Cary News

Shaffer: Christmas tree sale goes bust, until Christmas intervenes

Cary landscaper Joe Lux had bad luck at his first try selling Christmas trees on Chapel Hill Road, so he gave them away instead.
Cary landscaper Joe Lux had bad luck at his first try selling Christmas trees on Chapel Hill Road, so he gave them away instead. JOSH SHAFFER

Due to some unexplained holiday misfortune – tainted mistletoe, a reindeer virus, an unusually high Grinch population in Cary – Joe Lux couldn’t sell any Christmas trees.

He set up a picturesque lot on Chapel Hill Road, built a wooden fence to surround it, stuffed it full of lush Fraser firs, and sat down to wait.

But nobody came. For weeks, his trees sold like fruitcake.

“Nobody ever does well the first year,” shrugged Lux, 45.

So he and his wife, Lynnette, did what any bad-break holiday elves would do: They gave their loot away.

Joe hung a sign outside the lot: “Take a tree for free.”

He posted a note on Craigslist: Get ’em before the needles fall out.

And in the eyes of the Great Yuletide Spirit, he turned a bigger profit.

“My parents raised me to take care of people,” he said. “I’m not always perfect, but I try.”

The Luxes run a landscaping business, Village Green of Raleigh, and the tree idea grew in their minds as naturally as a flower bed. They figured the extra income would help pay their workers during the slow December season, avoiding layoffs.

They drove to Boone and bought 150 firs from a small family farm, Cornett Deal, whose proprietor is in his 80s with a daughter who is the Watauga County clerk of court. It was late in the year, and their order was so small that the big farms wouldn’t touch them.

But back in Cary, Lux sold maybe 40 or 50 out of the whole load. He couldn’t afford to sit on the lot and not sell anything. He tried giving them to the Cary police and fire departments, but they couldn’t accept gifts. So he went back to landscaping, leaving the firs to all takers.

After the Craiglist post, the lot saw a stream of cars pull in for trees reduced by full price, the only amount many could afford.

“I never realized how much a Christmas tree is a luxury item,” Lux said.

I’ve got two trees this year – my 7-year-old, inspired by Charlie Brown, insisted on a spindly 2-footer – but I drove out to the Village Green lot and picked up one of the dozen trees still on the ground. It stood 7 feet tall, lush green, and I knew where to take it.

You might remember Nettie Grove. She’s 84, a widow in Southeast Raleigh, and I wrote about her last year when the city bought her property and sent her a letter informing her she had 90 days to move. It turns out she only had to relocate next door, which has a nice ramp running up the side – handy for an octogenarian who doesn’t move very fast.

Anyway, I thought Lux’s tree would look nice on her front porch. We chatted for a while, I snipped the ribbon and fluffed out the branches, and though I didn’t have any ornaments to spare, the fir from Boone looked to me like it belonged there on Carver Street.

Nettie thought so, too. Thanks, Joe.