Who Saved the Holiday Trees on the Manhattan Beach Pier?

How a local business owner came to the rescue of a holiday tradition in Downtown.

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    Scotty Claus

It was 2009 when (then) Mayor Richard Montgomery and I first discussed the idea of decorating the pier with living trees. We were at a holiday fundraiser, and The Living Christmas Company had donated the trees for the event. When I mentioned we could do the same for the Manhattan Beach pier and make it look like Narnia, Richard was immediately on-board.

The first year was rough. We carted over 70 trees onto the pier just as a major storm hit that weekend. I ran out to the pier at 5 a.m. to see that nearly every tree been knocked over and there was soil and trees everywhere. We bought bungee cords and strapped every one of them to the railing.

The next year went smoother and we decided to bring 100 trees to make the pier look even greener. I also decided the trees would look better if they were lit, so we bought hundreds of battery-operated LED’s to light them—all as a donation. When I finally added up the costs, I estimated that the undertaking cost me between $4,000-$5,000 dollars to pull off.  As cool as it was, for a company as small as ours, the endeavor was unsustainable.

In 2012, Dealer.com, after hearing about our company through the South Bay Business Environmental Coalition and later watching us on ABC’s Shark Tank, stepped in to help shoulder the costs to the tune of $2,500. This was a huge boost and ensured the tradition would continue. They would continue this generous contribution on behalf of the city for the next four years. The city kicked in extension cords and we were able to secure more LED lights to make the event even more magical.

Recently, however, Dealer.com informed us that they had been purchased by a larger company, Cox Automotive, and that they would be moving locations and unable to fund another year.  Their timing was bad because 2016 was not kind on the Christmas Company and in addition to our normal holiday challenges, our nursery was broken into and over 120 reserved trees were stolen.  The resulting costs meant we are going into the current season without the cash reserves to pull of the magic of donating the trees for the pier on our own.

To her credit, Kelly Stroman, Executive Director of the Downtown Manhattan Beach Business & Professional Association, got to work to see if someone could step in, but given the late date, I feared we would be unable to find someone in time. So, you can imagine my sheer joy to learn that the owner of Palm Realty Boutique, Brett Zebrowski, had stepped in to save the day and ensure that we will have trees on the pier for the 7th year in a row! Yay Brett!

“It’s my pleasure. I love Christmas. And, the love trees are one of my favorite Manhattan Beach things,” shares Brett. “My brother passed away earlier this year.  He loved the live Christmas trees on the Pier. I am dedicating this to him. I can’t help but feel like he wanted me to sponsor them.”

Even though it is a huge undertaking, few things give me more joy than strolling down the pier with the scent of the trees, hearing the kids running and hiding behind them, watching families take their holiday photos beside them, and the festive feel they bring to ring in the holiday season in Manhattan Beach.  I am proud to be a part of a uniquely Manhattan Beach tradition and I am super grateful for Brett Zebrowski and Palm Realty Boutique for stepping up and ensuring the tradition continues.

Kelly Stroman said that Brett responded within minutes of receiving her email plea to “Save the Trees”. First, he responded with, “I will save the trees! Count me in.” When she jumped for joy and extended her appreciation, Brett responded with this: “It’s my pleasure. I love Christmas. And, the love trees are one of my favorite Manhattan Beach things. My brother passed away earlier this year.  He loved the living Christmas trees on the Pier. I am dedicating this to him. I can’t help but feel like he wanted me to sponsor them.”

What a beautiful way to ring in the holiday season!

Be sure to visit the Pier for the annual Fireworks Festival on Sunday, December 10. For more on Downtown Manhattan Beach, visit downtownmanhattanbeach.com


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