How long have you worked at the TROSA tree lots? 

This is my 16th year. I’m a graduate of the program—I graduated in 2004 and became staff-in-training, and then got hired on as a staff member.

What’s your favorite part about it?

My favorite part is selling the big trees and assisting families in picking out that perfect tree for the season. It’s a memorable experience for them—not for me so much, but for them. Like this young lady I was dealing with when you came up, she’s been coming out here for 10 years to buy her tree. We only see each other once a year, but there’s a rapport there.

Do you have a favorite story from working at the tree lot?

Yes: The night the young man walked up to me on a Friday night and asked me if I had a problem with him proposing on this tree lot. They came and bought a tree, and as the tree was coming off the baler, and we were standing it for him and everything, he knelt down and proposed. It was neat. There was a little audience out here, and everybody was clapping, and it was very memorable.

How is picking out a Christmas tree this year different, thanks to COVID-19?

We normally assist the customer a little more than we have this year. This year we’re kind of letting them pick their own tree. We’ve started something a little different: This is a two-part tag. They’ve been tearing off the bottom part and coming and saying they picked out tree number 202 over on the aisle, and we’ll go to this tree that’s got this part left. We get 202 and bring it to our table and wrap it for them and take it to their car so it’s kind of touchless, no-contact. We haven’t been within six feet of them.

How has it changed things for y’all?

I’ll give you last night, for example. I’m having to serve our food, our supper—put on latex gloves and serve the guys. I looked out the window, and one of my customers was there and said, “I was wondering where you were at.” So I came outside, and his family was there, and we maintained our social distance. We’re talking about how the times have changed and his little girl says, “Hey Mr. Steve, where’s my candy cane?” And I had to say, “Sweetie, we’re not doing that this year.” Just things like that we miss. 

I’ve actually never picked out a Christmas tree. What goes into finding the perfect one?

First of all, it’s what the customer is looking for. Once they tell you they’re looking for a slender tree or a fat, full tree, then you can direct them to the different lines where the different trees are. For them to pick out the perfect tree is what they agree on to look at for the next three or four weeks. We try to assist in that, as far as how we were pulling the tree out, spinning it around, and letting them really look at the tree. That part’s kind of different this year.

Anything else you want to add?

These guys are here getting their life together. They’re all participants in our program. And they feel good because they’re being able to help these families have a memorable experience. That’s what it’s about.

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