For nearly 30 years a forgotten lot on Roswell Road near the intersection with East Andrews Drive has been home to the annual return of Little Rob’s Christmas Tree Lot. Hand-lettered signs dotted with folksy spray-painted tree motifs standing near the entrance to the lot are surrounded by Christmas trees ready for sale. Beyond a trailer on wheels is a small tent under which workers are diligently crafting wreaths as owner Rob chats with a customer.
Rob founded the tree lot in 1992 right after he graduated from college. A Buckhead native, he heard about the opportunity from his father who was friends with a Christmas tree farmer. The farmer had tried setting up shop to sell his trees but found he didn’t enjoy the process, so Rob decided to give it a shot. “I made enough to hit the road climbing until I ran low, which turned out to be right about when people needed trees again,” said Rob, an avid rock climber.
Always a free spirit, Rob’s childhood was spent roaming the neighborhoods around Chastain Park where he grew up. “The tree business buys me time,” explained Rob, who has since moved to Colorado where he spends much of his time rock climbing, mentoring, and training students through Outward Bound. He returns once a year for his annual tree sales, and typically stays with his mother from around 10 days before Thanksgiving until the sales run out, usually right around Christmas.
“The community that I engage with consists largely of repeat customers who I check in with annually, and they’re nice folks,” said Rob. “A particular toddler I recall from my very first season just came in yesterday and showed off her baby bump – that’s pretty cool. I get the sense that my people see themselves as a bit of an embattled remnant, trying to hang on to the place they value amidst an onslaught of development and growth.”
As someone who knows Buckhead inside and out but spends most of each year away, he has had a unique opportunity to witness the community as it has changed throughout the years. After all, it was only a year ago that the huge lot of land across Roswell Road was a forest whereas now it’s in the midst of a massive transformation as it becomes an extension of Camden Buckhead.
“The sense I’ve had since I was a kid here was one of woods constantly getting mowed down to make way for something else,” said Rob, who has now been personally affected with the news that developers will be transforming the lot where he sells his trees– along with adjacent properties that include long standing businesses– to the future site of the Dream Hotel. Rock’n Taco, one of the affected businesses, has already relocated to Roswell.
Though this announcement certainly puts the site of Little Rob’s Christmas Tree Lot in peril, Rob remains hopeful for the future. “The fact that this site has remained vacant for as long as it has is a minor miracle,” Rob said. “This enterprise, if it is to continue, needs some commercially zoned vacant land that my people don’t mind driving to. Holler!”