Home Posts tagged Landscape Design
Home Builders Landscape Design Sections

Something to Build On

Gisele Gilpatrick says her family’s business, Pro-Tech Waterproofing in Chicopee, typically garners about six months’ worth of business from the Western Mass. Home & Garden show — just not all at once.

“They’ll take our information, but they won’t always call next week,” said Gilpatrick, Pro-Tech’s office manager and the chair of the 64th annual Home & Garden show, slated for March 22-25. “They’ll say, ‘we saw you six months ago, or a year ago, or two years ago. I pulled out your card, because I have a problem now.’”

That’s the value for many of the 350-plus vendors who will set up shop at the Eastern States Exposition on March 22-25. Among those showcasing their products and services will be builders, remodelers, kitchen and bath specialists, landscapers, painters, roofers, financial institutions, pool companies, and more.

“It’s a good chance for people to talk to us one on one about their situation,” Gilpatrick said. “Sometimes it’s easier to visualize things when you talk with someone in person, and people are more comfortable explaining what they need. Sometimes, people think it’s a major project and it’s not, while other times we have to tell them it is major.”

Either way, it’s easy to find answers — and second, third, and fourth opinions — with so many businesses on hand. For that reason and others, the annual event has become the signature showcase for the Home Builders & Remodelers Assoc. of Western Massachusetts, which produces it.

The home show started as a way to generate revenue to support the association, but it also provides member companies with a chance to market to an audience — and a big one, with around 20,000 visitors over the four days in a typical year — that might not otherwise see their name. Conversely, it gives attendees, many of whom simply come to the show for fun, a host of concrete (sometimes literally) ideas for home improvement.

The exhibitors — in more than 90 different categories — run the gamut from inspection services to security and alarm systems; Internet and communications to moving and storage; duct cleaning to pianos and organs.

Show attendees fall into one of several categories, the association notes:

• People planning to buy or build a new home, who may visit with builders, real-estate agents, financial institutions, and sellers of component products, such as hardwood flooring, tile, and appliances;

• People planning to remodel or renovate, who may want to check in with all of the above, plus vendors of replacement components such as windows and doors, as well as appliances, wall treatments, and home furnishings;

• Yard and garden enthusiasts, who tend to be interested in lawn and landscaping services; wall, walk, and edging components and materials; and trees, shrubs, flowers, and seeds;

• Lifestyle-conscious individuals, who like to check out trendy, high-tech, or time-saving products; home furnishings; and products focused on self-improvement, fitness, and health;

• Committed renters, who have no plans to own a house, but may be interested in space-conservation and space-utilization products, as well as home furnishings;

• Impulse buyers, who flock to vendors of home décor, arts and crafts, cooking and baking products, jewelry, and personal goods; and

• Those who attend the show purely for fun, who may arrive without an agenda but often develop ideas for future purchases and home products. “More than any other group,” according to the association, “these people are the ones who have come to rely upon our show on an annual basis and who perhaps have the greatest impact upon our vendors.”

Advice — on the House

In addition to the exhibitors, the four-day event will also include cooking shows, hosted by WMAS radio personalities, in the Home Show Kitchen in the Young Building. Various chefs from restaurants throughout the Pioneer Valley will be on hand to prepare some of their specialties, and audience members can ask them questions, try samples, and have a chance to win gift certificates from some of the establishments.

A children’s area in the Young Building will feature an art exhibit created by students from Thousand Cranes Studio and a chance to participate in creative activities, as well as Melha Shriners clowns and a live butterfly display from Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory & Gardens. The Koi Society will have a pond built by C J Grounds Maintenance filled with koi fish, kids can get their pictures taken on a go-cart provided by Pioneer Valley Indoor Karting, Looney Tunes characters from Six Flags New England will be on hand, and Rolling Acres Outdoor and Science Summer Camp will help kids conduct science experiments.

Meanwhile, promotions and giveaways include the WMAS Kitchen Giveaway Contest, the Rock 102/Lazer 99.3 Ultimate New England Sports Fan Giveaway, and iHeartRadio’s $25,000 Home Makeover Contest.

In a dedicated outdoor area, several vendors will assemble outdoor structures such as sheds, gazebos, sunrooms, and furniture to spruce up the deck or poolside. Also on display in that area will be the large Beauty in Motion showroom of American Standard products.

Gilpatrick emphasized that the impact of the Home & Garden Show is year-round. “Some people may have a problem that costs $15,000 to fix, and they don’t have $15,000. But come next year, they’ve planned and budgeted, maybe secured financing, basically done what it will take, and that’s when we hear from them again. There’s a lot of that.”

This year’s show hours are Thursday and Friday, March 22-23, 1-9 p.m.; Saturday, March 24, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; and Sunday, March 25, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. General admission is $10 for adults, and children under 12 are admitted free. Discount coupons, available at www.westernmasshomeshow.com, knock $6 off the regular ticket price on Thursday, $4 off the regular price on Friday, and $2 off the regular price on Saturday and Sunday. Veterans and active military with ID receive free admission on Thursday only.

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Home Builders Landscape Design Sections

Something to Build On

Gisele Gilpatrick says her family’s business, Pro-Tech Waterproofing in Chicopee, typically garners about six months’ worth of business from the Western Mass. Home & Garden show — just not all at once.

“They’ll take our information, but they won’t always call next week,” said Gilpatrick, Pro-Tech’s office manager and the chair of the 64th annual Home & Garden show, slated for March 22-25. “They’ll say, ‘we saw you six months ago, or a year ago, or two years ago. I pulled out your card, because I have a problem now.’”

That’s the value for many of the 350-plus vendors who will set up shop at the Eastern States Exposition on March 22-25. Among those showcasing their products and services will be builders, remodelers, kitchen and bath specialists, landscapers, painters, roofers, financial institutions, pool companies, and more.

“It’s a good chance for people to talk to us one on one about their situation,” Gilpatrick said. “Sometimes it’s easier to visualize things when you talk with someone in person, and people are more comfortable explaining what they need. Sometimes, people think it’s a major project and it’s not, while other times we have to tell them it is major.”

Either way, it’s easy to find answers — and second, third, and fourth opinions — with so many businesses on hand. For that reason and others, the annual event has become the signature showcase for the Home Builders & Remodelers Assoc. of Western Massachusetts, which produces it.

The home show started as a way to generate revenue to support the association, but it also provides member companies with a chance to market to an audience — and a big one, with around 20,000 visitors over the four days in a typical year — that might not otherwise see their name. Conversely, it gives attendees, many of whom simply come to the show for fun, a host of concrete (sometimes literally) ideas for home improvement.

The exhibitors — in more than 90 different categories — run the gamut from inspection services to security and alarm systems; Internet and communications to moving and storage; duct cleaning to pianos and organs.

