The people who walk into the showroom at Plantscape, an interior and exterior landscaping company in the Strip District, tend to have the same reaction.
"They are floored," said Barbara Sandstrom, a sales and design consultant for the company. "They are just floored."
It's easy to see why. Walking into the showroom, located on the first floor of Plantscape's headquarters, feels a bit like stumbling into a ground zero for Christmas decorations. There are rooms filled with decorated trees, antique toys, Santas of all sorts, bears dressed in fancy outfits, and, because it's Pittsburgh, a Penguin (the bird, not the player) wearing the No. 87.
"We're really into Christmas," said Carole Horowitz, founder and owner of Plantscape, as she provided a tour of the showroom Thursday morning.
As December approaches, it's that time of year where people begin to hang lights on their windows, place wreaths on their doors and post trees in their living rooms.
It's a process that is a family tradition for many, but there are also businesses that are busy decking the halls in the weeks and months leading up to Christmas and other holidays that fall around the same time, including Hanukkah and Kwanzaa.
This year, Christmas Decor, a franchise owned by Richland-based E.L.F. Entertainment, will do the holiday decorating for more than 150 homes in Western Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia.
"It is definitely a service that is catching on in popularity," said Laura Rodavich, vice president of sales and marketing for E.L.F. Entertainment, which is not pronounced elf.
On Thursday, Christmas Decor employees decorated a wounded soldier's home in Delmont as a surprise.
The company, which provides event and entertainment services, entered the Christmas decorating business about eight years ago, seeking a business that could supplement the work they do in the spring, summer and fall, Ms. Rodavich said.
The company has seen the demand for a holiday decorating service increase over the past eight years, she said.
She thinks the safety factor -- it can be dangerous to put lights on roofs -- and the convenience factor --it can take an entire weekend to put up lights -- are two of the reasons people call on Christmas Decor to take care of their holiday decorating desires.
The company also often get calls from people who see the job Christmas Decor did on their neighbor's house and want it done for their own home the next year, she said.
The company provides all the decorations and does the installation, which usually costs homeowners between $1,000 and $3,000. All the lights are on a timer, so no one has to worry about turning on or off the lights.
Decoration installation starts in early October and by Jan. 3, the company begins to take decorations down.
January is when Ms. Horowitz, the owner of Plantscape, begins to plan for the following Christmas.
She, along with Ms. Sandstrom, travel to vendor shows in places such as Dallas and Atlanta to see the newest decorating options for the holiday season. They are looking for decorations that are colorful, big and not breakable.
Their showroom is full by May, and then clients -- usually a building or facility manager for companies and organizations that range from Bayer to Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh to the Omni William Penn Hotel -- can choose what kind of look they want for their holiday season.
"People are doing more and more scenes," she said. "It's not just a tree anymore."
It's a tree, with elves, or nutcrackers or train sets.
Plantscape, which turns 40 next year, wasn't originally in the Christmas business. But two years after she founded the company, Ms. Horowitz was looking for a way for her company to generate revenue during their slow time at the end of the year.
Ms. Horowitiz, who studied fine arts at Carnegie Mellon, decided to expand Plantscape's focus to include holiday decorating.
Now, 52 employees work on Christmas decorating in the Strip District office and out of a warehouse in Braddock, where they design unique holiday displays for clients.
"Once we started, it was like, 'how much fun this was,'" Ms. Horowitz said.
It's fun, but it's also busy, she said.
Plantscape has about 350 clients in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia, and November is their busiest month, with many Pittsburgh clients wanting their displays in place prior to Light Up Night, which was Nov. 16 this year.
"It's a huge juggle," she said.
The end result, however, is spreading the types of holiday decorations that spend most of their year in the showroom of Plantscape's building into lobbies and offices and squares throughout Pittsburgh and the surrounding areas.
"It's there to make it a joyful time of the year for employees," Ms. Horowitz said.
Kaitlynn Riely: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1707.