock to the store around the holidays. It’s not uncommon to see cars packing the parking lot even when snow is on the ground.
“I’ll see people out and about even in the summertime, and they’ll talk to me about the Christmas tree business,” Hal Garmon said.
“It’s kind of like being an undertaker. You know that every year, there will be a market for what you have, but people like seeing me in July a lot more than they’d like seeing an undertaker.
“It’s like a reunion when people come back. We catch up and we’ve made a whole lot of friends through this business. That’s one of the best things about it.”