An Annually Uncommon Christmas Tree

When I was young, my parents and two other families began an annual Christmas tree contest for the neighborhood, good friends and family members. It grew large. We graduated from spectators arriving in convoys of cars to a bus. The bus would stop at the house; the people would pile out; the impartial judges would circle the decorated tree with pencils and notepads in hand, judging for color, originality, decorating materials, lighting, technique.

This holiday tradition imprinted on the young me. It’s likely one of the reasons I have a high appreciation and discerning eye for an especially well turned-out tree. So believe me when I tell you: The Christmas tree at Details Hair Innovations in Egg Harbor is one of those.

The salon’s owners, Tina George and Polly Swagel, have been decorating a magically different tree every year for 26 years at their Aveda Concept salon at the Main Street Shops. The stunning display is easy to see. What may not be so apparent is how much time and thought goes into it. This year, for example, they were inspired by an American fashion designer, a 19th-century post-impressionist Dutch painter and a hair-coloring technique called “ombre” that shades colors and tones into each other. 

Aveda Concept Salon
(From left) Tina George and Polly Swagel have been business partners for 26 years. Submitted.

“It’s a lot of work,” George said, “but it’s worth it because it really brings a lot of happiness to our customers.”

The women worked together in a Sister Bay salon for 15 years before striking out on their own in 1995. They were the first and only tenants in the stand-alone Building 3 at the end of the Main Street Shops, where they can still be found today.

“Two women who have worked together for 26 years, I think is a huge success,” George said. “And we still love each other.”

They come up with a new theme for the tree every single year, working at least two days to bring their unified vision to life.

“It just depends on what’s going on in the world, what’s going on in our lives,” George said. 

They head to their storage unit in October to sort and organize their large cache of ornaments. They select colors, shapes, textures. They decide what’s on top and bottom, and “everything in the middle, it will happen the way it needs to happen,” George said.

Christmas Tree
We played with the tree by putting it in the woods on the cover of this issue. Here, it’s shown in its actual surroundings. Photo by D.A. Fitzgerald.

This year, there’s a fusion of Asian influence and sustainability going on – an inspiration from Aveda’s holiday-collection collaboration with fashion designer Phillip Lim, founder of the fashion label 3.1. Another inspiration came this summer when they visited the Beyond Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience exhibit in Milwaukee. The exhibit moved visitors along projection-swathed walls wrapped in light, color and shapes that swirled and danced and refocused into the artist’s masterpieces of flowers, cafés and landscapes.

“It was absolutely incredible,” George said. “They have it moving constantly; it melts from one picture to another.”

They wanted to do that with the tree – “ombre from one color to another,” George said. “The colors intertwine with each other, but you can still see how they look different. When you look at our tree, you can see how it comes from the pinks to the greens to the whites; they kind of melt into each other.”

They call it their Tree of Joy. 

“We need joy in the world right now,” George said. “The colors you see are peaceful and calming. It just brings joy to you when you see it.”