Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye bring their big-city act to rural Vermont in the classic 1954 holiday flick “White Christmas.”
And every December for the past 35 years, Vermont entrepreneur and jack-of-many trades Billy Romp and his family have returned the favor.
They transform a concrete Manhattan street corner into a scene right out of a made-for-TV Christmas movie — complete with traditional music, neighborly joy and, yes, plenty of aromatic evergreens.
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“He is the spirit of Christmas,” neighbor and “annual friend” Carol McCann told Fox News Digital on Tuesday night as the Romps played carols and old-time fiddle music on Jane Street.
The Romp family rolls into Manhattan every year around Thanksgiving time.
It sets up its Christmas tree shop on the corner of Jane Street and Eighth Avenue, and lives out of a camper parked next to their display of trees.
The Romps benefit from New York City’s unusually loose Christmas tree vendor regulations.
Most street-corner businesses in Gotham are heavily regulated, even over-regulated, many would argue.
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Yet anyone can set up shop on a New York City sidewalk and sell Christmas trees in December without a permit. It’s known locally as the Coniferous Tree Exception.
The tradition dates back to the mid-1800s, when farmers from the Catskills began rolling into Manhattan to feed the city residents’ voracious appetite for evergreens.
“Billy Romp IS the spirit of Christmas.” — Greenwich Village songwriter Carol McCann
The Romps drive home late Christmas Eve after the season’s last coniferous tree is sold, to celebrate the holiday back on their own turf in the solitude of the Green Mountains.
Billy’s son, Henry, 31, has spent every Christmas season of his life on this street corner and has taken over the business.
He said he has never known a December outside Greenwich Village, even as he lives the rest of the year in Vermont.
“My kids were cute when they were young,” Billy joked, adding that neighbors were at first intrigued by watching a real small-town family set up shop and make a go of business in the big city each holiday season.
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“We had babies when we started the business here [in 1988] — and babies attract people,” he said.
A third generation of Romps, Billy’s grandchildren, spend much of the month helping out, too.
Billy, joined by Henry and his daughter, Ellie, formed a string band power trio on Tuesday night, performing carols and traditional tunes.
“We’re not good businessmen. Our mission is to make smiles and make people happy.” — Billy Romp of Vermont
Henry thumped the stand-up bass, Ellie strummed the fiddle and Pops plucked guitar or mandolin.
New York City yellow cabs, police cruisers and box trucks attempted to squeeze past onlookers and carolers down the narrow Greenwich Village street.
Patriarch Billy Romp wrote a pretty little book called “Christmas on Jane Street,” highlighting his unusual family tradition, in 1998.
It was reprinted in 2008.
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“I’ve found that with customers — as with life itself — spirit matters as much as, if not more than, the product,” he writes.
“If I can get people talking and laughing, if I can get them in a good mood, they’ll buy my tree.”
The book is essentially a story of his love for his daughter Ellie amid the Christmas spirit.
“If I can get people talking and laughing, if I can get them in a good mood, they’ll buy my tree.” — Billy Romp
It’s a little tearjerker,” said Romp.
Romp’s late ex-wife, Patti, hatched the idea for selling Christmas trees in New York City in the 1980s.
“She talked me into it and I’m so glad she did,” he said.
Billy has since raised a second family: the Greenwich Village community.
The Romps are seen as a sign of seasonal light that descends on the famous and bustling New York City neighborhood every Christmas season.
McCann, a local singer-songwriter, wrote a carol about the family with the familiar name, “Christmas on Jane Street.”
“I find it so sweet/Christmas on Jane Street,” she sings in the tender holiday ballad.
“It’s magic on concrete/Christmas on Jane Street.”
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McCann performed the carol last year at a local nightclub, with the Romp family in attendance.
“It was like introducing Springsteen” when she shouted out the Vermont artisan, McCann said.
“People were screaming and yelling. Billy is a celebrity around here and deservedly so.”
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“This Christmas tree business has been a boon to us,” said Romp, who among other life adventures biked from London to Hong Kong a decade ago.
“We do make money at it. We love the money. But we’re not good businessmen. Our mission is to make smiles and make people happy.”