Willey Farms reopens to sell Christmas items

Just a few hours after reopening Friday following a fire earlier this month, Willey Farms sold 92 Christmas trees. (Delaware State News/Craig Anderson)

TOWNSEND — Every time she completed a wreath, another was needed.

“We haven’t been able to catch up all day,” Gretchen Willey-Gill said from underneath a makeshift tent office.

Business was indeed brisk as landmark Willey Farms returned to business Friday, albeit on a smaller scale than before a Nov. 5 fire destroyed most of the business.

During a typical holiday season, 700 to 800 Christmas trees were sold, including just a few in the days following Thanksgiving.

In the first six hours Friday, 92 trees left the property at 4092 DuPont Highway between Odessa and Smyrna. The first patron arrived at 7:30 a.m., a full 90 minutes prior to the official reopening.

“I guess he wanted to make sure he had a good selection of trees,” Ms. Willey-Gill said with a smile.

Though a return to full operations remains far in the distance, customers still have plenty of reasons to visit in the interim.

From now until Christmas, the outdoor store will be open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Sunday selling trees, wreaths, garlands, firewood and “hand-tied bows that Willeys is famous for,” said marketing coordinator Donna Cavender.

Sometime this week, gallons of apple cider are expected to arrive, along with chocolate-covered almonds.

Many visitors arrived on the first day back with smiles and open arms.

“A lot of them were saying ‘How ya doing?’ with arms out and giving a hug,” Ms. Willey-Gill said. “A lot of them said they weren’t sure what they would do without us being here.”

Trying to keep up with heavy demand, Gretchen Willey-Gill eyes a Christmas wreath at Willey Farms on Friday afternoon. (Delaware State News/Craig Anderson)

Even with temperatures hovering in the 30s the first day back, there were no complaints.

“It helps to know you have a job to do and can focus on that job and make sure our customers continue to get the same attention they always have,” Ms. Cavender said. “This can still be a nice, magical, happy place to come to even after such a devastating event. We want people to stop by and catch up with us.”

Upcoming performances of “A Cratchit Family Christmas” to benefit the Willey Farms Employee Fund include:

Dec. 5 at 7:30 p.m. – At Odessa Fire Hall. Donations will be taken.

Dec. 14 at 7:30 p.m. – At John Bassett Moore Intermediate School at South Street and the Plaza in Smyrna. Donations will be taken.

Dec. 19 at 7:30 p.m. – At Townsend Fire Hall. Donations will be taken.

Dec. 26 at 7:30 p.m. – At the Everett Theatre in Middletown. Tickets are $10.

Willey Farms, near Townsend, between Odessa and Smyrna, is now open for business from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week. (Delaware State News/Craig Anderson)

Also, donations to the employee fund by cash or check can be made at Dover Federal Credit Union branches in Middletown, Smyrna and Dover.

Updates are available on the Willey Farms Facebook page or by calling 378-8441.

No determination on the origin and cause of the fire has been announced publicly by the Delaware Office of the Fire Marshal. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Baltimore field division joined the probe as is standard procedure for such a substantial loss.

Staff writer Craig Anderson can be reached at 741-8296

or canderson@newszap.com.

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