In 1978, while living in LaVerne, Ca., I purchased a Douglas Fir Christmas tree from a big box store in Pomona. After the tree was in our home for several days (btw, we cut an inch off the trunk so it would “drink” water, kept the stand full of water and away from a direct heat source) it began to dry out, the branches began to droop, and needles started dropping to the floor. One night, while talking with my Dad in Washington State and complaining about the poor quality of the tree, he suggested I go see Ernie in East Whittier and buy one of the trees he had grown on his farm near Shelton, Washington. So the next day, I left my classroom in Azusa, CA, where I was a 6th-grade teacher and went to see Ernie. As a result of that visit, Ernie gave me a beautiful, fresh, Douglas Fir and a job working on his retail Christmas tree lot where I worked nights and weekends during the holiday season for the next two years.
I learned a lot working for Ernie those two years. First and foremost, I learned the satisfaction of providing customers with a beautiful, fresh tree. Listening to their stories of how long their tree lasted and how much joy they experienced in having one of Ernie’s trees in their home, made me realize that many people did not have access to fresh, quality trees. The second important lesson was that Ernie got a great deal of pleasure from working hard all year long in culturing his trees and bringing the best he had to his customers so that their Christmas celebration would be enhanced with a beautiful, fresh tree that would last well after Christmas Day. It was also apparent to me that Ernie’s customers would not go anywhere else for their tree because no other lot could compare with Ernie’s trees.
Those lessons and others created the desire for me to begin my own retail Christmas tree lot. I was certain I too could sell beautiful, fresh trees and provide great customer service. After searching for a likely spot, I decided on a location on a Foothill Blvd. in Upland, in front of the old Ranch Market. That first year, my brother Dave drove a U-Haul truck down from Shelton, Washington loaded with Douglas and Noble Firs and together we started Olympic Tree Sales. For the next five years, Dave and I, along with our wives, sold Christmas trees at that Ranch Market location. Our mom and dad and other family members joined in the effort as our business grew. During those early years, our children, Matt, Tyler Katie, Shannon, Kerry all spent time on the tree lot. In 1985, we had to find a new location as the Ranch Market was torn down making way for a new DMV office, various fast food establishments, and other stores. We moved to Vineyard and Foothill that year and to our joy, many of our “Ranch Market” customers followed us. We were fortunate to have continued success at that location through the 1987 season.
In 1988, due to development on the Vineyard site, we had to move again. This time, our friend Carol told us that a hardware store owner in Rancho Cucamonga was interested in us selling trees in front of their store. To Ace Hardware we moved, and to our great joy, after 26 years we remain good friends of the owners, Frank and Connie Nelson and have such wonderful and loyal customers. In 1988, we brought some of the first trees from our own farm to the Archibald lot. Within a few years, Matt and Tyler were old enough to help out on the lot during the holiday season and by the mid-90’s, Katie, Shannon, and Kerry joined the tree lot crew. Our families have had great experiences on the tree lot and we have developed many friendships with so many people in the Inland Empire.
Rancho Cucamonga has become like a home away from home during the holidays. We’ve made lots of great friends in the area and look forward to coming back year after year.
Thank you all for sharing in our family tradition,
Dan Bolender, Owner