CURTIS, Wash. – When Ramona Holt sold her first holiday wreath at Seattle’s Pike Place Market in 1976, she never dreamed that she’d someday own a company that produces 35,000 annually.
Today, the smell of freshly cut evergreens fills the air at Holt’s Christmas Forest, located deep in the woods near Curtis, Wash., as her 45 employees make 1,000 wreaths daily from October through December and ship them to customers all over the world.
While Holt works year-round to market her wreaths, her husband, Rick, locates and purchases 100 tons of forest brush from vendors mostly in Washington and Oregon.
“I actually have my B.A. in music so I don’t know what I’m doing here,” Holt, a former piano teacher, said with a laugh. “I love Christmas. … I would do this even if I didn’t get paid.”
The couple got into the wreath-making business by accident. They had cut some cedar to sell for extra cash but couldn’t get rid of it. So Holt decided she’d make something out of it and her wreath business was born.
The business, which started in a shack in the woods, now makes five styles of holiday wreaths in hundreds of variations. This year Holt created a new Pink for the Cure wreath, with 10 percent of the proceeds going to breast cancer research.
Holt sells 7,500 of her most popular Cascade Wreaths annually, which blends juniper and princess pine. The Holts bring in noble fir from the higher elevations because it lasts longer and mix it with other evergreen cuttings like cedar and pine to produce the best color possible.
Holt said she knows her work is meaningful when she receives photos and notes from customers like the picture of one of her wreaths hanging in U.S. troops’ barracks in Afghanistan.
“That was Christmas for those people over there,” she said.
Lani Harris, of Napavine, Wash., has been crafting wreaths for Christmas Forest for 24 years.
“The thank-you notes we get are just phenomenal. They can bring a tear to your eye,” Harris said.
Christmas Forest receives hundreds of thank-you notes a year from customers and sometimes the letters are directed at specific crafters. Harris said the sentiments make the 12 hour days worthwhile.
“It’s hard to describe how it makes you feel,” she said. “It’s the spirit of Christmas.”