Show attendees fall into one of several categories, the association notes:

• People planning to buy or build a new home, who may visit with builders, real-estate agents, financial institutions, and sellers of component products, such as hardwood flooring, tile, and appliances;

• People planning to remodel or renovate, who may want to check in with all of the above, plus vendors of replacement components such as windows and doors, as well as appliances, wall treatments, and home furnishings;

• Yard and garden enthusiasts, who tend to be interested in lawn and landscaping services; wall, walk, and edging components and materials; and trees, shrubs, flowers, and seeds;

• Lifestyle-conscious individuals, who like to check out trendy, high-tech, or time-saving products; home furnishings; and products focused on self-improvement, fitness, and health;

• Committed renters, who have no plans to own a house, but may be interested in space-conservation and space-utilization products, as well as home furnishings;

• Impulse buyers, who flock to vendors of home décor, arts and crafts, cooking and baking products, jewelry, and personal goods; and

• Those who attend the show purely for fun, who may arrive without an agenda but often develop ideas for future purchases and home products. “More than any other group,” according to the association, “these people are the ones who have come to rely upon our show on an annual basis and who perhaps have the greatest impact upon our vendors.”

Advice — on the House

In addition to the exhibitors, the four-day event will also include cooking shows, hosted by WMAS radio personalities, in the Home Show Kitchen in the Young Building. Various chefs from restaurants throughout the Pioneer Valley will be on hand to prepare some of their specialties, and audience members can ask them questions, try samples, and have a chance to win gift certificates from some of the establishments.

A children’s area in the Young Building will feature an art exhibit created by students from Thousand Cranes Studio and a chance to participate in creative activities, as well as Melha Shriners clowns and a live butterfly display from Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory & Gardens. The Koi Society will have a pond built by C J Grounds Maintenance filled with koi fish, kids can get their pictures taken on a go-cart provided by Pioneer Valley Indoor Karting, Looney Tunes characters from Six Flags New England will be on hand, and Rolling Acres Outdoor and Science Summer Camp will help kids conduct science experiments.

Meanwhile, promotions and giveaways include the WMAS Kitchen Giveaway Contest, the Rock 102/Lazer 99.3 Ultimate New England Sports Fan Giveaway, and iHeartRadio’s $25,000 Home Makeover Contest.

In a dedicated outdoor area, several vendors will assemble outdoor structures such as sheds, gazebos, sunrooms, and furniture to spruce up the deck or poolside. Also on display in that area will be the large Beauty in Motion showroom of American Standard products.

Gilpatrick emphasized that the impact of the Home & Garden Show is year-round. “Some people may have a problem that costs $15,000 to fix, and they don’t have $15,000. But come next year, they’ve planned and budgeted, maybe secured financing, basically done what it will take, and that’s when we hear from them again. There’s a lot of that.”

This year’s show hours are Thursday and Friday, March 22-23, 1-9 p.m.; Saturday, March 24, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; and Sunday, March 25, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. General admission is $10 for adults, and children under 12 are admitted free. Discount coupons, available at www.westernmasshomeshow.com, knock $6 off the regular ticket price on Thursday, $4 off the regular price on Friday, and $2 off the regular price on Saturday and Sunday. Veterans and active military with ID receive free admission on Thursday only.

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Landscape Design Sections

Weighty Business

Joseph AlexopoulosTrees serve both practical and aesthetic functions, and people can become quite attached to them. But work to maintain, trim, and even remove trees should be left to the professionals, who say their profession is often dangerous, but in all ways rewarding.

Joseph Alexopoulos has given many customers quotes for taking down a tree. But he will never forget the day he arrived at a house, saw a rope hanging from the tree the homeowner wanted removed, and asked about it.

“I was told the man they hired before me died trying to fell it,” said the president of Tree 413 in Longmeadow, adding that the tragedy is an example of how dangerous the work can be.

Local experts agree it’s critically important to hire professionals with the knowledge, training, proper equipment, and insurance to prevent homeowners from being sued if an accident occurs on their property.

The Tree Care Industry Assoc. says successfully felling a tree requires knowledge of tree physics, biology, dangerous tools, and advanced cutting techniques, and homeowners who attempt their own tree removal may be injured by falling limbs, malfunctioning equipment, or the tree itself.

The work is hazardous by nature, and professionals are completely outfitted in protective gear and trained to climb trees, operate cranes, and use chainsaws, ropes, wood chippers, and stump grinders safely.

Manager Randy Sample of Arbortech Tree Service LLC in Springfield says the company holds weekly meetings led by employees to discuss situations they encounter and the safest way to deal with them.

“Unforeseen scenarios can occur, but we go to great lengths to eliminate the possibility of accidents,” he said, adding that employees use a wide range of equipment, adhere to OSHA standards, and are certified annually in electrical hazard and prevention, which ensures they are familiar with equipment utility companies use to provide electricity and the dangers associated with tree care and utility lines.

Tree pruning and felling is a major source of income for most local tree-service companies, but many have branched out, and the scope of their work includes a wide variety of jobs.

Arbortech created a Plant Healthcare Division five years ago to keep trees healthy, because problems almost always begin in the root system.

Randy Sample

Randy Sample says Arbortech employees meet weekly to discuss potentially dangerous situations and how to handle them.

“By the time they are noticeable, it may be too late to save the tree,” Sample said, adding that he has heard countless stories from families about their emotional attachment to a particular tree, and, therefore, the company strives to prevent damage that can threaten the health of these woody plants.

Tree 413, meanwhile, specializes in difficult tree removal that typically requires cranes, special equipment, and skilled climbers. “Many trees literally need to be lifted over the house with a crane as a whole or in pieces; it’s not a job where you can cut corners,” said Alexopoulos, adding that the company’s business has doubled every year for the last three years and workers do everything possible to ensure that limbs don’t fall on a roof, power line, vehicle, or anywhere else that could cause damage.

The company also does excavation and demolition, plans to start selling colored mulch, and recently opened a store in Southwick that carries equipment for professionals and homeowners that can be rented or purchased. It ranges from heavy-duty machinery to chainsaws and leaf blowers and includes clothing appropriate for tree work, because professionals are outfitted from head to toe to ensure safety.

Northern Tree Service Inc. in Palmer does a wide range of residential, industrial, and commercial work in three divisions that include tree service, land clearing, and construction. Its work ranges from felling trees to identifying potential hazards such as overhanging branches, dead limbs, or diseased trees for municipalities, golf courses, and other venues, as well as providing access for utilities.

For this issue and its focus on landscape design, BusinessWest looks at the scope of work that tree service companies do and the reasons they are called upon for help.

Diverse Services

Local tree-service companies say homeowners should never hire anyone without asking for proof they have liability and workers’ compensation insurance.

Nick Powers

Nick Powers says Northern identifies problems like weak limbs for its clients before they cause damage or injury.

“Many small contractors let their insurance lapse, so even if the person hands you a copy of a policy, you should call the phone number on it to ensure they are paid up to date,” Alexopoulos told BusinessWest.

