No mistletoe was required for Steve and Denise Pagura's first kiss, but a truckload of sickly Christmas trees played a role in the couple's union.
Dublin residents Steve and Denise Pagura, 56 and 53 respectively, met as seasonal competitors in Christmas tree sales. Now -- 32 years later -- they share ownership in two businesses, including Michigan-based Northern Lights Tree Farm, which sells trees seasonally at multiple central Ohio locations.
Both were selling trees at Whitehall locations in 1981 when Steve Pagura, having received a shipment of inferior trees for his lot on East Broad Street next to Holy Spirit Church, wandered onto Denise's lot at the Great Eastern Shopping Center and asked to buy a large number of trees wholesale.
It was an offer Denise would normally have gladly accepted, but this particular season, she was selling trees at an unprecedented clip and expected to sell out at retail prices.
"I told him 'sorry, we're just selling too many trees this year. It seems my competition around the corner got some bad trees, so everyone is coming here.' I wouldn't sell to him (wholesale)," Denise Pagura said.
"He said, 'Um, that me,' but I still didn't sell to him."
A year passed and the competing tree vendors set up shop again at the same locales.
Again, Steve paid Denise a visit but with a different motive in mind.
"He asked if I wanted to have lunch," said Denise, who advised him she had a lot of work to do, but Steve offered to help and she accepted.
"We had about an eight-hour lunch," said Steve Pagura, at a restaurant called Tiffany's at Olentangy River and Ackerman roads that has since closed.
"By the time I got back home (to Michigan), he had already called and said he wanted to come up and look at trees," said Denise, whose family owned Slocum Farms, near Muskegon and the coast of Lake Michigan.
The farm grew a variety of vegetables and pumpkins, as well as trees.
Steve Pagura, a graduate of Bishop Watterson High School and Ohio State University, owned and operated Pagura Landscaping.
The couple married in 1985.
"I moved to (Columbus), but told Steve I still needed to travel (back to Michigan) for the family business," Denise said.
Since then, Steve and Denise launched Northern Lights Tree Farm and, two years ago, bought 50 percent of the 3,200-acre Slocum Farms from her father. Her uncle owned the other half of the business and it has been parceled out to other buyers.
Her father still shares in its operations, assisting Denise and her son, Joshua, a graduate of Dublin Coffman High School.
The Paguras also have two adult daughters: Christina, a graduate of Coffman High School and Ohio State University, and Angela, a graduate of Watterson High School and Michigan State University.
In addition to seasonal help with Slocum Farms and Northern Lights Tree Farm, Steve Pagura also owns and operates the Pagura Co., a firm dealing primarily in commercial real estate.
"I kind of struck out with getting those Christmas trees from her, but I think it all turned out for the best," he said. "Thirty years later and we're still together and doing the same thing."
Northern Lights Tree Farms has five seasonal locations in central Ohio:
* A Whitehall location at 3660 E. Broad St., at the Town & Country Shopping Center.
* A Hilliard location at 3980 Main St., at the Masonic temple in Old Hilliard.
* A Gahanna location at 928 E. Johnstown Road.
* An Upper Arlington-area location at 5400 Riverside Drive.
* A Grandview Heights-area location at 1093 Dublin Road.
The lots are open from noon to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturdays, and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sundays, through Christmas Eve.