By lunchtime Friday, the tree lot’s first day of sales, half of the 350 Fraser fir trees that Jud Thompson brought from Banner Elk, N.C., were sold. Thompson opened the tree business for the first time this year on the 64-acre Mud Creek Ranch, which owned by his brother, Butch Thompson Jr., at 1226 Villa Rica Road, just west of the county’s first roundabout intersection.
Jud Thompson, owner of Old Mountain Environment Design, has brought his six employees to work on the farm while the landscape architecture business is in its slow season. He credits advertising and word of mouth with the success so far of the tree lot.
“We told some friends, and they’ve been so generous to tell their friends,” Jud Thompson said.
Butch Thompson Jr. usually uses his ranch to teach horseback riding lessons to young people. But now he is one of 17 family members who help out at the tree lot.
“The whole family comes together,” he said. “Everybody has a job to do, and we get it done.”
The Thompsons make an experience out of picking a tree. When customers arrive, they take a hayride for the quarter-mile trip from Mud Creek Ranch’s barn to the tree lot. After customers pick out a Fraser fir, which ranges in price from $65 to $110, the tree is taken back on a trailer and wrapped up. But before they go, customers can roast marshmallows or buy Christmas wreaths or tree ornaments.
“We’ve got a little bit of everything you can need for a tree,” Jud Thompson said.
The Thompson brothers’ uncle, Robert Parris, helps customers in the tree lot, but he said the trees sell themselves.
“We’re just giving them what they want,” he said. “They want Christmas trees, we’ve got the best Christmas trees in the state. We’re just meeting a want with a need.”
Jud Thompson said the Fraser fir is the “traditional Christmas tree.”
“Most people get a Frasier fir,” he said. “They like the fragrance, and they are easy to hold ornaments.”
The Thompson brothers’ father, Butch Thompson Sr., said the family has been intrigued by Christmas trees since the days when they would go to the north Georgia mountains to pick one out. He has 16 artificial trees in his home that his wife starts decorating in October.
“This is a dream that Jud has had for many years,” he said.
The Fraser fir only grows in North Carolina, and Banner Elk is the “Fraser fir capital of the world,” Jud Thompson said.
“We wanted to be able to replicate the experience of cutting your own tree down and still be able to get a Fraser fir,” he said.
And should they run out of trees, as the Thompsons are now expecting to do, Jud Thompson will make another trip to Banner Elk. The lot is open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 1 to 6 p.m. on Sunday. They plan to stay open through mid-December.
“We won’t do more than two loads (from North Carolina), and if we sell out the second load, we’ll wrap it up,” Jud Thompson said.
Todd Brumbelow of Kennesaw brought his wife, Katy, and daughters Sara Kathryne, 14, and Olivia, 11, to pick out a tree on the first day Old Mountain Christmas Trees was open.
“We love the experience of the hayride, we love the land and we love that it’s local in the community,” Todd Brumbelow said. “And it makes a great childhood experience for our girls"