NEW YORK - Greg Walsh sold his first Christmas tree in this city nearly four decades ago, while in search of a winter side hustle for his summertime fruit stand.
"We made a lot of mistakes," he said. "We bought all the wrong trees, set up in the wrong places."
Thirty-eight years later and this special-ed teacher sources his trees, year-round, from farms in Washington, Oregon, Canada, and North Carolina.
"We know where our trees are coming from for the next five years," Walsh said. "For the last 40 years, I've been as good as anybody at going to the farms."
Greg's Trees stocks its five stands around the city with thousands of trees every November and December, making it one of the largest Christmas tree sellers in the five boroughs.
"It's a small group of guys," Walsh said. "We all know each other and we don't talk to each other."
But it seems unlikely Walsh's competitors also resemble Santa Claus — and, yes, he knows he looks a bit like that jolly old elf, and that's intentional. He started cultivating that image three seasons ago.
"Lot of people don't like it," he said. "My wife and my mother don't like the beard, so usually I cut it off after but then I start growing it again in May."
This season, Walsh encourages shoppers not to wait until the last two weeks before Christmas to try and find their tree.
"The tree shortage is real," he said.
Unlike in seemingly every other industry, the shortage of Christmas trees in this country has nothing to do with the COVID-strained supply chain but instead is due to an over-supply of trees that led to the under-planting of new ones a decade ago.
Walsh hopes his college-aged son takes over his operation someday, but for the next many years, this Santa Claus look-alike Queens native plans to continue supplying the city with its Christmas trees.
"I don't regret a minute of it," Walsh said. "I enjoy every minute of my day, usually."