Sample concurred. “People need to do their homework; the level of danger is very real, and there are many companies that are not qualified to do this type of work,” he said, adding that homeowners should also ask for referrals, make sure the company adheres to industry standards, and check if its arborists are certified through websites such as www.treesaregood.com, which offer educational materials and links to helpful information.

In addition to tree trimming and removal, Tree 413 performs excavation and demolition ranging from removing a sidewalk to an entire garage and foundation, or a Gunite pool made entirely of concrete. When the demolition is complete, workers fill in the cavity, spread topsoil over it, then seed it.

The company recently took down three trees for a homeowner in a project that was similar to a major demolition project, because they weighed a total of 60,000 pounds.

“The job was very involved and required skilled tree climbers, a crane, and a police officer in the road near our groundsmen who were cutting and chipping sections and putting logs in a truck to be taken away,” Alexopoulos said.

He added that dead trees are very difficult to take down, and the job often has to be done in sections. “If a cut branch slams into a dead tree, it can shatter,” he explained, noting that a small limb can weigh 600 pounds.

Arbortech also does a large amount of residential work, but its slogan is “more than just tree removal.” The company employs certified arborists who evaluate trees, shrubs, and woody plants and diagnose and treat disease, insect problems, and the type and amount of fertilizer needed for optimal growth.


SEE: List of Landscape Design Companies


“We try to care for trees from the roots up; we focus on tree preservation rather than removal,” Sample said, adding that indications that a tree is in trouble include problems such as leaves that fall too early.

He told BusinessWest that most problems stem from improper planting. Trees can be too close to a driveway, home, or power line, and choosing the right location for a specific species and its future growth is critical.

“The root system is the foundation of a tree and is typically as large as its crown or the drip line from the farthest branch,” Sample said.

The company’s arborists uncover roots, which are usually buried a foot or two beneath the ground, take soil samples, and inspect the root collar to make sure roots aren’t choking each other, which can affect the nutrients the tree is able to absorb.

Arbortech also plants trees and maintains orchards for customers that include apple, pear, and peach trees, as well as raspberry and blueberry bushes.

In addition, it sells mulch, loam, topsoil, and both green and 100% seasoned firewood.

“It can be a frustrating endeavor to buy firewood that is dirty, not properly seasoned, and doesn’t give the heat people are looking for,” Sample said, noting that the company purchases wood from logging contractors that has been specially cut to fit their machines, tests it with a moisture meter, rotates it so it will dry properly, then puts it through another screening process after it is purchased to ensure the delivered product doesn’t include any loose bark or chunks of wood.

Northern Tree Services performs jobs in many settings. It builds roads and work pads for utility companies, and has cleared sections of land that range from a half-acre to 550 acres to make way for power lines, solar fields, gas and oil pipelines — including the Keystone Pipeline — and large commercial contractors.

The company has 220 employees across the U.S., but the majority of its work is done in New England, and it also has contracts with colleges, golf courses, apartment and condominium complexes, 40 airports, the cities of Springfield and Boston, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, the state Department of Transportation, and Eversource. It has also developed a Google Earth program to identify trees that need to be pruned, thinned, or felled.

“It’s our job to identify hazards before they happen,” said company spokesman Nick Powers, noting that Northern also has a contract with the state Department of Conservation and Recreation, which is responsible for monitoring and maintaining vegetation on its roads, including the well-traveled Storrow Drive in Boston.

The company also does residential and commercial plantings and tree removal and pruning, which is especially important for utility companies because falling limbs can cause power outages.

Kevin Ferguson, project manager and estimator, told BusinessWest that arborists identify weak limbs that need to be supported or removed so they don’t fall during a windstorm or from the weight of snow.

“It doesn’t take much wind to knock deadwood out of a tree,” he said, explaining that, when they are called to a home, they examine the entire property and point out potential dangers. Some trees can be thinned to eliminate shade and the growth of moss on a roof, while helping prevent gutters from getting clogged with leaves, while others need low-hanging or dead limbs removed.

Safety First

Local tree companies do everything in their power to prevent accidents, but tree work is a risky business and can lead to damage or injury when unqualified people are hired to do a job.

It all comes down to respecting the power of nature and checking a company’s credentials, but anyone who hires licensed professionals to plant, prune, or fell trees can rest assured that every possible safety precaution will be taken, and their trees will add beauty and life to their property and be enjoyed by generations to come.

Sections Tourism & Hospitality

Past Is Prologue

Michelle Rondeau and Michael Glick

Michelle Rondeau and Michael Glick say the addition to the Chamberlain House includes a patio and suite for wedding parties or groups holding functions in the Garden Tent.

Michael Glick says the Publick House Historic Inn and Country Lodge in Sturbridge is two miles — and two centuries — away from the Mass Pike.

“We have every modern amenity, but when people come here, they step back to a period in time when things weren’t so fast-paced. It’s a place where they can really relax,” said the general manager.

Throughout its 246-year history, the Publick House has been known for its hospitality, excellent food, and New England charm, and has become a popular venue for weddings, celebratory events, and family gatherings. Part of the draw is its central location: it is in close proximity to Route 20 and Interstates 90 and 84 and easy to get to from all of the New England states as well as New York and New Jersey.

The historic inn was built in 1771, houses two restaurants and a pub, sits directly across from the Town Common, and offers a retreat from stress on its 43-acre campus that contains more than eight buildings.

Publick House

Michelle Rondeau says the multi-million-dollar investment in the hotel portion of the Publick House has led to an increase in corporate business.

During the fall and winter, guests lounge in comfortable chairs next to wood-burning fireplaces and spend hours reading or talking to co-workers, friends, or family members.

In the spring and summer, meanwhile, they stroll along meandering brick walkways through lush gardens, relax on patios with sweeping vistas, and enjoy outdoor fire pits.

Although its 11 event rooms can accommodate corporate gatherings of up to 200 people, in the past, marketing efforts were focused almost entirely on weddings and events in the dining room. The complex was never promoted as a place to stay overnight, and Glick says that was purposeful.

The reason was simple: the inn offered 17 rooms, and the Chamberlain House next door had six rooms outfitted with period furnishings and décor. But the remaining 80+ rooms were in the outdated Country Motor Lodge. It was built in the ’60s on a hill behind the inn, has drive-up entrances to each room, and falls short of offering the luxury and amenities people expect today.

Minor upgrades were made over the years, including installation of new hotel bedding, but the discrepancy between the rooms in the Motor Inn and the Publick and Chamberlain House next door was so great, they couldn’t market it as a place to hold multi-day business meetings or group gatherings.

“All of our rooms are sold out every weekend because we have so many weddings here,” said Rooms Division Manager Michelle Rondeau, adding that they hosted 183 weddings last year, and 179 nuptial celebrations have already been booked for 2017.

