Fisherman Creations puts the Yule in crab pots

 In December 2017

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By Cameron Walker

Photo courtesy of Fisherman Creations

When the small coastal town of Davis lights up for Christmas, every lamppost is crowned with a glowing tree — but not a Fraser fir, blue spruce or white pine. These trees are made of crab trap wire, the evergreen creation of Neal “Nicky” Harvey.

The former commercial fisherman left a life at sea in 1981 to make the nets shrimpers use to haul in their catch. When shrimping slumped, he switched to manufacturing traps for the thriving crab business. But as he drew close to retirement, the industry he thought was watertight had sprung a leak: Crab production was declining, too.

Harvey refashioned his operation, transforming crab pot wire into festive, fold-flat Christmas trees of his own design. More than 100,000 have been sold to customers as far away as Japan. The smallest trees sell for about $45 with the largest, an 8-footer with LED lights, selling for about $460. Trees are available in white or green wire with white or mutlicolored lights and in solid colors for favorite sports teams or causes such as breast cancer awareness.

In 2009, Harvey sold the business to Don Acree, a Smyrna businessman who had worked for a Myrtle Beach, S.C.-based wholesale distributor of beachwear and accessories. He formed Fisherman Creations Inc., which sells the trees online, in garden shops and boutiques, and in big-box stores such as Home Depot and Lowe’s. Harvey receives royalties based on sales.

Acree declines to share the company’s revenue but says more than 10,000 handmade trees are sold annually. The company employs 15-20 people during the busy season from August to December and three or four full-time workers the rest of the year. Work begins earlier and earlier each year as demand grows.

The trees are cut from 150-foot rolls of wire made in the U.S. Part of the reason for their popularity is their simplicity, Acree says. There are no dropped needles, no watering, no stringing of lights or struggling with a stand.

“When I told my wife that I was looking at going into this business, she was kind of hesitant,” Acree says. “But at Christmas now, we have a minimum of 15 crab-pot Christmas trees scattered through the yard. We are called the Griswolds of
the neighborhood.”

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