by Waitsel Smith
After winning his battle against City Hall in Lenoir, NC, Larry Smith launched his new Frosty amid much publicity... and with a wonderful surprise.
Last year at this time, Larry Smith of Mountain Top Fraser Fir in Newland, NC was handed a notice by the City of Lenoir that he would have to take down his 35' Frosty the Snowman inflatable because it violated the city's temporary sign ordinance. There was a $50-per-day fine that accompanied the notice. Larry decided to keep his snowman up and write off the fine as an advertising expense. But the city wasn't to be out-witted. They came back with a new ordinance that stated that if the sign ordinance was not obeyed, the vendor would lose his license. Those were fighting words. But to show fair play, the City Council decided to address the issue in an open forum at their bi-monthly meeting in September.
I got involved, initially, by writing a letter to the editor of the local newspaper, the News Topic. You can read my article on the lead-up to this controversy, as well as my letter to the editor, at Fight Over Frosty. Then I decided to speak at the City Council meeting in September. You can read about that at Frosty Beats City Hall. Yes, Frosty and his owner, Larry Smith, won their case. The decision shocked pretty much everyone, including Larry. I first met the man at that meeting. He impressed me as an honest farmer, a likable fellow and someone that appreciated the free publicity he was getting. So, as we were leaving, I suggested that he leverage the whole Frosty thing. One idea I had was to make hang tags for his Christmas trees with Frosty on them.
When I got back to Atlanta, I designed a tag for Larry, which he liked, and which I had printed for him in time for his grand opening on November 21. (See photo at beginning of article.) That was the day when he would launch his brand new Frosty. (Compare his previous, older one from Fight Over Frosty.) The day was cold and overcast, and the gathering was mostly just family and friends. WBTV, Charlotte's CBS affiliate, and a reporter from the News Topic, were there to get the story. But Larry had planned an additional surprise to make the event even more important.
When you talk to Larry, he'll tell you, he's just a farmer trying to make a living. And he is. But he also has a twinkle in his eye that tells you he knows what he's doing. I should know. When I came to his lot to talk with him about doing some marketing for him, he immediately put me to work helping him and four other guys raise three gigantic light poles. Larry knows how to get things done, and he knows how to make others want to help him...
... including the mayor of Lenoir, Joe Gibbons, who was in attendance at the launching, even though he had just suffered a heart-attack the week before. Joe's an old school buddy of mine, and a great guy. It was nice of him and his wife, Becky, to come out for the event. As Joe said, the controversy over Frosty was just a misunderstanding; but it was a stroke of good luck for Larry, who couldn't have gotten better publicity if he had paid for it. Well, he did pay for it, indirectly, in the fines he paid, but still... His Christmas tree lot is now known as the Frosty Christmas tree lot. So he now has a brand, and a famous one, that most companies would have to pay hundreds of thousands for.
Mountain Top Fraser Fir offers the prettiest Christmas trees I've seen anywhere. And they're priced very competitively. These are some of their larger ones.
News Topic reporter Derek Lacey interviewing two of the employees of Mountain Top Fraser Fir.
Right in the middle of the whole event, Larry got down on one knee and proposed to his girlfriend, Beth Gibbons, niece of the mayor. Everyone's jaw dropped, especially Beth's. He had kept his secret from pretty much everyone. What a great way to end a successful campaign, and he did it right in front of Frosty! I told you Larry appreciated free publicity!
I hope Larry and his family and friends have a very prosperous season - they deserve it. They're a great family and a great asset to western North Carolina. Mountain Top Fraser Fir is just one example of the strength of small family businesses and their importance to our nation. They are the backbone of any community and of our nation's economy. While big business and big government continue to squander our resources and screw things up, it is families like the Smiths that are keeping things going.
Waitsel Smith, November 25, 2013
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Text and Photos © 2013 Waitsel Smith. All Rights Reserved.