RIO GRANDE — The Christmas tree stand in the parking lot of K-Mart has been open since the beginning of Thanksgiving week.
Jeff Brodhag, of North Cape May, has been selling Christmas trees for more than 20 years. He’s not the shifty guy from the movie “A Christmas Story,” who tries to sell Ralphie’s father a tree that’s shedding needles like a waterfall.
Brodhag looks more like the lumberjack that cut down the trees.
Mike’s Landscaping of Rio Grande operates the Christmas tree lot.
The Douglas-firs on the lot come from Pennsylvania, balsam and Nordman firs from Oregon, said Brodhag. He said he sells the largest volume of trees on weekends towards the middle of December.
Grave blankets dominate the lot’s sales for the first two weeks of business, said Brodhag. He will sell several hundred trees between Thanksgiving weekend and Christmas Eve with new shipments arriving weekly.
“People like the real trees because they’re fragrant,” said Brodhag.
Thanksgiving weekend weather was forecast as warmer than usual. Brodhag said he’d prefer temperatures in the 40s, which is more beneficial to the trees.
When the temperature drops, Brodhag has a utility shed and a small electric heater to warm him. If weather forecasters are correct, he’ll need both in a few days.
Snow is not welcome, particularly of the heavy wet variety, which can weigh down and break branches, he said.
Before a tree goes home with its new owner, Brodhag makes a one-inch cut in the trunk.
“The tree will drink lots of water in the first few days,” he said.
Brodhag advises keeping the tree stand filled with water during the tree’s first few days in a home. He sells a tree preservative mix that’s mixed with two gallons of water.
Sooner or later, a Christmas tree will drop some needles and Brodhag sells tree bags that act as tree skirts, which keep your carpet cleaner.
Like the tree seller in “A Christmas Story,” Brodhag will “sometimes” bargain a bit with customers on the more expensive trees.
It’s not a myth, the price of trees drop as Christmas day approaches, he said.
Does the Christmas tree expert have a favorite variety of tree? Yes, the Douglas fir, in part to a scent that resembles citrus.
Brodhag said the biggest mistake you can make with a Christmas tree is to place in front of a heat source such as a fireplace. He said he prefers LED lights for trees since they produce a minimal amount of heat.