It’s Christmas time on the South Side–which means Peter Meils will be selling Christmas trees near the corner of 95th & Stony Island Avenue like he has for decades.
Meils, 85, said he has sold Christmas trees since 1955 around the South Side of Chicago. For years like clockwork, he was stationed on the corner of 95th & Stony Island Avenue selling Christmas trees. However, this year he has moved to a lot on the corner of 94th & Stony Island. He said “a lot of people” have purchased trees from him over the years. He said the prices of trees vary based on their size (he has some trees as tall as 10 feet high) and type. Wreaths are sold separately for $10-25 and tree holders at $8. He said he’s open 24 hours.
“This is the joy of my life to sell Christmas trees; as long as I live, I’ll keep it going,” said Meils. “I’ve been here for 40 years and nobody bothers me. I’ve got my license and everything.”
Meils, who said he immigrated from Greece years ago, said he began selling trees this year on Nov. 15 and intends to continue selling until after Christmas. The longtime Chicago resident told the Defender he has Fraser Fir, Douglas Fir, White Pine, and more types of trees available. He said his partner in Michigan grows the trees, then he buys them wholesale, cuts them, and ships them to Chicago for sale.
“Sure, there’s a lot of work [preparing trees],” said Meils. “You have to spray them, you have to prune them, you got to grow them, you have to spray for bugs, cut everything, and then ship them.”
When not bringing holiday cheer, Meils said he sold real estate.
For some people in Chicagoland, buying a natural Christmas tree is just a part of celebrating the holiday.
Jantice Daniels shared purchasing “live trees” for Christmas is one of her family’s holiday traditions. She said she tried visiting large retail locations like Menards and Home Depot, but their variety and scale are not up to Meils’ standard.
“We’ve shopped almost everywhere else and they didn’t have trees so this is always a breath of fresh air,” said Daniels. “The fresh pine smell in the home as opposed to an artificial tree just makes it more authentic to me.”
Daniels was joined by her grandmother, Shirley Deberry, at Meils’ lot. Deberry said she has bought live trees “off-and-on for 20 years.” Deberry said she typically shops at Meils’ lot for her trees instead of using an artificial tree, adding that bringing home a tree “adds to the excitement.”
“[Deberry] had her artificial tree but even with my Mom and Dad we’ve always had live trees,” said Daniels. “Her artificial tree only lasted for so long and then live trees have been [purchased] since I’ve been a child.”
The South Siders said they were shopping for three trees that were “big and full.”
“We’re a little late this year, we usually get it right after Thanksgiving,” stated Deberry. “I think they have a very good variety here and the prices are a lot better than when I went somewhere else for a live tree.”