BROOKLINE — Sitting on the floor after setting up the bushy balsam fir Christmas tree, stand and all, in an apartment with a view of the Boston skyline, Santa Claus leaned back on his hands. Looking up at the ceiling, he emitted a satisfied sigh.
Jimmy Rider, decked out in a red suit and hat, the cotton ball at the tip poking through a slit in his bike helmet, had just traveled from Somerville to Boston to Brookline by bicycle, lugging the six-foot tree in a trailer behind him.
He was spent but still full of cheer.
The real Santa has a sleigh and reindeer to do the hard work of bringing presents to people’s houses. But for Rider there’s no Prancer, Dancer, Donner or Blitzen. And there’s certainly no Rudolph to light the way.
For four years, Rider has done most of the heavy lifting, relying only on his bike and the customized trailer to deliver a dash of holiday tradition to his customers.
“Every person is happy to get a tree,” said Rider, whose side business EverGreen Delivery operates out of Ricky’s Flower Market in Somerville. “The two things that are amazing are bringing people holiday love ... and I’m getting paid to exercise. There’s nothing wrong with that.”
Rider, whose main business is delivering goods by bike from farmers markets and restaurants, joined forces with Ricky DiGiovanni, owner of the Somerville flower shop on Washington Street, in 2012.
“Jimmy gets in the Santa suit, and plays the part,” said DiGiovanni, who supplies the trees. “He does it with such enthusiasm, whether it’s snowing or raining, or early in the morning. He’ll even do it late in the evening. He gets the job done, and he does it with a smile.”
In his first year, Rider delivered 30 trees. In 2013, the workload doubled. By his third year, after he had launched a website, his business doubled again.
This year’s been no different, except for the unseasonably warm weather and some extra help from two delivery “elves.”
The aptly named Rider says he has already dropped off 200 trees. His first order, for a 12-footer to East Boston, came in five days before Thanksgiving. On a recent trip, he hauled as many as five trees on the small trailer hitched to his bike. It was the most he’s ever carried.
He expects to squeeze in an additional 50 deliveries by Christmas.
Rider stopped near Boston Common Friday morning to check his delivery schedule on his smartphone, which was strapped to the front of his bike. Next to his phone was a small speaker that played reggae versions of classic Christmas songs.
“People are a little bit more environmentally conscious these days, and I think they see it as a neat idea to have a tree delivered by bike,” he said.
‘He gets the job done, and he does it with a smile.’Ricky DiGiovanni, owner of Ricky’s Flower Market, on Jimmy Rider
Rider’s trip to the Brookline apartment was his second delivery of the day, which began at 10 a.m. His route took him from Ricky’s to the Trinity Church in Copley Square, where he left two wreaths at the church’s front desk.
As he pedaled through Copley Plaza, people stopped to take videos and photographs of Rider, their facial expressions turning from furrowed brows to beaming smiles.
From there, Rider pedaled down Commonwealth Avenue and then along the swerving, hilly back roads of Brookline.
His black-booted legs pumped as he rode uphill toward his final destination. Visions danced in his head of the delighted reaction people have when he shows up on their doorstep in his fake white beard and Santa costume, tree clutched in his hands.
When he arrived at the Addington Road apartment complex, Rider didn’t park on the roof like Santa, and there was no chimney to shinny down.
Instead, he left his bike outside, pressed the buzzer, and bellowed out a jolly “Hello!” into the crackling speaker.
Moments later, he hurried toward the elevator, sweaty hair sticking out from under the fluffy white lining of his hat.
Three floors up, he knocked on an apartment door. Before the customer answered, he looked exhausted. But the moment the door swung open, he overflowed with cheer as he pushed the tree inside.
The customer, Molly Renehan, 23, moved to the area from Connecticut in September to begin a job at Massachusetts General Hospital. Since she’s working both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, she won’t be with her family for the holidays.
But at least she’ll have a tree in her apartment to celebrate accordingly, and a story to tell about how it got there.
“It looks great. That’s a great height,” Renehan said of her new apartment’s first tree, as Rider adjusted the stand. “I love it.”
And with that, Santa was gone, back on his bike to deliver his next gift.Steve Annear can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.