“But corporate groups were offended by the idea of having to put some of their participants in the old motor lodge,” she noted. “Everyone wanted to stay in the inn or the Chamberlain House, and in order to book multi-day events, we needed to be able to offer similar accommodations.”

In 2014 a decision was made to help resolve that discrepancy, and 15 months ago a $3.2 million renovation and addition to the Chamberlain House was completed that includes 20 new hotel rooms.

It has changed the focus of the Publick House from a quintessential New England restaurant to a charming hotel that can custom-tailor events for businesses and other large groups.

New jobs were created as a result of the project, and salespeople who were hired to market the rooms were successful in attracting businesses, craft-oriented groups, and more for multi-day stays.

The trend is continuing, and construction on a new $5 million to $6 million building is expected to start soon to replace more of the old rooms in the motor inn. It will be built on a site that houses an old barn originally built to store horse feed.

“We’re a boutique hotel, and we are not looking to grow larger,” Glick said, adding that town bylaws allow the facility to have only 125 hotel rooms on the campus. “We just want to replace the motel rooms with ones of a higher quality.”

For this issue and its focus on tourism and hospitality, BusinessWest looks at recent changes that have taken place at the Publick House Historic Inn and Meeting Lodge, what people can expect in the future, and the reasons behind the facility’s success.

New Focus

Glick said the Publick House first approached the town about six years ago with the idea of making changes, and in 2014 the architectural and landscape design firm Siemasko and Verbridge was hired to find a creative and appropriate way to add new guest rooms to the campus.

Its design plan involved retaining the exterior of the 1830 Chamberlain House with its wide columned porch, gutting the interior, replacing outdated plumbing and electrical wiring, adding a handicapped entrance, and building an addition onto the rear of the structure that would add 14 new rooms and blend in seamlessly with the neighboring historic buildings.

After the renovation and addition was complete, the rooms were decorated in a simple manner befitting the history of the home and Publick House. Window treatments were purchased from Country Curtains in Sturbridge, and the rooms were furnished with solid-wood bureaus and beds whose high wood posts are topped with pineapples, which are a sign of hospitality commonly seen at New England inns during the Colonial era.

In addition, an outdoor courtyard was built between the Chamberlain House and the Publick House that overlooks the bucolic area where the Garden Tent area is set up three seasons of the year. It can hold 200 guests and is a popular place for weddings.

historic building on the Publick House campus

The new hotel has been designed to meld with the architecture of the historic building on the Publick House campus.

A brick pathway leads directly from the Chamberlain House to the tent, and the suite that faces the area is used as a hospitality room for bridal parties, large gatherings, and corporate events, while the patio is often the setting for cocktails and hors d’oeuvres.

Two of the five buildings that make up the old motor lodge have been phased out, and more rooms will be closed when the new building is complete, but Glick said they plan to leave a few open for travelers seeking a modest price point.

“The addition and renovation of the Chamberlain House has definitely increased our corporate business,” Rondeau said, noting that companies that have held training sessions, seminars, meetings, and themed events in the country setting.

For example, a Hawaiian Luau in the Garden Tent was created for a business party and included carving a fully cooked pig in the patio area.

“We created a beautiful atmosphere. The outdoor fire pit was burning, tiki torches were lit around the perimeter of the area, and there were lush flowers blooming everywhere,” Glick said, explaining that the acreage allows the company to offer events that might not be possible in a downtown hotel in a large city.

He added that business guests who enjoy the atmosphere and hospitality the Publick House offers are returning for overnight stays with their entire families.

The investment in upgraded rooms proved so successful that Siemasko and Verbridge were rehired last year to create a design for the new hotel building. Its plans involve tearing down the white clapboard-style barn that sits next to the Publick House and replacing it with a 21,314-square-foot structure with 28 hotel rooms.

The building will face the street and resemble a Colonial home on a raised, red-brick foundation linked to a red-barn-style structure with a raised stone foundation.

“It will be nestled between the Publick House and Sadie Green’s,” said Rondeau, referring to the retail emporium, jewelry store, and curiosity shop housed in buildings on the property.

“The new lobby will become the hotel registration center and will feature a double-sided wood-burning fireplace with lots of comfortable seating,” she continued. “The design and layout have a lot of character that includes roof gables and a mock hayloft door. We can’t recreate the Publick House, but we’re doing our best to give the new building a historic feel.”

The town’s design review board approved the plan in November, and it will go before the planning board in April.

However, the project was delayed in December when the Historical Commission put the demolition of the existing barn on hold for a year, but Glick said they are working closely with the commission and hope to come up with a compromise that will allow them to move forward this year.

“But the Publick House will continue to serve as the hub of the property,” he said, noting that its two restaurants and historic pub are convenient for overnight guests.

Ongoing Traditions

The Publick House is known for its fine food, New England specialties, and bake shop, which does $700,000 in business annually.

Glick noted that the majority of dishes on the menu in the dining room never change and include pot roast, chicken pot pie, lobster pie, and a full turkey dinner with all of the fixings that is offered every day throughout the year.

“People come here and expect to be able to order the foods we’re known for,” he explained.

Indeed, families have been coming there for generations and expect things to stay the same. Glick told BusinessWest that the bakery offers a frosted sugar cookie with a smiley face, and when the chef altered the recipe to make it healthier, they received calls and letters of complaint even though there were no signs alerting people to the slight difference in taste. “So we went back to the original recipe,” he said.

Rondeau added that the Publick House is rooted in tradition, and many grandparents bring their grandchildren there to experience history in the same way they did when they were young.

But ultimately, what all of their guests look for and find is the service, attention to detail, and personal touch that Colonial New England inns were known for.

“We have all the luxuries of a downtown hotel, and the quality of our food drives business here. Until last year, we were never known as a hotel, but that is changing,” Glick said. “We’re targeting business groups of about 50 people, but no matter who our guests are, our focus will always remain on offering them true hospitality.”

DBA Certificates Departments

The following business certificates and trade names were issued or renewed during the months of January and February 2017.

