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Hawaii News

Christmas trees go fast at stores, stands

Leila Fujimori
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Ana Valdez checks out one of the few Christmas trees left at the Home Depot. The Christmas tree lot at the Home Depot had only 34 trees left at 3pm on Wednesday.
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Gloria Singson and Ana Valdez checked out one of the Christmas trees left yesterday at the Home Depot in Iwilei, where the Christmas tree lot had 34 trees left at 3 p.m.

The tent has been down since the weekend, but a few withered Christmas trees still leaned against a wall yesterday at the Kailua Don Quijote.

"All Sales Final," signs said.

With just 10 days till Christmas, Hawaii tree shoppers have few choices left.

Most of the larger stores with generally lower prices were wiped out, leaving a dwindling number of small mom and pop operations.

"There aren’t much left on the island," said Mel Yogi, seasonal buyer for Don Quijote. "Last year, we ran out of trees early."

This year, two stores sold out by Dec. 7, which is typical, and two others sold out by Saturday.

Ipo and Stacey Waiwaiole’s stand at a Kailua church parking lot near Castle Medical Center had about 150 trees left yesterday afternoon. They had prepared for a shortage, ordering 250 more than last year.

"We have it in a container that’s refrigerated, and all the trees (on display) are sitting in water, so they’re very, very fresh," Stacey Waiwaiole said.

She said a few people have gone to her to buy their second tree because their first had already died.

Ashley Toops, 27, said the tree she bought from Waiwaiole a week and a half ago is still "beautiful and it’s so fresh."

Toops and her husband didn’t have the entire $85 in cash to pay for a 6-foot noble fir and returned yesterday to make a final payment. The couple had initially gone to a different Kailua tree stand that was charging double that price.

"We just heard there’s such a huge shortage," she said. "Everyone else is out."

A Christmas tree sales tent was still up yesterday in the parking lot at the Aiea Best Buy, according to a store employee.

With bargain prices ranging from $30 to $50, Walmart stores said they had sold out weeks ago.

The Iwilei Home Depot expected to sell the last 20 or so of its trees last night and its other locations had already emptied.

"We were selling out in the beginning," Irv Sakamoto said, adding that the rain seemed to slow sales. But things picked up and the Iwilei store managed to move the last of its trees, which once filled 18 shipping containers.

"Today’s the last day," he said. "Everybody else is done, too."

The Iwilei store brought in 2,000 more trees this year than last.

Said Barry Kayano, manager of Koolau Farmers in Kailua, "We’re starting to get calls (asking) if we still have any trees." The garden shop had about 40 remaining: five different varieties from tabletops and up, for $9.99 to $79.99.

He said the smaller operations are "a little on the high side," but that Koolau has kept prices the same for the past three years.

At Helemano Farms in Wahiawa, about 800 to 1,000 Norfolk pines and about 300 Leyland cypress (which have a faint pine scent and are more full) can be cut fresh for Christmas, with another 100 Leylands in pots.

Helemano sold 2,400 trees during last year’s shortage of imported trees, but anticipates selling 1,800 this year, said owner Aaron O’Brien.

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