Deck the Halls

GP Designs gives us a taste of the holidays at their Marion facility.

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hen Dave and Sandy Loer purchased GP Designs, then General Plastics, 15 years ago, they were already veterans of the holiday display industry. They had been working for General Plastics for 10 years when they decided to make the purchase and form GP Designs. The business has been manufacturing and selling holiday cheer in the form of light displays and garland trees since 1945, and is the oldest and largest outdoor commercial Christmas display company in the United States.

“We’ve been in this business for a long time now, and there’s been a lot of change,” said Dave, as we walked around the production floor of the 60,000 sq. ft. building. “But people still appreciate a quality product that they know is going to last for years. That’s probably the biggest reason for our success.”

Dave and Sandy are small business owners. They put in long hours all year long but especially during the holiday rush, which is September through November in this business. They'll be the first to arrive and the last to leave. You're as likely to find either of them on the production floor as in their offices. Dave welds the heavy metal displays, building custom decorations for customers across the country. Sandy enjoys working with the production team, lining the metal frames with light strings. 

You might think that working with holiday displays year round would take away from the Christmas spirit come December, but these two have managed to hold on to their holiday cheer.  Because displays go up quickly after Thanksgiving, by the time Christmas rolls around, the GP Designs team is usually done with their work and ready to enjoy a well-deserved holiday. 

If you enjoy holiday decorations and lights, you’re not going to find a better place to tour than GP Designs. From the design floor where the metal frames are welded to the garland machines, you’ll definitely find something to smile about. We visited the display room—with the displays turned on and the overheads off, it’s a winter wonderland certain to bring out the kid at heart. While Christmas is definitely the busiest season for GP Designs, the company also creates displays for Halloween, Easter, and special occasions.

Whether it’s November or July, if you walk into the building, you’ll hear the local country station in the background, and the display team talking about everything from the current order to their families as they work.

“We spend a lot of time together during the busy months,” says Sandy Loer about the team at GP Designs. “It’s a real blessing to be able to work with such great people. Over the years, we’ve become more like a family than a workplace.”

Family and friends are as much a part of the Loer’s business as paperwork and inventory. Spending long hours together with the purpose of seeing a project come together and flipping the switch on a new display has created some strong bonds. And when you’re in the Christmas business, there’s an emotional connection that can’t be denied.

“There’s something magical about seeing the light displays go up,” says Dave Loer. “They start out as so many pieces of steel and light strings. I’ve been working in this industry for over 20 years, and it’s still exciting when we flip that switch on for the first time.”

Michael Belcher, commercial lender at First Farmers, has been working with Dave and Sandy for 15 years. “It’s always great to stop by and see them,” says Michael. “They’re dedicated to their business and their employees, and you can tell they still love what they do. It’s been a privilege to work with them over the years.”

Working with our local businesses is one of the most rewarding jobs at First Farmers Bank & Trust. It’s the local businesses that make a community strong, and we’re honored to play a small role in that.

Written By: Jessica Rolph

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