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xmas trees in the city


It’s Christmastime in the city, which means it’s time for annual pop-up Christmas tree shops. The day after Thanksgiving, mini-marts stocked with Christmas trees small enough for a 350 square-foot apartment, and large enough to fit an apartment well over 3,500 square feet, emerge on city blocks. An arbor of evergreen reminding us, through the power of scent, that the year is drawing to an end. Again.

!st Ave and St. Mark's Place, 11:00pm.

1st Ave and St. Mark’s Place, 11:00pm.

And like every other business that seeks to grow, it has expanded beyond Christmas trees. On 2nd Avenue, between 19th and 20th streets, there is a an outdoor mall stocked with wooden soldiers, ornaments and every other accessory for the city-dweller to create the perfect domestic pitch of joy to the world!

Open day and night.

Open day and night.

By necessity, the shops are manned 24 hours, even when it’s 25 degrees outside. Years ago, I had a friend who ran a Christmas tree shop. He set up an electric heater, and three or four beach chairs because friends frequently stopped by to keep him company. While it was cold and lonely at three in the morning, from a certain perspective it turned out to be not such a bad job. It was steady work for a mere 30 days with guaranteed pay, and today this guy is a super successful entrepreneur. Is there a connection? Plus, now that he’s on the right side of 50, this youthful feat of braving the cold night and day to sell Christmas trees makes a great story.

These days, most places come with a heating cube and and air mattress, but that doesn’t mean the sales force can be lax. One morning on my way to work, lured by the glitter and lights, I decided to buy a gift for a friend. I knocked on the heating cube Sleeping in the city and Patrick, bright eyed and bushy tailed, came out. His shift, which had started at nine the night before was just about over. He had not sold too many trees, but he was sublime and optimistic. A shipment had just arrived, and he was pretty sure that by the run of the gig there would be only a few left. He helped me select the perfect ornament.

Patrick Demayo. New York.

Patrick Demayo of Liberty, New York.

So here’s to the ritual of Christmas-tree commerce, because whether you choose to have a tree or not, you still get to experience the greenery that marks the holiday season.