Christmas trees cleared out of Optimists, other lots

Monday, December 17, 2012 | 4:13 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — With about a week left until Christmas, people still planning to buy a pre-cut tree might have to do some serious hunting.

On Monday, Gerbes on Nifong Boulevard had only one left. Westlake Ace Hardware on West Worley Street had sold all 200 of its trees by last week, and Hy-Vee on West Broadway sold all of its 60 trees by Saturday.

Justin Webb, the floor manager at Westlake's, said that though the store typically sells all of its trees, they were gone much sooner than usual.

The Downtown Optimists Club, which sells trees each year as a fundraiser, sold all 1,250 of its trees in three weeks. The club opened its lot on Grand Avenue the day after Thanksgiving and closed for the season Saturday.

The last time the Optimists sold out was more than 10 years ago, club treasurer C.O. Scheffer said.

Scheffer offered some likely explanations: The group ordered 500 fewer trees than last year; because Thanksgiving came earlier this year, there is an extra week between it and Christmas; and there has been unusually good weather.

"Each year there is a weekend that is a total washout where people stay inside because of ice or snow," Scheffer said. "But this year we rarely had any bad weather."

Trees are brought in from across the country, including North Carolina, Michigan and Oregon. Depending on the size and type, they were sold for $23 to $110 each. 

The Downtown Optimists Club began selling trees in 1955 and each year donates 100 percent of its profits to support local organizations including the Boys and Girls Club and Granny's House after-school program. Last year, the Optimists put about $30,000 back into the community.

"Helping the kids, that's what it's all about for us," club president Jack Beard said.

Although the weather and decreased orders may play a part, Rick McKernan, who holds the title of lieutenant colonel in the club, thinks there is another reason for the increased sales.

"People are in a better mood because they are more thankful this year," McKernan said. "That's why we sold out so fast."

Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.

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