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A holiday business with roots

But selling Christmas trees isn't what it used to be, pair of tree-lot veterans lament, with big-box stores taking more sales.

December 20, 2012|By Bradley Zint
  • Doug Noonan has been selling trees for 50 years for the family business that his father started in 1944 in Costa Mesa. Four generations of Noonans help in the effort. They're currently selling from a lot at 1100 Bristol St.
Doug Noonan has been selling trees for 50 years for the… (SCOTT SMELTZER,…)

The scene was quiet in a large lot off Bristol Street, not far from where the 55 Freeway meets the 73. On that weekday afternoon of clear blue skies, there were a handful of workers, no customers and plenty of room for expansion.

The remaining inventory of Christmas trees needed only a small corner of that unpaved and barely noticed slice of Costa Mesa. In future days, the acreage likely will be built upon, and no longer will have room for selling Douglas firs.

But in the meantime, it's the holiday home base of Noonan's Christmas trees, a family business since 1944 that was started after Harry Noonan Sr. got home from World War II and there was nothing for him to do.

Nowadays, four generations of Noonans are carrying on with the tradition that Harry Sr. took part in until he died.

Among them are brothers Doug and Harry Noonan Jr., each wearing the Noonan business T-shirt and waiting for folks to pick out their favorite green specimen.

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Around them, the smell of pine needles pervaded the air. The whir of passing traffic was only a stone's throw away as the two spoke with a hint of lamentation for what some say Christmas is all about these days.

"Now it's all commercialized. Christmas is commercial," Doug said, his glasses and long white beard making him vaguely reminiscent of the holiday's patron saint. "It's not like the old days, where everybody had fun, they enjoyed it and all. It's all about money. People don't have the Christmas spirit like they used to have."

Most of their seasonal selling years were in Costa Mesa off Newport Boulevard and Victoria Street. After some years off Harbor Boulevard and a few in Huntington Beach, the Noonans are renting space in a lot at 1100 Bristol. It took Doug five months to find it.

"It's harder and harder," he said, "because the rent they want is so much. You can't pay that kind of rent."

Plus, Doug said, the cost of shipping the trees, which come from Oregon and Washington, doubled this year. "The way of the Christmas tree business has been going downhill."

Harry Jr., echoed the sentiment.

"We keep doing it," he said, despite that the mega-chain types — Home Depot, Walmart, grocery stores and the like — are "slowly putting all us little guys out."

But not all is in vain.

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