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Customers loyal to tree lots in Concord

Garrison Landers grabbed his grandfather, Jerri Blair, by the edge of Blair’s jacket and tugged, hard.

“Come here, come here!” the 4-year-old boy shouted. “And close your eyes.”

When they rounded the corner, Garrison gave the word, and pointed, triumphant, at the tiny wooden reindeer’s red plastic nose.

“It’s Rudolf!” he said, with a jump.

Back at the car, his dad, Dan Landers of Bow, didn’t have quite as much enthusiasm by noontime yesterday.

This stop, at Arnie’s Place in Concord, was the third of the morning, looking for just the right tree. And they had found it, right where Landers had thought all along they would, right where they have for years, at Arnie’s.

Whether amid the hustle and bustle of Loudon Road or on a quiet corner lot in Penacook, Fraser Firs beat out Balsams for the title of most popular Christmas trees in Concord.

The other constant for Concord tree shoppers? Loyalty.

Every winter for the past four years, Matt Langlais has cut trees from his farm in Vermont and brought them to the corner of Village and Tanner streets in Penacook.

And every winter for four years, Nancy Blodgett has bought one. There’s no question for her where she’ll go.

“He’s so great about answering all your questions and making any adjustments,” said Blodgett, after Langlais trimmed a few inches off the stump of her Fraser to make it absorb water better at home.

Langlais is a Penacook native who moved to Burke, Vt., in 1997 for forestry work. He started planting his own tree farm in 2002 and four years ago, he finally had trees large enough to sell.

He knew just where he was going to go with them, too.

The corner of Village and Tanner streets is the only place he’s ever sold his trees. It’s next door to the pharmacy his family has run for generations, and his customers are all friends, he said.

“It’s been great to see old friends and make new ones with the people who have been coming back year after year,” Langlais said.

A professional forester, Langlois sends his customers off with expert advice: Add a little hydrogen peroxide to the tree’s drinking water, a few tablespoons with each watering. It keeps the tree from closing off the open cut in its trunk, helping it absorb water and stay fresh longer.

And he can, with a glimpse, tell customers exactly what year each tree was planted, and in which of his fields. Many of this year’s crop have been growing since 2003.

Despite the wait, despite the cold days on the corner lot and the pine-needle-thin profit margins, Langlois said the work is worth it.

“I like being with the customers, and this makes my land productive and pay the taxes. It’s keeping the land in active agriculture versus growing houses,” he said. “I value working the landscape.”

On Loudon Road, Tom Arnold has been selling Christmas trees in the parking lot at Arnie’s Place longer than he’s been selling ice cream. And he’s been selling ice cream for a long time.

Arnold rented the lot one winter 21 years ago to sell trees and came back the following May to purchase the grill and ice cream shop.

The two seasonal businesses might seem like polar opposites, but really, they’re very similar, said Molly Lanigan, Arnold’s daughter.

“People just can’t be in a bad mood when they’re buying ice cream or Christmas trees,” she said.

(Sarah Palermo can be reached at 369-3322 or spalermo@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @SPalermoNews.)

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