25 years and 15 miles of garland
After 25 years of decorating the Roaring Fork Valley with garland and Christmas trees, Mr. Christmas says he’s still going strong and hopes to bring the season’s cheer to valley locals for 25 more years.
Mr. Christmas, aka Michael Carter, began helping run the family business of selling Christmas trees back when he was 17. Carter worked with his father, Charles Davis, and locals Ben Sellers and H.P. Hanson, who already had been selling the trees for more than 10 years in Aspen.
“They had a bunch of scrap copper they took to Denver and ended up buying Christmas trees,” Carter said. “So they bought a pickup truck full of trees and took them to John Pope’s lot in Aspen, catty-corner from the old post office on Hyman.”
That year, the Christmas tradition began.
Carter recalled helping to cover the trees with old mattresses at night so no one would steal them. He also recalled spending many nights in a 1953 Packard ambulance.
“I was the night watchman for the trees,” he said. “It was freezing. It was like sleeping in an icebox.”
His job was mostly to keep the drunks from stealing trees around the time the bars were closing.
“I’m not sure if I was there to guard the Christmas trees or guard the booze,” Carter joked.
In four years, he recalled, only one guy even came close to stealing a tree. And Carter said he wasn’t even sure if the guy was looking to steal a tree or finding a safe place to do his business.
Back in those days, the Aspen Christmas tree lot was the place to be, Carter said.
“It was a great scene. It was just a big party,” he remembered, recalling one time that Tom Bosley – Mr. Cunningham on the TV show “Happy Days” – came and partook in some festive imbibing. And when Cher and Gregg Allman would come by to pick out a tree.
“She was really snippy,” he said of Cher. “And he would pick out a tree.”
Celebrities and locals alike would come down to the lot to have some fun.
Carter worked with his father and the others for five years, then struck out on his own, competing with them.
Carter picked up the moniker “Mr. Christmas” while walking through the Hyman Avenue Mall one fine December day.
“I was decorating a store and a lady walked up who wanted me to decorate her store and she couldn’t remember my name, so she called me Mr. Christmas, and it stuck,” he said.
Soon, people began asking Carter and his helpers to put up garland on local shops, houses and other places. Stringing up garland has become a mainstay of his Christmas business.
“This year I did 5,600 to 5,700 feet of garland. It was a big year,” he said.
In all, Carter said he’s probably installed more than 15 miles of garland – enough to stretch from Glenwood Springs past Carbondale and all the way to Catherine Store.
He also makes wreaths and strings up lights.
“I would say lighting can be the bane of my existence, therefore I try to avoid it. I know a guy who thinks he’s smarter than I am, so I let him handle it,” Carter joked.
Lately Carter has begun to decorate more downvalley locations, including River Valley Ranch and some shops in Glenwood Springs. He also set up a tree lot at Lost in Space, his wholesale import business on Cooper Avenue in Glenwood Springs.
“It barely met expectations, but we’re in it for the long haul,” he said. “I’ll be doing it again next year.”
The original plan for the Christmas tree and decoration sales was to make some money during the slow season – slow for landscapers, that is – then head down to Mexico for a couple of weeks.
But over the years, Carter has begun to donate some of the proceeds to organizations like youth hockey leagues and the Boy Scouts of America.
“I’m pretty much geared to dealing with organizations who are looking for a fund-raiser,” he said.
All the garland and wreaths are made right in Carter’s shop.
“My son Jobi here is quite the wreath maker,” Carter said of his 11-year-old.
Carter attributes his success partly to his consistency.
“Part of the reason why I think I’ve been so successful with it is I’ve stayed with it,” he said. “A lot of people come and go because it doesn’t encompass a large part of the year.”
Also, he said his products are all locally made and they use a type of fir tree that dries green.
“The reason I’ve done it for so long is it puts people in a good mood,” he said. All in all, it’s been a very positive experience.”
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