Some pay thousands to “deck the halls”

Christmas Decor owner Mike Gray watches as one of his employees ties a wreath to a column at Tanger Outlets in Rehoboth Beach.

By Kim Hoey
Special to Delaware Business Times

Restaurants and businesses should be “decked out” for the Christmas season, according to Steve “Monty” Montgomery, owner and manager of the Starboard Restaurant and Bethany Blues in the beach area. Getting those businesses in the holiday spirit, though, was not one of his strengths.

Years ago, he gave up and hired professionals. Mike Gray, a co-owner of Christmas Decor, decorates all of Montgomery’s restaurants inside and out. Trees, wreaths, garlands, poinsettias, lights on the roof and throughout the restaurants are all designed, installed, guaranteed to work and then taken down and stored after the holiday, by Christmas Decor.

“We walk through, look at a site, know the product we carry and come up with a plan,” said Gray, of the process used for both business and residential customers.

It’s a growing trend. People want beautiful holiday decorations, but don’t have the time, talent or desire to put it all together. The Christmas Decor franchise alone has more than 40,000 residential customers in the United States, not including business clients.

“I’m 55 years old. I’m not climbing ladders anymore,” said Laurie Carter, of Lewes, who hires Christmas Decor to decorate the trees outside her house. “I watch those guys. It’s a lot of work and it’s beautiful.”

With more than 13,000 people nationwide expected to visit the hospital emergency room this year due to a holiday-related decorating accident, hiring a company could actually be a bargain.

For Hoffman Design Group Inc., of Philadelphia, it’s about 35 percent of their total revenue, said Sandra Else, partner in the firm. They decorate several malls and office buildings in Delaware and Pennsylvania.

Their firm does work as small as hanging a wreath to designing whole streetscapes and decorating the entire Philadelphia airport. They start working in late summer, checking every light and decoration to make sure they are ready for the season. From mid-November through mid-December, they are steady installing the planned decorations, only to start taking them back down again soon after the new year.

Most clients sign on for three-year contracts for the packages they buy. Rates with Hoffman run anywhere from $500 for a custom wreath to one project that ran $85,000. The average range is between $5,000 and $9,000, said Else.

“The purpose of our company is to leave people and their environments in a better place than we found them,” said Else, whose company works on interior and exterior landscaping the rest of the year. “With holiday décor, that’s super evident and easy. After our installs, there is the obvious effect of the building being more warm and festive and fun.”

Most Christmas companies help clients choose the design and plan and then provide the decorations and install them. Melissa Lang-Kaufman, of The Gathered Nest in Rehoboth Beach, has a different approach. Lang-Kaufman, a decorator and home stager, uses what the decorations client already have and then makes suggestions of what they might want to add. She’ll shop for them or with them.

Many of her clients, though, are very hands-off after the initial consult. They own second homes at the beach and don’t want to spend time decorating, she said. They just want their houses pretty for the holidays when they arrive, she said.

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