In 2009, Jeannie Pence bought $650 worth of glass Christmas ornaments to sell on an e-commerce website. Her daughter Carrie thought she’d lost her mind.
Two years prior, Jeannie and her husband Terry planted Christmas trees to sell on a farm in their retirement. While the trees were growing, Jeannie’s brother encouraged her to start a website and sell product. She chose ornaments and went for it, with little knowledge about e-commerce, being a nurse practitioner by trade.
After some time, Carrie gave her mom a tip to start selling Raz ornaments and it was at that point Jeannie realized Carrie would be an integral part of growing the family business.
Before long, the Pences were able to retire and focus on their project, though different from their initial plan. Pence Christmas Tree Farm never sold a single tree.
“The trees are still growing,” Jeannie said. “Some of them are probably 15 feet tall now. The only one we ever cut was a few years ago because we wanted the grandkids to have the experience of cutting a Christmas tree.”
In 2012, they bought warehouse space in their hometown of Pontotoc, Mississippi, and hired Carrie and her husband David Martin fulltime and operated under the business name Trendy Tree.
After two years as full-time employees, Carrie and David bought the business from Jeannie and Terry and have grown it bigger than any of them thought possible.
These days, Carrie is buying $400,000 worth of seasonal and home décor more than once a year for the home décor and crafting online shop. And she’s thanking her mom for having such a wild idea.
“We started out with Christmas and then we added in crafting materials like the mesh and wreath-making supplies and now there is probably more of a focus on home décor and some year-round products,” Jeannie said.
Carrie and David remain the only two employees, though Jeannie still assists in crafting videos, selecting some of the items at market and managing the website.
Most of Trendy Tree’s sales are not local as they don’t have a retail location. All orders are made online and can be shipped worldwide.
“Some of our ornaments are made in Germany, and I’ll be darned if some of them aren’t shipped back to Germany,” Jeannie said.
While owning and operating a family business often requires late nights and working on weekends, Trendy Tree is truly a family affair. Occasionally, Carrie and David’s children Matt, Maggie and AJ will stop by the warehouse and fill orders.
“We’re it, so we’re kind of everywhere,” Carrie said. “I process orders, David pulls them, we both pack them. We clean the toilets. We take out the garbage. I mean, we do everything.”
The Trendy Tree customer appreciates the family business operation and attitude. Each box has a thank you note from the Martins.
“Our customers like getting the notes from us,” Carrie said. “They know we were in their box.”
While Carrie has an eye for seasonal and home décor, she doesn’t pride herself on being able to piece it all together in her home. She credits her friend Rachel Wiygul with taking Trendy Tree product and creating beautiful scenes throughout her house.
There is a mix of eclectic Christmas decorations, which is more Carrie’s style, and traditional pieces, which are more Jeannie’s taste. The two use each other to make buying decisions for the online shop so all demographics and preferences are covered.
The Martins moved into their home in March 2016, so this year they are making sure to decorate from top to bottom. Last Christmas, in the throws of packing, decorating wasn’t a priority, but the Martin kids insisted Carrie and David put up their favorite tree. It’s adorned with ornaments given to the children by their grandparents with specific ties to each child and what they’ve experienced that year. Maggie has a cheerleader ornament. Matt has a peanut butter and jelly one and AJ has a golf ball.
“It’s very sentimental to them,” Carrie said. “And not something I would’ve ever thought they would really care about, but they’ll all three stand and just look at it.”
In December, before this year’s Christmas festivities, Carrie, David and Jeannie will head to market to buy inventory for Christmas 2017.
Trendy Tree has recently been invited to sell on the Walmart marketplace, a sign this Pontotoc-based business is on this rise.
Story by Ellie Turner // Photos by Lauren Wood