Monday, April 21, 2014

Christmas tree seller spreads the cheer

By Shant Shahrigian
Marisol Díaz/The Riverdale Press
Bill Sellers, left, shows Denise Martinez and her son Dandre Deleon, 9, a Christmas tree atMr. Sellers’ stand near the corner of Broadway and West 231st Street.
Marisol Díaz/The Riverdale Press
Bill Sellers packages a Christmas tree for his customers in front of Foodtown on Broadway between West 231st and Verveleen Place on Monday afternoon.
Marisol Díaz/The Riverdale Press
Bill Sellers stands in front of the temporary office where he keeps warm as he sells Christmas trees in front of Foodtown on Broadway between West 231st and Verveleen Place on Monday afternoon.

After working seven days a week the past three weeks selling Christmas trees at the corner of Broadway and West 231st Street, Bill Sellers says he dreams of tall Fraser and fragrant balsam firs every night.

“It’s very, very intense,” he said between selling evergreens on Sunday.

He obliged Marble Hill resident Valerie Willis and her son Scott Gallop as they asked to see several specimens and struggled to decide which tree was the best fit for their apartment’s living room.

Ms. Willis wrapped her arms around the branches of the trees to get a sense of their width while Mr. Sellers held the samples up. 

Eventually, the mother and son settled on a stately, $65 tannenbaum.

“I have loads of ornaments that would just stay in the closet if I didn’t put them out and I love the colors and the twinkling lights and all of that,” Ms. Willis said. “My son said no to a fake tree.”

As exhausting as his 11- to 12-hour days are, Mr. Sellers, 35, seems to take pride in bringing organic embodiments of holiday cheer to customers’ homes. “That’s one of the cool things about this job. People stop by and say hi,” he said. “We feel accepted by the community.”

The Morristown, N.J. native has come to New York City every year the past four years to sell trees at the same spot. He works for Vermont-based Gopher Broke Farms, which ships the trees from Nova Scotia, Canada. The trees cost about $10 a foot.

“I try to work with people, but I know what the trees are worth,” Mr. Sellers said. “Obviously, if you’re selling something, you want both parties to be happy in the end.”

Mr. Sellers said on a good Saturday or Sunday, when a friend comes to help out, customers would buy about 80 trees. He added that he sells as few as 25 on weekdays.

Another worker staffs the stand overnight, unloading fresh shipments of trees and watching over the stock.

Mr. Sellers alluded to memorable experiences from his first year on the job, when he worked the night shift. But he declined to go into detail, saying, “I’ve seen some stuff here at night.”

Mr. Sellers said his yearly stint living up to his last name is a welcome change of pace from his regular jobs working as a waiter and musician. “Dry Decembers, that’s what I like,” he said. “This year’s been kind of cold and rainy, but in general, I love being outside.”

While Mr. Sellers’ stock in trade is enhancing his customers’ Christmas season, he said he has modest plans for the holiday himself: He plans to catch a movie on Christmas day, then fly to visit his brother’s family in Phoenix, Ariz. Afterwards, he plans to take a lengthy trip throughout Asia.

Mr. Sellers remarked that the tropical countries on his itinerary are devoid of Christmas trees.

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