CARROLLWOOD – For 21 years, Carmelo Monteleone has been brightening up holidays for people around the Carrollwood area.
He sells Christmas trees – along with wreathes and everything else that smells like Christmas – at his stand outside of Ben Hill Middle School, 5200 Ehrlich Road, Tampa. It’s open every day from 8 a.m. – 10 p.m., seven days a week.
Monteleone sells all types of trees. However, if you want to know the best kind to buy, his answer will depend on your needs.
According to Monteleone, Fraser firs are the best, and he has the experience to back up the statement. His come from Michigan, and he claims there are people watching over them each step of the way along their trek to Florida, watering them as needed. That, Monteleone said, is the easy thing about Fraser firs. The needles on the tree don’t fall off, even in Florida’s warm winters, as long as the trees are watered every day.
“I have never had a complaint about one of my trees,” Monteleone said as he was setting up shop. “The trees we sell are durable and long-lasting and there is no better smell to remind you of Christmas than from a real tree.”
The tree season starts early for Monteleone, who starts collecting his trees in late October. He has a great relationship, he said, with the Tampa Bay area and returns a portion of his profits to Ben Hill Middle in return for using the parking lot.
It’s the smell, he said, that makes his trees special.
“They smell like Christmas,” Monteleone said. “It’s a smell you don’t get anywhere else. It puts you in the Christmas spirit. I get to spend every day dealing with people and their families. The kids want to pick out the trees themselves and it is such a happy time for them.”
Monteleone and his staff offer free bailing, will cut the tree to fit, and also wrap it up in netting for its drive home.
According to Monteleone, there is no time like the present to get your tree, too.
“Too many wait,’’ he said. “The tree will last a long time, so people don’t have to worry about the tree not looking so good when Christmas comes around. And you can’t beat having the smell around for as long as you can.”
He has a proven track record.
“People always come back here for a Fraser fir for Christmas,” he said. “Once they get one here, they always come back.”
Monteleone also offers everything needed to preserve the trees. The trees range from 5 to 14 feet and there is a $5 discount on any tree purchased before Dec. 8.