Dave’s Fresh and Fragrant Oregon Christmas Trees has been getting a little press this holiday season — actually, a lot of press. But not here in Oregon.

The Ventura County Star and VC Reporter, two publications that cover the Santa Paula, California, region, this month have written features on Wills and his Christmas tree lot that’s been in the same location in that city for 40 years.

Folks in these parts might know Dave from Oregon Trail Brewery, which he guided from the late 1980s up until about a year ago. (And he was getting started back when the craft brewing craze wasn’t in full swing just yet).

With an Oregon State University degree in hand, he’s been growing hops and trees for a number of years. Wills came to Oregon from Santa Paula, where he graduated high school and where his mother still lives.

Give the Ventura County Star feature a read for a sense of how Dave runs the tree business down there. Here’s a description of the atmosphere by writer Wes Woods II.

“Upon arrival, speakers playing blues musician Keb’ Mo’ or R & B group Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings typically greet visitors,” he wrote. “There’s an outdoor fire pit where Christmas shoppers warm up, eat the hazelnuts that are provided and on some days, listen to live music.”

Wills told the newspaper that his formula for success has been “good trees and good prices and good friendships” along with growing families that keep him in business.

Wills goes down to Santa Paula each December to sell the trees but primarily to “spend Christmas with my mom and family.” His mother, the story reported, is 89 years old.

And this from one of his customers: 

“The way he is with all the people … he’s very friendly. Sometimes when people come short of money, he’s like, ‘Nah, don’t worry about it,’” Santa Paula resident Fabian Ortiz told the newspaper.

The VC Reporter’s story on Wills got into his past and how the tree lot got started.

“A happy mix of labor of love and thriving business, Dave’s Trees fights its big Christmas tree competitors with ‘fresh and fragrant trees’ direct from the Willamette Valley,” Vince Burns wrote in his piece. “In the old days, Dave drove the truck himself; these days a semi hauls the annual load of Christmas joy. And a seemingly endless collection of friends makes it possible.”

Burns offered a few observations while chatting with Dave over a bonfire and refreshments.

• Someone without a car asked if a tree could be delivered to a trailer park. (Answer: Of course.)

• One of Dave’s elves donned a “tree suit” made from castoff tree limbs to begin an ad-hoc advertising campaign on 10th Street. She’d inherited the coveted job from her older sister.

• Friends of Dave (many of them fellow Santa Paula High Class of 1975 grads) trickled onto the lot to toast the end of another workday in the town where a good portion of our county’s labor force lays its collective head every night.

(Brad Fuqua is publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He can be reached at News@PhilomathNews.com).

Brad Fuqua, Philomath News

Brad Fuqua has covered the Philomath area since 2014 as the editor of the now-closed Philomath Express and currently as publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He has worked as a professional journalist since 1988 at daily and weekly newspapers in Nebraska, Kansas, North Dakota, Arizona, Montana and Oregon.