By Matthew Wood
OBceans looking to buy a Christmas tree in the neighborhood basically have a couple options.
You can go to Rite-Aid and buy an overpriced tree that was probably shipped in before Thanksgiving – at last check they had about a half-dozen left on the lot.
Or they can go see local residents Blake Finvold and Ginnie Lynch at OB Trees in the parking lot behind James Gang.
Seems like a no-brainer. (For the record, Stumps Market has quite a few quality trees for a moderate price. But to say they are located in OB is a bit of a stretch.)
“It’s so amazing being a part of the community,” Lynch said of selling trees in the neighborhood for the past five years.
“I just love OB.”
Yes, these are the same people who have been selling out of the Apple Tree Market parking lot. After the store closed, they were told the space wouldn’t be available to them this year, which sent the couple scrambling.
After getting turned down for multiple locations in the neighborhood, they even considered moving to a different part of town. But they got a last-minute deal on five parking spaces just down the street, and couldn’t be happier.
“We had a following here. We knew we had to go somewhere in the neighborhood,” said Finvold, who grew up on Hill Street.
So they put some signs together, got their tree orders in and set up shop the day after Thanksgiving.
“It was dicey at first. We were just hoping somebody would find us,” Lynch said.
They’re also dealing with a shortened holiday shopping season because of the late Thanksgiving, leaving them less time than usual to sell their firs. Of course, that’s not necessarily a bad thing for the two, who are basically on call the entire time. Even though they live just a few blocks down the street, they have to camp out at the site to prevent any shenanigans. And, this being OB, there will always be shenanigans.
They’ve had to deal with some transients in the area who are used to treating the lot like a bathroom. They also have had run-ins with some overserved patrons looking for a little mischief, or a free tree.
“We have a hard time with the 2 a.m. bar crew. They’re worse than the bums,” Lynch says with a somewhat forced smile. “It’s hard living for 30 days.”
Unlike some of the big box stores who get few shipments and deal with consignment – meaning they don’t necessarily pay for trees that don’t sell – Lynch and Finvold bring down a few truckloads a week, and have to pay upfront for all of them.
“We take the risk of eating it if they don’t sell,” Finvold said.
So, what are you buying when you go there?
First of all, it’s going to be a tree from Oregon. Finvold says a vast majority of Christmas trees in California come from the Beaver State.
“They get great tax breaks to grow them up there. They load these semi trucks up in Oregon. Most of them go to LA.”
OB Trees features noble firs and Douglas firs, ranging in price from $19 – for table-top trees – to $55 for an eight-footer.
“Nobles are definitely the most popular,” Lynch said. “They’re sturdier and last longer. Douglas has that intense aroma. They are feathery and don’t take as long to grow, so they’re less expensive. They’re both really good trees.”
Lynch said the table-tops are by far the biggest sellers. Local spots like Cheswick’s and The Joint have them on display and people like the $20 price point.
“That was one of our first mistakes when we started – too many bigs. We quickly learned.”
They’re happy to help load the trees into cars and vans, but also see unique modes of transportation you might only find in OB.
“Skateboards, a Razor scooter, wagons, bikes. I had a woman take one home in a baby stroller,” Lynch said.
So, is their new location going to be home for good?
“I hope so,” Finvold said. “I liked the (old) location. We built up a business. Now it’s a dead hole. We’re getting established (in the new spot). I’m happy here.”