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Ron Kaye: The most of Christmas spirit

December 25, 2011

When the freak windstorm was knocking down power lines and toppling giant trees on roofs and cars, Scotty Sorensen was pounding 42-inch stakes into the ground with a sledgehammer to keep the 95-mph gusts from blowing away the tents at his Christmas tree lot in Pasadena.

It was an exercise in futility as the raging winds bent the aluminum poles holding up the tents. It was the same at his lot in South Pasadena where the giant tent — Big Red — was in danger of blowing away and damaging someone else’s property. So he cut through the canvas to let the air out and pounded in the spikes with a regular hammer because he had left the sledge in Pasadena.

By the time he got to his lot in Altadena, even Sorensen was too tired at 4 a.m. to do much beyond surveying the damage.

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By dawn of that morning, Dec. 1, the first day he was permitted by the cities to open for business, he faced a monumental mess that would take days to put back in order and many thousands of dollars in new equipment and rented tents before he could ring up his first sale with just two weekends left before Christmas.

“I took the worst hit of anybody I know because I don’t have any insurance like a homeowner. It destroyed my business,” he said last week over breakfast across the street from his South Pasadena lot. “For somebody like me with an outdoor business, it was the perfect storm to wipe him out.”

Is it any wonder that Sorensen was first in line on Monday when the Small Business Administration office opened at 199 S. Los Robles Ave. in Pasadena to take low-interest loan applications from storm victims?

“The bills are piling up. It cost thousands to rent new tents, and it will cost a lot more to buy new ones for next year, but I don’t know if I’m going to go that route. I don’t know if I want to go into debt to the government even at low interest. I might not come back.”

Then, he laughs heartily as he does throughout our hour-long chat every time the darkness of his situation begins to get to him.

“I’ve been saying the same thing every year for 20 years. But I like people, I like doing this. It’s not the money, which isn’t all that great even in the best years. It’s the families, the kids. I enjoy the hard work. I enjoy slinging a hammer.”

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