Sunday, May 12, 2013

The Making of a Catalogue: Part 1

Nathanael and Evé review the centerpieces
waiting to be photographed..
The catalogue of Lynch Creek Farm's holiday wreaths, swags, garland and centerpieces starts early. By the end of the 2012 holiday shipping season, Andy and the crew at the Farm were planning for the coming year's offerings, and on the Night Before Christmas, never mind sugar plums: it's likely visions of new wreaths and centerpieces danced in their heads.

Listening to requests and suggestions from customers, they thought about adding autumnal-themed centerpieces for Thanksgiving. They planned expanding on the theme of the tabletop tree introduced in 2012.

Andy makes sure a ribbon's right.
The second step toward developing those new products came in January with a trip to the big Atlanta Gift Show. Planning for new colors, new designs, even a new line of Hanukkah centerpieces and other decorations got under way with that trip.

Next, with the Farm's online dahlia tuber sales — you did know, didn't you, that Lynch Creek Farm fills the space between wreath seasons with flowers? — going strong, Andy, Evé, Nathanael and Mike put their heads together, mocked up designs, made samples, and began the work of planning the new catalog.

Forrest, Andy, Amy and Mike scope out a dining room shot.
So it was that on a beautiful spring day, with the sun shining (it does that, sometimes, in the Northwest in springtime) and the swallows swirling and chattering overhead outdoors, it was deep December in office manager Patty Rhoades's house.

Patty and Polly Schreiber, display designer at Andy's mom's shop Lynch Creek Floral, decorated the house for Christmas. Red candles glowed on the dining table. A fire flickered in the fireplace.

Mike, Evé and Nathanael review
photos as they're taken.
Andy, Nathanael, and Mike arranged scenarios, Evé kept checking items—wreaths, garland, centerpieces—off his monumental list, and photographers Amy and Forrest Cooper of Cooper Studios kept clicking away. Dining room, fireplace, kitchen: scenes you'll see online and in the printed catalogue this fall.

They didn't finish Evé's list. The shoots will continue. We'll stay tuned.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

New Holiday Items Due for 2013 Season at Lynch Creek Wreaths

Andy and Evé rotate new items
for a photo shoot.
Off season, designers at Lynch Creek Wreaths are busy dreaming up new products to make your holidays brighter and more beautiful.

They look at up-and-coming color and design trends, listen to customer comments, and think about all the potential for personal and corporate gift-giving and home decoration offered by their penchant for the freshest, lushest, most fragrant evergreens available.

Here are some things to look for when Lynch Creek Wreaths ramps up its seasonal Web site and shows off its new offerings for the 2013 holiday season:

Nathanael and Michael show off
a new Hanukkah centerpiece.
Autumn Arrangements that Extend the Season. Luscious seasonal shades of russet, orange and gold will accent new table designs you'll want to order even before Thanksgiving to usher in the crisp, cool days of autumn. As always, thfeature evergreens so fresh you can make the transition to your pre-Christmas or Hanukkah decorating by swapping out the accessories or changing candles.

A Line of Hanukkah Decorations. Affordable elegance, a palette of blues and silvers, and attentiveness to the traditions of Hanukkah (Chanukah) will mark the new section of holiday offerings including table arrangements for gifting or decorating at home as well as a Hanukkah Bush and door decorations.

Shells and gulls adorn
a versatile, all-purpose centerpiece.
Table "Trees" – Variations on a Theme. Last year's introduction of table "trees" brought so many positive comments that the designers have expanded the concept with several variations on these sweet decorations formed of noble fir boughs. Unlike the traditional trees, these don't claim any tree lives: the boughs are harvested from trees that like the pruning and go on producing boughs for  years.

Gifts from the Sea. A lovely combination of shells and greenery offers a wintry decoration that's so timeless, it can go on through January.

New designs and concepts are still emerging, so stay tuned.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

In Loving Memory of Len Hunter

Len Hunter

Please pardon the Lynch Creek Farm crew if we're a little off center for a while.

The Farm, quite literally, has lost its founding father.

Leonard Hunter—the forester who worked weekends growing vegetables with his kids and taking them to market, who saw the kids off to college, and who was there to be supportive when one of them came back to grow the little family business to a nationwide supplier of decorative evergreens for the holidays and dahlia tubers for summer gardens—died in Shelton April 10 after an extended illness.

