If Justin Mayfield were driven solely by the profit motive, he wouldn't have returned to downtown Tacoma's Tollefson Plaza for a second year of Christmas tree sales.
For three weeks of 24-hour -a-day effort , he’ll be fortunate to clear a couple of thousand dollars.
“If you count all the hours I spend living here in an RV between now and Christmas – I like to call it ‘extreme urban camping’ – I think I’ll be making about $3 an hour,” he said Monday.
But for Mayfield, a musician when he’s not selling trees, the business he calls Two Five Trees – wordplay aimed at the local 253 area code – is more than a money-making opportunity. He believes it’s a chance to bring life to downtown, to renew an old-fashioned Christmas spirit and to help the neighborhood where he lives. A former manager of the downtown farmers market, Mayfield thinks downtown can return to the prosperity and popularity it once enjoyed.
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That’s why he brought Christmas tree sales to the angular concrete plaza at South 17th Street and Pacific Avenue last year, and why he has returned again for this holiday season. He expects to sell more trees than last year – about 225 – as customers become aware of his presence downtown.
“I had quite a few people last year say they would have bought their tree from me if they had only known I was here,” he said.
Mayfield has helped his family for years with Christmas tree sales in Gig Harbor – his mother runs Cindy’s Trees there – and he knows the business well. “We’ve got some good connections with growers, and I think that translates into some real bargains,” he said.
While Noble firs elsewhere sell for up to $12 a foot, he’s selling 5- to 6-foot trees for $25. Six- to 7-foot trees are $49, and 7- to 8-foot Nobles are priced at $59.
“An established Christmas tree lot can expect a 20 percent increase in sales each year,” he said.
“If you’re in a good location and you’re in your fifth or sixth year, you can make $5,000 or $10,000 or more.” he added.
Mayfield is holding a tree-decorating contest for those who bought a tree from his lot, and he has planned for campfires and entertainment and other events to bring the holiday spirit to downtown’s main street. Details are available at the lot’s website, twofivetrees.com .
“The Christmas season is such a wonderful time of the year. I want to share it with everyone,” he said.