The Work We Do: Toni Ann Sinning, Santa’s Christmas Tree Farm

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My name is Toni Ann Sinning and I am the store manager and decorator here at Santa’s Christmas Tree Farm.

I’ve been here for almost 30 years.

I’ve lived in Southold for almost 30 years. I just moved to Cutchogue, which is convenient, it’s so close.

I worked part time in the beginning. I started out behind the counter, with my sister.

Over the last 10 years or so, I’ve been the store manager, I’ve done the decorating, I’ve done some of the buying.

We typically start working in May. I start getting ideas in my head when I go to the gift show in Atlanta, Ga. It’s really big … and there are cool showrooms. Like, the tree I’m sitting in front of is from one of my favorite collections featured at the show.

This upcoming weekend [after Thanksgiving Day] is really our biggest weekend. We’ll see a few thousand people and sell a lot of trees.

My former boss, I want to say that he planted trees in 1985 or 1987. It takes the trees seven years to reach maturity. So, if you want a seven-foot tree, it would take roughly seven years to mature. But most people, they want trees that are eight, nine or 10 feet tall … With that, he started up the store and made custom wreaths and grave blankets and we had ribbon and ornaments to go with your tree.

Over time, it just, you know, developed into a bigger store.

During my time here, I think I’ve learned that this time of year is special to a lot of people and a lot of families.

People have been coming as young adults, and they brought their kids, and now they’re coming with their kids who have kids. So, it’s like, three generations are coming to the store. So, it’s really nice. I’ve gotten to see that, like, whole journey.

I don’t have a background in art and I wasn’t educated to be a designer. I’ve just been here so long, I guess I’ve just developed a little flair for decorating trees.

I don’t know. It makes me feel good.

“The Work We Do” is a News-Review multimedia project profiling workers around Riverhead Town.