Len, Andy, Rob and Jim harvest potatoes
in the early days of  Lynch Creek Farm.
Len grew up in upstate New York, and came to Shelton to work in timber sales for the Olympic National Forest. He met and married local girl Colleen Shrum. As their three sons, Rob, Jim, and Andy grew, the Hunters decided to start a market garden to keep their boys busy. They sold their abundant produce at local farmers' markets, first Shelton, then Olympia. The Lynch Creek Farm operation morphed over the years as Andy and his brothers grew up, adding a significant floral component and, at the end of the season, Christmas wreaths

As the wreath business began to grow and Len retired from the U.S. Forest Service, he involved some of his friends making wreaths, and a mail-order business began. Len made daily treks, often multiple daily treks, to the post office to mail wreaths and swags. Soon Lynch Creek Farm went online with its wreaths, centerpieces and other seasonal evergreen decorations. And Len the forester couldn't have been prouder as it grew, even when it took over his workshop, his storage buildings and his entire backyard. For a few seasons, he even signed on as cook, turning out hearty midday meals for the Lynch Creek Farm management team. Pot roast, spaghetti, pork tenderloin: Len drew on experience he'd racked up years before in the Forest Service.

Len did mail duty at Lynch Creek Farm and served for years as the messenger who brought in the muffins and pastries from the European bakery in Olympia each morning to Colleen's Lynch Creek Floral, by now a mainstay among downtown Shelton businesses.

Len loved historic logging photos, too.
In New York, Len acquired an appreciation of antiques, and in early retirement, he delighted in acquiring and restoring antique furniture, specializing in golden oak. His love of antiques included an abiding interest in antique tools, and not surprisingly, he specialized in hand tools from the early days of forestry and logging. He was generous in displaying his logging memorabilia and explaining the uses of the old tools to onlookers. Long a member of the Pacific Northwest Tool Collectors Club, he was quick to take off on the trail of an interesting misery-whip handle or an ax blade for his collection. 

Circulatory disease and Alzheimer's increasingly impaired Len's ability to maintain his activities during the past year. He was a patient for the last weeks of his life at Alpine Way Retirement Apartments in Shelton, where his family appreciated the excellent nursing care he received.

A memorial gathering will be held at 2 p.m. Monday, April 22, at Faith Lutheran Church, at 1212 Connection Street (off North 13th) in Shelton. Len was a strong supporter of community efforts and the family has suggested contributions in his memory go to the Mason County Historical Society, the Shelton-Mason County Chamber of Commerce flower-basket project, or the Mason General Hospital Foundation.

His signature booming voice will be missed at Lynch Creek Farm. Someone else will bring in the mail and run the errands, and the business will continue to thrive and grow, but it won't be quite the same. Len Hunter was a bit of a local legend, and he'll be missed. 

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Lynch Creek's Roots Deep in Shelton

Port of Shelton at Sanderson Field—where the Lynch Creek Farm story had its beginnings
Tradition is big at Lynch Creek Farm, whose elegant evergreens—its Christmas wreaths and swags, its holiday centerpieces and its lush garland—are designed to help families and individuals create their own traditions of holiday decorating.

And a major part of this unique firm's tradition is rooted in the place it operates, Shelton, on Southwest Puget Sound. Lynch Creek Farm bears the name of the stream that flows near the Hunter family home. CEO and owner Andy Hunter grew up enjoying the woods along that stream. His mother, Colleen, grew up in the town the family still calls home. Her late father, Andy's Grandpa Jim, came to Sanderson Naval Airfield during World War II and met his future bride, Jean, who also grew up here.

Early-day industry in Shelton centered
around logging and milling local trees.
Trees and Timber Part of the Story

Shelton's a timber town, and much of the early timber harvested and milled locally came from the Olympic National Forest. And it was to the Shelton Ranger District of the Olympic National Forest that Len Hunter came as a young forester from upstate New York. He met Colleen, they married and raised their three sons in Shelton, and a family venture of growing vegetables for the farmers' market morphed over the years into Andy's rapidly growing Lynch Creek Farm.

In Andy's youth, Shelton was still dubbed "Christmastown, USA." Local soils were ideal for growing Christmas trees, and they were grown, harvested, and prepared for markets across the country here. But over the years, the centers of those operations shifted and the name fell into disuse. Today, however, it could well be revived: Hiawatha Corporation is a leading international seller of floral evergreens, mostly wholesale, and several other firms also market evergreens for the holidays.

Andy hefts one of Lynch Creek's big, full
noble fir and holly wreaths.
Lynch Creek's Niche is Luxurious Greenery  

What makes Lynch Creek Farm unique is its own tradition of creative design and consistent high quality. Lynch Creek Farm wreaths are lush; full-sized wreaths are a full eight pounds, up to 30 percent heavier than most wreaths on the market. Because the crew at the farm buys local greenery, it's arriving constantly and products are always fresh. The Farm's eco-friendly products are made from sustainably raised boughs and cones; the trees go right on growing and producing.

