Central Park resident Matt Bliss creates modern Christmas trees that have been featured on TV, in a movie, and even at Disneyland. This November, he also opened his first brick-and-mortar store in Cherry Creek. But his sparkling creations were all inspired by his favorite holiday memories of his grandfather, Lawrence Stoecker, who built rockets for NASA and who worked for Stanley Aviation, which was located at today’s Stanley Marketplace.
Christmas for the Bliss family was always at the Stoecker home in Broomfield. “He was someone all the grandkids looked up to,” says Bliss. On Christmas, the grandchildren gathered for hours to play games, listen to stories, and lounge side-by-side to gaze at the Christmas tree as it twinkled in all its Plexiglas wonder.
Yes, Plexiglas. “Someone in the family was allergic to real trees, no one was interested in the usual artificial tree, and so he put a modern take on the Christmas tree” says Bliss. “It was the centerpiece of our holidays, and I thought it was such an interesting and beautiful design.”
The tree was crafted of concentric rings forming a pyramid. Leaning on midcentury modern design, the trees were suspended from the ceiling and slowly rotated as the lights sparkled and the ornaments flashed, which mesmerized each child in the room and epitomized the joy of the season.
In 2010, when Stoecker was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, Bliss resolved to honor his grandfather by digging out his beloved trees and crafting two replicas from acrylic to display at the Denver Modernism Show. “I made one in red and one in green, mostly to pay tribute to his work,” says Bliss.
The positive reaction from the attendees encouraged Bliss to turn it into a business. After establishing his website at modernchristmastrees.com, he began fashioning more trees at his home and then shipping them out to customers nationwide. The vintage look and sleek design appealed both to midcentury modern aficionados and those who simply wanted an incredible holiday showpiece.
Getting the trees placed in high-profile settings was key to Bliss’ success. Disney bought a few trees to place in the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim, and a few more to adorn scenes in a major holiday movie called “Spirited,” which is an adaptation of “A Christmas Carol.” In Colorado, Modern Christmas Trees have been installed in the Governor’s Mansion. A tree was also photographed in the Sculptured House off Highway 70, which is often called the Sleeper House because of its use in the classic movie.
But Bliss’ biggest break was an invitation to pitch his business on “Shark Tank” in 2017. “I set up cardboard cutouts of the sharks and went over the pitch hundreds of times in my basement,” says Bliss. Host Barbara Corcoran praised the trees for their “dazzling ornaments, sparkly crystals, and shimmering rings.” Corcoran ultimately provided Modern Christmas Trees with $100,000 in backing.
With the grand opening of his Cherry Creek store, he devoted 10 percent of the proceeds to the Marshall Fire Community and donated trees to 20 families who lost homes in the Marshall Fire. “One lady said the tree was a metaphor for her life: Out with the old, in with the new,” says Bliss. The seasonal shop stocks Modern Christmas Trees in all standard sizes. He offers 10-foot or 8-foot trees, along with 7-foot trees that stand flush to a wall and 3-foot trees designed for tabletop jubilees. The trees range from $337 to $2,277, and they are all illuminated with multi-cored LED lights. The trees have every color of the rainbow,” says Bliss. “They’re as much functional art as they are Christmas trees, and I’m grateful to share my grandfather’s contribution with the world.”
Front Porch photos by Christie Gosch