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Guide us to the perfect lights

Not interested in putting up and taking down your holiday lights this year? Custom Christmas Lighting will string them for you.
The air temperature might have made it feel like September last week. But Rob Schlosser's crew affirmed that the holidays are right around the corner.

Wearing red Santa hats -- some with jingle bells -- employees of Custom Christmas Lighting climbed ladders, rode bucket trucks and measured out wiring to complete a display at a large home on Beach Road in Eden Prairie. It's one of about 300 jobs the company will complete this season.

Schlosser, who has run the business from his Prior Lake home the past three years, beamed with delight at the progress.

"It doesn't matter if the job is one tree or takes us four days to complete," he said. "I'm pretty happy."

Custom Christmas Lighting specializes in putting up and taking down holiday lights. Work begins as early as September, and take-down will last into March.

Schlosser's crews do the majority of their work in the west-metro area. But he rarely says no to those who call, and this season he's ventured as far as Cold Spring, 75 miles northwest of downtown Minneapolis.

"I like challenges," Schlosser said. "I like being told, 'This is what we want. Get it done.' "

Schlosser, 28, became interested in lighting projects growing up on a farm in Albert Lea. His mother raised horses and his father worked as an electrician.

It was a perfect fit for a boy interested in brightening up the scenery for the holidays.

He did his first project there at age 11. By 15, he had won a countywide competition for outdoor holiday displays.

He first did a for-profit lighting job in the St. Cloud area in 2000. By 2004, he had a business in the Minneapolis area.

His work has tripled each year since, he said.

"I try to take care of people the best I can," he said. "I've found that if we get a customer, we generally keep them."

Schlosser spends most of August through November driving around the Twin Cities area doing estimates for potential customers, both residential and commercial. It is not uncommon for him to go through a tank of gas a day, he said.

Small jobs typically start in the $300 to $400 range. An average job, Schlosser said, is about $2,500. And then there are those that flirt with $10,000.

Location, house size and house value are factored into his pricing.

"If it's a $315,000 house, we can do that pretty cheap," Schlosser said. "But if the house [cost] $1.6 million, expect to spend some money with us. Houses like that tend to have a lot more landscaping and a lot more for us to light."

All told this season, Schlosser said he expects to do more than $250,000 in business.

He employs a crew of 12, only one of whom works for him year round. Many of the rest work in landscaping during the warmer months.

As word spreads and jobs grow, so, too, does Schlosser's business. And he plans to keep it going.

"Unless somebody cancels Christmas," he said.

Brian Stensaas • 612-673-4127 • bstensaas@startribune.com