It's the little touches that make a difference. Every bow on a Lynch Creek Farm wreath or swag or centerpiece is hand-tied. Every product is double-checked for quality before it's boxed for shipping. Even the shipping boxes are attractive, bright red boxes that announce the arrival of another quality holiday decoration from the forests of the Pacific Northwest. That's the Lynch Creek Farm tradition.

The Farm's bright red boxes are tradition, too.
And the Story Goes Full Circle

Originally, wreaths and other decorative products for Lynch Creek Farm were made on the farm: at Andy's parents home on Lynch Road. The operation outgrew the buildings and expanded into seasonal tents. Pretty soon it just plain outgrew the site.

So now Lynch Creek Farm's operations—production, packing and mailing—all takes place at the Port of Shelton Business Park.

That's located north of Shelton at Sanderson Field, where some 70 years ago, the whole family saga began.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Lynch Creek: Green Trees, Green Business

Noble firs at Lynch Creek Farm
Noble fir. Douglas-fir. White pine. Western red cedar. Incense cedar. Lynch Creek Farm buys boughs of all these species and others to create their beautiful evergreen products. What could be more beneficial to the environment than a green-product business that involves the planting and cultivation and maintaining of healthy trees?

All those trees that yield boughs for the sumptuous, fragrant holiday wreaths, swags, garland and centerpieces created at Lynch Creek Farm do more than produce their magnificent greenery. Their roots penetrate the soil and hold it in place, preventing erosion. They create habitat for birds and game animals and beneficial bugs. They shade streams to provide better environments for fish like trout and salmon.

Grower Bill Batstone checks on his incense cedars.
Trees create windbreaks wherever they grow, slowing the movement of air near ground level. Their respiration, along with the process of photosynthesis, involves taking in carbon dioxide from the air around them and releasing oxygen into the air. In other words, a tree has an admirably negative carbon footprint.

Each season's production at Lynch Creek Farm involves the use of tons of evergreen boughs. But these are environmentally responsible products. The trees themselves are only pruned, not cut. No noble fir (or Douglas-fir, or pine or cedar) lays down its life for the cause. Instead, all the trees that give their branches get care and nurture in return, and continue their lovely green lives to make more boughs for more holiday wreaths, door swags, luxurious drapes of garland, evergreen bouquets and centerpieces.

Long live the trees!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Big Wreath Business is Family Firm

CEO Andy Hunter

Lynch Creek Farm, a major presence in the world of quality holiday evergreens, is first and foremost a family firm. Few companies can claim its percentage of long-term employees, folks who stay because of several factors. They like the self-starting, creative endeavor. They like the close-knit working community of the Farm. And they like the satisfaction of producing a really superior product that draws raves: happy e-mails, calls and letters from long-time customers and new recipients alike. 

Lynch Creek Farm has its roots in a family endeavor that began when CEO Andy Hunter was in grade school. His parents, Len and Colleen Hunter, came up with a market-gardening venture to keep Andy and his older brothers, Jim and Rob, busy with something productive after school and during summer vacations. They sold vegetables first at their hometown farmers' market in Shelton, and then, as their production grew, at the busy Olympia Farmers Market. Soon cut flowers, including beautiful dahlias, joined the veggies, and Andy's mom spun off with a home-based floral business that has since grown to a florist business with gift shop and coffee bar that's a linch-pin (or Lynch pin) of downtown Shelton.

Blended Bay Wreath
A Business Rooted in Local Ground

Andy, who continued to work in the garden and at the market while he was in college, studied business management at Washington State University. He worked for a year and a half in national-chain restaurant management. But that aspect of corporate America didn't have room for the creativity and diversity Andy wanted to exercise. Home ground called, and Andy returned to see what he could make of the family "farm." In 1997, he returned to Shelton just in time for the Christmas season, working with family and friends to make and sell beautiful Christmas wreaths and swags at the market.

The combination of wreaths and other decorative evergreen creations in winter and flowers in summer continued. Andy saw big potential in the holiday evergreens business as mail orders increased. Orders went exponential when the Farm went online. Lynch Creek Farm soon took over most of Andy's parents' property, first taking over Len's workshop, then adding tents with heaters as the demand increased. A growing seasonal staff still included friends and neighbors. 
Winter Keepsake Wreath

Lynch Creek Farm laid claim to the market for the highest quality wreaths, lush creations with a full eight pounds of fragrant, healthy greenery and elegant decorations, ranging from the sparkling icy beauty of the Winter Keepsake Wreath to the spare elegance and incomparable scent of the Blended Bay Leaf Wreath. Each year he fine-tunes designs, adding new lines and working with an energetic team of on-the-floor designers who execute the stunning creations for buyers across the country. And buyers there are: wreaths and garland and centerpieces, all in their elegant red boxes, roll out by the semi-load every day during the pre-holiday season.

