Merrill company plays big role in helping people around the world deck the halls

MERRILL, Wis. (WSAW) -- The first wreaths date back to 1600s Germany.

Production floor of the wreath ring department at Mitchell Metal Products (WSAW photo)

"It originally started as a way to celebrate and count down the days before Christmas," said Tim Zimmerman, president of Mitchell Metal Products.

But since then, hanging a wreath during the holiday season has spread across the globe.

"As those folks settled here, and particularly in Wisconsin, they brought that tradition with them."

Mitchell Metal Products in Merrill plays a big role in that tradition today.

"In 1956 we began producing wreath rings," Zimmerman said.

They're sent nationwide and around the world, to places like Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Poland and most recently, Romania.

"People here in Merrill are very proud to produce those products that are used everywhere to celebrate Christmas."

While the company ships all year long, with the most shipments sent out over the summer and fall, it's this time between thanksgiving and Christmas when business picks up.

"We ship over 6 million wreath rings a year," he said.

Two and a half million of those are for Wreaths Across America, that's celebrated every year, on the second Satruday in December. This year it's Dec. 14. Volunteers lay wreaths at Arlington National Cemetery and graves of American veterans here and abroad.

"To me, it hits close to home, having veterans in the family and having been married to a Navy man for 20 plus years," said Mary Hull, the supervisor for the wreath ring department.

But the process is not only special for her, but all of the employees at Mitchell Metal Products, who have a literal hand in the process when they weld the rings together.

"Each one, even before it's got the boughs on it and it's placed on the grave, it's actually physically been touched by our people to make it happen," Hull said.

With six million wreath rings made every year, Zimmerman said that's only 20% of the products manufactured there.