Local Business

Woodstock company builds artificial palm trees

WOODSTOCK – Pacific Electronics makes about 3,000 products for customers in 58 industries, but only one of those products comes with real coconut hair and is on display in front of the company’s headquarters on Route 14 in Woodstock.

The electronic component maker developed its steel-and-molded plastic lighted palm trees in 2001 for a West Coast golf course, said James Gorman, president and COO of Pacific Electronics Corp.

“They had a great success,” he said. “So we planted the one out front just to see how it would weather the storm – wintertime, summertime, spring. And we had so much interest from people who wanted to buy them for their homes and restaurants and everything else that we decided we’d start a division of palm trees.”

The palm tree division operates alongside other divisions that make products as varied as intercom systems for hospitals and lights for the U.S. Army’s tactical vehicles.

That 20-foot-tall multicolored palm tree outside the company’s headquarters, 10200 Route 14, served as a “local beacon and then it started branching off from there,” Gorman said.

Pacific Electronics briefly added lighted cacti and shrubs, but they didn’t sell and were discontinued. But the palm trees have continued to sell steadily, even as competition sprouted up all over the globe.

“We started getting a lot of competitors,” Gorman said. “Other companies would make them and sell them to distributors or sell them outright, but they wouldn’t take care of the trees [or sell] replacement parts. There was no real market set up for it. We developed a tree where you can replace all of the parts.”

Since 2001, the company has sold more than 16,000 lighted palm trees. The trees are available in green, red, yellow, blue, white, purple and orange and come with a remote control that allows for still and pulsing lighting patterns. Prices start at $995 for a 9-foot, 8-inch tree. A 20-foot tree costs $2,495. Customized trees may cost more, depending on options such as size and the type of lights.

Although most of the trees are sold in the U.S., Pacific Electronics and its distributors also have sold them throughout Europe, South America, China and the Caribbean.

Locally, the company’s palm trees can be found in several restaurants and bars, including Dockers Restaurant in Fox Lake, Vickie’s Place in McHenry, and Port Edward Restaurant in Algonquin.

Dockers has four of the company’s lighted palm trees, owner Mario Martinez said.

“I like them, but the customers love them,” he said.

Gorman said the company’s lighted palm trees grace resorts, golf courses, hotels, boat docks and backyard swimming pools around the world.

A McHenry County man has four in his backyard along with a space heater for use year-round. The Kalahari Resort in Wisconsin Dells, Wis., bought some for aesthetic purposes. And a mall in Europe bought about 380 trees – one of the largest orders to date. The trees also are popular with Parrotheads and Gorman said Jimmy Buffett may have bought some through a distributor for a home in Florida.

Lighted palm trees account for about 2 percent of Pacific Electronics more than $40 million in annual sales.

“Our business is so diverse that it just fits,” Gorman said. “We’ll look at pretty much any product and work and figure out how to make it happen. It fits in [because] we build pretty much anything and everything.”

The trees are made at the company’s manufacturing facilities in China.

“We do some stuff here, but a majority of the tree is molded and designed there because of the cost,” Gorman said. “We try to keep our trees very inexpensive.”

To make the trees in Woodstock, it would cost nearly twice as much, largely because of the cost of the steel pole used in the trees, he said.

“We use real coconut hair on our trees,” Gorman said. “We had to buy a license from the government in order to have the real coconut hair brought in and there are only three licenses you can buy for that – we have one of them.”

Ralph Berg started Pacific Electronics in 1984. He later sold it to a company called Auth-Florence Electronics. Gorman and business partner Terry Neeley bought Pacific Electronics from Auth-Florence in 1999.

Since 1999, the company has opened facilities in China, Taiwan and South America and expanded the range of products it produces to meet the needs of its customers.

“We’re trying to be a one-stop shop for our customers,” Gorman said.

Worldwide, the company has about 435 employees, including 20 in Woodstock.


Pacific Electronics Corp.

What: A manufacturing, distribution, and sourcing business that makes electronic components, including motors, fans, transformers, connectors, electronic communication devices and many other products for customers in a variety of industries. 

Palm trees: Pacific Electronics also makes lighted palm trees that feature real coconut hair and more than 1,000 lights. They are available in green, red, yellow, blue, white, purple and orange and come with a remote control that allows for still and pulsing lighting patterns. Prices start at $995 for a 9-foot, 8-inch tree. 

Address: 10200 Route 14, Woodstock

Phone: 815-206-5450

Website: www.pacificelectronicscorp.com

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