Seasonal business scarcely affected by economy

Wisconsin State Roundup

Published January 1, 1992  | January 1992 issue

While other business sectors feel the fluctuations of the national economy, Christmas wreathmakers and tree growers in Wisconsin count on a steady, albeit seasonal, business.

In Hayward, a community whose economy relies heavily on summer resort activity and winter skiers, wreathmakers fill an employment gap. Northland Evergreens, the largest of three wreath and garland manufacturers in the area, hires 100 people for the months of October and November. "It's lucky for us that people are available," says Beth Pricco, who with her husband owns Northland.

Northland produces 35,000 wreaths and about 132 miles of garlands made from pine boughs, "enough to stretch to the Twin Cities," Pricco says. In fact, their products are sold to wholesalers in the Twin Cities and as well as throughout the Midwest.

In addition to the 100 employees in their three warehouse locations within a 75-mile radius of Hayward, as many as 100 people supply pine, balsam fir and cedar boughs to brokers who in turn sell them to the wreathmakers.

Northland buys boughs by the pound, and Pricco says the price for boughs was a little higher this year because people needed more incentive to wade through heavy snow cover to cut the boughs.

"I heard from previous owners of the business that it is recession- proof," Pricco says. But she adds that this year orders from their regular customers were down slightly. "They were being a little more conservative in their buying."

Christmas tree growers report little change in their business, too, as prices for trees also remain steady, says Virginia Mountford, executive secretary for the Wisconsin Christmas Tree Producers Association.

As the third largest producer of Christmas trees in the nation, Wisconsin's economy reaps about $32.5 million annually from the sale of trees. Most of the 3.25 million to 3.5 million trees harvested each year are grown in the central part of Wisconsin, and roughly 350,000 are sold in the state.

Kathy Cobb