AMHERST

Al Manar Education Consultancies
135 East Hadley Road
Mohamed Ibrahim, Magda Ahmed

KF Web Development
43 Greenwich Road
Fabrice Ketchakeu

BELCHERTOWN

Brain On Tutoring
39 A Maple St.
Amanda Halperin

Green Diamond Systems
125 Blue Meadow Road
Alan Page

HB Hive Co.
641 Daniel Shays Highway
Ross Hartman

Ivy HR
125 Mill Valley Road
Chris Abbuhl

CHICOPEE

Angel Snipe Gaming
70 Post Road
Derek Dobosz

Chicopee St. Patrick’s Parade Committee
62 Davenport St.
Ketherine Sliwa

Couture Event Designs
136 Crestwood St.
Maria Sousa

Pizza Express
557 East St.
Tekin Boluk

Truehart Massage
264 Exchange St.
Rochelle Truehart-Lambert

EAST LONGMEADOW

Avalanche Landscape Design Inc.
40 Crane Ave.
Eric Weichselbaumer

Bodyworks Unlimited Inc.
347 Elm St.
Antonio Bordoni

Fogueria
621 North Main St.
Manual Coelho

Harbourside Wealth Management
96 Shaker Road
Gary LaVallee

Milecast Media
273 Westwood Ave.
Stefany Schaefer

GREENFIELD

Ace of the Trades
43 B Fort Square
Anthony Ellis

Jessica Fiske LMT
239 Main St., Suite 5
Jessica Fiske

Regency Mortgage
21 Mohawk Trail, Suite 306
Lendusa, LLC

RMC Wholesale
21 Mohawk Trail, Suite 306
Lendusa, LLC

HAMPDEN

Green Valley Preschool and Day Care
10 Allen St.
Carmela Fitzpatrick, Traci Croteau

HOLYOKE

Capri Pizza & Restaurant
18-20 Cabot St.
Fiore Santaniello

Divine Beauty Salon
1312 Dwight St.
Angela Burgos

Gods & Legends Apparel
Luis Caraballo
33 Belcher St.

Holyoke Hummus Co.
285 High St.
John Grossman

Joel’s Moving Services
507 Whitney Ave.
Edgar Ramos

R & R Variety
207 ½ Sargeant St.
Rosalie Pratt

Tony’s Auto Sales
800 High St.
Anthony Trabal, Megali Trabal

LUDLOW

Easy Shop Convenience
546 A Center St.
Tahir Humayun

Hairstyles by Helena at Hair West
322 West Ave.
Helena Ferreira

Our Town Variety
259 Fuller St.
Sheetal Patel

Red Caravel Antiques
200 Center St., Suite 8
Elizabeth Teixeira

Tenczar Contractors
58 Wilno Ave.
Andrew Tenczar

NORTHAMPTON

Creative Curations
46 Cross St.
Laura Bergstrom

D.L. Hain
123 Hawley St.
Diane Lanoue

Law Office of Katherine Callaghan
55 Golden Dr.
Katherine Callaghan

Next Step Sales & Marketing Partners
115 Elm St., #1
Gregory Barrett

Notes
48 Main St.
Steven Campbell

Pioneer Valley Writers’ Workshop
267 Turkey Hill Road
Joy Baglio

Silent Source
58 Nonotuck St.
Harry Ridabock II

PALMER

Anne-Marie Olread Day Spa for Hands and Feet
3051 Pleasant St.
Anne-Marie Olread

Cutting & Styling Mart
1005 Central St.
Robin Dane

DPN Investigative Backgrounds & Security Services
2258 Main St.
Daniel Narreau

Girly’s Grill Inc.
1315 Park St.
Lori Beth Lind

Images Salon
1207 South Main St.
Wendy DeBoise

Northern Construction Service LLC
1516-1520 Park St.
John Rahkonen

Townies
1618 North Main St.
Pamela Kirkland

SOUTHWICK

Industrial Gas Turbine Support
13 Industrial Road
Jeffrey Vangelder

My Time LLC
627 College Highway
Allyson O’Dell

SPRINGFIELD

41st and 3rd
34 Front St.
Justin Oriel

A 2 Z Convenience Store
123 Chestnut St.
Sajid Zaman

Berliner Law
1441 Main St.
L. Jed Berliner

Blanco o Negro Promotion
15 Merida St.
Jesus Fontanez

Blue Lagoon Restaurant
180 State St.
Lewis Boynton

El Mango Market
2881 Main St.
Jorge Colon

Fresh Cut 2
1655 Boston Road
Ernesto Padilla

GRN Consulting
One Monarch Place
Karen Roberts

JDCole-TV, LLC
59 Meredith St.
Jeremy Cole

Kilpatrick Mebane Property Management
65 Westford Ave.
Tony Mebane

Main Food Shop
176 Main St.
Amarilis Perez

Optimal Office Cleaning
26 Lafayette St.
Kimberley Berry

Sonia Noemi Munoz Hope
14 Lombard St.
Yamira Rodriguez

Super Brush, LLC
800 Worcester St.
Donna Roy

WARE

An Honest Handyman
30 Highland St.
Charles Edler

WEST SPRINGFIELD

Eddie Shore Enterprises
1305 Memorial Ave.
Catherine Pokorny

Fuelboys
41 Chapin St.
Rene Thibault

Gilbert’s Handyman Service
65 Paulson Dr.
Norman Gilbert

IHOP
640 Riverdale St.
Deborah Pusen

Lawn Pro
161 Great Plains Road
William Paquette

Mattress Firm
935 Riverdale St.
Kindel Elam

Rafa Transportation LLC
203 Circuit Ave.
Rafael Mkanga

Stars Delivery
41 Irving St.
Gheorghe Rahubenco

WILBRAHAM

Core and More LLC
2141 F Boston Road
Arice Mackintosh

Homebuyers Inspection Service
17 Shady Lane
David Falvey

Jahn Building & Remodeling
376 Mountain Road
William Jahn

Michael R. Alexander, Electrician
84 Manchonis St.
Michael Alexander

NovaCare Rehabilitation
2377 Boston Road
David Chernow, Robert Ortenzio, Michael Tarvin, Scott Romberger

Ricciardi Construction Co.
840 Main St.
Gary Ricciardi

Wilbraham Tire and Auto Service Inc.
2694 Boston Road
Kurt Zimmerman, Peter Kearing

Business Management Sections

Getting to Know You

Ross Giombetti

Ross Giombetti, president of Giombetti Associates

Thirty years ago, Rick Giombetti developed a concept, called Performance Dynamics, that links personality with business productivity and potential. His Hampden-based company, Giombetti Associates, has grown significantly since then, helping hundreds of companies succeed by understanding personalities and building better leaders. His son, Ross, recently took the reins of the firm, but doesn’t expect much to change — least of all the passion he and his father share for making a difference in clients’ lives.

It’s not always easy, Ross Giombetti says, to be a client of his business-consulting firm, Giombetti Associates.

“We want to build the relationship and build the trust so clients know we care about the demands of their business, then deliver feedback that is true, real, and honest — tell them what they need to hear, not what they want to hear. And sometimes it stings,” said Giombetti, who recently succeeded his father, Rick — who co-founded the Hampden-based firm 30 years ago — in the president’s chair.

“I’ve certainly been called ‘direct’ before,” Ross went on, “but you’ll also find we back that up with support and compassion, so when we have to deliver a message you’re not going to like, you walk away trusting it, and knowing it’s what you needed to hear to make you and your organization better.”

That message varies wildly from client to client, as it always has; Giombetti Associates deals in leadership development and training, team-building, talent acquisition and recruitment, pre-employment assessment, and strategic executive coaching, among other roles.

