Butler Tree Farm ready for guestsPublished 7:17pm Sunday, November 25, 2012
Brenda Butler sounds like she’s having some family and friends over for the holidays.
And she is, except her open-ended guest list will pack remote Crane Street.
Legions of loyal Butler Tree Farm customers return year after year.
As bustling as it seemed Saturday, she knows many reserve that weekend for Black Friday shopping and the first weekend in December for an outing into their grove with an old-fashioned saw and the hauling out of their trophy with a “treewheeler,” which looks like a large golf cart.
The gift shop doubles as a warming station with a pot-bellied stove and beverages dispensed on the honor system.
“I can’t tell you the hundreds of cups of hot chocolate and pots of coffee we’ve gone through between yesterday and today,” she said. “We put powder and marshmallows in the cup with lids on them and stack them in that neat old cabinet. They love reaching in and making their own. Zoo food is the same way — ice cream cones with zoo food, carrots and bones. I have bloodhounds, goats, llamas, miniature donkeys and horses, peacocks and geese.”
“This is our sixth or seventh year,” said Butler, a mom originally from Chicago who now lives in South Bend, Ind. “We’ve told lots of friends about it, but, on the way here, we kept seeing trees coming this way and thought maybe we should quit telling people or it won’t be ‘our’ place.”
“I get to watch their families grow,” Brenda said, hugging her returning regulars. “We do this because we can’t wait for them to get here. I get so excited for the holidays because the kids all come home.”
“I brought my family so you could meet them,” another man begins.
An Elkhart firefighter “found this place through another fireman. We checked it out and have been coming twice a year for six years. It’s the experience of picking your own tree or your own pumpkins. It’s better than driving to a lot and picking it up. You drive a little bit farther, but it makes memories for the kids.”
He and Brenda’s husband, Sam, share a passion for motorcycling.
“We had a gentleman come in earlier who had back surgery,” Brenda said, “and another family member had brain cancer, and they were at the hospital, so he didn’t have anyone with him, so one of our guys helped him get his tree. It’s not about selling trees, it’s about family, and we genuinely love and care for our ‘family.’ We set aside the Saturday before Thanksgiving to accommodate (customers) with extenuating circumstances so they could get their trees early. The only time we say no is on Thanksgiving day or Christmas Eve.”
The tree farm was supposed to be Sam’s place to putter around after the Marine retired from the railroad.
The couple seeded the region with newspaper advertising.
“We did a lot of footwork,” she said. “We left fliers at Martin’s in Granger. Anyplace that had a bulletin board or would let us, plus we had a website” to put their own spin on a flash mob.
“Three or four years ago we decided to let our customers do their job and to let the web do its job and see what happens,” Brenda said. “When we ask new customers how they heard of us, it’s either the web or ‘someone told me.’ I have had people in Cass, like Porky’s, tell me they count the steady stream of trees going by. That’s just one direction. Nate Robinson said it’s entertaining to sit on the porch, sip coffee and watch them go by.”
Butler Tree Farm
(269) 782-4650/www.butlertrees.com, is open 1-5:30 p.m. Monday-Friday until the season ends Dec. 23.
Santa will be in his house Dec. 1, 2, 8, 9, 15 and 16, noon to 4 p.m.
Sam and Brenda Butler established the farm, which now includes Tall Timbers Campground, in 1998, selling their first tree on Nov. 23, 2001.
Butler Tree Farm is located northeast of Dowagiac at 21515 Crane St.
Choose and cut Christmas trees or select from pre-cut trees and wreaths — balsam, Douglas, blue spruce, Fraser fir, concolor, white pine, Scotch pine and white spruce.
There are also a gift shop, bake shop and petting zoo.