Walking into the giant white tent that houses Brian and Kelly’s Pumpkins, Trees & Farmer’s Market, on Broadway near Rosemont, is almost like walking into a small farm.
Customers are greeted warmly by its husband and wife owners, Brian and Kelly Sauer.
Kids are entertained by looking at the pumpkins atop stacked bales of hay and goats they can pet through a wire fence. Old-timers come in to talk about the old tractors and trucks along the perimeter.
“The kids are in awe when they come in,” said Brian Sauer. “They see the pumpkins, animals and tractors. It gives them a farm feel in the middle of the city.”
Brian Sauer, a Tucson native, and his wife started their business in 2007 at its Broadway location, the same year they got married. Brian had wanted to start his own Christmas tree lot since he started helping out at one on the northwest side as a child.
The idea expanded to include a pumpkin patch to “bring fall to Tucson.” Imitation autumn leaves are sprinkled around scarecrows and Halloween decorations. Wheelbarrows filled with gourds and squash add to the fall ambiance.
“We bring the seasons to Tucson,” Brian Sauer said. “When people see the tent go up, they automatically think the seasons are changing.”
Brian and Kelly’s is more than a place to buy pumpkins. The couple also make sure to have family activities. On the weekends, there’s a face painter who works for tips. And they’re adding pony rides for $5 to the mix for the first time this year.
Customers can warm up on cool evenings with apple cider and fresh doughnuts made in the on-site doughnut shack, an idea inspired by the Christmas tree lots in Michigan, where Kelly grew up. They also roast green chiles on the weekends.
Brian and Kelly now have three locations (see box, Page A9).
The couple get their pumpkins and produce locally from Apple Annie’s in Willcox and from friends in Duncan and San Simon. They travel to Hatch, N.M., for their green chiles.
“I come every year,” said Rose Jensen, a native Tucsonan and customer. “The peppers are excellent, and we don’t have to travel to Hatch.”
After Halloween and Thanksgiving, the couple transform the lot into a winter wonderland, filled with Christmas trees they get from Oregon tree farms, one of which is theirs. Brian and Kelly’s tree lots are open through the end of December.
But their work is never done, even during the offseason.
The couple keep their family of five above water by selling Hatch green chiles, honey, salsa and chile strands at farmers markets in Phoenix. Kelly says Phoenix is a good market for Hatch chiles, since there aren’t many vendors selling them there.
The Sauers occasionally host farmers markets at the Broadway lot during spring. Brian also does construction work on the side to bring in money during the off-season.
The Sauer family visit Oregon a couple of times a year to work on the trees. In August, they go to trim them, and in November they go up to harvest. The trees are then shipped to Tucson.
“We have fun with it,” Kelly said. “It doesn’t feel like work. I guess that means you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing.”
Brian and Kelly credit their popularity to
word-of-mouth advertising and social media. “If you run a good business, people spread the word,” Kelly said.
“Word of mouth is everything.”