With Suzi Beck unable to manage the business due to health complications, family and friends pitch in to continue production on her iconic “Trees in the Bay” replicas
The year was 2010 and Suzanne (Suzi) Beck was mailed a gift basket from a good friend in Seattle. In the holiday spirit, she wanted to return the favor and send something back for Christmas. That is when she realized - there wasn't really a gift out there that screams, "Long Beach.”
So, with a little glue, creativity, and some products from the local craft store, she made her first Trees in the Bay ornament replica and sent it up to her friend. After that, Beck began to get requests from family and friends who had seen her creation, and soon realized she might be able to make this into a small business out of her home.
The first year she made a handful of ornaments, which blossomed into 30 the year after. The third year, she was up to 100. Fast forward to last year (2019), her ninth, when production ballooned to 1,000 ornaments, and 500 12-” and 18-” centerpieces. Sheerly through word-of-mouth, Trees in the Bay decorations and ornaments had become a Long Beach household staple.
With Beck’s sights set on further expanding the concept this year, unfortunately, life had other plans. In May of 2020, Suzi underwent surgery for a brain tumor and is now fighting brain cancer.
Suddenly Suzi’s primary concerns shifted away from business. She was unable to prioritize the trees during this summer and as a result, Trees in the Bay production looked certain to come to a halt. That is, until her two (now adult) daughters, Sara and Emmy, made a daunting, but easy, decision.
Their family had to carry the business on this year and celebrate the “Tree Lady’s” legacy by creating a small batch of the trees.
“We are doing it her way – with wood, glue, and a whole lotta elbow grease,” says Sara (Beck) Mais.
She and younger sister Emmy, with their husbands (Michael and CJ, respectively) are not only working to keep their Mom’s tradition alive … they’re realizing what a labor of love this was. Key word “Labor.”
“All in all, we have calculated that she spends around 650 hours a year making these trees, using her weeknights and many weekends on Trees in the Bay!” says Emmy in awe of her mother.
Suzi would usually start the process of sourcing products in the month of January to get ready for December. Though she spent endless hours building the trees herself, even the “Tree Lady” leaned on help from friends. When production needed to ramp up closer to the holidays, each year she would call on “elves” (close friends) to join the production line in her living room. She would serve food and wine in return for their cheerful help.
Sara, Michael, Emmy, and CJ have likewise learned this year the power of help. Their extended families have chipped in generously and amazingly to save the day.
Michael's brother and dad have done most of the painting and cutting (a job that used to take Suzi weeks) while Michael's sister, mom, Emmy's mother/sister in-laws, and a few local friends have helped with decoration of the ornaments. Suzi even made several guest appearances, checking quality, critiquing technique, and reminding the newbies what this is all for - getting everyone in Long Beach into the Christmas spirit! Altogether, at least 12 people in 2020 have chipped in to perform the work of one “Tree Lady.”
Suzi’s children encourage anyone interested to visit their newly made website www.treesinthebay.com and purchase an ornament or centerpiece in honor of keeping Suzi’s legacy alive.
“One of her favorite things to do around this time of year is to go on walks with family to check out the impressive light displays on her neighbor's homes,” says Sara. “She truly loves Christmas in Long Beach.”
This year, Suzi’s children have added an extra incentive to support the original “Trees in the Bay.” A portion of proceeds will go to the American Brain Tumor Association and Partners of Parks, the organization in Long Beach that helps maintain the real light-up trees in our bay/waterways.
“We are excited about this new part of the business and plan on continuing this into future years as we believe it is important to give back to the community and causes that we care about,” says Emmy.
Because their lowly elf abilities don’t yet compare to the “Tree Lady’s” skills, there are a limited number of units available this year.
So if you’re looking for the perfect Long Beach gift this December, or if you just want to add some local flavor to your own Christmas decor, head to treesinthebay.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Suzi’s daughters don’t just want a successful business this year, they want their mom to be back in action and return to the helm of a thriving Long Beach icon in 2021.