The Tree-Sellers Return, And Explain The Tricks of Their Trade

Hank and Colby assembling their hut last week.

By Jeff French Segall

Colby and Hank are back, putting together their annual Christmas tree station at the corner of 90th Street and Columbus Avenue adjacent to St. Martin’s Tower last Wednesday. Both men traveled down to New York from Vermont to bring to market their impressive variety of Christmas trees, which include Balsams, Fraser Firs, White Pine, Concolor Firs as well as wreaths and live potted Dwarf.

Colby was at the St. Martin’s Tower site last year, and Hank was the truck driver delivering approximately 1,000 trees to 20 different Manhattan locations each day. This year Colby will be working days, and Hank will cover the night shift, each of them wrapping up trees and helping to bring winter joy to so many upper west side families. You might see Hank playing his mandolin in the hut at night when business is slow.

Depending upon the species and height, the cost of a tree runs from $20 for a 2-3 foot economy tree to as much as $500 for the 14-foot premium Fraser Firs.

Here are a few FAQ’s that this writer has wondered about in the past:

WSR: What happens to the remaining unsold trees?
Colby: As we get closer to Christmas, we start shifting unsold trees to locations with shortages. At the end of the season last year we had about a hundred that were not sold. We bring them to various drop-off locations such as Randall’s Island where they are chipped and eventually sent to New York City Parks.

WSR: What’s the name of your company?
Colby: Uptown X-MAS Trees.

WSR: Are you sellers salaried or work on commission?
Colby: We’re paid a salary.

WSR: How many locations does your company have in Manhattan?
Colby: We have twenty. Seventeen are in various locations in Harlem.

WSR: How long have you been doing this work?
Colby: It’s in my family. My father started doing it back in the day, and we keep doing it.

WSR: Where is home?
Colby: In Vermont.

WSR: Where do all these trees come from?
Colby: We don’t grow the trees. We buy them from growers. They come from different farms.

WSR: How many trees would any one farm produce in any one year?
Colby: About 10,000. But those are only the ones for sale in that year. The farms are unbelievably huge, with many thousands of trees. They’re located in Canada and in Pennsylvania and Vermont as well.

WSR: And finally, when will the first trees arrive?
Colby: They’re scheduled to arrive tonight (last Wednesday).

NEWS, OUTDOORS | 8 comments | permalink
    1. Mark Moore says:

      These guys have the best colored lights of any of the UWS tree sellers.

      How about, where do you sleep at night? Where do you go to the bathroom? I don’t hear a generator, are you plugged into the building, and do they charge you for that?

    2. RickiLS says:

      They do have the best lights!
      They sleep in a rented apartment, in a different neighborhood, which they share with other tree sellers. Colby and Hank use the facilities in St Martin Tower, and their display lights are indeed plugged in. No generator noise and safer.

    3. Christine E says:

      Do they pay rent to St Martin Tower? Or to the city? For the sidewalk space.

    4. UWSSurfer says:

      Rather than put the unsold trees in a wood chipper for mulch, it would be nice if they let
      poor people take them home. Then, those people and their families could have a tree to celebrate Christmas.

      • Ciree Nash says:

        We actually do give some trees away and have for 45 years. What we don’t do is lower our prices for people who try and wait till the end thinking they’ll get a bargain, which isn’t a good idea anyway as the selection isn’t that great at the end. So don’t wait. The 100 trees we had leftover were from all our locations (average 5 trees per location) and were out of about 16,000 trees total. They were what was left after we give some away to deserving families. We can’t leave trees on the sidewalk or the city will fine us so once we’re packed up and gone if there are any trees left we have to take them. Those are the trees that end up as mulch. If you have any more questions visit our website

    5. Bob Selya says:

      Do they have a license?

      • Ciree Nash says:

        You don’t need a license to sell books or religious symbols (which Christmas trees fall under) in NYC. However you do need permission from the building/store owner, whom we pay rent to. Additionally, we have permits from the parks, agricultural, and tax departments. It’s not as simple as just showing up and setting up shop.

    6. Peter Black says:

      how much does an 8 ft tree cost?