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Paying for a little Christmas spirit
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Rob Schlosser started "Schlor Enterprises" a Christmas light service, four years ago. A tree trimmer by trade, Schlosser found the Christmas light service gave him a way to make money in the off season. (MPR Photo/Tim Post)
For years Christmas light decorating services have been popular in Minnesota's wealthy suburbs. But now paying someone to put up Christmas lights is becoming a popular choice for lots of people. Some Minnesotans like the professional look while others say paying a pro makes makes sense since putting up lights is an inconvienence and can be dangerous work.

Sartell, Minn. — Take one look at a three story house with a steep, icy roof, and you understand why some home owners don't want to put up their own Christmas lights. Rob Schlosser runs his own Christmas light decorating service in the St. Cloud area. Shlosher bought a new 40-foot ladder for just such a job in Sartell, north of St. Cloud. He plans to put up about 500 lights. The lights are big ones, called C-9s by the pros. They're clear, and they give the house a classy holiday presence.

"It's a Victorian style home and it's got some high peaks in the front. Basically we're lighting all the roof-lines, and we're lighting anywhere there's an edge of the house," Schlosser said.

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Image Dangerous work

Shlosser has been in the Christmas light business for just a few years. During warmer months, he's a tree trimmer. Putting up lights gives him a way to make money in the winter.

This year he has about 50 customers. Next year he hopes that doubles.

"The majority of my customers are probably retired people who just don't want to mess with the hassle of Christmas lights. But now I'm seeing more of my customers are getting to be younger, family people. They want it to look nice and they don't want any hassles," Schlosser said.

Schlosser says his prices range from $200 for small jobs to $800 for the big ones. Some higher end services can charge as much as $2,000. This particular house should cost about $400 to $500 to decorate.

The owners say it's worth the expense.

Pam Raden says this is the first time she and her husband have used such a service. "We didn't want to climb the big ladders to put them up, buy all the lights, take them down, store them. It's nice to have a service come in and put the lights up, take them down when they're done, they store the..and it's kind of a safety issue too, it's nice to have someone else crawling on your roof rather than your husband," Raden said.

But for some people, putting up their own lights is tradition.

Ralph Roubal, 68, drapes lights on almost everything that doesn't move. The front and back yards here at his St. Cloud home are illuminated with Christmas color. Roubal put up 7,500 lights this year.

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Image Ralph Roubal

He guesses he'll have more next year, at the urging of his family. Roubal says paying someone to put up Christmas lights is fine for some people.

But for him the hard work is all a part of the fun.

"Taking them down or putting them up when it's cold, you just come in and take a break, and go back at it. It gets done ... It's something to do and the people enjoy them, that's the main thing, that's all I'm doing it for," Roubal said.

Ralph Roubal puts up Christmas lights because he wants to. But others hope that someday paying to have Christmas lights installed will be as popular as paying for an oil change.

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