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The Red Barn is ready for another season

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It’s never too early to think about decorating for Christmas. For Barb Roth and Carol Troyer, it’s a year-round thing that culminates each year with the season opening of The Red Barn Tree Shop in Morton.

This year, opening day is next Thursday, Oct. 1. And the barn at 1811 W. Jefferson in Morton is decorated, its trees are filled with ornaments and other items to give customers ideas, and the accessories are set in their places with care for the Christmas customers they hope will be there.

“It’s always exciting to open for the season. We will have people outside waiting to get in,” said Roth, who opened the shop with her husband Russ Roth 31 years ago. “It’s almost like a reunion; the ladies come out every year to see what we’ve got that’s new and different.”

“We think it looks pretty spectacular again this year,” she added.

Added Troyer, Roth’s long-time co-worker in the shop, “We never get tired of it.”

The Red Barn will be open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday Oct. 1 through Dec. 24 and from 1 to 5 p.m. Sundays after Thanksgiving. The annual Open House will be Saturday, Oct. 3 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday, Oct. 4 from 1 to 5 p.m.

The Red Barn started as a family tradition that became a hobby before the Roths turned it into a business. The family grew a few Christmas trees on their farm for themselves to start, then decided to plant more and make a seasonal business of it. The Red Barn came about because Barb believed people coming out to buy or cut their own trees would enjoy being able to purchase decorations and get decorating tips at the same time.

So, Russ Roth moved a 150-year-old barn across some fields to its spot on Jefferson Street, used original wood from the floor to build a staircase and second level, and then turned it over to Barb Roth to make it into the quaint and colorful showplace it is today.

Thousands of trees stand ready for cutting and the Red Barns own trees stand ready with their own themes sure to get the creative juices flowing for customers new and old. Each year, Troyer said, the Red Barn gets customers who have never been there before. “We enjoy showing it off,” she said while walking through the barn with its original beams and siding.

The family still farms crops as its livelihood, but the Christmas tree and decoration business is what Barb calls the fun part of the family business. Fun, but still a lot of work, she added.

At 5 p.m. on Dec. 24 each year, the doors are locked and the Roths and Troyer walk awak from it for a while. But it isn’t long before they are back at it, going to shows around the country to learn the latest trends, get ideas for the next season and start buying the decorations they will put up for their own customers.

Those trends are evident on each of the 10 trees Roth and Troyer decorate in the store. For example, the colors gold and champagne are popular right now as is gray, which Troyer called “the new neutral.” They are prevalent throughout the store.

Roth said each tree tells a story. Large items and ornaments are placed in each so that they stand out, better to give customers ideas.

The trees and themes this year are:

  • “No-Owl! No-Owl”: It is frosty white with crystal and mint green. White owls are nesting on the branches.
  • “Garnet & Gold”: Gold, which is the metallic accent for 2015, with rich shade of red. Roth said this tree is one of “elegant tradition.”
  • “Park Avenue”: Soft blue, champagne and pearl.
  • “Urban Holiday”: Gray and red, decorated with tin trays, wire baskets and wood snowflakes, accented with flannel ribbon and pine cones. “A repurposed, industrial look,” Roth said.
  • “Merry, Merry Christmas”: Santa Claus and his elves welcome memories of Christmases past.
  • “Christmas Vespers”: Christmas bells adorn this tree, ringing out the praises of the baby Jesus.
  • “The Night Before Christmas”: Nutcrackers, toy train, rocking horses… The dreams of children on that magical night.
  • “Snowman Lane”: Families of snowmen sledding through the trees, wearing warm and colorful hats.
  • “Sleigh Ride”: A snowy tree adorned with Santa, jingle bells and nesting woodland creatures.
  • “Hunt Club”: Copper and bronze, birch logs and houndstooth adorn this tree inspired by an old English hunt.

Much of what you will find at The Red Barn is traditional or at least a take on traditional. That is on purpose, Roth said. “Tradition still sells very well. People like the red ornaments,” she said.

Still, she added, most people come in because they are wanting to give their own home and Christmas tree a new look. “We can’t sell them our trees but we will help them decide what their new look will be. We can then sell them the elements. Even a new, simple ribbon can change the whole look. Ribbons help pull everything together,” she said.

“Your tastes change,” Troyer added. “It’s seeing a different kind of thing and realizing, ‘I could have this in my house, on my tree.’”

“People come in looking for something special and we provide that,” Roth said, adding it is that way for her and Troyer when they go to shows each year to see what is new.

“When you see pretty things, you know it. We go to these shows and see what is available and we pretty well know right away what we want,” she said.

After deciding what to buy, they name the trees they plan to do the next Christmas. Doing that helps them focus on each tree and what they want to use on it.

New at The Red Barn this year are items of outer wear, including hats, sweaters, scarves and toppers.

The tree cutting season is considered to be after Thanksgiving because even with watering, trees dry out. However, Roth said, the farm will accommodate people who want to have a tree up for their family gathering at Thanksgiving.

The farm expects to sell hundreds of trees each season. The Roths grow white pines, Scotch pines and a variety of firs. The pines have firmer branches for decorating, but the firs hold their needles longer, which can mean less clean-up at the end of the holiday season.

They make the wreaths they sell as well as centerpieces and the shop will also flock trees using a cellulose (water and paper) substance that is not messy and is safe for pets.

About the Author
Paul Gordon is the editor of The Peorian after spending 29 years of indentured servitude at the Peoria Journal Star. He’s an award-winning writer, raconteur and song-and-dance man. He also went to a high school whose team name is the Alices (that’s Vincennes Lincoln High School in Indiana; you can look it up).