Lightsey continues 36-year holiday tradition

Three weeks ago, some retailers began Christmas advertising — Wal-Mart had Christmas trees setup with lights, and “holiday sales” started showing up on counters at gift merchants around St Johns County.

But, you know that the season is upon us when the first cool mornings start to appear and some familiar St Augustine landmarks start to sell their Halloween pumpkins.

“I’ve been at this for over 35 years now,” St Augustine native Glenn Lightsey told Historic City News editor Michael Gold yesterday. “Vivian and I started right after high school and pumpkins and Christmas trees has been our seasonal business ever since.”

From the landmark tent in the parking lot of Seabridge Square at 1777 US-1 South in St Augustine, Lightsey and Sons has been selling pumpkins to some local families since soon after their business started.

If you ask Vivian Lightsey, who some say is the brains behind the operation, she’ll tell you that she wouldn’t know how to retire — even though the thought of not having to be open twelve hours a day, or more as Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas approach is tempting.

She asked, “How would you tell all the local families who come back, year after year to buy their holiday decorations, that you aren’t going to be here?” Then, Vivian gave a nod towards Brian Wilson and his two daughters, Mackinzie and Madison, who were picking out the family pumpkins.

Teenagers now, Brian has been bringing the girls to the Lightsey tent every year for more than a dozen years. They are big enough to carry the pumpkins out to their car themselves, now. But if they weren’t, that’s what Glenn’s for. He plops the 15-20 pound pumpkins onto the scale and Vivian rings them up — just like she has for years.

When Brian’s father, Jack Wilson, moved his car dealership to US-1 South, K-Mart was almost his only neighbor. Now, of course, SR-312, which didn’t exist at the time, is one of the most congested intersections in the county.

In a tough economy, one that this year saw the closing of K-Mart, the shopping center’s anchor tenant, a thirty-six-year run in business at the same location, like the Lightsey’s, is a really good record.

Pumpkins and Christmas trees are a family affair. Although Glenn’s father, Eddie Lightsey, happened to be there yesterday, Glenn’s parents don’t work the tent. Glenn and Vivian started the business, their sons and daughter have all spent time on the lot, and Vivian’s brother, Mike Severt, has his own holiday tree business, started a year or so after Glenn and Vivian were married.

The Lightsey’s will get a short break after Halloween, before reopening for Thanksgiving; but they won’t be sitting still. “We’re headed up to North Carolina to cut the Christmas tree for the City of St Augustine,” Glenn said. “We’ll drive it home in our truck and set it up in the Plaza like we’ve done for years.”

Indian corn, wreaths, pumpkins, and beautiful, full live trees will all be set up in time for Thanksgiving and, of course, the long-awaited arrival of Santa Claus.

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