Q & A: Tree farm boss helps buyers in search of perfection

Bob Eaton knows trees — fir sure. The evergreen impresario helps runs Bob’s Trees, the family busine

Bob Eaton knows trees — fir sure.

The evergreen impresario helps runs Bob’s Trees, the family business that has become a traditional stop for many Capital Region families in December. If people want a balsam, Douglas or Fraser fir — or white or blue spruce — they talk to Bob or his son Doug, Bob’s brother David Eaton or David’s daughter, Cathy Doyle.

The tree farm started in 1947, when Robert Eaton Sr. planted the first evergreen seedlings in fields off West Galway Road in Galway. People who drive to Saratoga County for Christmas can wander 600 acres full of tall green. Eaton said everyone finds a perfect Christmas tree, at prices that start at $15 for a pre-cut and go to $100.

Q: What’s a typical day in December like at Bob’s Trees?

A: On the weekends, we’re very busy, a lot of families. It’s more than a Christmas tree we’re selling, it’s about memories. We’ve got music here, we’ve got a little gift shop for kissing balls and garlands. We have Santa Claus on the weekends, we have the reindeer, we have a restaurant where you can get a cup of coffee, some chili, a hot dog, a hamburger.

Q: Do you see some people every year?

A: This past weekend, I had them tell me it was 33 years, 45 years they’ve been coming. We’ve had one lady who’s been here all 63 years, she’s never missed it. She got married the year after she bought her first Christmas tree. Some years she got as many as eight trees . . . she decorated every room in the house. Her daughter brought her out this year.

Q: When does your season start to get busy?

A: For the Christmas season, the tagging of the trees can start anytime after the first of September. The selling of the Christmas trees waits until November, but there are people cutting them by the second week of November because they’ve had such great luck with them holding their needles.

Q: Any stories about people trying to find the perfect Christmas tree?

A: We used to have people coming back two or three times looking for that perfect tree. I haven’t had that happen in recent years because our quality is so good here. On the average, once they get out in the field and look around, it’s about 15 minutes. In this weather, maybe a little longer. When it’s colder, they pick faster.

Q: What are the most popular trees?

A: Obviously, the average 8-foot ceiling tree is the most popular, but we handle a high percentage of trees in that 9- to 15-foot range as well. We’re able to grow them ourselves, so it doesn’t cost us to have them shipped on a big truck. A 15-foot tree on a big truck takes up the places of 10 or 12 trees, so the freight on them is astronomical. We grow all our own trees. In order to grow a 15-foot tree, you’ve got to have it in the ground for 20 years.

Q: Seen anything funny happen as people shop for their trees?

A: We’ve had some families who have shown up the first weekend in December, and all of a sudden, that family shows up on the 20th of December. I look at them and they’ve got an 18-year-old girl with them who’s been off to college. She says, “You can’t go out and get your Christmas tree until I get home from college.” It’s December 20, and she’s home from college.

Q: What happens on Christmas Eve? Busy day?

A: We close about three or four in the afternoon, get everyone home. We might sell 25 or 30 trees.

Q: What happens on Dec. 26, when the Christmas rush has ended?

A: I love to sit back and put my head on a pillow and rest for a day or two, but there’s a lot of cleanup that needs to be done. And in the winter months, we do cross-country skiing. We usually plant in April.

Categories: Life and Arts

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