Christmas Trees in the Pandemic-Era: Family-Owned Business in San Diego Adapts

"It's been a rough year for families and we're trying to bring that holiday spirit," Brandon Helfer, one of the owners of Mr. Jingle's Christmas Trees in San Diego told NBC 7

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The pandemic has changed the way we learn, work, shop, and socialize. Now, it's even changing the way some of us get our Christmas trees in 2020.

With the holiday season in full swing, some long-standing Christmas tree businesses are having to rethink how they operate under COVID-19 guidelines, with customer safety in mind.

Mr. Jingles Christmas Trees is a family-owned business with 10 locations across the U.S., including three sites in San Diego: one in the Clairemont and Pacific Beach area, another near Balboa Park and downtown San Diego, and a third in La Jolla.

The business has been operating for nearly two decades but the 2020 holiday season is the first time Mr. Jingles will offer customers the very pandemic-friendly choice of ordering their Christmas trees online.

“You're able to pick the tree you want, whether you want a stand, wreath, garland, Keeps-it-Green preservative, all that kind of stuff. You could pick the delivery date, your delivery time slot and we’ll take it to your house,” Brandon Helfer, one of the owners of Mr. Jingle’s Christmas Trees, explained.

The business offers trees grown in Oregon, Washington, North Carolina, Wisconsin, and Canada.

In years past, the Christmas tree lots were full of visitors picking out their ideal tree, spinning them around to check for oddities, then loading their selection into the car and heading home to add ornaments and tinsel.

This year, however, has proven to be anything but normal, and picking out a Christmas tree is no exception.

“We’re just getting ready for the season and obviously with COVID it’s a little different than it used to be in the past,” Helfer told NBC 7.

Helfer said Mr. Jingles lots in San Diego are still open to in-person customers, operating under all COVID-19 precautions and guidelines. But he does hope the online ordering process helps those who might not feel comfortable heading to the traditional tree lot this season.

“We know where everything is heading technology-wise and this year people are going to be a little more cautious with how they’re doing things,” said Helfer. “And we just want to be on top of it.”

Helfer said his business began offering online ordering for customers specifically because of the coronavirus pandemic, but Mr. Jingles Christmas Trees had been offering home delivery services for the past few years.

“We actually began doing the delivery options about 5 years ago,” said Helfer. “Every year, year after year, it's been getting more and more popular. So luckily we have already kind of been working that out.”

With what Helfer said has been a tough year for other businesses he is involved in, he is already seeing signs that the new online ordering system is making a positive impact on tree orders, which started in early November.

“Every day we are getting more and more. I want to say we have probably sold a couple hundred trees already,” said Helfer.

Helfer also shared that the number of visitors on the business' website recently doubled, with around 10,000 people compared to 4,500 during the same time last year.

Mr. Jingles Christmas Trees is taking precautions to keep their staff and customers safe, both at the tree lots and during home deliveries. Masks are required to be worn at lots and Helfer said they have hand washing stations and hand sanitizing pumps available, as well.

Mr. Jingle’s Christmas Trees' online ordering is available to customers now. The tree lots opened to in-person customers on Nov. 27.

From a quick online search, it looks like Mr. Jingle’s Christmas Trees is not the only tree business in San Diego County adapting to meet the unique needs of 2020. According to Pinery Christmas Trees’ website, it too is also offering online ordering this year. Two large home improvement retailers, The Home Depot and Lowe’s, also list online ordering and home delivery for freshly cut trees as an option on their websites.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has yet to release their guidelines for safely celebrating Christmas this year. In their tips for a safe Halloween, the CDC did address visiting pumpkin patches or orchards, which could give a glimpse into what they will say about safety precautions at tree lots.

“Remember to wash your hands or use hand sanitizer frequently, especially after touching frequently touched surfaces, pumpkins, or apples,” the CDC advised on their website.

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