The “Lumberjacks” and “Lumberjills” of Mr. Lumberjack are currently scurrying around Manhattan, delivering Fraser firs (what they call “the Cadillac of Christmas trees”) to apartments of all shapes, sizes, and heights. Mr. Lumberjack spreads not only cheer but also humor—each year, it hires a cast of actors and comedians to help sell and deliver trees.
We caught up with owner Jonathan Powley to see how this season is going.
Square: How are things?
Powley: Busy! Usually the second Saturday in December is our busiest day of the year.* In the beginning of the month, people start noticing the new Christmas tree lot in their neighborhood. Many tell us they love the fragrance of fresh pine and change their walking routes to pass by the trees. The second weekend in December we get all those people who said, “oh, we’ll come back here” earlier in the month.
How did Mr. Lumberjack get started?
I’ve been an aspiring stand-up comedian in New York City for the last 10 years. Last year, I created something called the Christmas Tree Stand Up and hired a bunch of comedians to help make the experience of buying a Christmas tree fun and interactive. We had a live show at the lot and used it as a creative hub. This year we hired more funny, spirited, and personable people and created Mr. Lumberjack tree delivery. In fact, Santa Claus himself is coming this weekend. He’s quite the comedian.
How have you grown since your beginning?
I think I have grown personally. I don’t get frazzled as easily. In the end, it’s just trees. The business has grown in size, but that hasn’t changed our approach to staffing and training. We spend much of November recruiting the best Lumberjacks and Lumberjills out there.
What’s the craziest place a Lumberjack/jill has delivered a tree?
Last year we had a customer who was a hard negotiator. A tree was $65 and she really wanted it for $60. So I reduced the price to $60 (I’m a bad negotiator). Then she asked me if I could deliver it. I said, “Sure! Where do you live?” She pointed down the street one block to this gigantic luxury skyscraper that towered above all the other buildings in the area and said, “The Penthouse.” I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. I said, “okay, what’s the number of your penthouse?” She told me that the elevator just opens up into her apartment. It was a really nice place.
What’s your advice to other seasonal business owners?
Go for it! Seasonal work is awesome. It gives you a change of pace in your life. You have 11 months to prepare for one month. Pretty cool.
How does Square help you run your business?
Most New Yorkers don’t walk around with cash on them, so they love how easy it is to swipe their card and sign. They don’t have to rush to the ATM in the middle of buying their tree.
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What’s the most rewarding part of running your business?
I love being a small part of the holiday cheer. I love exceeding people’s expectations. Some of our employees also work as seasonal river guides for a rafting company in the Poconos. I work with them on the river in the summer. This year Whitewater Challengers sponsored Mr. Lumberjack and gave away a free whitewater rafting trip for every tree purchased. They can use it any time next year, or they can join all of us on June 27, which is our “Half-Christmas” celebration date. I love making people’s experiences memorable.
In your opinion, what’s the perfect Christmas tree?
Every tree is perfect! But if I had to choose, probably a seven-to-eight-foot Fraser fir. We donated a 15-foot Fraser fir to River Bank State Park, which was pretty spectacular. But we needed four people to move it — so my arm muscles would probably say it was less than spectacular. Actually, nope, that one was perfect, too.
*Square data tells us there’s a nationwide spike in tree sales this weekend.