Author Archives: Thomas Harman

About Thomas Harman

Thomas is as an operator and investor in consumer brands and consumer Internet companies. Since founding ecommerce retailer Balsam Hill, Thomas has launched several other national brands under the Balsam Brands umbrella including pool retailer Backyard Ocean. Prior to founding Balsam Brands, Thomas ran a contract manufacturing company, worked in consumer products marketing, business development, and as a management consultant.

Thomas Harman | CEO of Balsam Hill

Balsam Hill Christmas Tree Inspirations: The Shasta Fir

Mount Shasta

The beauty and majesty of Mount Shasta. Photo from

Mt. Shasta is simply awe inspiring. Standing at 14,163 feet, it is the largest Cascade Range volcano by volume. It is a beautiful mountain and one that, in my opinion, deserves to have a gorgeous Balsam Hill Christmas tree named after it.

For years, we’ve received feedback from our customers saying they absolutely love our BH Noble Fir for its beautiful shape and sturdy upward sloping needles. However, some of them also wished the foliage were a color other than the classic silver-green of the Noble Fir. This prompted me to look into other possible foliage colors for this popular Christmas tree.

In my research of Christmas tree lots on the Pacific Coast, I found that most of the Noble Firs sold in the region had the same classic silver-green color, but that a few of them would have greener foliage.
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Thomas Harman | CEO of Balsam Hill

Balsam Hill Special Feature: An Interview with Flip Tree Inventor Bruce Schooley

When I first started Balsam Hill, my goal was to provide homeowners with premium quality artificial Christmas trees unlike anything they had ever seen before. I wanted to create a collection of trees that capture the beauty and elegance of nature but without sacrificing the convenience of an easy-to-install design.

With modern innovations, such as our signature True Needle™ foliage and Easy Plug™ technology, we have been able to do just that. And now, with the introduction of the Flip™technology, we have taken the next step to making our Balsam Hill Christmas trees the best in form and function.

I had the opportunity to sit down and chat with Bruce Schooley, inventor of the Flip Tree™. A long-time innovator of artificial Christmas tree designs, Bruce brings his state-of-the-art creation to our premium evergreens. We’re extremely excited to be working with him to bring Flip Tree to Balsam Hill.

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Thomas Harman | CEO of Balsam Hill

Why Choose Balsam Hill vs Tree Classics

Choosing a Christmas tree is one of the most important events of the holiday season, and even more so when it comes to artificial Christmas trees, as they are typically purchased online with only photos, descriptions, and testimonials as a guide. At Balsam Hill, we are exceptionally confident about our unparalleled quality, exquisite realism, and superlative customer service. However, we know that you are faced with many options when it comes to deciding on the perfect tree for you. In that light, we would like to offer you some information about Balsam Hill vs. Tree Classics, one of our top competitors, so that you are equipped with all the information you need to make the best purchase possible.

Company Focus

Founded in 1976, Tree Classics boasts over 30 years of experience in artificial Christmas tree manufacturing. Their design, merchandising, and production of pre-lit artificial Christmas trees and related holiday décor makes them a leader in the industry, and they have a large customer base to prove it.

Balsam Hill, on the other hand, is more of a specialty boutique. We are not just known for top quality and realism, but also for our ability to take our products to a superior level that is simply unmatched by our competitors. We deliver more than just a great tree – we provide customers with the best products and service on the market.

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Thomas Harman | CEO of Balsam Hill

Why Choose Balsam Hill vs Frontgate

A message from our founder:

This time of year, we often field inquiries from prospective customers that go something like this:

“I want to buy a realistic, high quality artificial Christmas tree. I’ve done my research, and I’m deciding between Balsam Hill or Frontgate. Is there a big difference?”

The short answer: YES!

Now, before I get into this topic, let me say that I think Frontgate is a great company, and that I’m personally a very happy Frontgate customer. If you haven’t tried their bath towels, I highly recommend them – they are terrific quality and very reasonably priced. I use mine daily.

This being said, when it comes to artificial Christmas trees, there is a huge difference between Frontgate vs. Balsam Hill. Here are some of the things you may want to consider:

Company Focus

Frontgate is a very large, well-known catalog retailer. You probably receive their catalogs (they will mail 83 million this year) and see them in SkyMall when you fly. They sell thousands of different product categories in the home décor and outdoor markets, and are owned by Cornerstone, a subsidiary of HSN (Home Shopping Network). Altogether, the company is a $3 billion dollar enterprise.

Balsam Hill, on the other hand, is a privately owned, much smaller company. While we may sell more Christmas trees than Frontgate, we do not have the benefit of having as large an audience. On the positive side, we are focused on our goal to design, manufacture, and sell the highest quality, most realistic artificial Christmas trees available in the world.

Design Detail

Each of our Balsam Hill Christmas trees is conceived by our internal team in California, designed by our designers, and prototyped in our R&D center in China before they are made by hand in China. I still serve as our lead Christmas tree designer, and I have personally been involved with the design of each and every Christmas tree that we’ve developed since I founded the company in 2006. In most cases, I review 3-8 iterations of a new tree from our R&D team before deciding whether it meets our standards and should go on to production. Over the next three months, I personally will make three separate trips to China to meet with our R&D team and to iterate the design details of our new products for next season.  What this means for our customers is that they get the best trees available. Our products have been scrutinized and designed with great attention to detail, which is something that we can afford to do as a specialty retailer.

In contrast, Frontgate purchases their trees from importers who are middlemen between Frontgate and factories in China. One of Frontage’s holiday foliage buyers meets with brokers to select the trees for that season. Likely, they will ask for a few design changes as part of issuing a purchase order and then move on to the next product category. Some years Frontgate will advertise the tree as “Frontgate Exclusive,” which means that they are the only retailer selling that particular tree purchased from a broker. However, with something as complex as mimicking nature in the form of a Christmas tree, it’s difficult to do it well for each product when a limited set of buyers is selecting thousands of products to retail.

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