Vermont-Based Christmas Tree Seller Prepares for Its Monthlong Sprint in New York City | True 802 | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

Seven Days needs your financial support!

Vermont-Based Christmas Tree Seller Prepares for Its Monthlong Sprint in New York City 

Published November 9, 2022 at 10:00 a.m. | Updated November 11, 2022 at 5:46 p.m.

click to enlarge A Christmas tree seller helping a customer - COURTESY OF UPTOWN CHRISTMAS TREES
  • Courtesy Of Uptown Christmas Trees
  • A Christmas tree seller helping a customer

Every year, a small army of Christmas tree sellers descends on the streets of New York City, transforming sidewalk corners into makeshift pine forests. Like Macy's window displays, the lots of trees are part of the quintessential holiday scene in the Big Apple. 

Many of the season's fir-slinging foot soldiers are Vermonters. "I don't hire New Yorkers," explained Jane Waterman, co-owner of Uptown Christmas Trees. "Most people from New York don't know how to deal with the cold for that long."

Uptown Christmas Trees — based in Hyde Park, Vt. — is one of two main Christmas tree companies that sell trees in the city. Waterman has been running the enterprise with her husband for more than 30 years. The couple sell about 20,000 trees — sourced from Nova Scotia, Québec, Vermont, Oregon and New Hampshire — between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day at 20 locations in Manhattan and the Bronx.

To make it all happen, the company relies on 50 employees, mostly Vermonters who return year after year. The hodgepodge team, which Waterman calls her "family," is made up of artists, musicians, carpenters, podcasters, firefighters and stonemasons who relocate to New York for one month of nonstop work. 

"There's something that's really exhilarating about being a part of this whole operation that blossoms out from nowhere," said Emily Velush, who worked her first season as a "night-shifter" last year. 

A night-shifter will make $5,000 for the month, plus tips. Managers make even more. The employees also get free housing in Harlem.

Velush described the experience as "magical." She became friendly with neighborhood regulars and delighted in the never-ending hum of city life. Velush especially enjoyed when passersby stopped to smell the trees, their faces relaxing with each breath.

But it's not all aromatic pine branches and Christmas magic. Workers put in 12-hour shifts with no days off for a month. Night-shifters work from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. It can be tedious, cold and exhausting.

And yet, tree sellers come back year after year. Velush doesn't necessarily see herself as a lifer, but she's excited to return this season as a manager. 

"Once you go down there, the rest of the world ceases to exist," Waterman explained. "It's a vacation so weird, we'll pay you to take it."

The original print version of this article was headlined "Urban Forest"

Got something to say? Send a letter to the editor and we'll publish your feedback in print!

About The Author

Rachel Hellman

Rachel Hellman

Bio:
Staff reporter Rachel Hellman covers Vermont towns for Seven Days. She is a 2020 graduate of Washington University in St. Louis, and her work has been published in the Guardian, the Boston Globe and Backpacker. Rachel is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Find out more at reportforamerica.org.

Comments


Comments are closed.

Since 2014, Seven Days has allowed readers to comment on all stories posted on our website. While we’ve appreciated the suggestions and insights, the time has come to shut them down — at least temporarily.

While we champion free speech, facts are a matter of life and death during the coronavirus pandemic, and right now Seven Days is prioritizing the production of responsible journalism over moderating online debates between readers.

To criticize, correct or praise our reporting, please send us a letter to the editor. Or send us a tip. We’ll check it out and report the results.

Online comments may return when we have better tech tools for managing them. Thanks for reading.

Keep up with us Seven Days a week!

Sign up for our fun and informative
newsletters:

All content © 2022 Da Capo Publishing, Inc. 255 So. Champlain St. Ste. 5, Burlington, VT 05401

Advertising Policy  |  Privacy Policy  |  Contact Us  |  About Us  |  Help
Website powered by Foundation