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Christmas Tree Salesman Lighting Up Fort Lee Hotdog Hangout

John Riedel awaiting this year's Christmas tree shipment at Hiram's in Fort Lee.
John Riedel awaiting this year's Christmas tree shipment at Hiram's in Fort Lee. Photo Credit: Melissa Heule

FORT LEE, N.J. — A counter cook at a popular Fort Lee hot dog hangout is hoping to once again earn extra green this holiday season.

For the seventh straight year, John Riedel is selling Christmas trees and decorations in the picnic area of Hiram's Roadstand on Palisade Avenue.

"Last year, we were unloading the truck and a guy pulls up and says ‘I want that tree'," Riedel said. "He put it on his car and drove away. It was great.”

Riedel, 56, of Fort Lee, was working in the wholesale tree business when a friend of a friend offered him a chance to quit all the interstate driving and go retail. R&R Trees LLC was born.

Now working on his own, Riedel hangs lights and decorates poles in candy-cane colors before the Frasier Firs arrive from a farm in western North Carolina on Thanksgiving Eve.

He orders about 300 to start, and additional batches depending on the pace of sales. Frasier Firs, which range from three to 10 feet, are priced at $10 a foot.

Riedel mans his post from 10 a.m. - 9 p.m., with a break to officiate a high school football game.

“There are people that like to get their tree on Thanksgiving weekend,” he said. “Maybe on their way home on Black Friday, they stop to get a hot dog and get a tree, so it works out well," he said.

The combination of location, ambience and price allows him to compete with Home Depot and other retailers," Riedel said.

“Hiram’s is like the homebase," he said. "It is not a lonely spot to be in."

Although the trees need plenty of water to survive indoors, they can outlast the season if treate well, Reidel said.

"I’ve heard it on more than one occasion that people have had their trees up until Valentine’s Day,” he said.

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