It arrived on a long landscaper’s trailer, lumped in with dozens of other freshly cut Douglas Fir trees, ranging in size from 5-feet to 9-foot-tall.
On the side of the red, beat-up truck towing the trailer hung a handmade sign with green lettering that announced to my curious neighbors that I am one smart shopper indeed.
The sign reads: “Christmas Tree Delivery: $50 trees with setup.’’
It’s a mobile Christmas tree lot called Santa’s Little Helper, and it’s run by Wall resident Barton Gross out of his Gully Road home. And because of him, I have a lovely tree in my living room that smells like a forest and I barely had to touch it.
“People really like this,’’ Gross said as I was selecting my tree from among the examples he brought to my driveway. “I had a delivery the other day and the woman said she had been to different kinds of lots, and cut-your-owns, but she’d never seen anything like this.’’
Who: Santa's Little Helper, mobile Christmas tree lot
What: Brings Christmas trees to your house, will even set them up in your living room
Where: Will deliver all over Monmouth County
When: Any day while the trees last
How Much: Trees are $50-$60; $10 more gets it set up in your house
Phone: (732) 539-9893
In late 2011, Barton’s son, Corey, and friend Shawn Keegan, wanted to set up a Christmas Tree lot, sell some trees and make a little money. But they were far too late to get the permitting paperwork rolling.
Two hundred trees and nowhere to put them. Big problem.
Then it hits Corey. Why not set up a mobile tree lot. Instead of customers going to get a tree, the trees come to the customers.
Boom. Santa’s Little Helpers is born.
Corey sold 197 of his 200 trees last year, his father said.
Since last year, Corey has started a solar panel business, which has taken off and left him without time to continue the tree business.
“Everything that kid touches takes off,’’ Barton said.
But Barton, who owns a landscaping company, decided to keep his son’s first business going for a second year.
* * * * *
My phone rang about two weeks ago -- someone from Santa’s Helpers wanting to know if I’d like to set up an appointment for a tree this year. I was among Santa’s Little Helper’s first 200 customers last year.
But it was early in the season. I was still digesting Thanksgiving turkey. I let some time pass before I called back. Barton answered the phone.
I told him I needed about a 6-foot tree, Douglas Fir. No problem, he says. He’s got trees from 5-feet to 9- or 10-feet and they’re all Douglas Fir, cut by hand from a farm in Pennsylvania. He’ll bring several examples when he arrives at my house, he says.
We settle on Friday, 2 p.m.
* * * *
Barton arrives right on time. He brings out three trees for us to inspect and we go through this Three Bears routine until we find one that just right.
Barton brings out his chainsaw, trims up the bottom branches, puts it in my tree stand, trims the top, brings it into my living room and sets it down.
The whole process took less than 20 minutes.
Which is good for me, but for him too. He says he’s got 10 deliveries today. Another 20 set up for Saturday.
“We’re getting calls like crazy right now,’’ Barton said.