The Los Angeles County Show Tree. Photos courtesy of Nic Adams.
For Nic Adams, Christmas started early this year.
“For a big tree, I flew to China to procure it,” he said, of a large, live Christmas tree commissioned by Los Angeles County. “Big trees don’t come from Home Depot—they get plucked with helicopters from national forests.”
Adams’ company, the Long-Beach based St. Nick’s, specializes in holiday decor—think lights, garlands, trees and more—making a year-round occasion of it.
Adams started the company after dropping out of college 20 years ago and realizing just how lucrative decorating various residences could be. In fact, the company started out with simple light and tree arrangements, gradually evolving into the company it is today: a high-level holiday decor and lighting specialty company that decks out Downtown Disney, Second Street in Belmont Shore and numerous Los Angeles County buildings.
“Downtown Disney or LA County are definitely my favorite projects,” said Adams, who has been working with the Walt Disney Company for about six years now. “The County one was a great project—we came up with the design for the tree, an animated show tree that is pink and white, and had a great budget.”
Although Adams was raised in Ojai and currently lives in Laguna Beach, he calls himself a “shore kid” at heart, and bases his business at First and Atlantic, in the East Village.
Year-round, Adams employs eight full-time employees, but bulks up on 25 additional flex-time employees during the Holiday Season—understandably the busiest time of the year. Adams said the contracts worth “hundreds of thousands of dollars,” like those for the county or Downtown Disney, usually go up for bid in January or February. The beginning part of the year is centered around planning for these, and then implementing the budgets and design elements.
Adams’ work stretches near and far, hitting upscale homes on Naples Island and their boats and the fountain around the Promenade, to corporate offices, fast food companies, and public property. Legends Sports Bar in Belmont Shore and O’Malley’s in Seal Beach have been loyal customers for many years now. And, like all businesses, Adams said his company has seen its share of holiday decorating trends.
“This year, it’s all about show trees,” said Adams. “Automated trees, dancing, with lights. It’s all about interaction—the twinkle bulbs don’t cut it anymore.”
The tree Adams designed for LA County is one such example. Composed of wire and lights, the two show trees Adams created glimmer pink and white, and look like they are made of stacked, spherical bulbs.
Such “show trees” have been made more accessible to the widespread public these last two years with a drastic markdown in price. But don’t worry, they’re still not cheap: Adams said the going rate is around $150,000 or so. Comparatively low when considering the whopping $1 million price tags a few years ago.
Adams estimated about 90 percent of the trees his company makes, finds and decorates are artificial, and the “live” trees involve much more work. “You actually have to find the tree and place lights on them,” he said.
The Downtown Disney tree, like many, was artificial—mostly due to the strict fire regulations the park abides by.
Adams referenced the tree that caught fire outside of the Westin Hotel at South Coast Plaza.
“Sometimes that happens to a live tree,” said Adams.
Of all the residents, corporations and city employees Adams’ business affects, he said he has been most moved by his company’s work donating trees to children.
“It’s definitely the most touching,” said Adams. “We give the trees to kids who are eight or 12 years old, and have never had a Christmas tree.”
Adams said he still feels a twinge of excitement when people consider his work, like the 26-foot Christmas Tree in Downtown Disney, as people really soak up the festive occasions and scenery, with the magical holiday season spirit in the air.
“I went to a show there the other night, and there was about a 15-minute line of people—dozens and dozens of people deep, waiting to take photos in front of the tree,” he said, smiling. “Hash tag StNicksLight! Yeah...it’s pretty cool.”
For more information on St. Nick's, visit their Facebook page here.