Wednesday, June 20 , 2018, 11:47 am | Overcast with Haze 65º

 
 
 
 

Business

For Tree Sales, Thomas Fire Is the Grinch Who Stole Christmas

With tens of thousands of people evacuated and very unhealthy air quality, Christmas tree lots report far fewer sales than usual this season

Employees prepare a tree for sale at the Anthony’s Christmas Trees lot at Earl Warren Showgrounds in Santa Barbara. The devastation from the out-of-control Thomas Fire is being felt far and wide. Click to view larger
Employees prepare a tree for sale at the Anthony’s Christmas Trees lot at Earl Warren Showgrounds in Santa Barbara. The devastation from the out-of-control Thomas Fire is being felt far and wide. (J.C. Corliss / Noozhawk photo)

The nearly two-week Thomas Fire is hitting all local businesses hard, from restaurants and retailers to offices and hotels.

And during the holidays, there’s another seasonal purchase feeling the pinch: Christmas trees.

Some retailers say sales are down as much as 60 percent.

“We are down about 1,000 Christmas trees,” said Anthony Dal Bello, owner of Anthony’s Christmas Trees at Earl Warren Showgrounds in Santa Barbara.

“People aren’t coming because they are telling them to stay inside the house,” he told Noozhawk. “And then all those people in Montecito have been evacuated and they don’t get their big trees.”

Since erupting near Santa Paula the night of Dec. 4, the out-of-control wildfire has burned more than 267,500 acres in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties as of late Saturday. Hundreds of residences have been destroyed, tens of thousands of people have been ordered out of their homes, and at least two people have died, including a San Diego firefighter and a 70-year-old Santa Paula woman.

The blaze also has left clouds of thick smoke over the region, causing air quality warnings for more than a week and effectively shutting down almost all outdoor activity.

Dal Bello has been selling Christmas trees for more than 30 years. In addition to regular foot traffic being down at his tree lot, he said he’s not selling his larger, more expensive trees that grace mansions and larger houses.

“It is going to be a bad year,” he said.

Even though his trees are under a tent, some of them have ash on them.

“Just shake it and it will come off,” Dal Bello said. “You can always wash it off.”

He hopes people come in to buy a tree, noting he has good deals and good service.

Dave Lidren, owner of Big Wave Dave’s Christmas Trees, with five locations in the region, said tree sales were going great until the fire started.

“When the fire hit, everything went downward,” he said. “Everybody got out of the mode of wanting to even shop. People don’t want to come outside.”

Lidren has lots in Santa Barbara, Ventura, Camarillo and Moorpark. In addition to the smoke, he said persistent santa ana winds in Ventura County dried out about 400 of his trees.

“It’s challenging,” he said. “You can’t sell a dry tree. The tree gets recycled.”

Lidren, whose Santa Barbara lot is in La Cumbre Plaza next to Macy’s, said the smoke and dry trees have cost him “a substantial amount of money.”

“The feeling of everyone buying has been hampered because they know somebody or they have experienced themselves some kind of devastation,” he said.

And the smoke in the sky has brought everyone down.

“People don’t really want to be out in the weather,” Lidren said.

He said this weekend will be the breaking point. Even though Christmas is a week from Monday, people aren’t likely to buy a tree on Christmas eve.

“If most people are going to be buying a tree, they want to enjoy it for a couple of weeks,” Lidren said. “This weekend will be the last weekend of sales.”

Still, he is optimistic and knows things could be worse.

“There are a lot of people in worse shape than me,” Lidren said.

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Enter your email
Select your membership level
×

Payment Information

You are purchasing:

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >

Meet Your Realtor Sponsored by Village Properties

Photo of Gary Welterlen and Carla Reeves
Gary Welterlen and Carla Reeves
"We both love this business. We strive to make life long relationships from each real estate transaction."

Full Profile >