Matt Bliss is about to rain Christmas trees in his Denver apartment.
No living tree will be harmed during this holiday storm.
The dark-haired entrepreneur, hunched over his laptop at a makeshift desk / kitchen table in front of his CEO, Marina Lucero, gives clients around the world a somewhat unusual holiday look. He’s the force behind the modern Christmas tree, a tree based on a mid-century design from 1966 by his forward-thinking grandfather, Lawrence “Bud” Stoecker.
These aren’t your typical big box store artificial trees. These are minimalist, futuristic trees that George and Jane Jetson could have installed in their Skypad apartment in Orbit City on the former animated sci-fi TV show “The Jetsons”.
“It’s a Christmas tree designed for certain types of people who have a certain design aesthetic,” Bliss said. “It doesn’t resonate with the mass market. We focus on people who understand its caliber of design.
And much like the Christmas ghost in Charles Dickens ‘”A Christmas Carol”, the distinctive trees have the ability to take Bliss back in time to her grandparents’ house in Broomfield.
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“When I was 6 or 7, my brothers and I would crawl under the tree and face up,” he said. “Our grandfather was spinning the tree and it looked like a kaleidoscope. I didn’t know at that age that it was something he had done. It wasn’t like I loved him because he did. I loved it because it was whimsical and interesting.
You don’t need to water these trees, clean the needles, or find where to recycle them. They also store easily – the concentric plastic rings are strung with metal chains to create the tapered shape and collapse flat when Santa has come and gone. And they are more environmentally friendly than other artificial trees because they use less plastic.
They come in four models: wall-mounted ($ 597), tabletop ($ 297) and 10 feet or 8 feet high and designed to hang from the ceiling or hold in a rack ($ 1,597 to $ 2,197). You can get them with or without shiny ornaments to hang from each precisely distant hole in the rings.
Some come with LED lights that you can swap out with a phone app and different holiday decorations, including a heart for Valentine’s Day and a clover for St. Patrick’s Day.
“People are looking for more joy and leave their trees in place all year round,” Lucero said.
Bliss makes around 1,000 to 1,500 trees each year, each engraved with a copy of Stoecker’s signature from his 1966 tax return. The last two months of the year are particularly chaotic for Bliss and her team of elves. humans, which sometimes includes his mother and nephew. Sales skyrocket the day after Halloween, and they have to sit for hours in her light-flooded living room in the Central Park neighborhood, thread metal chains through tiny holes in plastic discs, wrap trees in wrappers. boxes and prepare them for twice a day. FedEx pickup.
“I am motivated to continue this tradition,” said Bliss. “The stories we get from people around the world about the experience they get from the tree are overwhelming.”
Stoecker, an engineer who built rockets for NASA’s Apollo missions, also built more than 400 A-frame cabins across the Rocky Mountains. He only made a few trees in his lifetime, but kept track of his ornamental designs in a ledger for three decades. Bliss took his concentric ring architecture and followed his grandfather’s less is more design principle.
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“I love it. I have a very modern house and the tree fits perfectly,” said client Dee Chirafisi. “I have gone many years without a tree, and now I have the tree. from Matt I’m going to put it up every year.It’s fun to put on and all the guests that come over on vacation love it.
Getting into the tree business
After her grandfather was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2010, Bliss, who worked in mortgage banking, decided to honor Stoecker by developing the trees part-time in 2011. The same year, he did it. exhibited one at the Denver Modernism Show and received a positive response. . A few days after Stoecker’s death in 2012, Bliss received his last design patent for the tree, and in 2014 he quit his job to become a full-time entrepreneur. His first client? Disneyland Hotel, with an order for 16 trees for Christmas.
Bliss got a boost during her 2017 appearance on ABC’s “Shark Tank”, where a panel of sharks, aka potential investors, listen to entrepreneurs pitch their business or product and deem it worthy or not. financial support. “Shark” Barbara Ann Corcoran was enchanted by the “dazzling ornaments, sparkling crystals and sparkling rings” of the trees and made a deal with him. She is now a silent partner who still has equity in the business.
Doing the show was a particularly emotional experience for Bliss, one that can still make him cry.
“I’m no one special. I struggled in high school. I had a learning disability, ”he said. “But I showed my nephews that if you want to do something and feel passionate about yourself, dare to fail. Get up and try again. You don’t have to be the brightest person in the world.
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A decade ago now, its trees were featured on almost every continent, in places such as the Colorado Governor’s Mansion, the Fairmont Dubai hotel, One World Trade Center, and the Ritz-Carlton luxury hotels and resorts. A tree will make its way into an upcoming Frito-Lay commercial starring Jimmy Fallon, and a bunch of trees have been purchased for next year’s “A Christmas Carol” reboot starring Ryan Reynolds and Will Farrell.
Through sales and auctions, the trees have also given back to the community. Bliss raised $ 10,000 for the Denver Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, and he donates trees to nonprofits including Boys and Girls Clubs of America and The Center on Colfax, an LGBTQ organization in Denver. , which uses the trees to raise funds.
“I see this as a gift from my grandfather to allow me to be creative and do things that weren’t there,” Bliss said.
“Most people don’t have this opportunity. I am embracing and redefining how success is defined. I can’t define it by what’s in my checking account. I am not someone who is motivated by money. I am motivated by continuing this tradition and the stories that the people who buy the trees tell us.
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