Don't Get Scrooged! Christmas Tree Shortage Hits Denver

Get a tree and a scoop at the same time.
Get a tree and a scoop at the same time. Little Man Ice Cream

Christmas is coming, but don't count on getting your perfect tree this year, as a shortage has plagued the market.

"These days, the kind of trees you can get depends on what lot you go to, especially with the shortage," says Tyler Sherwood, who has run Jolly Christmas Trees for the last six years. "It's been going on for about five years now, and it's not getting better."

Sherwood sources a variety of favorite Christmas trees, including Frasier firs, balsam firs, Douglas firs, Scotch pines, blue spruces and more, from popular tree-growing spots such as Oregon and Michigan. The current shortage, he says, goes back to the 2008 recession, when people weren't buying large, expensive Christmas trees. Many growers left those trees in the ground, which left them without the space to plant more. The lack of trees planted combined with weather and farming challenges laid the path for the current shortage.

"I have heard a mix of predictions," Sherwood says. "Some people say they will have a good amount of trees in two years, and some that have been doing it for 75 years say no way — it will be five years, at least."

The lack of trees presents a problem for Sherwood, given that he runs lots in Denver, Aurora and Colorado Springs. He also has noticed that more people are shying away from fake trees, craving that fresh-tree smell and the natural side of holiday decorating. While this is good for both the environment and tree sellers, it means that the already limited supply is even more in demand.
click to enlarge Get the perfect Christmas tree this year. - JEFF ALEXANDER
Get the perfect Christmas tree this year.
Jeff Alexander
Trees have arrived at Little Man Ice Cream, which sells them at three locations during the holiday season, but the company's director of marketing, Basha Cohen, says the prices had to go up 10 percent this year, and there aren't as many trees as the company ordered.

"Although we had hoped for more, the shortages are real this year, and [that includes] shortages of tree stands and novelty items like the wooden reindeer that are customer favorites as well," Cohen says. "The main message is to buy local and buy early to avoid the tears."

The three spots where Little Man is selling trees — Little Man Ice Cream, at 2620 16th Street; Sweet Cooie's, at 3506 East 12th Avenue; and DANG Soft Serve, at 2211 Oneida Street — still have hundreds, but as of last weekend, over thirty of the 500 trees had already been sold. Prices range from $80 to $120.  
click to enlarge Find a tree at the old Elitch carousel site. - NEIGHBORHOOD CHRISTMAS TREE COMPANY
Find a tree at the old Elitch carousel site.
Neighborhood Christmas Tree Company

Brian Chrinka, who has run Neighborhood Christmas Tree Co. in Denver, Aurora and Thornton for over a decade, has also experienced a dip in inventory and higher costs. The premium Christmas trees he sells cost between $100 and $150, and he can't get as many trees as he wants. He says he hopes there will be enough for all of his longtime customers.

Sherwood, Cohen and Chrinka recommend getting to the lots as soon as possible, even the weekend after Thanksgiving, to make sure you get the size and type of tree you want. Expect prices to be higher because of the nationwide increased shipping costs, says Sherwood, who's trying to ensure that there are some lower-cost options, too.

"I really enjoy the Christmas tree season. It's a lot of hard work, but worth it," Sherwood says, adding that he just bought a forty-acre property near Elbert in order to start his own pick-your-own-tree business. While there won't be six-foot-tall firs ready for a few years, he hopes to give customers a bit of the Christmas spirit with hay rides and other holiday-themed excitement at the farm.

If all else fails, there's always a fake Christmas tree, though those are also in shorter supply this year.
KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Linnea Covington moved back to Denver after spending thirteen years in New York City and couldn't be happier to be home, exploring the Mile High and eating as much as possible, especially when it involves pizza or ice cream.
Contact: Linnea Covington