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Professional decorators decking the halls ... for profit

Monday, December 4, 2006

(Photo)
The festively lit Cape Girardeau home of Bart and Lorili Ozbun was shown recently.
(Don Frazier)
A few years back, Lorili and Bart Ozbun opted for an unusual Christmas present for each other -- they'd never have to decorate the outside of their home for Christmas again. But they weren't giving up the holiday spirit. The Cape Girardeau couple just decided that they'd hire someone else to do it.

"We wanted something big, something on a bigger scale than just lights strung across the roof," Lorili said. "And for us to do it, it's a pain. But he makes it look so easy."

The "he" she is referring to is C.B. Forck, a seasonal exterior holiday decorator, who -- along with his wife, Pam -- has a dozen or so clients around Christmas time that require him to strategically string thousands of lights in high places as well as give shrubs, bushes and trees that special Christmas-time look.

Forck, who also works at Procter & Gamble, started out as a land surveyor and eventually took on home decoration for some of his clients. But then he got the job at P&G. He largely gave up the land surveying, but he still enjoys decorating homes at Christmas.

"I needed something to keep busy in the wintertime," Forck said.

His wife, Pam, says he has a keen knack for it and his customers love his work.

"Some of the husbands have threatened that if he ever quit doing this, they'd put a bounty on his head," she joked.

But Forck isn't looking for more business. He said he has all the customers he can possibly handle.

"I enjoy doing the Christmas lights," he said. "And my customers have become friends."

Each house takes about 12-16 hours. Some customers give him specific directions -- all clear lights or all red and green, for example. Others just allow Forck to have his way with their home.

"It varies from home to home," he said. "Plus, I have my own ideas."

Forck laughs when he is told about his wife's "bounty on his head" comment.

"If I ever quit and I die a mysterious death, there'd be a quick list of suspects," he said.

Holiday decorating -- interior and exterior -- can be a lucrative business, with some decorators charging between $10 to $75 an hour. And the decorations can be as elaborate or as simple as the customer wants.

Lisa Spalding, for example, designs interiors and exteriors, especially those that have strong floral themes. Spalding owns Spalding Designs and Florists. She's decorated homes for Christmas tours or just casual customers.

"We just go in and get things out and put them up," Spalding said. "Each year, we add something new. We do wreaths, swags, or fresh or silk flowers. It's just up to them."

One home owner, for example, spent $8,000 to get their home decorated.

Christy and Kevin Vaught also use C.B. Forck to decorate the front of their house.

"We're very very happy with his work," she said. "He brings everything up out of the basement and then he comes back and takes everything down. My husband's afraid of heights and C.B. has to get out the 40-foot ladder to put our lights. For us, it's worth it. And we really enjoy the way our house looks."

smoyers@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 137


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