Landscape supplier, contractor see promise in shared facility
Sprigs & Twigs Landscapes, LLC, has a stellar reputation throughout the greater Groton, Conn., area. After more than a decade in business providing a wide array of landscape design, installation and maintenance services, as well as complete tree care contracting, it has a long list of satisfied customers. What it didn’t have, until recently, was a suitable place to call home.
“Believe it or not, we operated out of a self-storage facility,” says Bill Lillie, who along with Linda Lillie, owns and operates Sprigs & Twigs (www.springsandtwigs.net). “Actually, it worked pretty well. We had 10 parking places so all our employees could meet there, and we had two 10-by-20-foot storage garages for all our equipment.”
Lillie maintained a design facility at his home, and there was no real need for a retail location, but he admits there were a few things missing at that makeshift headquarters. “We had no bathrooms or heat or running water, and we didn’t have electricity, which in the winter was tough because our trucks are diesel and we couldn’t plug them in.”
This past winter, not far away, Gales Ferry Horticulture, a supplier of mulch, stone, topsoil and other landscaping products, expanded its facility on Route 12 in Groton by adding a large garage for indoor equipment storage. “They offered us part of the building and I jumped at the chance. It turned out they were quite anxious to come aboard, too,” says Lillie. “We have a really good name around town. People know that if they want quality work, we’re the company to come to, and that’s the same case with Gales Ferry Horticulture. They sell very good quality materials, so there is a consistent image for both of us. We’re both high-end, high-quality companies and we complement each other well.”
The two companies will continue to operate separately from a business structure standpoint, but will put forth a united front at the shared location. Bob Baron, owner of Gales Ferry Horticulture, is excited about the new relationship with Sprigs & Twigs Landscapes. “We have worked together closely with this trustworthy company for several years,” he says. “This relationship will bring a wide range of quality services to our customers.”
Lillie says that the new alliance would never have been considered by either party if it wasn’t for the others’ sterling reputation. “We wouldn’t have entertained the
idea at all if that wasn’t the case,” he stresses. “We’ve worked fairly closely together over the past four years, since Gales Ferry has been in business. They sell various landscape products, mulch, compost, topsoil and things like that, and we’ve purchased all of our materials from them. They have a good location on a main road.”
Lillie says his employees were excited by the move from the self-storage facility to a new garage with the luxuries of heat, running water and electricity. “He was nice enough to keep our rent the same as it was at the storage unit,” he adds of the agreement with Baron. In addition to about one-third of the ground-level garage space, Sprigs & Twigs now also occupies about half of the upstairs space, providing the company plenty of room for real offices.
The primary benefits of the shared facility have to do with expanded business opportunities for both companies. Lillie explains that there are natural business advantages to the alliance. “We often get calls for people who think we retail landscaping supplies, but we don’t. We specialize in services. So, I refer those people to Gales Ferry Horticulture, and they get requests for installation of the products they sell, and people asking about landscape design services. So, they refer those people to us.”
Lillie adds that the physical location itself is a big plus for Springs & Twigs Landscapes. “Route 12 is the main road in this area, and there’s a lot of traffic each day,” he says. While both companies have separate signs at the location, Lillie says there is “no real differentiation” made between the two entities to the general public that stops by. “What they see is a blend of the two, and that’s the vision,” he explains. Now, regardless of whether a customer comes in needing landscaping supplies, design services or installation, they can have one-stop shopping.
Behind the scenes, Lillie says the alliance also promises to open up new business avenues for his company. “We have a couple of projects that we’re bidding on right now where we’ll be the primary contractor and they’ll be the subcontractor,” says Lillie. “They have big excavators and large skid steers. We have mini skid steers and bucket trucks. We don’t overlap at all on the equipment we have, so that works out very well.”
Gales Ferry Horticulture has site work and construction experience, as well. Lillie sees ways to utilize this expertise to help his company grow. “We build rock walls, and having them be able to pour cement walls so we can veneer them with fieldstone is an option that we now have that we didn’t have before. It will let us bid on larger, more expensive projects,” he says. “Also, with their large excavators they have the capability to remove stumps, which is something we get calls for from time to time, so now we can take on those jobs.”
Sharing a location with a landscape supplier offers convenience, as well as the potential to keep costs down, Lillie says. “They can supply mulch in very large quantities, so if we have a job that needs 50 or 60 yards of mulch, being physically together and closely aligned helps us to bid on those jobs better, and we can just load up and roll out in the morning.” In the winter, the Sprigs & Twigs tree service crews bring their clean wood chips back to the shared facility, and Gales Ferry Horticulture can eventually sell them as a low-end mulching product. “This coming winter, they are going to sell firewood. We’ll provide the wood and get a little money for that,” he explains.
While the alliance is still new, Lillie says that bringing together two complementary companies with different skills and expertise is looking like a win-win for both parties.
Patrick White is a freelance writer and editor who has covered every aspect of the green industry in the past 13 years. He is based in Middlesex, Vt., and is always on the lookout for unusual stories.