Popular Harlingen Christmas tree lot goes empty

The Solis family pose on the grounds of where Hoodville Trees would be located. The family decided to skip Christmas tree selling this year due to losing their mother, Janie Solis, to COVID-19. John, Wally, Anissa and Irma remember their mother as they prepare to hopefully return to business next year. (Elsa Cavazos/Valley Morning Star)

HARLINGEN — What used to be filled with Christmas trees weeks before Thanksgiving, is now empty.

The Solis family, who have sold Hoodville Trees over the past 30 years by the Luby’s on 77 Sunshine Strip in Harlingen, have decided not to do it this year. The head of the organization and selling was their mother, Janie Solis, who passed away in July due to COVID-19.

Her husband, Wally Solis, said she started to sell trees after meeting a seller from Oregon. Janie began to set up where CVS is currently located on Ed Carey Drive. Soon after that, the location moved closer to Luby’s.

“Eventually my wife was in charge while I was on service and she took over the business on her own. From there we took control as a family and this would have been the 32nd year,” he said.

“This year we decided not to do it because I didn’t want to get sick or the employees. Maybe next year,” Wally said.

Even though it has been a longtime tradition, Wally said that as a father protection of family comes first. He believes his wife was attracted to the Christmas tree venture because it was a business she enjoyed.

“She loved what she was doing and we were doing yard decorations for Christmas, too,” he said.

While the family is taking time off from their usual holiday business activities, they will miss working on selling the trees.

“My wife would have liked for all of us to be there,” Wally said.

Looking back on her loss, Wally speaks with sentiment and wistfulness, knowing life has changed for him and his family.

“It is a different lifestyle not having her here,” he said.

Back when they were working on getting the trees ready, Wally said they started to prepare two weeks prior to Nov. 20. They placed their tents and got their permits from the city to get ready to put the trees in water.

Wally added he believes next year they will prepare the same way, hoping COVID-19 is not a problem.

The children of Janie agreed this year will be very different but as a family they are trying to make the best of it.

“My mom was the backbone of the family, anything you ever needed she was there for anybody. She was that kind of person. It is hard and we are still in disbelief and it feels like a long dream we cannot wake up from,” John Solis said.

His sister Irma said she has received so many messages from longtime customers who will miss their mother.

“The people that were customers, I am just so happy they have the memories from her and knowing she passed and it is going to be a whole different ball game. These were her months but I am happy to hear she is still in the memories of people,” Irma Solis said.

“Someone texted me yesterday and they were on the phone crying with me and it was a good thought from them. It has been very shocking to many customers,” she said.

John added things will be different once they begin to prepare next year without her.

“It will be difficult without her because she was the one running the whole thing,” Irma said.

Their customers were from all over the Rio Grande Valley, Mexico and even Lubbock and San Antonio.

“I think it was the personality once you walked to that tree stand,” Irma said about the popularity and why customers kept coming back.

“We thank everyone that tells us we are in their prayers. We hope to see them next year,” Irma concluded.