SURREY — It was a sad start to the holiday season for Hunters Garden Centre on Wednesday morning, when staff arrived to find 50 Christmas trees had been stolen from its yard overnight.
“It’s pretty horrible,” said general manager Miles Hunter. “I have a pit in the bottom of my stomach.”
Hunter said he arrived in the morning to find the gates unlocked and wide open, which he says is not normal.
“We always lock and close the gates,” he said. “I was worried.”
Upon inspection, Hunter realized a “huge chunk” of the Newton shop’s Christmas trees were missing.
“We’ve done a count to see where we’re at and estimate about 50 are gone,” he said. “They’re decent sized, all wrapped and bundled.”
All 50 were six- to eight-foot Noble firs, he said.
It’s estimated the trees cost around $5,000.
“This was a co-ordinated effort,” said Hunter. “You can’t just put 50 Christmas trees in the back of a pick up truck. You’d need several people, and it would probably take an hour to load the trees.”
It’s particularly saddening, he noted, because there’s been a shortage of trees from suppliers this year, due to a drought in the last couple years.
“I can’t just turn around and order more,” he said. “It’s a huge loss.”
While the business has had thefts before, it’s not been to this magnitude, said Hunter.
“A few weeks ago somebody stole a chainsaw,” he recalled. “We’ve had a few people steal hanging baskets, or the odd tree here and there during the Christmas season, but nothing to this scale.”
Hunter said he’s notified police, who have stopped by to investigate.
He urges locals to keep an eye out for Noble firs being sold for cheap.
Shop manager Carren Laird said the trees stolen were the most popular among their customers because the needles last longer than other varieties.
They come with the highest price tag.
“It’s awful,” Laird said standing in front of an empty gravel patch where the trees were the day before. “There are a lot of people coming in to look for their tree, this is our most popular tree, most popular size, like height range, so 50 people won’t be getting trees this year.”