Decked out in red polo shirts worn over green thermal shirts and topped with cheerful Santa hats, two Lodi boys are practicing their sales pitch.
"We're offering a beautiful, fragrant, affordable Christmas wreath," said Drew Klaege, 13. "That's what we say."
Drew and his brother Joel Klaege, 10, each had a 16-gigabyte iPad at the top of his wishlist this year. But their mom, Pam Trassare, put her foot down after years of picking out computers, video games and other electronics for Christmas gifts.
"This year I said, 'No. You guys are going to earn it,'" she said. She put them to work selling Christmas wreaths made of mixed greenery, pinecones and red velvet bows. The boys have been transformed from a gamer and a musician into wreath-selling dynamos. They run Avenue Florist Junior and call themselves the Elves of Wreaths.
"Some kids sell lemonade. We sell wreaths," said Joel Klaege.
The wreaths are ordered from a Washington-based florist. Sandy Trassare, grandmother of the boys and owner of studio-based Avenue Florist, styles the bows, while mom Pamela Trassare works as delivery driver and takes phone orders.
Marketing, shipping and deliveries are left to the kids.
"We just want to sell most of our wreaths, and make enough money to earn our iPads," said Drew Klaege.
"Correction: We want to sell all of them," chimed in Joel Klaege.
Drew Klaege said he and his brother have walked neighborhoods, made cold calls and even presented their product at business meetings to promote Avenue Florist Junior.
One call didn't go so well. The fledgling company wanted to sell wreaths to a local business they heard give wreaths to all their clients at Christmas time. But the phone call came too late, and other wreaths were already purchased.
"It's just one person. There's more people," said Drew Klaege, who has enjoyed getting to know customers over the last month.
These elves will make home deliveries anywhere in Lodi, and if asked nicely, they'll even sing.
They've sold 275 wreaths so far, but there are a few weeks left to unload the whole shipment of 500. Their proceeds, after paying for three iPads, will go to Lodi Adopt-a-Child.
Pamela Trassare figured it would have been easier, in the long run, to just buy the iPads and call it a day. But she wants this experience to give her sons a greater appreciation of the value of a dollar, and what it means to work for the things they want.
"I want them to know how to go out into the world and be good citizens," she said.