Christmas-Tree Lot Continues to Thrive More Than 70 Years After Opening
By Whitley Pleas Each year, on the day after Thanksgiving, Kim Placentino’s front yard transforms into a Christmas wonderland. A director of community relations for Reuland and Turnbough Funeral Directors of Lake Forest for most of the year, Placentino spends the entire month of December doing something else entirely: running Cascarano’s Christmas Trees.
Kim Placentino, who runs Cascarano’s Christmas Trees, joins Santa and Mrs. Claus (also known as Justin and Jessica Lee) at her popular lot.
“My whole front yard turns into a forest,” Placentino said, describing how she stakes up and ties dozens of Christmas trees each year for purchase and creates a festive atmosphere with holiday music. “Kids love running in and out of the trees.”
In addition to providing a fun holiday experience for the Lake Forest families who are Placentino’s customers, her business is built off of her own family history.
For more than 70 years, Cascarano’s Christmas Trees has served the community, and it all started with Placentino’s mother, Sena Cascarano, who started the business when she was just 20 years old. She bought a pickup truck, took it to Franklin Park, bought 40 trees, and took them home. Cascarano sold the trees in the area on her father’s property that served as a small, private garden center where he would sell flowers and vegetables for members of the community. Meanwhile, Cascarano’s first batch of Christmas trees sold quickly, clearing out the lot. The demand for more of Cascarano’s trees catalyzed her business that is still running from the Cascarano family home on 997 N. McKinley Rd. today.
Placentino’s mother passed away in 2011, and Placentino has been running the business ever since. She also has the help of three family friends: Santos Gonzalez, Apolinar Guzman and his son Raffi Guzman (along with the late Luigi Caringello). Together, they specialize in the selling of Christmas trees, taking pride in preparing the trees with a tree shaker that removes debris, making home deliveries, and even setting them up for customers. Cascarano’s Christmas Trees also features a heated garage that serves as a makeshift office where Placentino also sells handmade wreaths and garland.
Placentino opts to buy the highest-quality trees for her customers each year. North Carolina Fraser Firs – often considered the best Christmas trees on the market thanks to their longevity, color, and fullness -- are her primary offering. Plus, she also sells Balsams, traditional-style Christmas trees that she typically gets from Canada, but could not this year due to supply-chain issues.
This supply-chain issue correlates with a wider industry shortage of Christmas trees. In 2009, after the economy collapsed, many Christmas tree farms simply stopped planting. Now, more than 10 years later -- given that trees take 10-15 years to develop -- the market is saturated with demand and lacking in supply. This shortage has resulted in a domino effect throughout the industry, with impacts on delivery trucks, the cost of truck drivers, and harvesting. Consequently, bigger trees are much harder to get this year -- putting Cascarano’s Christmas Trees, a business that sells three-to-14-foot-tall trees, in high demand.
“Last weekend was the busiest weekend I have ever had,” Placentino said.
Despite the hectic season this year, Placentino has enjoyed the new Lake Forest residents that have made visiting her business their new Christmas tradition. Since the pandemic, many young families have moved to the community and become patrons of Cascaraano’s Christmas Trees. These customers love to hear Placentino’s story.
“It kind of makes them feel at home,” Placentino said. “It’s nice to start a new tradition with them.”
Meanwhile, Placentino remains grateful and proud that Cascarano’s Trees has been selling to some of the same families for multiple generations. She has one customer that grew up picking up a tree there every year, moved away for 20 years, moved back to Lake Forest, and now takes his own young children to Placentino’s tree lot. Overall, it is clear that Placentino’s tree business is rooted in family, tradition, and Christmas joy.
“I absolutely love living in this community,” Placentino explains. “I feel so fortunate. My Christmas tree lot is the longest-operating Christmas tree lot in the community. Thanks to the wonderful families here, it is so meaningful.”