OH, TANNENBAUM: Much is made of the...

OH, TANNENBAUM: Much is made of the surge in retail spending just before Christmas, but what about businesses and services that exist only for the holidays? Take Christmas tree farms, for instance. It’s no picnic, reports Nancy Roatcap, manager of Windmill Tree Farm in Santa Clarita, where customers chop their own. The business has “terrible logistical problems,” she says, including the constant pruning, weather concerns, pests and the rotation of fields. Roatcap rarely puts up a tree at her own home and saves her shopping until after Dec. 25. “I usually don’t see my family until after Christmas.”

HANGING AROUND: Cindy Borggrebe, manager of Mrs. Anderson’s Personalized Gifts in the Northridge Fashion Center, manages to get a tree. But she doesn’t trim it with any of her shop’s handmade bulbs and clay tree ornaments. Store workers add personalized messages to the tree trimmings, and customers snap them up. But Borggrebe “works too much” to save any for herself.

BLUE CHRISTMAS: It’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it. Playing Santa at shopping malls, that is, like the jolly fellow 2-year-old Eli Peppmuller is consulting, above. Mimi Dahle, owner of All Seasons Promotions, hires mostly unemployed actors to don red suits at local malls. She warns her Santas: “Don’t promise a child anything.”

CHRISTMAS PAST: After 30 years representing makers of holiday decor, Allen Kramer, owner of A & J Sales in Tarzana, sees a return to a traditional look. Winter village scenes, Santa Claus and religious items are in. “I think that’s a reflection of the economy,” he mused. “People are getting back to their roots.”


BAH, ETC.: Crews from Foley Advertising & Display in Van Nuys are busy installing holiday displays on city streets, in malls and studio back lots. But Foley no longer gets calls for decorations that span boulevards or for its Dickens characters. What’s popular now? “Anything that’s showy and cheap,” said Foley’s Jodi Desmond.