Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Finding the perfect imperfect Christmas tree December 6, 2021

A family searches for just the right tree. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo)

TYPICALLY, WE DON’T BUY our Christmas tree until later in December. But this year we purchased ours the day after Thanksgiving. Why? Because I didn’t want to risk Ken’s Christmas Trees running out of trees.

Like so many other items (remember the run on toilet paper?), there’s a supposed shortage of Christmas trees. True? I’m uncertain. But the fact is that Faribault has far fewer places to purchase real trees than just a few years ago. Faribault Garden Center closed. Farmers Seed and Nursery closed. And Donahue’s Greenhouse stopped selling Christmas trees a while back when they opted to open only in spring and summer.

Of course, trees can still be found in multiple locations in and around Faribault. But none of the trees are quite like Ken’s. If you prefer old-fashioned/Charlie Brown style, this is your go-to place. I prefer imperfect to perfect, short-needled to long and short to tall.

Customers flock to Ken’s tree lot post Thanksgiving. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo)

So on the day after Thanksgiving, Randy and I headed to Ken’s Christmas Trees in his pop-up parking lot location at 1407 Fourth Street Northwest across from Arby’s in Faribault. When we arrived, the place was buzzing with customers. When I saw a tree I liked, I asked for it to be set aside while I continued my search. I wasn’t about to risk losing my perfect tree to a perfect stranger. In the end, that first tree made it atop our van.

That’s Ken, far right, walking towards us. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo)

We chatted a bit with Ken Mueller, who has operated this seasonal business since 1988. The tree lot has been in existence since 1939 under a different name, different locations. Randy knows Ken from back whenever. He’s a down-to-earth, hardworking guy with a big smile and a friendly attitude. Perfect for vending trees. Ken shared that he raised his prices this year (we paid $35, his lowest price) to offset increased costs of hauling all those trees from Up North to southern Minnesota. He’s bringing in 630 trees in four loads. That may sound like a lot, but not when you draw customers far and wide who are looking for trees like Ken’s.

You’ll find more than just trees here. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo)

Besides trees, customers will also find porch pots, wreaths, garlands, evergreen gnomes and dogwood.

Choosing a tree… (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo)

Our tree isn’t inside the house yet. This early in December seems too early to bring it into the warmth and heat. But soon. When I untangle and layer the lights, hang vintage and homemade ornaments, and then drape the branches in strands of tinsel, I’ll flash back to the Christmas trees of childhood. The Charlie Brown trees. So imperfectly perfect.

Folksy signage adds to the charm. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo)

FYI: Ken’s Christmas Trees is open from 2 – 7 pm Monday-Friday; 9 am – 6 pm Saturday; and 11 am – 6 pm Sunday.

© Copyright 2021 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


8 Responses to “Finding the perfect imperfect Christmas tree”

  1. Valerie Says:

    I’m glad you told me about this place a few years ago. I do like their trees.
    Enjoy your Charlie Brown Tree – which will be perfect!

  2. Larry Gavin Says:

    We have two Norfolk Island pines in our living room they are both about six feet tall. We always pick one to put lights on and presents under. They are lovely. Love a good Christmas tree. Feels like winter today.

    • Larry, I love that you have those two massive Norfolk Island pines. Once upon a time I had one also, gifted to me by a Secret Angel during my first year of college. I had it for many years after college, through multiple moves…until one summer I took it outside and then, well, it died. Thank you for reminding me of that long ago memory. And, yes, today definitely feels like winter.

  3. Susan Ready Says:

    it was smart of you to have the foresight to buy early as I have heard everywhere of tree shortages. Last year I went for an artificial one for the first time ever. Here in AZ the supply is even more uncertain.

  4. I hope you show your tree all set up and decorated. I bet it will be beautiful

    • The timing of your comment is uncanny because yesterday morning, when I plugged in the lights, one entire string did not work and neither did half of the second. I attempted to find holiday lights locally, at two stores. The cashier at the second chain store told me they are nowhere to be found in Faribault. Then, when listening to a radio station out of Owatonna this morning, the hosts of the morning talk show said the same, “No holiday lights to be found.” I reached out to my daughter and asked if she has any. Yes, she has some white lights. I prefer colored. But, at this point, I’ll accept hers as white lights are better than no lights. Who would have thought? Not me.

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