NEWPORT NEWS — Nathan Wilcox started selling Christmas trees when he was 11 years old and he doesn’t plan to stop any time soon.
“I would have a hard time quitting this because I’d feel I’d let a lot of people down,” Wilcox, 51, said.
The trees come from Wilcox’s farm in Floyd County, about 20 minutes from Radford University, and other parts of Virginia and North Carolina.
And get this: His trees all have names.
His older sister, Becky Belote, came up with the idea of naming the trees and when she stopped selling Christmas trees about 30 years ago, Wilcox decided to carry on the tradition.
Each year, his wife, Karen and their three daughters, Candice, Summer and Julia, would spend Thanksgiving filling out tags with names from family members, friends and classmates.
Wilcox would sell trees the day after Thanksgiving with several employees from Wilcox Bait & Tackle, which he co-owns with his brother.
After Candice and Summer graduated Menchville High School, they both went to Radford University and enlisted their classmates to help Wilcox cut down trees to be transported to Newport News.
Karen was buying trees from Nathan before they ever met. They have been married for 23 years. Now, Karen figures out the names and writes the name tags since Nathan’s handwriting is “so bad.”
She said she averages a box of 50 to 100 names a night while watching TV. In the past couple years, she has used popular celebrity names like Justin Bieber.
After the trees arrive, they are placed on metal poles and “fanned out” so the customer sees what the tree actually looks like.
Both Karen and Nathan try their best to match the names to the right trees, i.e. putting “Charlie Brown’ on a small, dinky tree rather than a big one.
Once purchased, the trees are given a fresh cut and the employees remove the trees price from the name tag.
Nathan said customers have told him they keep the name tags and use them as tree ornaments.
“A lot of people actually keep the name tag, for 10, 12, 15 years and use them as ornaments,” he said.
Nathan and Karen see many repeat customers throughout the years and know exactly when to expect them.
“I can almost set my watch based on when families comes,” Karen said.
In addition to selling Christmas trees, they also sell tree stands, water funnels, hand-made wreaths and other accessories.
The Wilcox Virginia Christmas Tree Farm, 1261 Warwick Blvd. is open daily from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.