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Christmas trees: A 50-year plus tradition
Joanna Fonseca levels the trunk for a customer looking to take home a tree from Marty’s Christmas Trees. - photo by JASON CAMPBELL
It has been more than 50 years since Marty Teunissen first started a Christmas tree lot that helped provide the traditional evergreen in order to give parents and Santa Claus a place to hide the presents.

And while he stepped away some years back, and was forced to relocate thanks to commercial growth along a corridor of Yosemite Avenue that had been abandoned for decades, the family bond that helped make Marty’s something special still continues today with family members volunteering their time on the tree lot at the corner of Lathrop Road where it intersects with Main Street.

“Our first year taking this over was last year, and with our uncle was retiring it was time for the younger generations to step up and carry on what has been a family traditional,” said Joanna Fonseca. “It’s now up to a group of us to carry on what our grandfather Marty Teunissen established back in 1954.”

The number of independent tree lots in Manteca has drastically shrunk over the course of the last several years. It was partially because of the commercial expansion that eliminated sites like the Yosemite Avenue home of Marty’s Christmas Trees that was forced to relocate after McDonald’s opened up shop in what was once a vacant field.

The emergence of large commercial offerings like those at Save Mart, Orchard Supply Hardware, and Home Depot also put a damper on the family-owned businesses.

It’s a long season for those who have to maintain the lots – whether its unloading tractor-trailers from Oregon that transport the trees down to the lot or the task of building stands and making sure that each of the trees are standing upright and are as presentable as possible.

To thwart thieves and vandals the couple resides in an RV for the majority of the season to protect their investment. The work being poured into the operation is done without those family members on hand receiving a standard paycheck for their offerings.

But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t fun to be had during the Christmas season.

“In a sense it’s a lot like camping – we’re staying here every night and we get the chance to see people walk out of the lot with the tree that will bring them lots of joy during the holiday season,” Fonseca said. “Seeing those people smiling is what this is all about – making sure they’re getting what it is that they set out to buy.

“There’s no greater feeling than to see those smiles on the faces of the customers that are truly happy.”

The lot is open just about every day between now and Christmas Day from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. – depending on the number of customers later in the season. Prices vary depending on the style and size of the tree and what other perks customers would like to see added – whether it’s flocking the tree or adding a water stand that will preserve the life of the tree.