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Tropical Palm Trees employee Chris Groves puts a completed palm frond on the pile. Fronds range in length from 10 feet to 16 feet.
Tropical Palm Trees employee Chris Groves puts a completed palm frond on the pile. Fronds range in length from 10 feet to 16 feet.

Cool in the Shade: Tropical Palm Trees brings tropics to the Ozarks

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The difference is immediately noticeable. This is no ordinary production facility.

Shade, running water and mellow music create the environment at Tropical Palm Trees, where Allen and Sheila Scott work hard to create a relaxed atmosphere – just as their palm trees do wherever they go.

Tropical Palm Trees opened its doors in 2001, and today the company operates out of an 8,000-square-foot Ozark location with 6,000 square feet dedicated to production. The remaining 2,000 square feet is office and showroom space, where prospective customers can get a glimpse of the possibilities.

Back in the 1990’s, Allen Scott wanted palm trees in a Midwestern climate, “but there wasn’t anything that was really nice or affordable,” he said. Busy with a medical company that he owned, Scott did market research on the side and soon realized that research and development were the next steps to take.

In 2000, he took his idea to the St. Louis Home Show, and the business grew from there.

Palm fronds

Last year, Tropical Palm Trees shipped more than 2,000 trees.

Manufactured in Springfield, the stainless steel core support is shipped to Ozark where synthetic bark is added. Polyethylene palm fronds, stamped in St. Louis, complete the effect.

Scott has both residential and commercial customers.

“We do installations within about 100 miles of the area, though we’re doing fewer ourselves these days,” Scott said. “They’re user-friendly, so any homeowner can install them in about 30 minutes.”

Standard sizes range between 8 feet and 14 feet, though custom jobs may stretch to 40 feet. Frond length varies from 10 feet to 16 feet. Scott said the largest tree sold was 32 feet, to the San Diego Zoo. Misting attachments can be added.

A major supplier to the water park industry, the company’s commercial season begins Jan. 1 and typically runs through Memorial Day weekend.

“Our residential market can be good through Christmas Eve, so there really aren’t any slowdowns,” Scott said.

According to Scott, most residential customers purchase between two and four trees, in a variety of heights and styles.

He added, “Even tropical areas purchase them to minimize the foliage that drops from real trees. They’re durable and look good.”

Worldwide clients

With clients in all 50 states and around the world, including Africa, Australia, China, New Zealand, South America and South Korea, the company is now eyeing Russia.

“We have ongoing negotiations with Russian government while they work on developing their water park industry,” Scott said.

Scott is most proud, however, of the work he’s accomplished at Camp Kanakuk in Branson.

“It may be our most unique project,” he said. “They have an island in a zero entry pool … Installation was interesting on that one.”

Another favorite client is the Beach Boys.

“They were playing in Branson, and their theatrical manager contacted us about supplying trees for their stage shows,” Scott said. “We’re also working with the Righteous Brothers and Paul Revere and the Raiders.”

Steve Gurney, Vice-President of Operations for Nutty Munkey, a Springfield ice cream shop, has bought into the palm trees.

“We try to attract fun-loving, treat-eating customers,” Gurney said. “With our tropical concept and living in the Midwest, there’s not the option of tropical foliage. In 2003, the first year we were open, they were really eye-catching in the first snowfall. It was the perfect picture.”

With two custom trees that serve as supports for the building front, Nutty Monkey purchased a variety of standard trees that adorn the property.

“They’re green year-round and keep the place bright and alive,” Gurney said. “Customers are always curious about where and how they’re made.”

Tropical Palm Trees has signed a deal to outfit Nutty Munkey franchisees with the trees, starting with the Houston, Texas, store, Gurney said.

Jeff Branstetter, merchandise lead for White Water in Branson, is in charge of park theming and has worked with Scott for several years.

“We went to Las Vegas for the World Water Park Convention about four years ago and hadn’t seen anything really good,” he said. “We met Allen, and they ended up installing six or eight trees on one of our new rides. They weathered great and looked good, and now we have over 50 trees. They come in and install them and can do any necessary repairs.”

Like Gurney, Branstetter said that many customers want to know where the trees come from.

“It’s amazing how many tourists on vacation will ask about the palm trees because they want some for their pool or boat dock,” he said. “I send them up the road to see Allen.”

Curious stops

Scott uses the eye-catching qualities of Ozarks palm trees to his advantage at the company’s headquarters along Highway 65.

“People will drive by and come in out of curiosity,” Scott said. “We’re in the perfect location. It’s central to both coasts, with national traffic.”

Scott has plans for future expansion, though he wants to keep the production facility in the Springfield area.

“It’s home to us, and shipping is a breeze,” he said. “We have a good work force and standard of living. We want to expand the facility here, probably doubling it in size.”

Scott is also working on expansion within the hotel and restaurant industry, hoping to establish nationwide contracts, with palm trees as standard issue for restaurants and swimming pool areas.

Tropical Palm Trees LLC

Founded: 2001

Owners: Allen and Sheila Scott

Address: 3950 N. 20th St., Ozark, MO 65721

Phone: (417) 581-3114

Fax: (417) 581-1048

Web site: www.tropicalpalmtrees.com

Employees: 8, plus seasonal help[[In-content Ad]]

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