CLEVELAND - Every day thousands of vehicles drive past a red brick building at the corner of Fulton & Dennison in Cleveland without giving it a second glance and without knowing that inside is a virtual mountaintop during this time of year.
The building is home to M&M Wintergreens one of the nation’s only wholesale suppliers of all things, well, wintergreen.
"We bring in products from all over the country, we work with production areas all across the country," said Wintergreens V.P. Shannon Kuhrt. “We bring them through our facility and also arrange for drop shipments to retailers across the country."
Wintergreens does not sell to the general public.
The shipments of clippings from Firs, Junipers, Cedars and Boxwoods arrive at the refrigerated warehouse from as far away as the Pacific Northwest and then distributed to garden centers across the country.
The key to strong garland, wreaths and swags is not clipping them too early in the season.
"When greens are harvested at the right time which is after there's been a frost it will actually set the needles which means it won't shed,” Kuhrt said.
That’s where the Pacific Northwest shipments come in.
“Because of the higher elevations there they actually can start harvesting in early October. Some of the Noble Fir that we bring in actually comes off Mt. St Helens, that’s probably some of the highest elevation and furthest away that we come.”
As for how far away they distribute their greens to Kuhrt said it grows every year. “Right now I’ve got some customers as far away as Arizona, a lot of the snowbirds from the western states like the fragrance of greens and some of the garden centers down there have found their own niche to really bring that in for them.”
This second week of November though still far removed from Christmas is actually their busiest time of the year.
"We're shipping to retailers that are gearing up to start opening up right before Thanksgiving," Kuhrt said. "This is the peak time of our season."
"Once we get to Thanksgiving we will wind down very quickly and by the first week of December this will be back to an empty warehouse pretty much."
While the wreaths and garland are visible symbols of the upcoming holiday season, having live greens is all about the smell. “There’s not a candle that is made that will hold a scent that matches anything like this,” Kuhrt said. “All of the Christmas candles in the world don’t match the true fragrance that comes from the actual greenery themselves.”
That’s why even during down economic times they’ve found people still tend to spend on live greens.
"It’s kind of a priceless commodity because it brings so much to it not just the beauty of looking at it but the memories, not only bringing back memories of your own childhood but any young children growing up with that fragrance wherever they go as they grow through their lives they'll smell that and they'll remember their childhood."
So do the workers here still smell it?
“When something new arrives from another part of the country we'll smell that for a little while and then after a while you just kind of become attuned to it and you really don't notice it, not like everybody else does when they first come in," Kuhrt said.
There's is also an eco-friendly side of the business that no trees are actually cut down in supplying the holiday greens but rather trimmed back which aids in their long-term health and growth.