RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Gilbert Hicks looked over the trees remaining yesterday at Manoa Christmas Trees at the corner of East Manoa Road and Lowrey Avenue. This stand was one of the few left on Oahu.
Late tree shoppers have hope
There are still a couple of spots left to buy Christmas trees
WAHIAWA resident Ona Matthew drove around the island searching until she found the perfect Christmas tree in Manoa yesterday -- a 6-foot Douglas fir tree.
Matthew, who recently moved to Hawaii from Palm Springs, Calif., said the pine scent was key in her tree hunt.
"We wanted something that smells like Christmas," she said.
Less than a week before Christmas, last-minute shoppers who are still looking for the perfect tree still have a couple of places they can turn to.
Retail stores such as Kmart, Daiei, Home Depot and City Mill were sold out of trees by last week or earlier. Most retail stores started selling Christmas trees the day after Thanksgiving.
Chris Johnson, a salesman at Home Depot on Alakawa Street, said they received many calls from customers inquiring about whether they still have fresh trees available.
Johnson said they started selling trees the day after Thanksgiving and sold out by last weekend. An estimated 7,000 trees were sold, he said.
Nevertheless, Forest Product Society, operated by Mele and Tish Turner, still has fresh premium-grade Christmas trees available for last-minute shoppers at two locations in Manoa and Hawaii Kai.
Matthew said she barely had time to shop for a tree when she first arrived in Hawaii during the first week of December. Her sister, Sonia Lipka, said she saw a large open tent filled with Christmas trees with prices ranging from $50 to $220 at the corner of East Manoa Road and Lowrey Avenue, on her way to work at the Manoa Care Home.
Employee Etelani Atiae of Forest Product Society said many people have stopped by the Manoa location minutes before they close at 10 p.m. for the past two nights.
"People have been coming all the way from Waianae to buy trees," Atiae said. About 15 trees were still available by yesterday afternoon.
The Turners handpick premium-grade trees such as Fraser fir, Nordman fir and Grand fir trees from Oregon to be shipped to Hawaii.
The Turners also sell trees in the parking lot of the Koko Marina Shopping Center near Taco Bell in Hawaii Kai.
"Last year, there was an extreme shortage. This year, it's not as bad," said Mele Turner, who has been in the Christmas tree industry for more than 30 years.
Norfolk pine trees are available at Helemano Farms at the end of Whitmore Avenue in Wahiawa.
Pat O'Brien, wife of Mike O'Brien, who started Helemano Farms two years ago as a retirement project, said they will be open daily from 1:30 to 6 p.m. this week until Thursday.
Sales in Norfolk pine trees have been booming since Thanksgiving, Pat O'Brien said. About 150 trees that range from $25 to $80 were sold over the weekend.
Mike O'Brien's wife and two children, Aaron and Christine, fulfilled his vision of running a Christmas tree business after he died last year.
Pat O'Brien said her husband would have been happy to see the success of the business.
"He's up there watching," she said.