One push at a time: D.J.’s Landscaping continues to flourish
The intoxicating smell of spring flowers will soon be in the air. And with it will come the reality that hits most owners when the seasons change every year — it’s time to start worrying about lawn maintenance again.
Have no fear though, Trumbull High School graduate D.J. Reich has all your landscaping and lawncare needs covered.
A member of the class of 2005, Reich launched his business — D.J.’s Landscaping — in the summer of 2002 with just a push mower and one lawn across from his grandmother’s house.
Less than four years later, on May 5, 2006, the business was officially incorporated with the state and Reich had realized how quickly things had moved over such a short span.
“It transformed into something more than I ever thought it would be,” he told The Times. “My original purpose when I started was I needed a high school job.
“That first summer we had two clients. By the time I graduated in 2005, we had 100.”
During those early years, Reich worked alongside his best friend Jeff Cooper, who created homemade flyers and placed them on windshields of cars at Stop & Shop parking lots.
Expanding rapidly from that point, the two entrepreneurs worked throughout the day on Saturday and Sunday picking up extra shifts after school on the weekdays.
“Jeff and I were always great friends and we always liked working outdoors, so it sort of clicked,” Reich said. “He had the tools and the clients, and, when my grandma bought me a truck during my sophomore year of high school, we had all the equipment we needed.”
As he approaches his business’s 10-year anniversary this spring, Reich admitted when he first left Trumbull High that he didn’t think the business would continue much longer.
“My family owned the duck pin bowling alley in Stratford and I was working there at the time, too,” he explained. “I always thought I would do that and take over one day, but ultimately we sold it and landscaping transformed into my new route…
“That passion for landscaping began to grow,” he added. “I realized it wasn’t something that was part time — it was something that was part of me — and that’s when I knew I could make it work.”
Different strokes for different folks
Cooper has since moved on from the business and earned an architecture degree.
Reich said he stays in close touch with his longtime friend and uses him as a silent adviser on some projects.
While the simplicity of the old days are long gone, Reich acknowledges there’s still an inherent excitement going from house to house.
“The work is interesting because you’re always working with different types of people in different areas,” he said. “One day you’re working on lower income houses and the next you’re working with an average homeowner and then the next you’re at a multi-million dollar mansion — it’s a lot of different conversations.”
Here, there, everywhere
Beginning small and covering only Trumbull, D.J Landscaping now services all of Fairfield County.
Part of the businesses expansion has included taking on different arms of the company.
In addition to landscaping, Reich’s business now features Mosquito Squad of Fairfield/Westchester County and Fairfield County Tree Care LLC and covers new territory — both geographically and the services being offered to customers.
“With the Mosquito Squad, we take care of mosquito abatement as well as ticks and insects,” he explained of the business that serves home from New Haven to Fairfield to the Bronx to White Plains.
“With Fairfield County Tree Care we’re removing tree, pruning and doing whatever arborist tasks we’re asked to take on,” he added. “It’s not just cutting down trees; it’s a surgical process.”
With three different companies that serve multiple counties and 35 employees under his supervision, the Trumbull native has been pushed to learn key lessons as a manager.
“Instead of just working with the homeowners, now I’m working with multiple people who are under me — it’s a different system,” he said. “I’ve got to watch over what they’re doing and make sure it’s done the right way — I’ve got to be accessible to them and that means I’m very hands-on in my approach.”
Running the ship
Management has come easy to Reich.
He said the most difficult part of the job is the juggling all the different tasks that he and his workers have to do at each individual site.
“There a lot of different aspects of a project — tree removal to masonry to drainage to landscape design — and we have to tie them all together one by one to make it happen,” he explained.
As was true all the way back in high school, Reich said his favorite aspect of the landscaping business is working with the client or the homeowner and seeing the project develop from “where it’s at during the first call to what it becomes as a final product.”
“The client has a general idea of what he or she wants and we work together together to get the specific details down and go from there,” he added.
Sunday morning coffee
Reich uses two questions to get inside his client’s head — “What’s going on on your property?” and “How can I help you?”
“That’s how I get their original thoughts about the project out in the open — this is what they’re thinking about having coffee on a Sunday and looking outside at their property,” he said.
From there, it’s just a matter of implementing, planning, adjusting and closing the sale.
And with that, the business has become a bit of science — albeit one with a personal touch.
“I didn’t see it when I came out of high school, but I clearly do now,” Reich said. “This is what I’m good at and this what I’m meant to do.”
For more information about the business, visit DjslandscapingCT.com.