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What’s Christmas without a tree?

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By Amy Ryffel-Kragh

A fresh tree or a fake one? For some there is no question, they want a traditional Christmas tree – one that smells just like the tree they remember dad picking out at a roadside lot.

In years past, Christmas tree lots were a common sight in any community – the Boy Scouts and church groups used set up on vacant lots. But the popularity of artificial trees and retailers stocking “live” ones has cut out many of the street corner vendors.

For those who want to size up a tree, shake it a little, and talk with the “tree guy,” there is a corner lot in the Corridor. Severt’s Tree Farm is back, near the corner of S.W. 60th Avenue and S.R. 200, next to Walgreens.

For Penny Schmidt, it is easy for her to find the perfect tree. She likes the way the pines are displayed, which makes it easier to choose. “We open every tree, so you can have a good look at what you are buying,” said manager Dan Norman.

Phil Hronec has been coming to Severt’s lot for the last few years. The Winding Oaks farm manager said the trees are always high quality.

Loretta, a Beverly Hills resident, has been coming to the tree stand for the last four years. The Citrus County resident said she keeps coming back because the trees last a long time and don’t lose their needles.

Norman said the fresh trees should last well into January. The Christmas pines are trucked in from Severt’s Tree Farm in North Carolina. Mike Severt, who owns the farm, also owns the trucking company that transports the evergreens.

People Still Buying

Though the economy is slow this holiday season, people are still finding the cash to buy a real Christmas tree. Severt’s has already sold about half of its 849-tree inventory. Norman said sales so far this year have been about the same as in 2007. However, customers are less willing to spend the money on the bigger, more expensive pines.

The Scotch pines have sold out but there are plenty of firs. A 5- to 6-ft. tree is $30 to $40; a 6- to 7-foot is $50 to $60, 7- to 8-foot trees range from $70 to $80. Larger evergreens cost $100 to $140, and a 13-footer tree is $250.

Each Christmas tree customer at Severt’s gets a discount tag to put toward their purchase next season. “I’ve had a lot of return customers this year, because of the 10 percent tag,” Norman said. “Customers also get a $10 off coupon for Sammy’s Italian Restaurant, across the street from the lot in Jasmine Plaza.

In addition to Christmas trees, wreaths, garland and a spider-type stands are available. The custom tree stands are a signature item and cost $20 for a regular size and $40 for a large stand.

Severt’s lot is open Sunday to Thursday 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Friday and Saturday 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Stores With Trees

At Sod Central they know their trees are fresh, said Danielle Nelson, who owns the business with her husband, Ken. The store is selling the Florida Christmas pine, which comes from Gainesville. And all trees stay hydrated, because each is displayed in a bucket of water.

All of their trees are $25 each, no matter what the size and there are plenty to chose from. They are keeping prices low because of the economy, Danielle said.

Sales have been a bit slow for the Nelsons but Danielle said she is not discouraged because she thinks people tend to wait until closer to Christmas to purchase a live tree.  

In addition to fresh Christmas trees, Sod Central has other holiday decorations including a $12 green metal-type tree, a $14.99 candy themed tree and a $99.99 artificial gingerbread decorated tree.

Sod Central is at 7850 S.W. Hwy. 200. Hours are Monday to Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

At the Publix in Heath Brook Commons there are a variety of Fraser fir trees. A 3- to 4-foot table tree is $24.99, a 4- to 5-foot is $25.99, a 6- to 7-foot is $49.99 and an 8- to 9-foot tree is $69.99.

Lowe’s on S.R. 200 at S.W. 90th Street has three different types of trees this holiday season. Frazier firs range 5-to 6-foot for $24.97 to a 10- to 12-foot tree at $120. Douglas firs come in three different sizes: 5- to 6-foot is $19.97, 6- to- 7-foot is $24.97, and a 7- to 8-foot is $38.97. A 6- to 9-ft. Balsam fir is $29.97.

Contact Amy Ryffel-Kragh at 854-3986 or e-mail akragh@newsrlsmc.com.