It’s hard to miss it. It sits on the corner of South and Moody – the Christmas Tree Village- ringing in the festive season. It’s all about the Firs as the aroma of a variety of them fills the air. Raj Patel greets customers ready with all the information on hand. The slew of Firs include Douglas, Nobel, Grand, Turkish and Nordman. Each has its unique characteristics. Patel who is now an expert can lead you to the right one you’re looking for.He has run the Christmas tree lot for the past three years and prior to that he worked with a friend, Amit Sakhrani - who ran a lot in Anaheim hills. Raj calls Amit his‘ angel’ as he not only taught him the ropes of this business but gave him the much needed helping hand at a crisis point in his life.
So Raj is no green horn. He knows his Firs. Talking about the Firs he says the most in demand are the Nobel and the Grand. Nobel have thicker branches and can hold heavier ornaments and they also tend to stay fresh longer. The Grand is a cross between the Douglas and the Nobel and its most distinct characteristic is its fragrance. Raj makes a trip to Springfield, Oregon where he handpicks the Firs he wants from two farms he has zeroed in on. The firs are then transported on a 53 ft refrigerated truck with ice to maintain the freshness of the Firs. Unlike other lots, Raj is proud of the fact that he gets weekly shipments from Oregon to ensure the freshness of the trees.
“Its all about efficient and effective customer service,” he says, adding that he goes the extra mile to please the customers even making free deliveries for seniors. The Christmas tree Village opens the weekend of Thanksgiving but since Thanksgiving was late this year he opened a weekend earlier on Nov 22 and will remain open until Dec 30 . This seems surprising since Christmas will be all done by then. But Raj says there are some real late buyers who buy to decorate the venues of the New Year’s eve parties.
It involves a lot of work and even with eight helpers the work never ends. But as Raj puts it, “it’s a lucrative seasonal business and well worth it.” The location is great and a definite USP. He is all praise for the City of LA Palma which always extends to him all the help and cooperation he needs. This year he also has a lot in Anaheim Hills on Santa Ana Canyon Road.
Giving back to the community is what he prioritizes. This season Raj has donated 50 trees to Veteran organizations, and to the children’s hospital and to low income families.
So what does he do when the Christmas lights are out and the Firs disappear? It’s business as usual which for him means back to crunching numbers. Raj runs a consulting firm – One Stop Financial services and a car company- Circle City Motors- dealing in used cars out of Anaheim. Revealing a very personal detail of his life he talked about his father who is suffering from Alzheimer’s and other medical complications. Raj is the primary care giver for his dad and ever since his dad, a retired motel owner, became an invalid, Raj’s life changed, making room for big lifestyle changes to look after his dad. In fact three years ago when he first put up the Christmas tree Village his dad underwent a major surgery and Raj was not sure if he see the venture through. But in the end things worked out well. He is grateful to God, his parents and the community for their support and the City of La Palma who help make this a success year by year.