When you think of small businesses, the first thing that comes to mind usually isn't 20 acres of pines and spruces begging for you to chop them down and take them home.
Frank Rimi planted the first in his backyard at what is now known as the Addison-Oaks Christmas Tree Farm in 1988. If was around back then, it would have just turned legal drinking age.
Frank's wife, Cathy, and three sons have helped maintain the family business and witnessed it grow.
“I like this kind of farming because it’s not dirty, other than the sap you get on your hands, and I get to work closely with the customers,” Rimi said.
The farm on Lake George Road in Oakland Township is open on weekends from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. for families and pets to walk around and find the perfect tree. The best part of the deal might be that when they find it, they can cut it down themselves.
Rimi trims all of the trees the old-fashioned way by hand, which eliminates the hanging branches power trimmers can leave and gives the trees a more natural look. The soil is also perfect for the Christmas tree growing business.
“I feel like it’s a noble thing to do for our ecosystem and planet, but what I enjoy most is dealing with the customers,” Rimi said.
Cathy Rimi designs and creates Christmas wreaths with clippings and branches from the trees.
“There’s many advantages to living on a tree farm and growing trees,” Rimi said, including:
- Generates tremendous amount of oxygen as a bi-product of carbon dioxide
- Lowers ground temperature by about 30% during the summer
- Prevents soil erosion
- Creates a sanctuary for wildlife (birds, deer, geese, etc.)
- Filters noise and dust
Providing a tradition
For anyone who has seen the 1989 film Christmas Vacation, chopping down a Christmas tree is a well known family tradition.
“I almost feel like I’m selling not just the tree, I’m selling the experience," Rimi said. "People come with their family and pets and make an outing of cutting their own tree, and if I can cater to that desire, I feel very successful."
Tree prices range anywhere from $40-$100, with a few of the giant ones costing more.
Tree cleaning and bottom pruning is free of charge, and the employees will drill a bottom hole for $1 and wrap the tree for easy transport for $5.
“We always sell at least a few hundred trees a year, but the weather on the weekends is a big factor,” Rimi said.
“We had one of our best years ever after 9/11 in 2001. I have to believe it has something to do with family values," Rimi said. "If people know we’ve been hurt as a nation, they might flock out here to reward their family because they value them."
The farm includes a variety of firs, spruces and pines ranging in size from 5 to 13 feet tall. Some species aren’t native to Michigan but grow well in its climate, such as the Fraser Fir, which originally comes from North Carolina.