THE POCKET WATCH: Six-foot elf takes up residence at Greenhaven Plaza

The Christmas tree lot on the corner of Riverside Boulevard and Florin Road is currently operated by new folks this year, Pocket native Gregg Jones (whose father owns Ace Hardware) and his friend Chad. They enjoy the comforts of home inside their trailer. Photo by Monica Stark

The Christmas tree lot on the corner of Riverside Boulevard and Florin Road is currently operated by new folks this year, Pocket native Gregg Jones (whose father owns Ace Hardware) and his friend Chad. They enjoy the comforts of home inside their trailer. Photo by Monica Stark

I always imagine the life of the average Christmas tree lot attendant to be kind of a bitter winter mix of cold and loneliness and backbreaking labor, but if that’s the stereotype, Gregg Jones doesn’t fit the profile. I stand with Gregg in the rain, both of us as upright as a couple of soggy meerkats among all the felled evergreens in his lot, intentionally laid down in an orderly manner to avoid the potential chaos that would ensue if they were left upright for the storms to do the job, and he does not once convey a single note of resentment about the avocation he has adopted for the holiday season.

Much to the contrary, with a wide smile and a bit of an elvish twinkle in his eye, Gregg talks about his venture with his good friend, Chad, who has run a lot in West Sacramento for several years, with an enthusiasm that belied the gloom of this winter’s first big storm. Although Greenhaven Plaza, the shopping center at Riverside and Florin, has rented space to a Christmas tree lot for the past several years, this is Gregg’s and Chad’s first year of operation at this location.

For my part, I want him to skip ahead to the bitter cold and loneliness, the theme I anticipated for this week’s Pocket Watch: “Poor soul sacrifices his own happiness so that others can partake in the joy of the season.” But there is no bitterness to be had. Gregg points to the 30-foot travel trailer in the back of his lot. “Sure, someone has to be here 24/7,” he grins, “but we have all the comforts of home here, heat, television, restroom, a warm bed… It’s really kind of nice.”

“But it must get lonely,” I insist, “being away from your family during the holidays.” Turns out Gregg was born and raised in the Pocket area. “This is home for me!” he beams. In fact, this particular parking lot is actually home for Gregg. His dad owns the Ace Hardware store in the shopping center, where Gregg grew up working. “It’s fun seeing all my old friends and customers when they drop by to pick up a tree.”

As the subject turns to the operation of the lot, it becomes obvious that Gregg has much more than just a financial interest in this particular business. He begins to discuss the initial vision that prompted him to approach his buddy about opening in this particular location. “I wanted to provide a lot where people could come for exceptional trees,” he explains. “I wanted to provide the best service possible. This is my home. These are my friends and neighbors. I wanted to make sure that our customers to have a great experience selecting their trees.”

Soon, I begin to feel like I’m talking shrimp with Bubba in Forest Gump. “Of course, we have Noble Firs, which go up to 11 feet,” he says, “and we have the Silvertips, which people refer to as the “Charlie Brown trees”; we have the smaller Nordmans, which are four- to five-feet tall, and they’re really similar to the Nobles, with just a little heavier needle, kind of a two-tone sheen, with silver underneath, dark green on top…” Gregg points out that the lot will receive multiple shipments regularly to ensure that the outgoing stock is replenished and that the selection is always optimal.

In retrospect, it was probably a tad rude of me to mention this to Gregg, but I tell him that, personally, I own an immense artificial tree that I have Ruben schlep out of the garage rafters every year after Thanksgiving. It’s so convenient, maybe not for Ruben, but it certainly is for me, and I wonder if there’s any kind of perceptible trend in that direction that might affect the live Christmas tree industry. I concede that I do kind of miss the smell of a fresh tree.

“Well, you hit the nail right on the head there,” he replies. “Artificial trees are nice and convenient, but one thing they don’t provide for is the fresh smell of the tree and I think just the spirit of getting a real tree that goes back a long way. You have your folks who like the convenience of pulling their own tree out of the attic every year, but then there are those diehards who—whether it’s cutting one down at Apple Hill or coming down to the lot and having the kids run around the tree lot, picking one out and hauling it home on the roofs of their cars—feel like that’s what it’s all about every year. I don’t think that’s going to go away anytime soon”.
Not as long as there’s a place like Gregg’s and Chad’s to shop, my brother. No way.

The Pocket Watch appears in every issue of the Pocket News. Jeff Dominguez can be reached at jeff.dominguez@yahoo.com

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