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Tree height a bragging right

Malls see size as a holiday draw and have even entered into contracts assuring them of the biggest fir.

November 14, 2013|By Emily Foxhall
  • A crew with Victor's Custom Christmas Trees places a 90-foot white fir at Fashion Island on Nov. 4.
A crew with Victor's Custom Christmas Trees places… (SCOTT SMELTZER…)

When a 90-foot Christmas tree at Fashion Island lights up for the first time Friday night, it will mark just one mega-tree in a series sparkling to life for the holidays in shopping centers throughout Southern California.

Fashion Island's white fir, which soars above many of the surrounding stores, cost roughly $1,000 per foot of height, a price that covered transportation, set-up and decoration. But even with such a hefty price tag, the tree still falls 25 feet short of being the tallest in the area, and perhaps the country.

To have the biggest tree comes at a premium since only one company in the state, Laguna Niguel-based Victor's Custom Christmas Trees, seems to provide them at such massive heights.

The 96-foot white fir near South Coast Plaza? Victor's Custom Christmas Trees installed it. The 100-footers standing at The Grove in Los Angeles and at the Americana at Brand in Glendale? Also the work of the company.

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With so many deep-pocketed malls looking for big trees, owner Victor Serrao discovered an area of opportunity: Companies would pay an even higher price to secure the title of the tallest tree in Southern California, perhaps also earning them the title of tallest in the country or the world.

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'Little Mantra'

This year Steven Craig, founder, president and chief executive of Craig Realty Group, paid what he estimated to be about $25,000 extra for what the company calls "twin trees" standing 115 feet when decorated in the Outlets at Anthem in Phoenix and the Citadel Outlets in Los Angeles.

"A lot of people want to have that little mantra," Craig said. "It's worth something."

The payment comes as part of an ongoing contract with Serrao, which Craig first signed in 2010. The agreement, which can go on for as long as Craig wishes, ensures that Serrao will supply the tallest trees only to malls owned by Craig, by a margin of 15 feet.

Orange County shopping centers prefer to downplay the competition. In Newport Beach, Fashion Island's tree used to measure in as the tallest Serrao provided. It was protected under a contract similar to the one now held with Craig beginning in 2004. The tree stood at 115 feet for several years, at least since 2005, but shrunk to 40 feet in 2009 because of construction in front of Bloomingdale's — the tree's usual spot.

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