MARYSVILLE – The lights are a little dimmer on the Christmas tree for Ray and Cheryl Hammer this year.
That’s because after 37 years, this is the last year they will operate Cheryl’s Trees on 7th Street in Marysville. You may be sitting in front of one of their trees right now, or maybe in years past.
“It’s sad,” Ray said of retiring.
The couple started the business on Dec. 1, 1980.
“It was just going to be for a year,” Cheryl said. “Then it happened again. And the next year, and the next …”
Ray worked in wholesale for trees, so Cheryl and her youngest two kids ran the business out of the yard at their home.
Cheryl said because of health issues it’s time for them to hang it up. “It’s hard to handle the big trees,” she said. “We have to rely on the kids.”
There still is some hope for Cheryl’s Trees to continue. Their oldest son, Raymond, and his wife, Star, have been working the lot for 20 years. They both work full-time jobs as a logger and floral designer, but when they weren’t there they were at the tree lot. They have expressed some interest in continuing the tradition, though possibly at another location. “They work long, long hours,” she said.
Along with selling trees, the business also has some of the best Christmas decorations in the city.
“Raymond puts up all the stuff that goes up high,” his mom said. “We do the lower stuff.”
She said Ray used to climb the tallest trees to decorate them. But now they use a boom truck.
They keep adding new decorations every year. Cheryl said, “The PUD loves us.”
She said the tree lot kept the family close. All of their 13 grandchildren have worked there.
Cheryl said many people started as customers, then became friends, and then some like family.
“They’d come in the living room to pay for the tree, and then chat for a long time. Some would stay awhile, a long while,” she joked, adding they provided them with coffee, hot chocolate and cookies.
Repeat customers are the soul for the business.
“One gal is third generation; she came this year with her children. Her grandparents were among our very first customers,” Cheryl said.
Another couple from Edmonds in their 80s came one year, despite deep snow and icy roads.
“What are you doing?” Cheryl said she asked them. “You didn’t have to come all this way to get a tree.” Their response, “Yes we did.”
“I couldn’t believe it,” Cheryl said. “I worried about them getting home.”
Another family was so close that the parents came by to tell them they were getting a divorce. They didn’t want the Hammers to be surprised when they showed up separately to get trees with their children. “That’s how close we became to people,” Cheryl said.
“We’re gonna miss it,” she said. “There have been a lot of tears out here this year. It’s been very emotional.”
People have asked her, “Where are we going to get a tree? We’ve always gone here.”
Sanna Wright, 20, has been coming to the tree lot ever since she can remember with her family.
Things were different this year, however. Her dad is in Pakistan, and she’s a sophomore at Washington State University.
Even though her family didn’t come, she wanted to one last time. So she came with her boyfriend, Anthony Lingat. She reflected as he and longtime Cheryl’s Trees worker Scott Nunley put the tree on top of the car.
“We used to take turns picking out a tree,” the Marysville Getchell graduate said. “It was a family tradition.”
Next year she said sadly, “We’ll probably get a fake tree.”