By KIMEKO MCCOY
For the last 38 years, Glenn and Vivian Lightsey have been selling Christmas trees with a side of holiday cheer.
While businesses vary greatly in how they got their start, the Lightseys’ story is pretty clean and simple.
Before coming into the businesses of Christmas trees, Glenn worked for law enforcement. Nowadays, he runs his own private investigation company while Vivian is the president of a company outside of the family business.
However, both make time to tend to all of the holiday trees meant to make the season festive.
Growing a green thumb
Both St. Augustine natives and married since 1977, the Lightseys have always had a green thumb.
Vivian comes from a produce family and while the family already had a produce business established, the Lightseys thought it would be a good idea to add Christmas trees to their sales.
“Her and I had a little produce stand,” Glenn said. “We added trees and it took off from there.”
Since then, the seasonal business that stands on the corner of King Street and U.S. 1 has played the role of Santa’s helper in spreading Christmas cheer and Glenn says that every year just keeps on getting better.
Generations of loyalty
Since the beginning, the business has had loyal customers from all over the city purchasing their holiday trees from the Lightseys.
In fact, they say they’ve seen generations of customers coming to get their tree every year.
The couple attribute their customer loyalty to a good product.
“We really try hard to get a fresh tree,” Glenn said.
For all of the years the Lightseys have sold their trees, they’ve worked with the same North Carolina farmer.
“We come with the mindset to help farmers in need,” Vivian said.
It seems like a win-win situation. The Lightseys help support farmers and get a fresh product in return that keeps customers coming back.
Glenn says that because of that and the family’s focus, competition is not a factor.
Glenn said he and his wife are so busy that they don’t have time to worry about competition.
“We’re the longest continuous Christmas tree operation in the nation’s oldest city,” Glenn said.
Even the city loves the Lightseys products and for the last 20 years, the City of St. Augustine has gotten its holiday trees from Lightsey’s Christmas Trees for the Nights of Lights.
Glenn said he cuts the tree down himself, drives it to the location and everything else in between.
When he’s done, him and his wife attend the opening night to see faces light up with the Christmas tree they prepared for the event.
“Look at the joy it brings to all of the people in St. Augustine,” Glenn said.
In addition to the customers, the Lightseys also have a loyal staff.
One employee has been with the couple for at least 15 years. Glenn said the employee learned a lot from working and went on to graduation from the University of Florida then to cadet school.
“The kids really learn a lot and go on to do great things,” Glenn said.
Giving back the Christmas spirit
If anyone knows that Christmas is the season for giving, it’s the Lightseys. They not only provide trees for customers and the city, the also provide trees and jobs for those in need.
Glenn said the holiday tree business often employees those that have fallen on hard times and are trying to get back on their feet.
“It’s all about giving back to the community,” he said. “(It’s about) giving back when you can.”
The two also donate trees to the American Cancer Society.
For the Lightseys, the holiday spirit is more about giving that receiving.
“That’s the most important thing to me,” Vivian said.
38 years and beyond
Both of the Lightsey’s manage to juggle their own busy schedule, role in spreading holiday cheer and make it to one of the three Lightsey’s Christmas Tree lots every day.
In addition to Lightsey’s in St. Augustine, the Lightseys have two other lots in Julington Creek and Woodlawn that’s ran by their children Dustin and Cheyenne.
Both are committed to helping their parents out with the family holiday business and this year, the lots have sold out.
“It’s been a very fast year,” Vivian said.
Cheyenne works as a teacher at Sebastian Middle School running the tree lots every weeknight and full weekends. Dustin took vacation from law enforcement in Melbourne to run the lot in Julington Creek.
That dedication has stuck with the Lightseys for the past 38 years and they’re hoping for more.
They’ve been in business all this time and don’t plan to slow down any time soon.
“Our long term plan is to keep our customers satisfied for as long as we can,” Vivian said.