Jim and Robin Weidner abandoned their maintenance and snow management services to focus on design and construction, which has earned their firm many awards in the Northeast Ohio market.
Photos courtesy of The Weidner Group.
Jim and Robin Weidner, husband and wife and owners of The Weidner Group, North Ridgeville, Ohio, know a little something about transitioning.
"We've been married for more than 20 years and have been working together in the landscape business most of that time," says Weidner, president of the company. "But now that Robin has her interior design degree we're able to offer our clients the best of both worlds."
The company offers complete design for both outside living spaces and interior spaces. "It was a natural transition because I had always worked with Jim on the design aspects of the landscaping as well as in project management on interior construction. Now, I also offer my concepts on color schemes, fabrics and interior design along with plans on construction to offer a total package," says Robin.
The Weidner Group
Owners: Jim and Robin Weidner
Headquarters: North Ridgefield, Ohio
Market: Northeast Ohio
Services: Design and construction; interior design and living spaces
Employees: 7 in season
Originally founded as Weidner Lawn & Landscape in 1993, the team built their business into a large maintenance and design company with 30 employees, mowing about 4 million feet of turf a week and maintaining a tremendous amount of equipment. "We had 15 snow trucks at one time," cautioned Weidner. "It was too much. Cheap pricing was steadily eroding the lawn care market and any profit margin was gone. We were bidding jobs just to help pay fixed costs, but it was more than that. Neither of us was happy running a large company. We have two kids and we never had any time for home life; we spent less and less of our professional time on the part of the business we love: design and build. We had to make a change." More through attrition than any overt method, the Weidners transitioned into a "lean and mean" version and renamed the company The Weidner Group.
"We no longer offer mowing. We have about seven employees and enough equipment to do the design and build work that most projects require. We'll do jobs from as little as $7,000 to as much as a half-million dollars. If we need additional equipment, we'll lease what we need. We also frequently hire subcontractors for concrete work, electrical and plumbing. However, we use the same contractors time after time, so it's like keeping it in the family. Conversely, if one of our contractors has a client that needs landscape or interior design help, they call on us."
With a bachelor's degree in advertising/communications from Bowling Green State University, Robin took the time and opportunity to transition into her first love, interior design, and returned to school to earn an additional degree.
"Our business has been built on a lot of referrals," adds Robin. "When Jim finishes an outdoor build, many times the client, or perhaps a neighbor, will inquire about adding a new kitchen or finishing a basement."
"That's where Robin comes in," interjects Weidner. "With her construction background and interior design work, we can take the work from framing to furnishings. We build outdoor living spaces and transition that vision into the interior, or vice versa. We're lucky in that we get to work on a lot of high-end projects locally. Most of our projects are upscale and our clients are looking for creativity and quality."
"To give you an idea," says Robin, "we recently did a large project that included a landscape design for a couple who wanted their gardens, structures and patio to reflect their love of Asian design. They had lived in Japan for many years. The wife of this couple was in a wheelchair, and so we designed the entire landscape to be enjoyed from her vantage point, so that she could appreciate the beauty of her landscape as well as the balance of their family." The couple was so satisfied that they commissioned Robin to re-design their interior living space with the same ideas in mind.
"Fireplaces and outdoor kitchens are popular in this area," says Weidner. "We built one fireplace that is 11 feet, with a hearth that is 7 feet. They just keep getting bigger and bigger. We built a huge pizza oven for one client. We use a lot of natural stone because the homes are more settled. But they're doing great things with pavers nowadays, and we use them quite a bit at builds on newer homes. I will usually meet with the client, measure the property noting the location of trees and shrubs they wish to keep, take digital photos and develop a 'space plan.' After getting the design approved by the customer, I'll sometimes take them with me to our stone supplier, Kurtz Brothers, so they can see the tone and hues of the various materials. There is a certain artistry involved in designing outdoor living spaces, I've not found a software program yet that can match the human eye for creativity. Subsequently, all of our drawings for both the landscape and interior design divisions of our company are drawn by hand. Selection of plantings is done primarily with the idea to keep maintenance to a minimum: dwarf varieties of trees and shrubs, perennials, longer blooming flowers, and all grown and native to Ohio whenever possible. Then it's just a matter of scheduling the build."
Jim and Robin Weidner build outdoor living spaces and transition that vision into customers' homes thanks to Robin's passion and eye for interior design.
Robin adds, "These outdoor livings spaces can be utilized during most months of the year, even in northern Ohio. We build radiant heat into baseboards and overhead structures, like pergolas, so that the client can entertain most of the year. Jim calls it 'common sense' design."
"The outdoor structures provide shade and comfort as well as some protection from inclement weather," Weidner says. "And they add a little something to do with permanence and versatility. Whether we are removing an old redwood deck and putting in a simple stone patio, or if we're on a major build we put our best efforts into it. It all begins with common sense: size of the family, how often they might entertain and the type of entertaining - whether it's more formal dining or just pizza and beer - all these little things add up to make a big difference."
He adds, "Aside from their continual referrals, the Cleveland Great Big Home & Garden Show is a pretty big deal for us. We get a lot of interest in our designs at the show." The Weidner Group took first place in the category of "Competitive Gardens" in 2010 and has won numerous awards from the Ohio Landscape Association (OLA) as well as the "Award of Excellence" from Unilock, Inc. "The awards are nice, but really, we're not nearly as competitive as we used to be" offers Robin. "We build quality outdoor spaces and we can now transition our customers into obtaining that same feel, that same warmth, with their interior projects."
Weidner, past president of OLA, says, "Of course, we're hoping to grow our business, but not to the extent that we had it eight or nine years ago. We hope to grow in the landscape design and build field. Moving into interior design is just another transition that we will go through together." They have found a great niche for their unique inside/outside design/build business, providing their clients a total package.
"And the best part is," says Robin, "we've got time to spend with the kids."
Mike Ingles is a freelancer writer living in Columbus, Ohio, who writes articles about business and the green industry.