“But the foundation of it all is building high-performance, world-class companies through people,” he explained — an idea he would return to several times during his talk with BusinessWest.

“There’s one constant in every business, regardless of size or industry — people, who have character traits that drive their behavior, and can cause issues and conflict,” he explained. “Our clients come to us to help them solve challenges related to personality and leadership. It could be they have a team that doesn’t get along really well or isn’t maximizing their potential or their results. There could be a talent gap in the organization that they want us to help solve, or it could be them wanting us to protect their business from making bad hiring decisions.”

The heart of Giombetti Associates is a concept called Performance Dynamics — a means of assessing personality and understanding how it affects behavior in the workplace — created in 1986 by Ross’s father, Rick, and his business partner, Paul Alves. At the time, the pair — former human-resources professionals who had struck out on their own — had virtually no money, and even scraping up enough to fly to Washington to visit the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office was a challenge.

But their idea paid off, and today, the company boasts hundreds of business clients worldwide — from mom-and-pop operations to Fortune 500 companies — helping them make hiring decisions, train executives, build leadership skills, handle office conflict, and perform a host of other interpersonal tasks.

Simply put, Performance Dynamics explores personality and applies it to leadership in business. Before quitting his job to become a consultant 30 years ago, Rick Giombetti used his human-resources experience and psychology education to develop personality-assessment exercises that companies could use to understand and manage their hiring and personnel issues. These assessment tools measure factors ranging from personality traits and mental maturity to overall understanding of leadership and how people cope with conflict.

“They’re validated and defined by major psychological think tanks,” Ross said. “We put them together in a trademarked process. My father and Paul Alves, they were well beyond their time, extremely progressive as it related to personality and leadership. That’s how it all started — with a dream and a philosophy.”

With clients boasting anywhere from five employees to 100,000, in industries ranging from landscape design to advanced manufacturing; from medical facilities to banking and insurance, the one common denominator is people, he went on. “That’s one reason why we work in all those different industries. You can change the function, change the geography, but people exist in every single one of them.”

Let’s Talk

When a company hires Giombetti, it should be ready to talk.

“Our work is a combination of things and involves a lot of fact finding, a lot of exploration, a lot of open-ended conversations in an attempt to get to know a person, a team, an organization, or an entire culture. That’s where we start,” he said.

That said, “we don’t take on new business without knowing what we’re walking into. They have to believe philosophically same things we believe. If they don’t, we’re not afraid to walk away from business. We’re not afraid to fire a customer.

“Once we know what we’re looking at,” he explained, “to really help develop an individual, a team, or a culture, we have a series of personality instruments we use that go really deep, identify the ‘why’ behind the ‘what.’ It’s not hypothetical, not conceptual; it’s concrete and real.”

A few of the team members

A few of the team members at Giombetti Associates, from left: Miklos Ats, Ross Giombetti, and Amanda Collins.

As one example, he cited a client in the Midwest founded on the core belief of purpose-driven products. “They don’t really care as much about the money they make or the success they have; they want their employees to wake up with purpose. So they’re founded on the right philosophy.”

However, Giombetti went on, the company’s leader was simply too nice and struggled with making difficult decisions, and that held his organization back.

“I’d like to think that, after working more than five years with them, his own leadership and the culture as a whole have gotten much stronger and better,” he said. “They now blend family and balance of life with accountability.”

After all, he continued, bosses can care deeply about their employees’ family time, work-life balance, and having fun at work, but at the end of the day, there has to be accountability and a focus on growing the business. Now, he said, “their organization is an example of an organization we would all want to work for.”

Another client — a local firm, Notch Mechanical Constructors in Chicopee — had a much different issue. It’s a company run by five siblings who balance their input well. “They maintain boundaries and keep each other accountable and grounded, and they make good business decisions,” Giombetti said. But they struggled with finding a strong financial leader.

“We have close to a 20-year relationship with this family, and we wanted to make sure they hire the right person. We went through a lot of due diligence, and it took us longer than we or they would like, but the story has a happy ending. We found somebody who is a great cultural fit — the same philosophy, grounded, humble, but tough and smart. They’re pretty happy with the decision we made. Sometimes making the right decision takes longer.”

In both cases — a company leader who had to change his way of thinking, and bringing in the right person from the outside for a key role — it all came down to the importance of people, he stressed.

“Great organizations believe that building a strong team with great people is largely what makes you successful. You can have a great product, you can have great service, you can have a great business model, but without the people, you won’t capitalize on your opportunities. You’ll have nothing.”

Smart Growth

Giombetti currently employs six people and is actively looking for a couple more to meet the needs of an expanding client base nationwide.

“But we’re careful about the business we take on,” he said. “We don’t take on business just for the sake of growing. That philosophy will never change as long as I’m tied to the organization. I learned that from my father, that bigger is not always better; better is better. I want to do it the right way, to continue to treat our clients like their business was ours, and I don’t want to lose touch with the close relationships we have with most of them. So we’re really careful about how we run our business.”

In part, that means running the business like that client in the Midwest who prioritizes his workers’ lives away from the office, saying he wants to do the same for team members like Miklos Ats, senior associate; Amanda Collins, office manager (who’s being groomed for a larger, human-resources generalist role), and Monica Childers, who doesn’t have a title beyond ‘protector’ and ‘boss of all of us,’ Giombetti joked.

“When I’m not working, I’d rather be spending time with my wife and three kids and a million hobbies,” he said. “I’d rather see Mik spend time with his lovely wife and go eat at more great restaurants. I’d like to see Amanda spend more time honing her trivia skills, and see Monica spend more time with her awesome husband, who recently learned how to make sushi, and their fantastic two boys. We believe in ‘work hard, play hard.’”

At the same time, he wants the firm to continue giving back to the community, through its efforts with Habitat for Humanity and other local organizations. Meanwhile, Giombetti coaches youth sports and launched a mentorship program at Minnechaug Regional High School in 2012 — efforts that, along with his business success, contributed to his selection to BusinessWest’s 40 Under Forty class of 2016.

“We’re passionate about developing young people,” he said. “Most students don’t know who they are or what they want to do, but if we can help them better understand who they are, they’ll have a lot less stress and anxiety in their young life and career.”

These efforts are just one more way Giombetti is committed to the Western Mass. region. “The Pioneer Valley will always be our home. I don’t have visions about moving our office into a big city to be closer to bigger business and more opportunities. I’m happy being where we’re at, doing what we do, supporting awesome clients and individuals.

“Philosophically, we treat our clients’ businesses like our own, and we’re going to protect that,” he went on. “Our clients trust us to know their people, know their culture, know their business, and protect it like it was our own.”

As for Ross’ father, Rick Giombetti may have relinquished his president’s title this year, but he remains active in some project work as a strategic advisor, which Ross appreciates. “His legacy will live on forever here. He’s a fantastic leader.”

