Retail nursery to landscape installs
Founded in 1955, Springdale Outdoor (www.springdaleoutdoor.com ) started out as Springdale Nursery in Camden, S.C. Initially, Founder John Lindsay focused on the nursery business while providing limited landscaping services. Over the years, the balance shifted, and after a gradual transition, the nursery was sold in 2008 to focus on landscaping.
Through the years, Lindsay mentored his son-in-law, David Gantt. A certified nursery professional and active member of the South Carolina Nursery and Landscape Association (SCNLA), Gantt purchased the business from Lindsay in 1992, and currently serves as president and general manager.
Gantt leads a team of 37 employees that primarily serves the South Carolina midlands region, but also travels throughout both Carolinas and Georgia. Commercial accounts comprise 80 percent of the firm’s business. Springdale offers landscape design, consulting and installation, hardscaping, irrigation, site work, drainage and maintenance. The company’s part-time landscape architect brings more than 30 years of experience to the table, and certified Toro irrigation installation personnel have been on the job since 1988.
In addition to the SCNLA, Springdale also holds memberships in the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC), the American Nursery and Landscape Association (ANLA) and the Professional Landcare Network (PLANET).
Partnering with Ginn Resorts
Since 2004, Springdale has worked with Ginn Resorts (www.ginnresorts.com) on its luxury, residential community in Blythewood. Cobblestone Park (www.cobblestonesc.com) is a 150-acre development offering round-the-clock security, tennis, basketball, swimming and volleyball facilities, as well as a clubhouse with indoor and terrace dining.
Gantt says Springdale works closely with Cobblestone Park to create, install and maintain a resort-like setting.
“The company is into landscape and has high standards,” Gantt says. “They like to have a finished look, so we installed large shrubs and trees for a mature look.” Cobblestone contracted with Springdale for all aspects of landscaping, including irrigation and lighting.
He says one of the greatest challenges of the ongoing project came in 2005, when Cobblestone sponsored a two-day sales event with the goal of securing buyers for all the lots in that one weekend. The catered parties were held in an event tent on the property, and Gantt’s mission was to turn an undeveloped site into a paradise, with only one month to accomplish the goal.
“That amount of work would normally take a year,” Gantt says, adding that the crew tripled in size to make it happen.
Approximately 20,000 square feet inside and outside the event tent were fully landscaped with tropical plants, live oak trees, lighting and water features. In addition, Springdale set pavers for flooring inside the tent and established temporary driveways.
Springdale’s work was effective in helping Cobblestone Park sell out the community with its grand opening event. Gantt and his crews later reused the materials on the property as the community was developed. Springdale continues to maintain Cobblestone’s grounds and installs new landscaping as needed.
Refining the company image
Gantt partially attributes the new focus on landscaping to a change in the state’s green industry.
“In 1992, only 40 percent of our plant material was grown within our state; now, it is 70 percent,” Gantt says.
In addition to selling the nursery division, the firm has also unveiled a new public face. Springdale worked with Talk PR, Inc., a Wilmington, N.C., public relations group, to develop a branding program for its new corporate mission.
With the realigning of company objectives, the firm’s name changed from Springdale Nursery to Springdale Outdoor. Gantt says the company’s new tagline, “Outside Your Expectations,” was selected to project the company’s core values of integrity, family and innovation.
“Hiring a marketing firm has helped get our name out and get us some recognition,” Gantt says. He strongly feels that difficult economic times call for steady or increased marketing efforts, rather than cutbacks in that area.
Springdale was recognized with two industry awards in 2008. Gantt says that his firm’s collaboration with Cobblestone Park was the primary catalyst and that the honors have made a clear difference to the business. He attributes up to $200,000 in new jobs to the distinctions.
“These awards are feathers in our hat. People recognize [our name], and it separates us from competitors that we’ve been recognized for quality work,” says Gantt.
In January 2008, Smith Turf & Irrigation (www.smithturf.com) named Springdale Contractor of the Year for the state of South Carolina, and about two weeks later, the SCNLA (www.scnla.com) recognized Springdale as its Outstanding Landscaping Contractor of the Year. The association’s executive director, Donna Shealy Foster, said Springdale’s longstanding leadership and commitment to excellence were key factors in its selection. Gantt has been a member of SCNLA for more than 16 years and serves on the association’s legislative committee.
Foster adds that Gantt “encourages his employees to participate in our educational programs and certification programs, which also is important.”
SCNLA offers certified nursery professional and certified landscape technician designations. It has published manuals for those specialties, along with pest management. Gantt says that those training programs, along with national seminars, classes and certification programs, have aided the company and its staff in making a successful move away from the nursery business.
Looking to the future
As Gantt formulated and implemented his plans, significant company expansion was an element of the game plan. He identified a clear trend towards more partnership with developers and commercial contractors, which led to growth opportunities. In addition, today’s builders consider landscaping an integral dimension of the construction process.
“It used to be simpler,” Gantt says of the industry. “Now, there is more attention paid to, and inspections performed on, landscaping, and that’s a good thing.”
Unfortunately, conditions in the construction and economic industries have deferred Springdale’s plans for new investments. Gantt says he is carefully monitoring the situation before implementing a growth initiative.
“New starts have slowed down, but we have been seeing business from building that occurred in the spring,” he says. “I hope to see more housing built when the economy turns around.”
The author is a freelance writer based in Greensboro, N.C.