A Klicker's Christmas

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It was beginning to look a lot like Christmas - even before Thanksgiving - at Klicker's.

Ron Klicker and his staff started decking the halls for holiday sales the day after Halloween. As has been the case for decades, much of the interior of the store at 3300 Isaacs Avenue has been trimmed with a glittering array of merchandise including decorations and figurines that must rival even the decor at Santa's workshop.

Klicker's wife, Leslie, and other holiday helpers have spent weeks adorning custom wreaths with pine cones and ribbons. Breads, candies and other goodies displayed near the front door tempt customers as they shop for just the right antiques.

And, of course, fresh firs and spruces come and go from the tree lot, stocked by Del Klicker and his crew, who share the grounds with two live reindeer.

Many longtime area residents consider Klicker Berries and Antiques a must-visit Christmas shop, with the annual trip to choose the perfect tree akin to walking in a winter wonderland. The tradition runs as deep as the Klicker generational ties that have bound various business endeavors for a century.

Manager Ron co-owns the store with his father, Don, who started selling trees in the late 1940s with his brothers, Del and Dave. The three elder Klickers were kids then, cutting trees on the family's mountain property and hauling them to town as kind of a wholesale business. "It just grew from that," Ron said during a recent interview and tour of the store.

In the late '50s, the Klickers began basing their tree business at the berry stand where the current store, built in 1963, is located. Many local residents and businesses haven't decorated anything but a Klicker tree ever since.

Currently about 2,000 trees - most grown in the Mill Creek area - are sold at the lot each season. They range in height from 12 inches to two dozen feet and are priced about $5-$11 a foot. Employees routinely assist a customer in picking out a tree, placing it in a stand and loading it into a vehicle.

In addition, roughly 400 handcrafted wreaths go out the door to people's homes, with prices ranging from about $20-$80. All are unique, Ron Klicker said, pointing to one of his wife's latest creations. "We don't cookie-cutter our wreaths. When (customers) put it on the house, they're going to have the only one like that."

Sales of Christmas ornaments and figurines have grown the past few decades, as available merchandise became more targeted, accessible and economical, according to Klicker. The big sellers this year: colorful peace symbols and, of course, customary Santas, angels and Nativity figurines.

"(People) have a tradition of getting the tree and each member of the family gets an ornament for themselves," he said. "We pretty much have something for everybody."

Klicker also sees new customers each year, eager to partake of the personal service and immerse themselves in the spirit of the season.

"Being a small, independent retailer, there are a lot of people looking for that small, localized feel," Klicker explained. "I have a lot more variety in here, believe it or not, than a large box store."

At other times of the year, the store specializes in seasonal produce and employs a total of about nine people. Klicker adds about four part-timers for the holidays. A dozen or so more are stationed in the tree section to handle the onslaught of shoppers, especially the first couple weeks of December. "Some weekends, we've had as many as 20 people working here," he said.

Klicker lives on the grounds and this time of year spends nearly every waking moment at the store, which is open seven days a week through the afternoon of Christmas Eve.

Then the store will shutter for its annual, long winter's nap through at least January and maybe longer.

As the holiday ends, "My life begins," Klicker said.

Terry McConn can be reached at terrymcconn@wwub.com or 526-8319.

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