A Christmas tree sits in many East Valley homes this weekend, some decorated tip to tree stand, brightly lit and ready for gifts.
For some, picking out the tree is as much a holiday tradition as the ornaments placed on it.
For the Mitchells, the Christmas tree symbolizes generations of a family business and time spent working it together.
Tim Mitchell opened his first Christmas tree lot in 1950. His four daughters, their spouses, cousins, nieces and nephews carry on the tradition, daughter Jayne Mitchell Marsh told the Tribune this week.
There are three Tim Mitchell Christmas tree lots in the Valley this year — one each in Mesa, Gilbert and Scottsdale. The family also still manufactures Christmas tree stands in Phoenix.
The Mitchell lots used to dot the Valley, with Phoenix as the epicenter. Though they are fewer, the family remains loyal to the business, making multiple visits to the Northwest each year to pick the trees that generations of customers have come to buy each December.
“We hand select all our trees we sell. That’s part of the reason we’re still around. We try to have the best trees and we try to have the freshest trees,” she said, even for those buyers who show up on Christmas Eve.
There’s an appeal to coming to a tree lot, Mitchell Marsh said, especially a Mitchell lot. Many of the staff members who work it have been there for years.
Dave Amborm runs the lot at Extension Road and Southern Avenue in Mesa. He and his family have done so since 1988, he said, setting up camp right before Dec. 1.
Last week, his grandson, Gage Howard, helped a customer load a tree.
Washington resident Bud Junger was at the lot as he is every year to purchase a tree for his daughter, who lives in Tempe.
“For years and years, I’ve come to this lot,” he said. “They’re the best. I got a Noble fir. They last the longest,” Junger said.
Mitchell Marsh said customers like Bud Junger are part of the “family.”
“Our Christmas tree family of consumers and buyers are multigenerational, as well. You can talk to some old families in Phoenix that remember going to downtown Phoenix, Seventh Avenue and Osborn Road and even further into town than that. There’s a lot of fourth and fifth generations who grew up coming to Tim Mitchell’s Christmas trees,” she said.
The Mesa lot once was located at Southern Avenue and Alma School Road, where the iconic, blue-lit Bank of America building now sits.
“I have old aerial photos of the Christmas tree lot near Fiesta Mall,” she said. “Our main location for the longest number of years was 24th Street and Camelback, where the Ritz Carlton now is. We’ve been on some amazingly good corners.”
Mitchell Marsh said setting up the lots starts in the summer, with business permit and sales tax applications and confirmation of locations. Those first trips to see the trees start in early fall. This year, the family didn’t start marking the ones to be cut until mid November.
It’s a business the family plans to stay in for the long run.
“It would be so foreign to all of us involved not to be doing that. It’s part of our Christmas celebration and it’s a big get together with families and people we don’t get to see that often, but we see them at the Christmas tree lot,” she said.
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