‘THE WREATH SHOP’ CRAWFORD EVERGREENS
Tips or roughly 22 - inch branches are broken from fir trees after a good freeze, hopefully by November 1st. Breaking boughs does not hurt the fir trees. And boughs broken after a freeze retain their needles longer. This brush is stacked on a stick in the woods by the tippers. Sticks of brush usually weight between 70 and 100 pounds. Above we see sticks of tips being delivered to the wreath shop. The images with this article were taken in November 1998 unless otherwise dated.
Tips are purchased by the pound. Here Travis Wallace weighs a stick and Wayne Dwelley removes the tips for the wreath makers. The sticks are reused.
Wreath makers – Trina Furrow, Marian Hunnewell & Eleanor Dean and Norma Donahue
Most wreaths are made on fourteen-inch rings and made on a machine as Trina is doing. Some makers work together, Marian breaks the tips to size and Eleanor makes the wreath by hand. Norma is making a large wreath, three feet in diameter or bigger and works by hand. One of her five-foot wreaths is shown below with Travis to give scale.
The brush and finished wreaths are stored in a cool place and preferably out of the sun to keep the needles tight. Wreaths that will be shipped that night are often stored out of doors.
Wreaths are boxed by Jimmy Archer and Kurt Carter & Kurt loads a trailer.
The Calais Advertiser published an article by Ellen Wells on December 10, 1981. Ellen, then a Crawford resident, gave a good description of the business over 30 years ago. It was centered around the home of Jolene and Luther Thornton. They had a business arrangement with Gold Star Enterprises of Weston, Massachusetts. During the summer of ’81 they had built a shed to house six wreath-making machines.
Jolene served as
foreman and hired the crew. Luther weighed the mountains of brush
hauled in day and night. In 1981 twenty thousand wreaths were
shipped down the Airline. Lots of money was sent back to help about
75 tippers and ‘wreath shop’ workers have a Merry Christmas.
in 2003 by John Dudley
This business started in 1993 in a new building located in the gore lot in Alexander, next to the Crawford line. This is on the south side of the Airline. During each of the following years approximately 200,000 pounds of brush were purchased, some from as far away as Jackman, Maine, some from the St. Stephen area of Charlotte County, New Brunswick, but most from the local area. Rodney Frost, Reggie Plourde, Fletcher and Clarice Perkins, Phil and Vicki McVicar, and the Eddie Barnes family were among those who supplied brush. This brush was broken from balsam fir trees in a way that did not harm the trees’ later use as pulpwood.
The brush or boughs arrived at the wreath plant on sticks about six feet long. These were weighed; most would average about 100 pounds. The crew that worked in the warehouse would stack these boughs until needed. Some of those warehouse workers were Charlie Holmes, Kim Knowles, John Knowles, Julian Tozier, Travis and Chris Wallace, Jimmy Archer, Dick and David Frost, and Kurt Carter.
Crawford Evergreen produced
each year between 80,000 and 125,000 wreaths; Some were purchased
from people in Calais, Woodland, Charlotte, Dennysville, Cooper,
Meddybemps, Alexander, Robbinston, and Crawford. Most of the wreaths
and specialty items were made in the shop. Norma Donahue, Dana
Dwelley, and Eleanor Dean made specialty items such as heart and
cane shaped displays and door arches. Some of those who made wreaths
on the machines were Marion Hunnewell, Trina Furrow, Sandy Cummings,
Tammy Holmes, Noreen Howland, Annette Bailey, Rhonda Oakes,
Elizabeth McVicar, and Linda Ayer. Cleo Seavey was a wreath maker
for all the years that the shop operated. Esther Tozier trained
wreath makers, took care of quality control and made wreaths.
Wayne Dwelley kept the makers supplied with brush from the warehouse, and took the finished wreaths to the warehouse where they were packed in big boxed for shipment to customers.
Sometimes brush was sold to other companies when they were short. Crawford Evergreen was very lucky to have people who picked tips no matter what the weather conditions were. Tips were also sent to a small company in Van Buren that made specialty items.
Two Crawford residents had jobs outside the production line. Marge McKeown worked in the office, and Ken Smith was the night watchman. The proprietors of Crawford Evergreen were Susan and Randy Wallace. Randy looked after the warehouse and buying brush. Susan arranged for shipping. Susan’s mother, Jolene Thornton, was the overseer of all wreaths made or purchased for quality control, and she worked part time in the office. Luther Thornton, Susan’s dad, was the total repair person for all machines, and kept the morale going in the shop with making sure everyone had enough items to keep busy and with storytelling.
Most of the products of Crawford Evergreen were sold in Connecticut and New York City. Many of the accounts on Manhattan were lost as a result of 9-11. As a result, 2001 was the last year for wreath production. Another negative impact on the business was the low value of the Canadian dollar. What costs a dollar in American money in the United States can be purchased for 60 to 70 American cents in Canada. During the 2002 season Crawford Evergreen purchased tips and sold them to other companies.
In 2003 the building was put on the market and David Whitney of Whitney Originals from Machias bought it. In October he advertised for people to work at the shop, both day and night shifts for a season spanning November and December. They will be making and decorating balsam products, making tabletop trees, and making wreaths. Shift leaders and other help are also needed. At first Whitney sold through QVC and later through L. L. Bean. Roxanna Whitehead with tabletop tree at left in 2003.