Hint of Christmas: Christmas tree sales a family affair for Bowens

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No matter the shape, size or color, Christmas trees sell like hot cakes every year for the holiday season.

Local retailer RGS sells trees in the lot in front of Rouses on Martin Luther King Boulevard. The trees range in size and cost, ranging anywhere from $24.95 to $59.95.

Part-owner Robert Bowen said they sell 4,800 trees every year, but the last two years have been seen booming business.

“Last year was a record year for us, and we are actually going to surpass that this year. Out of the 4,800 we bought, we are down to 200. We sold over 3,000 trees in the first two weeks,” Bowen said.

RGS opens its lot by mid-December.

“We sell out pretty fast,” he said. “We have already began taking some stuff down. We will probably be out of here mid-week next week.”

Once the trees sell out, the 30 or so employees go back to normal work schedules. Working in the lot can be a challenge, especially since, during the season, they family lot is open daily from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.

“The hours are challenging because everyone here has full-time jobs as well,” the part owner said.

Bowen bought the business eight years ago from his father-in-law, Mike Blanchard, whose father, Allen Blanchard, started the company at a convenience store that happened to sell trees.

RGS has been in business for roughly 50 years and has sold trees out of the same lot for the past 20 years.

“After my father-in-law bought it, he was in one particular spot for a while, and then 20 years ago, he got the spot here. We are here every year,” Bowen said.

RGS sets up shop around mid-October so they can have the trees ready the weekend before Thanksgiving.

“The weekend right after Thanksgiving, families eat and then come out all together and pick out their trees,” Bowen said. “The kids get excited seeing the trees so they run around picking out every tree they like. It is exciting when you come here.”

One of the most popular sellers is the Blue Spruce because its heavy branches make it durable, according to Bowen.

RGS buys trees from Watson Tree Farm located in Lake City, Michigan. The company has 80,000 acres and grows trees all year.

“They grow all year up there. They constantly are planting new trees,” Bowen said. “It takes about a year for a tree to grow a foot so if you get an eight foot tree, that tree has been growing for eight years.”

For someone who has not seen a tree farm, the first look can be overwhelming.

“We can walk into a lot where we are tagging trees and there might be 40,000 in one particular spot,” Bowen said.

The family-run operation, despite its short season, is a local mainstay.

“It is fun. It is a family business. Our kids work here. It is fun to do and something different because not everyone has a Christmas tree lot,” Bowen said. “For the three or four weeks, it is something different than working a full-time job.”

Christmas trees