One who has long been committed to building up the leadership potential of others, a passion he certainly passed along to his son.

“It sounds cliché, but I wake up every morning truly being motivated to inspire people and make a difference,” Ross said. “When students are coming out of college, when they’re asked the question, ‘what do you want to do?’ a majority say, ‘make a difference,’ but they don’t know what that means — and don’t know how.

“That is the passion I live every day,” he went on. “When I see somebody grow, develop, and become a better person, become a better husband or wife, become a better teammate or leader, that keeps me coming back for more.”

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Landscape Design Sections

Deep-rooted Concepts

This landscape design by David Paine

This landscape design by David Paine uses plants to create privacy as the steps behind this home lead to a hot tub.

Bill St. Clair likes to compare the plantings around a home to a frame chosen for an expensive piece of artwork.

It takes time and care to select the right frame — or, in this case, plants for a landscape design — but doing so is well worth the cost because it enhances the beauty and increases its value.

“Plants can transform a beautiful home into a picture,” said the owner of St. Clair Landscaping and Nursery in Hampden. “I tell people all the time they are the frame around a house.”

Andy Grondalski agrees and says plants can also be used to create outdoor living space. “Some people frame outdoor rooms with plants, while others use them on patios or along winding paths that lead to areas with a bench or pond or that open up into a field,” said the nursery manager from Sixteen Acres Garden Center in Springfield. “Annuals, perennials, shrubs, and trees can be used to define space and create a garden, and people can plant them with roses, hydrangeas, or different varieties of day lilies.

“But it’s important to find the right plants for the right place,” he continued, adding that he has measured out 20-foot spots at the nursery and had people place plants alongside each other before they buy them to make sure they like how they look from a distance.

“You may prefer something ornate, while other people want something simpler, but plants are an investment, so it’s important to be sure what you are getting is something you really like,” he noted.

Andy Grondalski

Andy Grondalski says people can have color in their yards year-round with the right mix of plants.

Local experts say it’s also critical to use plants with a USDA Hardiness Zone 5 rating because they can withstand the harsh New England climate. The zones are based on average annual extreme minimum temperatures over a 30-year period, and although some people purchase plants rated for Zone 4 and Zone 6, they are less likely to survive when the weather turns cold.

Although everyone wants plants that don’t require much maintenance, with the exception of mature trees and shrubs, they all need watering, and some require deadheading, pruning, trimming, repotting, and other work.

“Plants are alive, and anything alive has to be cared for,” Grondolski said.

David Paine, owner of Plan It Green in Northampton, advises people to use native plants as often as possible. “They are more apt to survive because they’ve lived here for thousands of years,” said the licensed landscape architect. “They also benefit the environment.”

For example, white oak trees produce acorns, while serviceberry trees, blueberry bushes, and various varieties of holly produce berries that birds eat.

Paine said some people shy away from oaks because they views acorns as messy or worry they’ll dent their vehicles when they fall, but oak trees provide incredible habitats; more than 300 wildlife species are known to use or make their home in oaks, including dozens of types of birds.

Flowering plants that attract bees and butterflies are also important and beneficial.

“We would lose many of our food sources if we didn’t have bees to pollinate plants, and although some people are afraid of them, they are far more interested in the nectar on flowers than human beings,” Paine said.

As the number of people concerned about the environment increases, those who love the look of a lush lawn are turning to varieties that are hardier and more drought-tolerant.

“Everyone wants their place to look nice, but Kentucky bluegrass needs two inches of water a week, so it’s almost irresponsible to plant it,” Paine said, adding that replacing turf grass with ground cover is also a growing trend.

Variety of Settings

Today, many landscapers use plants to define a space or create privacy around an outdoor living area. “We put Japanese painted ferns in 24-inch pots around a outdoor room in a Longmeadow home that has a fireplace and TV,” St. Clair told BusinessWest, adding that they are 18 to 24 inches in height and 36 inches wide.

The use of ornamental grasses is also on the rise because they reach heights of five to seven feet and provide privacy and interest, as well as a soothing sound when the wind ruffles through them.

The grasses need to be cut back six to 12 inches from the ground in the fall, although some people leave them standing until the spring because they like the way they look when they are covered with snow. They don’t begin growing again until late May or June, but can reach their mature height in two months.

“They came into popularity over the past decade, are relatively easy to care for, and provide a different aesthetic,” Paine explained.

People love colorful plantings, which can add beauty or create warmth in almost any area, and experts say color can be maintained year-round with a mixture of spring, summer, and fall perennials as well as bushes, including green or gold evergreens or holly, which are known for their glossy green leaves and bright red berries.

“You can also achieve year-round color by using only shrubs and trees, as there are so many interesting textures of foliage and bark,” Grondolski said. “Red twig dogwood shows up really nicely in the snow, and paperback maples have cinnamon-colored bark that peels off like birch bark. Their fall foliage is phenomenal in the fall, and when it comes to color, it’s definitely a multi-season tree.”

He added that reblooming hydrangea is one of the most popular bushes, and it’s possible to change the color of the plant’s flowers from blue to pink or purple by changing the soil composition and making it more acidic or more alkaline.

Filling large pots with plants can also add interest to a landscape, especially when they are placed on each side of the front door of a home or business. St. Clair has clients who like the look of these pots and have him change the flowers in them each season.

Others prefer a more permanent plant and opt for dwarf Alberta spruce trees in pots, as they do well year-round and can be decorated with lights during the Christmas season. They reach a height of three to four feet and can be sprayed in the fall with anti-desiccant oil that prevents the moisture from escaping so they don’t dry out during the winter, although they do need to be watered until the pot freezes.

The market for trees is also growing, and popular choices include varieties of Japanese maples with dome-shaped foliage that looks like an upright umbrella, Kousa dogwoods, Bradford pears, thundercloud plums, and apple trees.

“People can have a small orchard in a 50-by-50-foot space if they plant dwarf varieties. They are the easiest trees to grow, and you don’t need a huge area or have to climb a ladder to harvest the fruit,” Paine said.

Sixteen Acres Garden Center sold out of fruit trees last year, and Grondolski said people are still replacing trees that were downed during the tornado and freak October snowstorm several years ago. In addition to aesthetics, they are beneficial to the environment and reduce heating and cooling bills because they provide shade in summer and block the wind in the winter.

Choosing a plant or tree can be daunting, however, as growers continue to offer an array of new varieties. Some, such as the Kousa dogwood, are disease-resistant, while hollies have been genetically engineered; until about five years ago, a holly plant would not produce red berries unless there were a male and female shrub within 100 feet of each other. “But today, growers have propagated a holly that has the male and female in the same plant,” St. Clair noted.

Helping Plants Thrive

Plants are an investment, and knowledge is required to make sure they not only survive, but thrive.

Sixteen Acres Garden Center guarantees its plants for a year, and the majority that are returned have failed because of the way they were planted.

