PIEDMONT -- Gov. Jerry Brown and his wife, Anne Gust, ushered in the holiday season by buying a noble fir from the Piedmont Boy Scout Christmas tree lot on its opening day of business Saturday.
"For the last few years, this is where I've shopped for my Christmas trees," said Gov. Brown, who lives in the Oakland hills when he's not running the state from his Sacramento office. The governor and his wife chose a tall, fresh-cut noble that Scouts and volunteer dads trimmed to spec and loaded into the couple's SUV.
Another customer, Janet Fox, was shopping for a wreath and breathing in the fresh scent of pine from the tree lot and surrounding open space.
"Coming here makes me feel I'm in the mountains even if I'm not," said Fox, an Oakland resident.
Fox's sister, Becky Lazzarotto, of Piedmont, and her husband, Roland Lazzarotto, were also shopping at the Scout lot and bought a nine-foot noble fir.
"We always get the noble fir; it's our tradition," Becky Lazzarotto said.
She said her family has been getting their Christmas tree from the Scout lot for more than 20 years.
"We like to support the Boy Scouts, and they give very good service," Becky Lazzarotto said. "Coming here really kicks off our Christmas season."
The Scouts' Christmas tree lot has been a tradition for a lot of local families for about 50 years, according to Martin Johnson, who helps manage the tree lot. He said they sell about 1,200 trees every year, with noble firs being the most popular. The net sales from the tree lot account for roughly 30 percent of the Scouts' annual operating income.
"Our trees come from Oregon, with the smallest trees selling for about $30 and the biggest for about $180," Johnson said. Proceeds go to the Piedmont Council of Boy Scouts and account for about 25 percent of its operating budget each year. Money goes to Scout activities, including Eagle Scout projects.
Bailey Militar, 15, is a member of Piedmont's Troop 6. It's his second year working at the tree lot, and he likes the job.
"It's fun to help people and get into the Christmas spirit," he said. "It's fun to hang out with my friends here."
However, Scouting's not just about fun for Militar.
"Scouting looks good on a college application," said the De La Salle High School student, who earned a merit badge in business. "Scouting is not just about survival skills but about success skills, too."
Militar's friend in Troop 6, Omar Abdul-Rahim, 15, loves the aspect of working with other people at the tree lot, though he admitted, "I'm not great at selling."
He says Scouting has taught him leadership skills.
"It's a boy-led organization, so we get a lot of opportunities to exercise leadership," said Abdul-Rahim, who attends Oakland Tech.
A Scout since kindergarten, Russell Rivera, 15, always gets a kick out of the Scouts' annual tree lot.
"It's good leading a new group of kids every year, and it's a great way to help people celebrate the holidays," he said. "It's also a good time to utilize our knot-tying skills!"
The Piedmont Boy Scout Christmas tree lot has noble firs, Douglas firs and silver tips, wreaths, garlands and a variety of stands. They provide fresh cuts, free netting and car loading. Deliveries are available Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and weekends. The lot is at 890 Moraga Way, Piedmont. The lot is open on from 4-7 p.m. weekdays and from 9 a. m-7 p.m. weekends.