A bonfire rages in a parking lot filled with the aroma of evergreen at the center of the West End. There, Hunter O’Neill heads a family-owned Christmas tree business that relocated this season from their prior lot on the east side of West Beech Street.
For 18 years O’Neill and his family sold their trees at a lot at Pennsylvania Avenue, but after Hurricane Sandy a dispute with the property owner led them further west. They started to sell their two varieties of trees, Premium Balsam and Fraser Fir, imported from Quebec, Canada, on Nov. 30.
“They’re one of the hottest trees right now,” O’Neill said of the firs. “They don’t shed and there is a silver tint under their branches.”
The trees start in price at $25 for two-footers and go as high as $150 for any tree 16 feet or taller. Most people purchase 7- to 9-foot trees, said O’Neill, who offers free tree delivery and set-ups.
Not only does a purchase of any tree come with a free gift, from a box of candy canes to dog biscuits to red ribbons tied to car grills, but two children can to eat a meal for free at Minnesota’s, where O’Neill otherwise earns his keep. Minnesota’s owner, Tom Corning, said it’s a deal he and the O’Neills have run for several holiday seasons.
“Now with the mix up of things we have them right across the street, which makes it easier for families to come, make a night out of it, get dinner and come home with a great holiday tree,” Corning said.
At the lot, customers can also purchase wreaths that range in size and price from 12 inches for $10 to 48 inches for $80. Grave blankets are sold for $30.
O’Neill estimates that he sells some 1,000 trees a season, but he’s unsure about business post-Sandy. Last year, the hurricane devastated the West End and displaced more than half its resident, effectively wiping out business for the O’Neill family, who live in the neighborhood. This season, many residents are still not living back home. But O’Neill still feels optimistic about the season.
“Holiday spirits are back and it’s great to see people be able to celebrate Christmas back in their homes this year,” he said.The Christmas tree lot on West Beech, located between Minnesota Avenue and New Hampshire Street, is open for business from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily until Christmas eve.