The First Wreath:
By John S. Mickman – CEO
So, as my Grandma told the story to me many, many years ago, this is how our family wreath business was born.
“When I was a young girl in Norge (Norway) back in the late 1800’s, my mother used to make a wreath each year from evergreens we children would gather from the forest alongside the fjord where we lived. It wouldn’t take many boughs, and I liked gathering them. When I was older, my mother showed me how to make the wreath that we would display on the door of our small cottage each year. Ours was a tough life and all of my brothers eventually died at sea as either Fishermen or Merchant Sailors.
After I met your Grandpa in England during WWI, we moved to America and, because the people in New York told us that there were many Norwegians living in Minnesota, we moved to St. Paul. Our small family had a hard ‘go of it’ during the Great Depression as did all of our friends. However, each Christmas I loved making a nice wreath and hanging it on our front door; it always reminded me of my own mother so many years before.
One year when your father [John Victor Mickman] was about 12 years old, he came home from school and saw my nice wreath on our front door. He wanted to buy a Christmas present for me, and had an idea that maybe he could sell that wreath down the street to someone. Well, that is just what he did. He walked down Summit Avenue where all the rich people lived, until someone purchased this wreath. [My dad said it was James J. Hill’s daughter, founders of the Great Northern Railroad, that purchased this first wreath.]
With his newly earned money, your dad went to a store and purchased a lovely set of porcelain figurines – the set that I have on my bedroom bureau. The sales clerk was kind enough to wrap this gift for your dad, and he came home and presented it to me. Well, I knew your dad didn’t have ANY money and I pinched his ear until he told me how he got the money to pay for the present. He finally confessed that he had taken our wreath off of the front door and sold it down on Summit Ave. I couldn’t imagine that anyone would want to pay money for such a thing, and asked your dad if he thought he could sell any more. He said he thought he could sell as many as I could make!
So, your Grandpa, your dad and I gathered as many boughs as we could and I made wreaths out of all the boughs we could find. Your dad was able to sell these wreaths as fast as I made them, and he sold every single one – we didn’t even have a wreath on our own door that year [of 1934].”
- January 1934 Grandma Mickman makes a wreath which 12-year-old John V. Mickman sells. This launches the annual Mickman Family Wreath Tradition. Grandma continued to make and sell wreaths until she was 90 years old.
- 1946 Back from ‘The War’, John V. starts college – partially financed by his own wreath business as well as the GI Bill.
- January 1950’s John V.’s young children, John S., Mark, Jim, Jody and Chris, begin helping both dad and grandma with their wreath businesses. Primary tasks include summer ‘pine cone picking’ in the Black Hills of South Dakota, harvesting boughs and ‘helping’ with deliveries.
- 1960’s The Mickman kids begin work with their father on the newly acquired Christmas tree farm. We were to plant 40,000 trees per year for over a decade on these farms.
- January 1975 John S. & Chris Mickman decide to start their own company; Mickman Brothers Landscaping.
- June 1976 The brothers start the automatic, underground, Lawn Sprinkler Division.
- September 1976 John V. sells his part-time Christmas Wreath Company to Mickman Brothers. All 15,000 Wreaths are sold in the Twin Cities.
- May 1977 John S. buys a farmstead from which Mickman Brothers operates for 10 years.
- January 1979 Mickman Brothers earns the first Landscape Irrigation Award from Toro. Seven additional awards will be earned over the next 20 years.
- November 1981 First wreaths are shipped to customers outside of Minnesota.
- August 1985 Purchase of Ham Lake property. Begin planning for expansion to this new facility.
- May 1986 Move to Ham Lake Facility is complete. Garden Center opens.
- May 1989 Golf Driving Range opens.
- June 1990 Mickman Brothers obtains patent for new Wreath Packaging Container. This revolutionizes wreath shipping and enables safe shipment of wreaths to out-of-state customers.
- 1992 John S. Elected to the board of directors of the Minnesota Nursery & Landscape Association (MNLA)
October 1994 Balsam, MN Wreath Plant opens.
- 1995 John and Chris Mickman receive an award from the US Forest Service for helping to found and sustain the MN Balsam Bough Partnership.
- May 1995 Purchase of Chisholm, MN Wreath Plant.
- June 1997 Purchase of St. Francis, MN Wreath Plant.
- March 2000 Mickman Brothers breaks ground for expanded facility in Ham Lake.
- January 2001 Construction of our new Ham Lake facility is completed, establishing Mickman Brothers as the premier provider of green industry goods and services in our community.
- March 2001 New garden center opens.
- August 2001 John S. has a near fatal motorcycle accident. He is in a wheelchair/crutches for the next 15 months.
- November 2001 John S. receives conservation Award from the MN Department of Natural Resources
- April 2003 John S. & Chris Mickman are selected by the SBA as Minnesota’s Small Businessmen of the Year.
- Janurary 2004 John S. elected president of the Minnesota Nursery and Landscape Association (MNLA).
- September 2004 Anoka County Conservation District gives first ever Community Conservationist Award to Mickman Brothers for their past, and ongoing efforts to promote responsible use of our natural resources.
- 2005 Soil correction to additional 5 acres of Ham Lakes facility is accomplished to allow for future company growth.
- 2006 John S. appointed to the board of directors of the MNLA Foundation.
August 2007 Construction of a new 13,000 square foot greenhouse is completed to house our growing perennials and annuals for the Garden Center in the spring and summer months. It is also used to increase our ability to manufacture thousands of Christmas wreaths for our fundraising customers in the fall.
- October 2007 John and Chris resolve to begin the tradition of planting an evergreen tree for each Holiday Gift Wreath which is sold during the 2007 Wreath Season and in future years. To date, more than 250,000 tree seedlings have been planted in 19 states
- 2008 Construction of the 9,000 square foot shade structure not only enhances the Garden Center but also provides quality space for short term storage of 48″ and 60″ wreaths.
- 2009 Production Greenhouse is expanded by 5,000 sq feet.
- January 2010 John S. named as a director of Village Bank.
- Feburary 2011 Mariah Mickman named as manager of our new Landscape Management Division.
- March 2011 Jeff Sutter named as General Manager of Mickman Brothers.
- April 2011 The milestone of 250,000 tree seedlings are planted since 2007. This planting program is part of our popular Holiday Gift Wreath Program.
- September 2014 Created MickmanHolidayGifts.com the first of its kind fundraising website with no extra effort for your group.
- December 2015 Jeff Sutter is promoted to President of Mickman Brothers.
- June 2016 We added and moved into our new addition to our building complex. The entire 2nd floor of the new ‘Design Studio’ houses our Holiday Gift Wreath and Internet Sales Departments. With this new working space, we are now able to process tens of thousands of Direct Shop Holiday Evergreen orders more efficiently. For Internet Orders, our process allows for ‘in by 11 AM; out by 5 PM’ shipping!
- July 2017 Due to feedback from our Fundraising customers, we introduced an electronic ‘Sales Aid App’ to be used by organization members to offer products to their customers. This App allows virtual tracking by Fundraising Chairpersons for sales information from each of their members.
- June 2018 Mickman Brothers launches a new generation of Sales Aids, adds a new product – the LIVE Christmas Tree and includes the Wintergreen Wreath/Spray as Traditional Program Products.