Greenpoint Trees. Same corner, same tradition

Posted on 08. Dec, 2009 by in Uncategorized

By Almudena Toral

Stephen and Dorothy Leddick’s two-year-old daughter first uttered her favorite sentence last Christmas season: “Trees, trees, trees.” Green trees. From Greenpoint Trees, her parents’ business.DSC_1522

“This is the only company here that has native Greenpointers,” said Dorothy, 35, selling Christmas trees at the corner of Calyer Street and Manhattan Avenue in Brooklyn. She looked comfy inside her gray North Face jacket.

What makes Greenpoint Trees unique, she said, is that they’re community-based. The Leddicks were born and raised in the neighborhood. They are involved in the Episcopal Church of the Ascension and lead a Boy Scouts troop.

The Leddicks find the holiday season the roughest and most challenging time of the year. Stephen, 36, sleeps two hours a day during December. Coffee is his secret, he said.

But the Leddicks, unlike most corner tree-sellers, don’t pack up their belongings and live in a van for a month. “The difference between us and other people that come from Canada is that we get to go home at the end of the day,” he said.

He has worked at Greenpoint Trees every day of every Christmas season since he was seven. He worked under his landlord, John Conway, who started the business. When Conway died, Stephen decided to continue the tradition. He has a nine-to-five job as a construction site supervisor in Manhattan, but the extra money from Greenpoint Trees helps buy Christmas presents for the Leddicks’ five kids, he said.

DSC_1515Greenpoint Trees is a landmark in the neighborhood. Many neighbors, customers for up to 20 years, wouldn’t consider buying elsewhere.

“You have familiar faces you see every year, and this is the time of the year when you find out they’re not around anymore,” Dorothy said.

“We find out who passed away, who had a baby, who broke the law,” her husband said.

He said a firefighter who lives around the corner has been buying his Christmas trees from them for 15 years. “Now his son is buying trees with his wife and son,” Stephen Leddick said. “That’s pretty cool.”

The business has three different locations selling fresh trees — two in Greenpoint and one in Middle Village, Queens. They’re open 24/7 since deciding years ago to hire an overnight security guard. They have too many trees to put them in a yard at the end of a day — 400 at the intersection of Calyer and Manhattan alone, Dorothy said. And people buy trees at 3 a.m., believe it or not.

The adventure starts the day before Thanksgiving every year. It takes 10 men to set up everything in the three sites. The Leddicks sell and deliver non-stop until Christmas Eve. Although they’ve changed growers several times over the years, now they have an exclusive deal with Wayne Silver from Silver Farm, Nova Scotia.

A customer who bought an eight-foot Fraser fir last year was happy to share his feedback. “I asked a bunch of questions about freshness, where the tree came from, etc. I was told the tree had just been harvested,” said Shawn Rosvold.DSC_1512

And a fresh tree has to be treated with care, Dorothy said. “I always tell women you have to treat a tree as your favorite pair of shoes.” Greenpoint Trees bestsellers, Fraser and Balsam firs, need water and love. Their prices range from $14 to several hundred dollars, and the ones that sell the most are six to eight foot tall. The couple also sells Douglas firs if specific customers request them, a kind of smaller trees called Alberta dwarfs, wreaths, grave, blankets and pillows.

The Leddicks knew everyone who stopped by. They said hello and called people by their names. The growers from Canada and other states who come in a van and sell trees for a month are not able to do that.

“The Canadians, they look at us strange. Maybe they’re just intimidated by the fact that we’re from here,” Stephen said.

He thinks people would be upset if one year they don’t see their trees piled up on Calyer Street.

“But year after year, it gets harder and harder and colder and colder,” he said. He’s getting older, he said.

The Leddicks love doing their job right, treating people with respect and being professional, Dorothy said. “But as professionals as we are, we’re still running a business in a street corner,” she said, “and it’s not easy.”

Easy or not, Greenpoint Trees is here to stay, Dorothy said. “With everything that’s changing here due to gentrification and recession, this is stability. They know we’re gonna be here: we’re not going anywhere.”

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