By Cort Smith
LITTLE SILVER – A visit to Sickles Market is a part of an annual Two River area holiday tradition for many.
Scores of loyal customers make an annual trek to the 1 Harrison Ave. market for their Christmas trees the same way their parents and often their parents before them. After 104 years of operation, Sickles, a third generation family-owned business, has its holiday offerings – products, services and world-class specialty items at its 20,000-square-foot retail facility and four on-site production greenhouses – down pat.
This doesn’t mean there’s nothing new in store, however. In honor of Charles Dickens’ 200th birthday this year, Sickles is carrying a collection of handmade figures (produced from a composite resin by Byers Choice of Pennsylvania) depicting characters and scenes from some of the great 19th century author’s novels, including A Christmas Carol.
“It’s a very good seller, with special appeal to a market that is middle age and up,” explains Natale Siclare, garden center manager. The figurines stand 6 to 9 inches, and cost $30 and up. Some figurines are available in groups and/or with accompanying background displays. As a tie-in, a children’s reading of A Christmas Carol is scheduled for Dec. 1.
Also slated for 5 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 1, is the reinstatement of an old Sickles tradition, the holiday tree lighting. It’s being done this year as a thank you to dedicated customers, and as a fundraiser for employees affected by Super Storm Sandy. Some Sickles employees lost homes, vehicles and treasured possessions during Hurricane Sandy.
Though the market survived the storm relatively unharmed – thanks to what Sickles called the “mother of all generators” – many of the market’s employees did not fare as well. In the hope of restoring some normalcy to their lives, Sickles Market has established an Employee Relief Fund with all proceeds going to the affected employees.
Those wishing to donate to the fund can do go directly to the market’s website, www.Sicklesmarket.com, where donations can be made through PayPal. All proceeds will go directly to employees in need and be equally distributed.
Two trees will be lighted on Dec. 1, and both will be raffled off afterward, with proceeds going to the relief fund. Sickles will also conduct a “Guess How Many Trees are Sold at Sickles Today” contest, with a $1 donation requested for each guess. The winning guess will receive two custom-decorated holiday wreaths, and Sickles will match the contest proceeds.
In addition, there will be a large stocking available at the market where visitors can drop money or checks (payable to the Sickles Market Employee Relief Fund). Also, anonymous donations to the fund can be made at the Wells Fargo Bank in Little Silver.
During the holiday season, shoppers will be able to purchase a popular Sickles holiday item: Decorated evergreens – very small ones, that is. Featured will be dwarf Alberta spruces that range from 15 to 18 inches in height all the way up to 3 feet. “We’re showing customers how you can decorate them for the fall, and then switch out the decorations to turn them into a Christmas or holiday item,” Siclare said. After the holidays, the little trees can be suitably re-decorated for the remainder of the winter.
The evergreens are used for container planting on front porches or rear terraces, and are a good replacement for mums that were yanked out in the fall, said Siclare. Of course Sickles sells a variety of cast iron and pottery urns and containers, and has on staff a professional potter available to visit customer homes to design and install holiday arrangements.
The dwarf Alberta spruce is $34.99 (2 gallons); a complete holiday urn: $299.99.
Just as Sickles’ dwarf Alberta spruces are purchased from nurseries in Oregon and Washington, where the quality is best, said Siclare, Christmas trees are trucked in from North Carolina and Pennsylvania. “While Douglas firs have a great scent, Frasers are our number No. 1 seller,” he said. “They have great needle retention, and heavier branches, which are upturned and well spaced – good for large and heavier ornaments.”
The only other tree Sickles carries is the Concolor fir, which is a bluish-green color with soft, long needles and a citrus-like scent. “We don’t carry Balsam trees because they have poor needle retention,” Siclare said. Prices range from about $75 and up, for a tree approximately 12 to 13 feet in height.
And don’t forget Sickles’ special in-store Christmas shop, which opened in late October and offers everything from tree trim, tree skirts, fireplace stocking holders, and topiaries to wreaths, electric lights, and lighted figures. Holiday gift specials include: from the Old Saint Nick Collection: Rectangular Platter with Handles, $92.00, Cookie Plate, $115.00; Fraser Fir aromatic candle, $29.99; Custom Gift Baskets from the Gourmet Department start at $50.00.
“We’re expecting a good holiday,” Siclare said. “It was good last year; I mean, people are tired of not spending.”
Sickles Market is located at 1 Harrison Ave, Little Silver and can be reached at 732-741-9563 or by visiting www.sicklesmarket.com.