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Selling Christmas Trees A Family And Neighborhood Tradition In The West Village

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - It's holiday shopping season, and arguably the most important purchase right now may be the Christmas tree.

A family from Vermont has made a life out of selling trees on the streets of the city.

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Meet the Romp family, who've been selling Christmas trees in Manhattan's West Village for the last 30 years.

"I'm Christmas tree man. Christmas tree man, that's what I call myself," said Billy Romp.

He has run his Christmas tree stand on the corner of Jane Street and Eighth Avenue since 1988, and that first winter was a hard one.

"We thought, OK, maybe we wont do this again. But the people, they really liked us, and we missed the people after we were gone," Romp said.

They sold 150 trees that first year. This year they'll sell 1,500.

"I'm the only Christmas tree salesperson that has done it every year of my life, including when I was one year old," said Henry Romp.

Henry is now 27, and he's not the only thing that has grown over the decades.

"Over the years, our businesses have grown and just grown and grown and our friendships have grown," Billy Romp told CBS2's Tara Jakeway. "We feel like we're really a part of this community."

A community that has embraced the Romps, sharing with the Vermont family their electricity, a place to brush their teeth and plenty to eat.

"At the end of the day whatever we have like premixed sandwiches, we give it to them," said Danilo Romero of Bonsignour Cafe.

Mark Hallenbeck is one of several residents that have even given the Romps' a key to their place.

"They all need to take showers and baths and come and go, sometimes they sleep over, they're always welcome," he saaid.

And the Romps give back. They donate trees to neighborhood schools, churches, fire houses, and NYPD precincts.

Since they're open 24 hours a day, they stay in a camper set up on Jane Street every night from Thanksgiving until Christmas Eve.

Billy Romp says there is a tree shortage, so even though they are selling more trees than ever, each one costs so much more, and by keeping prices steady, they will make less money this year.

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