Each November, Bob Wenz turns the page on another nine months of long, stressful workweeks at his Dairy Queen franchise in Absecon.
Yet the close of this business doesn't mean rest for Wenz. Instead, it's right back to work at Wenz's Christmas Tree Farm, in the lot next to the American Legion building at the corner of New Jersey Avenue and Mill Road in Absecon.
"By the time I get that place down - it takes about two weeks - I'm right over here setting this up, waiting for the trees to arrive the day before Thanksgiving," Wenz said.
He stocks Douglas, balsam and Fraser firs in all shapes and sizes, starting at $20 for chest-high trees and ranging up to $125 for massive 12-footers. He also sells wreaths and grave blankets of the same three varieties of fir.
Wenz first went into the Christmas tree business nine years ago, when the man who each wintertime leased the Dairy Queen lot from him decided to retire. In his second year running the business, Wenz moved it to the American Legion lot, preferring the more natural feel of the dirt lot to the Dairy Queen's pavement.
Just as he does with the Dairy Queen franchise, Wenz brings in members of the family to staff the sale. His wife, Lisa, often helps and his son, Bob Jr., is his partner - although he was not able to make it this year from his home in California.
Mike Rasner, Wenz's nephew, has worked the sale for each of its nine years, and said he always looks forward to the start of the new season.
"It's awesome, I mean, it's always great to work for family - they know they can trust me, I can trust them," said Rasner, who started when he was 18. "We've built a good rapport with a lot of the customers over the years, and I'm pretty grateful to be here and back every year, so it's been good."
Keeping customers happy is a tenet of the business, and in addition to assisting customers on finding the right tree to fit their homes and budgets, Wenz offers complimentary hot chocolate and candy canes.
Brian Hytner recently visited with his wife, Lisa Neafsey. He has been a customer for five years, saying he comes back for the combination of product and service Wenz offers.
"The quality of the trees is unsurpassed, it's great," said Hytner, who lives in Galloway Township. "You get them home and sometimes, in the past, I've gotten trees (from other sources) and they look terrible. These trees, you get them home, they fill out and they look great."
Once the holiday season wraps up, Wenz will finally take a vacation, heading to California to visit Bob Jr. and his wife, Abby, who are expecting their first child soon.
That rest is a few weeks away yet, Wenz said, but he's in no hurry to see tree season come to an end.
"My other seasonal business, I'm indoors nine months a year, and this fresh air, the sunshine - it hasn't been too cold yet this year - I just really love being outside, it's great," Wenz said.
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