Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Christmas at the hardware store December 17, 2020

Ace Hardware in Faribault, photographed at dusk on December 5.

WHEN WE SHOP at the local hardware store, it’s typically to pick up necessities for a home repair. Like last Sunday, Randy ran downtown to Ace to purchase a toilet handle operating system. I can’t even count the number of times he’s replaced this as Faribault’s incredibly hard water corrodes the metal piece inside the tank. My apologies to all you plumbing knowledgeable people for that amateurish explanation. But it’s frustrating. This time Randy opted for plastic.

Ace carries so much more than plumbing and other basic hardware necessities. There’ s a Hallmark card shop inside the store. And a paint center. And everything you need for grilling, including the Big Green Egg, although Randy will never deviate from his charcoal-fired Weber. There are tools and slippers and novelty gift items and…

When I photographed the lot on December 5, there was a wide selection of trees.

If we needed a Christmas tree, we could find that at the hardware store, too. Real trees lined a makeshift tree lot outside the front door when I stopped by on December 5. Currently all live trees, spruce tops, dogwood and porch pots are priced at 50 percent off. While supplies last. And, yes, we’ve been known to wait until just days before Christmas to purchase our tree. Not this year, though. Plus I’ve found my go-to source for Charlie Brown trees at Ken’s Christmas Trees.

The festive Christmas tree lot at Ace offers more than just trees.

As I walked away from Ace Hardware, I paused to photograph the blow-up Nativity scene above the store entry. I’ve seen Santas and snowmen and every other type of outdoor holiday inflatable, but never the Holy Family. How uplifting to view this little family staged there, in a place of honor, as customers hurried in and out of the hardware store.

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Christmas trees past December 23, 2013

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Christmas tree lot in Faribault

FOR MANY A HOLIDAY SEASON, this unpretentious Christmas tree lot has operated at the intersection of busy Second Avenue Northwest and Minnesota Highway 3 near the edge of Faribault.

I’ve never shopped for a tree here. But, one of these holiday seasons, instead of passing by, I need to stop and ask a few questions, take a few photos, learn the history of this place and perhaps pick out a tree.

Our family Christmas tree always sat on the end of the kitchen table, as shown in this Christmas 1964 photo.  That's me in the red jumper with four of my five siblings.

Our family Christmas tree always sat on the end of the kitchen table, as shown in this Christmas 1964 photo. That’s me in the red jumper with four of my five siblings.

The lot reminds me of childhood Christmases, when my family would choose a short-in-stature, short-needled Christmas tree at the local grocery store.

To this day, I prefer a Charlie Brown type tree to one that’s tall, full and perfectly-branched.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling