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Two Rivers’ business celebrates 60 years of Christmas trees, wreaths

Sprang Family Farm is busy gearing up for the 2023 holiday season

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November 14, 2023

TWO RIVERS – Carrying on the legacy of his family’s Christmas tree farm is not something Kevin Sprang said he takes lightly.

Kevin, along with his nephew Tom Sprang, own Sprang Family Farm – a Christmas tree and wreath business located at 5210 Elmwood Road in Two Rivers.

“I’m going on 64, and I’ll be here as long as I live, doing the business as long as we can,” he said. “Hopefully, we can teach the younger generation all the ropes here and continue on.”

Started by his brother Allen Sprang 60 years ago, Kevin said growing up it was fun watching “people coming here and there” during the holiday season to get their trees.

Kevin said his father helped out with the “people side of the business” until he passed away at age 90.

“(Our father) wouldn’t handle the trees, but he’d be outside selling stuff and mingling amongst the people,” he said.

Today, Tom takes care of the tree side of the business (which they purchase from Wisconsin-based growers), while Kevin takes care of the wreaths – something he said he has been doing since he was 13, making this year the 51st season he’s been making wreaths.

What made you want to continue
Kevin said he started the wreath side of the business using some of the leftover Christmas tree branches – creating 35 wreaths that first year.

Each year since, he said, that number has increased.

An entrepreneur at just 13 years old, Kevin said he originally used coat hanger wire to make the wreaths.

The operation, he said, has changed significantly since.

Now he’s got a team of about a dozen – which includes his step-daughter Stephanie Leonhard – and on a yearly average, they make about 2,500 wreaths, all by hand.

Kevin said wreaths take about 45-60 minutes to make.

Stephanie Leonhard said she’s been helping step-father Kevin Sprang create and sell wreaths for the past decade. Chris Rugowski Photo

“It’s a nice little income that supplements the farm, which is nice to have, but it’s just the joy of doing it,” he said.

In addition to selling wreaths on the farm – which is where Kevin said the majority of the sales happen – they are also available at some area greenhouses and organizations for fundraisers.

Steeped in tradition
Leonhard – who has worked as a wreath maker and decorator for the past 10 years – said she enjoys the family element the business provides.

“It’s a fun tradition, and the fact it’s been going on for more than 50 years is a cool legacy to keep going,” she said. “It’s fun having the family involved.”

Leonhard said the real joy comes when families come back after 20, 30 or even 40 years.

“Families coming back after decades to get their Christmas trees and wreaths – bringing their kids, grandkids, it’s a holiday tradition I look forward to,” she said. 

Kevin said the word “tradition” comes up a lot around the holidays with him and his customers.

Leonhard said she’s even seen people tailgating, making a party out of being at the farm.

“They love coming out here, and we’ve become friends with them,” she said. “Tom has known so many (of these) people for so many years that it’s like visiting old friends.”

The folks at Sprang Family Farm have even set up hay bales and a little Christmas tree in front of the barn that has served as a backdrop for many photo opps.

“(Customers) come to take their holiday photos outside the barn,” Leonhard said. “I’ve seen them on Christmas cards we get – it’s fun.”

Each successful season, Kevin said, gives him peace of mind knowing he and his team did something nice for Christmas time.

“It gets you in the holiday spirit early,” Leonhard said. “People are surprised at how early some of this starts, right around the end of October.”

In recent years, Leonhard added Kissing Balls to the list of products Sprang Family Farm offers – which she said she creates on weekends and evenings in addition to her full-time job.

The trees
Kevin said all trees the Sprang operation buys and has available for customers are Wisconsin-grown and sourced, which Sprang purchases wholesale.

The Balsam variety trees take about 10-12 years to grow to maturity, while a Fraser Fir takes about 15-18 years.

Tom Sprang handles the tree side of the business, which they purchase from Wisconsin-based growers. Submitted Photo

Kevin said it’s a year-round operation for its growers to keep the trees trimmed and looking like what is traditionally viewed as a Christmas tree.

Sprang’s growers, he said, have massive tree farms and maintain their crop throughout the year. 

“It’s nothing for them to cut 40 acres of trees for one year,” he said.

Planning ahead, and being eco-responsive, Leonhard said, is the name of the game when it comes to Christmas trees.

“(Growers) have to be careful of how many (they cut each year), because if you wipe out the whole thing, you’re not going to have trees for 10 years,” she said. “Grooming, maintenance and being responsible with their lots is essential.”

A seasonal push
As one can imagine, the holiday season is the busiest time of year for Sprang’s Trees and Wreaths.

Kevin said they see their biggest sales on Black Friday and Small Business Saturday.

Sundays, he said – depending on when the Green Bay Packers play – are busy as well.

The first weekend of December, Kevin said, is the second biggest selling weekend.

Managing the business during the selling can be hectic, but with all hands on deck typically goes well.

And though trees and wreaths are only available for purchase at Sprangs during the short timeframe, Kevin said there is a lot that happens behind the scenes year-round.

The wreath hoops, he said, have to be ordered a year ahead, so as soon as the season is done, they place an order for the hoops, which they base off that year’s sales.

The purchasing of other related items, Leonhard said, starts around September.

The wreath making, she said, starts around Halloween, and lasts well into the holiday season.

A lot has changed
The Christmas tree/wreath industry, Kevin said, has seen many changes in the last several decades.

Back when the family first started selling trees in 1964, Kevin said they were $2 to $3 a tree. Current pricing for the two trees sold by Sprang – Fraser fir and Balsam – are around $85 and $60, respectively.

Prices, and the mess associated with real trees, Kevin said, have affected the sales throughout the years.

“(Sales have) greatly reduced – it’s basically a quarter of what it used to be years ago,” he said. “We’re going to be selling around 450-500 trees. We’re upping it a bit because we’re the only ones left in this area.”

Leonhard said she understands why some people opt for artificial, “but there’s nothing like the smell of a real Christmas tree.”

“That’s a big part of why people come back for the real ones, too,” she said, “You walk in and it smells like Christmas.”

Leonhard said though some customers have transitioned to artificial trees, they still come to get a wreath – partly because they are less of a mess.

Kevin Sprang, right, and his stepdaughter Stephanie Leonhard, work together to create, on average, 2,500 wreaths per year. Chris Rugowski Photo

“I think that’s at least some of the reasons why we sell more wreaths than trees,” she said.

Sprang wreaths, Leonhard said, are custom-designed and can include ornaments, pine cones, bows or even paint.

“It’s a fun opportunity to be creative and to try different things,” she said.

Kevin said Sprangs does a lot with nonprofit organizations, including local Boy Scouts troops, the Young Farmers Association, churches and area FFA groups.

The family’s largest wreath dons the Community House in Two Rivers.

Measuring in at 108 inches (with the hoop alone measuring 96 inches), Kevin said it’s large enough to fit a full human inside it.

It’s hard to miss, he said.

When they can, Leonhard said the family gathers inside HQ – aka, the wreath-making room – for a fun get-together.

“We’ll get the slow cookers out here, make some chili, and we all hang out and have fun,” she said. “It’s a lot of work running a Christmas tree and wreath operation like this, but having the family together is the best part of it.”

The farm is open to public sales from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Black Friday, Nov 24, and then seven days a week until all trees and wreaths are gone.

Kevin said the earliest they’ve ever sold out was Dec. 15.

For more information, check out Sprang’s Trees and Wreaths on Facebook.

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