Lynch Creek Farm Still Down to Earth

Partner Mike Maddux, who handles the Web site and marketing, was a high-school classmate. Nathanael Hartman, a stalwart of the business since the turn of the century, and Everardo (Evé) Munguia, who oversees dahlia-growing as well as evergreens work, are both local guys. Patty Rhoades, office manager, was a working associate of Colleen Hunter's. These folks form the administrative corps that rolls through the seasons.

And there are seasons at Lynch Creek Farm. Diversification, at Lynch Creek, chiefly involves dahlias: growing for the summer wholesale and retail market, and selling dahlia tubers in the spring both locally and online. Now that Lynch Creek Farm is a nationwide presence, you might think the Farmers Market would be a thing of the past for this up-and-coming firm, but that's not the case. You'll find Lynch Creek Farm staff at the Olympia Farmers Market soon after it opens in early spring, selling dahlia tubers and handing out tips on growing great dahlias; again in high summer until frost, selling lush bouquets of beautiful dahlias; and from the first of November until just before Christmas, selling wreaths.

Visit the market stall, or phone (toll-free at 1-888-426-0781), or e-mail from across the country, and you'll still encounter a friendly response. You'll experience a small-town family business, where quality is at the top of the priority list every day.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Plan Now for a Holiday Fundraiser

If you're part of a nonprofit organization—school booster, Scout, fraternal organization, church or special-interest group—you're likely in need of fundraising ideas.
And if your group is like most of these, it has a lot more needs than its members have time. It's not too early to start thinking about a fall fundraiser.

William shows off brochure and doorhanger aids
to fundraiser campaign materials.
Consider Lynch Creek Farm's fundraising program. Luscious, fragrant holiday wreaths, garland and centerpieces, top-quality decorations shipped direct to purchasers, are about as easy to sell as anything you could think of during the pre-holiday season. Recipients of these lush, fragrant evergreen products rave about them. Purchasers will actually thank you for turning them onto such a great product. And Lynch Creek Farm offers a generous 25 percent of sales to its fundraiser organizations.

Expert Staff Makes It Easy

William Falconer, a 14-year sales veteran with eight years in fundraising sales and coordination, brings not only his experience cut his boundless enthusiasm to the program at Lynch Creek Farm. "I truly love getting to see different organizations hit their fundraising goals," William says.

And getting there is easy. William and his assistants at Lynch Creek provide help for your fundraising plan, and as much training as your group would like, as well as order forms, full-color brochures, doorhangers, a control panel with reports, help for accessing social media, e-mail blasts and friendly one-on-one support.

Buyers who support your organization in your first season become part of your group's fundraising effort; if they return to Lynch Creek Farm for more items, or make purchases in subsequent seasons, their purchases are automatically credited to your organization's account. New fundraisers are often surprised by the response. "It was an incredibly easy way to meet our fundraising goals," said a Ways and Means committee member from a PEO chapter after its first season with Lynch Creek. "We did so well that we didn't have to hold a February fund-raiser," she added.

Versatile Plan Offers Three Options

1. Use the Internet. Your e-mail and social-media tools like Facebook will put your project out to your members' friends and families. Lynch Creek will provide you with a group identification number and a link personalized to your group to make it easy for your supporters to go direct to the Farm's website and be automatically identified, with a percentage of their purchases credited to your group's account. Spread your net wide; your contacts can support you from somewhere across the country.

Brenda and Alexandra used a wreath to
help sell Lynch Creek
decorations at their church's holiday bazaar.
2. Use face-to-face or door-to-door sales. If you're accustomed to going out to your community, putting brochures in your business breakroom, making announcements at church or Rotary or Kiwanis or other organization, or having a booth at a holiday bazaar, go right ahead. Color brochures, order forms and business cards are provided for groups that want to use this traditional fundraiser approach. Your can order products to show as samples at events; just give the staff enough time to ship your order. You'll find these great products sell themselves.

3. Run a supplemental fundraiser. Lynch Creek Farm products are quality decorator pieces, and prices include shipping. You may want to offer some other products that involve lower costs to increase the versatility of your efforts. There are no minimum requirements for participating in the Lynch Creek Farm fundraising program, so you can easily send e-mails, hand out flyers or use any of the approaches above to supplement your usual fundraiser with Lynch Creek Farm wreaths, swags, garland and centerpieces.