NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Many of the Christmas tree sellers you run in to on the street are not from the area.
In fact, many of them drive hundreds of miles for this once a year tradition. Some sellers have been making the yearly pilgrimage for so long that they become part of the neighborhood for five weeks of the year.
CBS2’s Cindy Hsu has the story of one family that’s made the Upper West Side their temporary home for a decade.
Renee asked that we not use her last name. Her husband, Francois, has been selling trees at the corner of 102nd Street and Broadway for the last ten years.
He’s such a popular guy, Jon Reiner and Brad Rothschild made a documentary about him titled “Tree Man.”
“For a lot of the families in the neighborhood, Francois is Christmas,” Rothschild said. “When they see him they know it’s the holidays and they get happy.”
The documentary shows Francois setting up shop a week before Thanksgiving, along with all his devoted customers who have become family. Since he sleeps in a van every night, some Upper West Siders have let him take showers in her apartment.
This year, things are a bit different. Francois stayed home in Montreal with the couple’s four children due to an injury, so Renee made the 500 mile drive in his place.
Neighbor Jill Chase is letting her stay at her home.
“Jill is like a grandmother to me,” Renee said. She has a bedroom, her own bathroom, and even has her laundry done.
Nelson Santiago has been working with Francois for years. He says the chance to work with his wife feels like a family reunion.
For the remainder of the holiday season, Renee’s only contact with her family is through FaceTime, where Francois shows her what they’ve put on top of their own Christmas tree.
She’ll be at the corner of 102nd and Broadway until Christmas Day, when it’ll be time to pack it all up and head home.