By Rod Lee
Jim Gagne is a broad-shouldered, affable, middle-aged and mustachioed man whose affection for Christmas Day rivals that of a certain better-known character, even without the adornment of a beard and a red suit.
Mr. Gagne has loved the holiday “all my life,” ever since his parents began taking he and his sister around to look at Christmas lights when they were young, he said on November 18th in a Santa’s workshop-type room at Jim’s Christmas Trees on Hammond Hill Road in Charlton where family members were busy making wreaths. Before he knew it, Mr. Gagne said, “we had started with a few trees and now we can’t keep up.”
Jim’s Christmas Trees is open annually from Thanksgiving Day to Christmas Day to provide commercial and retail customers with fresh, lovely trees from a farm “we have in Nova Scotia,” he said, as well as wreaths, log boxes, kissing balls and roping. On this particular Saturday, Jim’s daughter Jessie Curboy and several other family members—nieces, nephews, cousins, “everybody”—were crafting wreaths for delivery immediately, or soon. Christmas trees of course are a main attraction, Ms. Curboy said. “They come three feet to ten feet at twenty-eight dollars apiece and then we have a premium section starting at forty-five dollars each and cathedral trees of twenty feet and up.
“It’s crazy” this time of year, Ms. Curboy said. “We’re already getting lots of calls.” Her father, in fact, was just returning from making a delivery.
Jim’s Christmas Trees may be a seasonal business but the family goes all out for a month or more. This has been true for more than three decades now, in preparation for the flood of patrons who visit the premises—just off Southbridge Rd. (Rt. 20). With a shortage of good trees this year, caused by several factors, “there is a short window of opportunity that slams shut, you have to know what you’re doing,” Mr. Gagne said.
It helps that there is family “on both sides of the road,” Cathy Curboy said as she joined the elves in helping to keep pace with the early demand for wreaths.
It is quite obvious that those involved in this high-powered operation take their cue for what needs to happen from Mr. Gagne, who his daughter describes as “just a big kid himself.” This explains the multitude of wooden cartoon characters that populate the lawn in front of the home on the opposite side of Hammond Hill Road, and the grounds of the Christmas tree lot itself. Mr. Gagne hand-paints the Mickey Mouse and Charlie Brown and Snoopy characters himself, adding new ones each year according to popular dictates. It also explains giveaways and contests posted on Facebook, and music on “88.1” which Cathy Curboy described as “his radio station, that goes off his computer” and that is tied to the lights that are strung about the property. “Put it on and it plays all the house music in your car for you!”
Every year, Mr. Gagne said, “we have more characters and more lights.”
“Every year he comes up with a new idea and he loves kids, that’s why he does it,” Jessie Curboy said.
As for the Christmas trees that Jim’s sells, “any tree on our lot is only three days old,” Mr. Gagne said. “They’re shipped in climate-controlled box trucks.”
Looking across a lot that was empty but would soon be filled with Christmas trees propped on sawhorse-like stands, Mr. Gagne said “we’re rolling.”
One year, when there was no snow, he made some with a snowmaking machine.
“Thirty-three years is a long time,” Mr. Gagne said; “and we started with nothing.”
Contact Rod Lee at [email protected] or 774-232-2999.