Union Trees Opens for Holiday Season

By Oona Milliken | [email protected]

Christmas came early this year as Union Trees, nestled into the Metropolitan Avenue and Union Avenue intersection in Williamsburg, recently opened their seasonal location. With one step, customers can leave the bustling city intersection and duck into the tent pop-up to find 1,000 trees ready to purchase for the holiday season.

Thomas Vaughn, whose primary occupation is running Control Air Solutions, a mechanical control company, can be found manning the stand during the winter months. Vaughn, now 48 years old, said he sold his first Christmas tree at age 11. Bringing joy to the community is energizing in comparison to the rest of the year, according to Vaughn.

“The energy, just the energy. Coming up to this time of year, I’m tired,” Vaughn said. “But now I’m like, ‘Yes, I have energy.’ I don’t know where the energy comes from, it’s like a switch that turns on.”

The venue has been there for 30 years according to Vaughn — the Williamsburg intersection is Union Trees’ original location. Finding the right Christmas tree can be hard, according to Vaughn. Union Trees organizes their selection into three categories, “Premium Tree,” “Average Tree,” and “Basic Tree.” There are two species of trees available in the stand, both from Canada: Balsam fir and Fraser fir.

Depending on the category, a tree can cost the customer anywhere between $80 and $200, but the average tree usually comes with a price tag of $85 or $90. Vaughn said a premium tree is healthy and full, like a sphere, with symmetrical branches. Most importantly, Vaughn said, a premium tree has “nothing wrong with it.”

“A premium tree is the finest tree,” Vaughn said as he pulled out a Balsam fir. “Look, it’s nice and full. Check her out, we can call her Samantha.”

Thomas Vaughn in front of the 1,000 tree bales at the Union Trees location in Williamsburg.

Selling trees is not always easy, according to Vaughn. He said that the market has been hit by rising costs of inflation. According to a survey of 55 of the largest tree wholesalers, their costs have gone up between five percent and 15 percent.

“We’re laying out trees, trying to make everybody happy, trying to avoid the little children’s sad faces. You know, when they come in and say ‘We want a Christmas tree,’ and we say ‘Inflation hit our market almost 15 percent this year,’” Vaughn said.

Vaughn said that the venue will receive 15 or 20 daily visitors looking to buy a tree the two weeks following Thanksgiving. Union Trees usually receive two shipments of 1,000 trees and reserve about 500 trees to donate to the community. Vaughn also said that around the 18th of December, workers from the Christmas tree team will go around to public housing developments and drop off trees for free. Mostly, Vaughn said that he wanted people to stay positive during the holiday season.

“Come shop and be merry,” Vaughn said. “Just be happy and enjoy, you know? Enjoy the family around you. That’s it. If there’s bad energy around you guys, get rid of it and create good energy.”

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