Just about the time that this week's edition of Boise Weekly was hitting the streets, Aaron Klindt was putting up some of the final Christmas lights of the season.
"I have to abandon my family for about a month-and-a-half," Klindt told BW. "And Mom's house is one of the last homes that get done."
But come Christmas week, Klindt can sit back and enjoy some of his handiwork—in several short years he's become one of the most in-demand Christmas light experts in the Treasure Valley. While he spends many of his spring, summer and fall months cleaning windows—his business is called Pane in the Glass—when October rolls around he starts stringing miles of lights on homes throughout the region. Next to a certain North Pole resident, Klindt is one busy guy this time of year—he didn't even take off his toque or goggles when he sat down for a few rare moments to talk about his craft.
How did all of this start for you?
Through conversations I heard, probably in the womb, between my mother and father. I was born knowing how to do Christmas lights the way women want them done.
Hold it; why women?
How should I put this? Women say, "Honey I want the lights all the way to the top of that tree." But the guy has a 6-foot ladder and is grumbling about how he's going to make that happen.
But how did this become a business?
In high school, my younger brother and I started doing lights for our parents' neighbors. It grew organically; it was essentially word-of-mouth because we don't advertise. Today, it's crazy. We have about 150 regular customers and I just got five new calls yesterday.
And do you always say yes?
We get in the truck, roll the windows up, take a big gulp of coffee and figure out how we're going to make the holidays happen.
How far away are your customers?
We have homes in McCall and Sun Valley.
But you must say no at some point.
I'm bad at saying no.
And does everybody want them up at the same time?
First come, first served. We really try to get everybody up by the first week of December. And if that means we're up on an icy roof, stapling extension cords at midnight, we'll be there.
I'm presuming that your rates are based on the size of the home.
It's by linear feet. And each tree is different. But if you want to go "Full Griswold," we're going to do it.
Sorry, but I've never heard the term "Full Griswold." I'm guessing that you're referring to the Chevy Chase character in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. That's hilarious.
I love going Griswold. But that same crazy image of all of those bad light bulbs motivates us to move everybody to LED lights.
So, you're convincing your customers to go with the LEDs?
We just won't put up store-bought lights anymore. We come measure the house, build to your specifications, get commercial-grade LEDs and even put diagrams in your storage bins when we take them down.
Remind us of the advantage of LEDs.
Incandescent lights can burn-out the night after you turn them on. The LEDs can last 15 to 20 years, and they use about a 12th of the power. LEDs cost slightly less than twice as much [as incandescents], but in two years they're paid off with the power they'll save you.
What are some of your favorite designs?
Last year, at the corner of 25th and Lemp streets in Boise's North End, we designed an LED waterfall with Santa kayaking down from the roof. This year, at that same house, we've got Santa up on the second floor and he's a disco DJ with synched lights everywhere—we've got a 32-channel light controller—and elves dancing across the lawn.
But I've also seen some of your designs on homes that are so crisp and precise.
We love the fun homes, but we really do love those masterpieces, too.
Where do you get your inspirations from?
The natural landscape makes every job different. And if it's not great, we rip it out, get another cup of coffee and start over.
How do you light some of our giant pine trees?
The other day I was on top of a 30-foot roof with a 25-foot extension pole and my brother was walking laps around the trees with hundreds of feet of light.
You were lucky. A lot of those trees aren't close to homes.
If we need a cherry-picker, we'll get one. But honestly, we're more comfortable climbing up inside the tree with the lights around our arms and necks.
I'm presuming that you love your job.
When it's 15 degrees and windy, you still have to find the fun in it. It's more of a passion than work.
What's the one thing you can't do without?
Wire strippers and those Little Giant adjustable ladders. They're pretty heavy and I'm lifting those all the time, so I'll never need a gym membership.