It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas outside the Cummins-Phipps-Grill House.
Yes, there’s no blanket of snow yet. But leaning on a wood stand within the sightline of motorists driving by the historic farmhouse at 13600 Pioneer Trail is an assemblage of green Fraser fir evergreen trees vying for a good home this holiday season.
When those leave the Eden Prairie Optimist Christmas Tree Lot tied to the top of vehicles, trees stacked nearby on the ground will replace them until they, too, are gone.
The tree lot is open until Dec. 19 or until the trees last. All proceeds from sales at the lot are funneled back into kids’ projects in the community by the non-profit organization.
Ryan Affolter, who serves on the club’s board of directors, said the tree lot is on pace to sell out its inventory by Christmas.
“We feel very good about that because it’s been challenging over the recent years to compete against the large big box stores who can buy trees by the thousands at very low wholesale prices,” he said in an email. “Our prices might be slightly above what you see at a big box store, but we know ours have been freshly cut and groomed.”
Picking the right tree
Business at the tree lot was steady Saturday afternoon, Nov. 27. Affolter and fellow Optimist Club members Mark Weber (along with son Doug) and Gary Lambert, one of its charter members, provided customers advice on the trees and the muscle to hoist their choice onto car roofs.
Eden Prairie resident Patti Fasen was there getting some help picking out the perfect tree from her daughter Sarah Murray and Murray’s boyfriend, Salvador Enriquez.
Murray and Enriquez were in town from Chicago visiting Fasen for Thanksgiving.
“I was wondering about this great cold Minnesota weather,” said Enriquez, his first time in the state. “But it’s not too bad.”
After closely examining a couple of trees, they settled on one propped up away from the others. It met Fasen’s criteria: Lush but not too tall for her space.
Trees are limited to Fraser firs, which has been its most popular brand in past years.
The club used to carry all types of trees. But, club members say people prefer the Fraser. Why? Those hold their needles well, have a nice frosted look, and smell good.
“That’s the main thing for me,” Fasen said. “They have to smell good.”
Enriquez had Weber cut a slice off the trunk as a keepsake.
“We started a tradition, and we tack (the slice) on the wall at our house,” he said.
“Now, I started it at mine, too,” Fasen said.
A family tradition
Though Affolter has been an official member of the Optimist Club for 15 years, he’s been volunteering at the tree lot since he was 5 years old or so.
He would tag along with his father Don, a longtime club member who died in 2014, and sweep up needles. Back then, the lot was in the Prairie Village Mall off Eden Prairie Road and Highway 5.
“We were the only place in town, and business was great!” he recalled in an email. “We used an old camper with a radiator to keep warm in the cold winters. The adults (would) drink coffee, make hot chocolate for the kids! It’s been more challenging to compete in the modern years with big box stores being able to buy trees in mass (thousands) at low wholesale cost.”
Hours for the Eden Prairie Optimist Club Tree Lot are 4-7 p.m. Fridays, 10-7 p.m. Saturdays, and 11-7 p.m. Sundays. The Cummins-Phipps-Grill House is located across the street from Flying Cloud Airport.