ictor Serrao has been in the Christmas tree business for more than 35 years, following in the footsteps of his father.
Serrao took over the business in 2006 but has been helping bring the Outlets at Anthem Christmas tree to the North Valley for 19 years. The shopping center will host its annual tree-lighting ceremony on Saturday, November 21.
Based in California, Serrao loves to travel to Arizona and “be the center of attention for a little bit” as the Outlets at Anthem and its marketing crew showcase his work throughout the process.
The process of choosing the Christmas tree begins several weeks before it is driven to Anthem.
“The hardest part is probably selecting the tree itself and finding the right one that’s nice and full and has the shape and all of the characteristics that I’m looking for,” he said. “Everything else is pretty easy—getting it (to Anthem) and checking all that is pretty easy.”
Serrao assures people that the tree comes from land that has been designated for timber sales.
“We are only cutting trees off of timber companies that are telling us that this area has been allocated for timber sales this year,” he said. “That means they’re going to cut them for 2-by-4s, and that’s where we go in and select to cut trees.”
After choosing the tree and cutting it down, it takes less than a day to transport it to Outlets of Anthem.
“We add branches to the tree, which takes almost a week, and then there’s about another four or five days of decorating,” Serrao said. “The whole process is pretty close to two weeks, or maybe a little bit under if the weather is great and no issues with mechanical failures—it can be a little bit shorter than that, like 10 days—but usually it’s about two weeks to do everything.”
When it comes to decorations for the tree, “that is all dependent on the customer and the client and what they choose,” according to Serrao.
He said Outlets at Anthem has never deviated from its multicolored theme for as long as Serrao can remember. Ornaments and lights feature the traditional red, gold, blue, silver and green from trunk to the top.
Serrao is proud to carry on the family business and help Anthem and the North Valley celebrate Christmas. It’s challenging, though, to follow in his dad’s footsteps.
“It’s been a challenge to take a business that has been in business for years and then you know change things,” Serrao said about what it meant being a second-generation tree expert.
“There are things that are set in stone with your family or they think so, and then to grow and to make changes to something that has been there for so long, that was tough. But once I ultimately took it over and purchased the business from my dad and I was the owner and can make all the decisions, then it really started to open up.”