A Christmas destination

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There is an old saying that when one door closes another opens, but often that requires someone seeing the opportunity.

Joe and Stephanie Schmitt saw such an opportunity when their favored Christmas tree outlet called it quits with the 2017 holiday season. Stolz Trees and Greens operated out of the machine shed at Bob and Shirley Stolz’ home on state Route 133, but the couple decided to close the time-demanding side business after 17 years of operation.

When the Schmitts arrived to select their Christmas tree last year, they saw the signs announcing the closing. The idea of acquiring the business occurred to them at the same time without discussing it.

“Joe started asking Bob questions while we were there,” said Stephanie Schmitt. “I thought it would be awesome to do.”

“We had been going to Bob and Shirley Stolz for several years to get our tree, and each time we walked away thinking it was just great what they were doing,” said Joe Schmitt.

It wasn’t a snap decision to go into the Christmas tree business, but after research and more conversations, the Schmitts knew it was right for them. It helped that Bob and Shirley Stolz were willing to teach them wreath making and other intricacies of the business.

“Anything the Stolz were doing, we’ll be doing too,” Stephanie Schmitt said. “We’ve just added some things.”

They acknowledged the information provided by the veteran tree retailers was invaluable. One problem they encountered is the shrinking number of tree growers, but Bob Stolz was able to provide contacts.

“One of our suppliers hasn’t taken on a new client in 15 years,” Joe Schmitt said.

Another challenge was their rural home site on 700th Road had ample space but lacked facilities for selling the precut trees.

Joe Schmitt said construction of the barn began in February when the ground was so frozen he used a pickaxe to start the holes for the posts. Part of the barn was sectioned off as a heated space for making wreaths, evergreen ropes for swags and grave blankets. The work area also includes a gift shop featuring holiday-themed décor and a corner where children can color and leave notes for Santa Claus.

“It was a labor of love trying to be ready for this season,” said Joe Schmitt. “It is something the community needs – at least I hope it’s something the community needs.”

Other features include cutouts on the property where visitors can take pictures, and they planted approximately two acres in trees for a future cut your own option.

“We want to try and make it an experience,” said Stephanie Schmitt.

The new business has already forced a change in how they will celebrate the holidays. They are originally from north of Peoria and came to Paris in 1992 when his employer transferred him to an Indiana plant. As a result, they have never celebrated Thanksgiving or Christmas in Paris, opting instead to visit family in northern Illinois for the holidays. That is over now since they can’t spare the time away from the new seasonal business.

“There is some sacrifice in not carrying on the old traditions, but we are starting some new ones,” said Stephanie Schmitt, adding she is hosting a family Thanksgiving for 23 people for the first time at her home. Some of the relatives are also providing time to help them get the business open.

Schmitt Family Tree Farm, 15010 E. 700th Road, opens 10 a.m. Friday, Nov. 23, and has a supply of Frazier firs and Scotch pine trees for sale, with sizes ranging from tabletop to 11-feet. Santa and Mrs. Claus are visiting Sunday, Nov. 24.

Regular hours are 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, noon-6 p.m. Sunday and 4-7 p.m. Monday through Friday.