The Real Deal New York

Those who don’t celebrate, decorate

By Gabrielle Paluch | December 01, 2016 01:00PM
Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree

Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree

For 85 years, Rockefeller Center has erected a gigantic Christmas tree near its ice rink. The building’s head gardener spends months in advance scouting potential candidates and uses an in-house crew of engineers to fell, transport and install it — a rare case of in-house Christmas stage-managing.

Most large property owners in New York City hand off seasonal festooning to professional holiday decorators — who, as it turns out, are predominantly Jewish.

“It would almost have to be that way, probably because we’re not busy at that time when everybody else is trying to celebrate,” said Richard Parker, who owns the custom Christmas decorating companies Parker Holiday and Parker3D.

The company “installs Christmas” in shopping malls and other large properties, with the cost starting at $150,000 and reaching $1.75 million for interactive tech displays with video. For nearly three decades, Parker said his company decorated Trump Tower, and even did Donald Trump’s apartment and personal Christmas tree.

Manhattan-based Kokobo Greenscapes has also worked on the president-elect’s properties. The company counts Trump Hotels, as well as the Albanese Organization, and several other condo towers and commercial real estate businesses, among its clients.

“When I first started my landscaping company, we needed something to do in November —and the Christmas part has become a big, profitable division,” said Michael Madarash, Kokobo’s founder, who is also Jewish. “Now my clients always ask me where I learned to decorate trees in the first place.” This year, he is doing the wreaths for the observation deck at One World Trade Center.

American Christmas is a large national franchise that has been owned by the Schwam family since its founding in 1968 by Marvin Schwam. His son, chief executive Fred Schwam, comes home to light a menorah during the holiday season when his business kicks into high gear. He is proudest of his displays in Radio City Music Hall and the city’s prominent retail spaces, such as Saks Fifth Avenue, Bergdorf Goodman and Cartier. Schwam’s company has previously worked on Trump’s properties during the holidays, as well as The Waldorf Astoria, when the secret service was present, adding “mishegas” with strict security measures.

“It’s going to be an interesting year,” Schwam said.