Wreath-Making Business is a Family Affair

By guest contributor Justin Willis

The Harris family’s barn near Victor, Montana. Photo by Justin Willis.

Eight miles south of Victor, Montana, where the forest meets the farmland, an early 20th century barn towers 48 feet high. Outside, the wind howls and the cold drives itself to one’s bones. Inside, three generations of the Harris family work tirelessly, creating by hand what many consider to be some of the best wreaths a person can find.

In 1960, Ethel Harris started a small flower shop in her garage. After years of teaching her children the ways of her business, that shop grew into a greenhouse, then a wholesale florist shop. Then, in 2002, the family took over Bitterroot Evergreens and made it a family affair. Today, the Harris family’s wreath business supplies thousands of holiday wreaths, everyday wreaths, and swags to people in all 50 states. Every item is constructed of natural materials, handmade, and Made in Montana.

High demand for the creative wreaths has turned this into a year-round business. During the warmer months, the family climbs 8,000 feet up into the nearby Bitterroot Mountains, where they harvest, by permit, 15,000 lbs. of sub-alpine evergreen boughs. The evergreens that grow at the higher elevations are the only trees that meet the Harris family’s standards. In the Bitterroot Range, roads do not go up that high. The family must haul all of its take to the car down below. On their trek, they also collect countless pinecones, berries, and other materials to use for decorations.

The Bitterroot Mountains where the Harris family harvests, by permit, 15,000 pounds of evergreen boughs each year.

“It’s hard work,” laughs Darleen Harris, Ethel’s daughter. “But we get it done!”

Darleen Harris, daughter of Ethel Harris. Photo by Justin Willis.

Each October, when the collection is finished, the real work begins. The long days start well before dawn and often continue past dinner time. Three generations work in one room like a well-oiled machine to get the job done. The first generation consists of Don and Ethel. These two lovely folks, each in their mid-80s, cut the branches and push them down the table to their children and grandchildren, who assemble each wreath by hand. Experts at their craft, the Harris family typically takes about 15 minutes to complete a wreath that would take some people hours to construct.

Perhaps the best part of the entire operation is the small-town Montana warmth that the family spreads to each customer. When you walk in the front door of the barn, the fresh scent of pine fills your senses as a genuine “hello” welcomes you to the family’s pride and joy.

For a true Montana holiday experience, driven by Montana values, get in touch with the Harris family and enjoy the beautiful crafts they create.

-Written by Justin Willis. 

Interested in learning more about Bitterroot Evergreens or making a purchase from them? Check out their website.

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