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In Allston, families carry on holiday (tree) tradition

From left: Tyler Rotman, Lenny Rotman, Chris Gregory, and Quinn Gregory at Boston Christmas Trees.
From left: Tyler Rotman, Lenny Rotman, Chris Gregory, and Quinn Gregory at Boston Christmas Trees.Barry Chin/Globe Staff

While Quinn Gregory can’t remember exactly when he began working for his father’s Christmas tree business, he recalls it being “right around when the Red Sox signed Dice-K.”

The Red Sox made a deal for Daisuke Matsuzaka at the end of 2006, so Gregory joined the family business more than 30 years after Boston Christmas Trees first set up shop.

Open from Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve, the Allston Christmas tree lot was founded in the ’70s by Lenny Rotman and Chris Gregory, Quinn’s father. The hardware shop across the street from the lot on Harvard Avenue had been trying to sell Christmas trees for a few years and enlisted Rotman, who brought on Gregory. The business expanded from there and became a staple in the neighborhood.


“I never thought I’d be doing it for 45 years,” Chris Gregory said. “Who does anything for 45 years?”

But he enjoys it.

“It’s very social,” he said. “It’s not like buying shoes. People come in, families come in a lot. . . . People that I would never see otherwise. That part’s nice.”

It also brings his family together.

Quinn, 24, who spends most of his time in New York, is one of the four Gregory sons who help out the family business. Another is a 35-year-old lawyer in New York, who still comes back to Massachusetts every weekend during the Christmas season.

“He gets out of work Friday night and comes up here to work Saturday and Sunday,” Chris said, smiling. “So it’s become a family tradition.”

Ben Rukav, 26, had been coming to the lot to buy their trees with his family for years, when he was told that he could come back the following season and start sweeping. Although he now lives in New Orleans, he still returns every year to help out, along with his brother.


“That’s a big part of why we’re successful,” Rukav said. “It’s the same people.”

Rotman, whose sons also work at the lot, noted that there are a lot of returning customers every year. For many, going to Boston Christmas Trees has become as much of a tradition as buying a tree itself.

“What better product is there to sell than something people get such joy from?” Rotman asked.

Chris agreed that Christmas trees are interesting things to sell.

“It’s not an errand, really, like most other things,” he said. “This has no function except this ritual function, so I think that changes the interaction a little bit.”

The appeal of Boston Christmas Trees is a mix of good product (mainly balsam and Fraser firs), and full service (workers help customers pick out trees and bring them to their cars), according to Chris. That, and the social connections.

“We talk to them and I think that’s an unusual interaction in today’s world,” Chris said. “I know that sounds funny, but it’s simple, really. They feel like: Boy, those are our tree guys, that’s where we go.”


Lillian Brown can be reached at lillian.brown@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @lilliangbrown.