North County Outlook - Community newspaper serving Marysville, Arlington, Tulalip, Smokey Point, Lakewood

Cheryl's Trees opens for its final year


Kirk Boxleitner

Cheryl and Ray Hammer have sold Christmas trees from their home for 37 years, but this year will be their last.

In the 37 years that Cheryl and Ray Hammer have sold Christmas trees from the same address in Marysville, their customers have become an extended family.

"One of our very first families, our first year, now has their grandkids and great-grandkids coming from Everett to buy trees from us," said Cheryl Hammer, as she sat in the garage where her oldest son and daughter-in-law help them by flocking trees.

Unfortunately, their children have full-time jobs that limit how much they can help their parents. Even Cheryl and Ray can't invest as much energy and effort into their business as they used to, as they cope with a combination of age and more severe ailments.

The roots of their trade began in their more hale and hearty days, with Ray's career as a logger, harvesting local woods for other Christmas tree farms in the area, before he and Cheryl decided to pick up a few extra dollars by going into business for themselves.

"We were told that we wouldn't make enough money to pay the light bill," said Ray, who recalled selling around 200 trees their first year, on little more than good word-of-mouth, and as many as 800 trees per season in more recent years.

The Hammers set their annual sales window to the month between Thanksgiving and Christmas, with some regular customers impatient to pick up their trees the day after Thanksgiving.

"Our trees are always fresh," Cheryl said. "We never cut any of them earlier than the week before Thanksgiving. Other Christmas tree lots get big orders delivered by semis, but our trees are cut to order."

The Hammers admitted that this approach has left them short-stocked some seasons, but they don't mind.

"Some years, we've shut down a couple of weeks early," Ray said.

This year will mark the Hammers' last Christmas tree sales. Cheryl was diagnosed with a blood disorder during a bone marrow biopsy two yeas ago, and Ray has lost 80 pounds over the past year of battling cancer.

"My body isn't making enough blood, and the blood cells it does make tend to die off early, so my immune system is pretty much gone," Cheryl said.

Ray still feels badly that he can't do as much heavy lifting as he used to, even when he acknowledges that he's lost his right kidney, prostate and four feet of colon to cancer surgery, in addition to surviving a recent heart attack.

"He insists on trying to do what he's done for the past 20 years," Cheryl said. "I tell him he can't."

"I married her because I loved her cooking," Ray said. "Only now, my taste buds are gone from all the treatments."

While the Hammers had experimented with cutting back their business in 1995, the customers brought them back, but in spite of their gratitude to those who have supported them over the years, the couple can't keep Cheryl's Trees going.

"One of our customers of 25 years came to see me in the hospital," Ray said.

"It's tough when folks tell you, 'See you next year,' like always," Cheryl said. "What do you say to that?"

In the end, all that the Hammers can say is "Thank you."

Cheryl's Trees is located at 1901 Seventh St. in Marysville.


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