A Christmas Story

by John Steven Mickman, CEO/Founder
Mickman Brothers, Inc.

As my Grandma, Johanna Mickman, told the story to me 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 with my brothers. As I grew 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 hung it on our front door; it always reminded me of my 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 the 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 up and 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  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].

I am pleased to say that our family’s tradition of making wreaths and selling (all of them!) is alive and well. Nearly a half million families all over the country will welcome home friends and family for the Holidays with a Mickman Brothers Christmas Wreath gracing the entryway of their homes. Our family business, and in particular the Wreath Business, continues to be my favorite pursuit. I’m fortunate that people continue to choose to buy our ‘labors of love’ each Holiday Season.

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