“Many people make the mistake of putting soil too high around the stem, which causes rot and kills the plant. Or they place the plant too deep in the soil,” Grondolski said, adding that mulch around plants or trees should be tapered inward, and there shouldn’t be any about three fingers away from the base.

“If you want to ring a tree with mulch, you should create a bowl near the base that catches water and can be filled with a hose,” he told BusinessWest.

Paine said another mistake people make is not checking to find out how large something will grow. “A Colorado blue spruce is cute when it is young, but it will grow 70 feet tall and 35 feet wide,” he noted, adding that most plants eventually have to be moved or removed.

However, many don’t require the trimming needed years ago when most homes had a row of yews planted in front of them.

“Things in this profession keep evolving,” St. Clair said, explaining that, when he started out in business 40 years ago, most trimming was done with hand shears. That changed when gas hedge trimmers hit the market, but today, hand trimming has made a comeback.

“Gas trimmers aren’t selective,” he said. “For example, you can’t bring in a canopy on a maple tree with them, so more is being done today by hand, as people want a natural appearance.”

Another thing that has changed is the practice of planting yews in front of a home, which were occasionally punctuated by an azalea plant.

Paine said the idea of putting shrubs in front of a home originated in Victorian times because the multi-storied homes with steep staircases that were being built at the time didn’t look like they were anchored to the ground.

“So, people started planting shrubs around them to create a visual anchor. The nursery business developed as a result, and they tried to sell foundation plants to every homeowner,” he said. “But capes and small ranches don’t really need them, and in a lot of cases, they are out of scale with the house.”

Today, landscapers tend to put accent plants in key locations such as the corners of a home, on either side of the front door, or along the front walkway.

The amount of space people have to work with makes a decided difference, and Grondolski said people who have only eight to 10 feet in front of their home often choose to tier plants of different heights to add interest.

“But plant material won’t perform well unless it’s in the right location,” he cautioned. “If it needs a lot of sun and is in the shade, the growth will be stunted, and it will drop leaves or needles as it stretches to grow toward the light.”

Peace of Mind

St. Clair said many people with demanding jobs don’t want to spend time caring for the plants on their property. As a result, a growing number of clients have him maintain their plantings, and if they do their own maintenance, they make sure someone waters their plants when they are away during the summer.

“Protecting their investment is very important,” he said.

And, indeed, the reasons surpass aesthetics and money spent on them. “Many people find plants and gardens therapeutic, whether they are sitting on a bench and admiring them or down on their hands and knees working,” Grondolski said.

So, with longer days and warmer weather on the horizon, it’s an ideal time to look  online and make careful choices about plants that can be used to frame a property, enhance it, and increase its value.

Landscape Design Sections

Painting Pictures with Light

Illumascape Lighting

Illumascape Lighting

When some people think of outdoor lighting, they may think of floodlights and porchlights — but many more options are available in the emerging world of architectural lighting, which accents the details of front and backyards, melding safety and security with atmosphere and aesthetics. Designing and installing these systems is both art and science, say experts in the field, who are always gratified by the ‘wow’ factor when homeowners flip the switch.

After 23 years as a graphic designer in the sign-making industry, Rob Larkham decided to design and install landscape lighting for a career — a job that requires long hours of manual outdoor labor.

“Everything we’re doing is by hand. It’s labor-intensive,” said the owner of Illumascape Lighting in South Hadley. “But at night, when we turn the switch on, it’s a rewarding moment.”

Larkham is actually the second owner of Illumascape. Phil Costello, who founded the business, was one of Larkham’s customers, and when he was nearing retirement, he approached the graphic designer, believing he would be a good choice to take over the landscape-lighting company. So Larkham came on board four years ago and took over the reins a couple years after that.

“He saw me as a hard worker with an artistic eye — because, what we do is paint pictures with light,” Larkham said of why the opportunity appealed to him. “If it weren’t for the artistic end of it, I wouldn’t have made the transition. You’re outside digging ditches all day, but then you get to the end of the day, when it’s dark, and you flip the switch and get that ‘wow’ moment.”

Landscape lighting, also known as architectural lighting, has long been popular in warmer climes, but in the Northeast, most homeowners have been satisfied with porchlights and maybe a floodlight out back. But, increasingly, they’re seeing the aesthetic value in the variety of techniques available from companies like Illumascape and numerous landscape-design firms.

As Larkham explained, landscape lighting is the permanent placement of lighting fixtures in the outdoor environment, with the aim of highlighting the form, texture and definition of landscape plantings as well as enhancing the architectural features of the home. In contrast to one or two floodlights, architectural lighting may utilize dozens of smaller, strategically placed fixtures to accent the details of a home and yard.

Rob Larkham

Rob Larkham says customers choose architectural lighting for both aesthetic and security reasons.

“It’s still really in its infancy here,” he told BusinessWest, adding that customers choose landscape lighting for two reasons: to add beauty to their property and for security. “A well-lit home is less likely to be broken into than the house next door. Plus, you’re more likely to slip on dark stairs and dark sidewalks.”

Gary Courchesne, owner of G&H Landscaping in Holyoke, said the emergence of energy-efficient LED diodes has made landscape lighting more popular, because people see the long-term value in what, admittedly, can be a hefty up-front investment.

He explained that a transformer installed in the yard converts the 120-volt household current to 12 volts, and the LED diodes reduce the energy drain even further. “From an energy standpoint, you’re getting the benefit of cost savings. That’s key for people.”

He and Larkham both noted how the fixtures are designed to direct each beam in a specific direction, with techniques ranging from uplighting and downlighting to path lighting and ground lighting.

“In other instances, we use well lights buried in the ground that give that upward lighting effect,” Courchesne explained. “You may have ornamental plants, which you want to show off and shed a little more light on.”

Added Larkham, “I just think people are seeing the value in it, whether it’s beauty, safety, security, or curb appeal. People are spending more time in their backyards. I really think the growth in this industry will be extensive.”

Professional Touch

The key to successful lighting, Courchesne said, is professional design. He noted that a flood of low-voltage lighting kits hit retail stores over the past decade, and many people bought them, were unsatisfied, and didn’t think about it again. That’s because they didn’t have a skilled designer and installer on their side.

“When people buy a big-box store kit, they’re compelled to use every light in it. But, in the instance of low-voltage lighting, less is more. You don’t want your sidewalk or shrubbery to look like a runway. You want it to highlight, accent, and provide adequate light for pedestrians and the security element.”

With homeowners in the Northeast investing more money in their properties in recent years, he went on, many are now becoming aware of professional landscape-lighting design, which is ubiquitous down South.

Larkham said customers run the gamut from contractors building a new house and including landscape lighting in the initial design to homeowners who have been in their homes 25 years or more and have an itch to do something new and dramatic with their outdoor space.


Go HERE to download a PDF chart of area landscape design firms


“Sometimes it’s a complete landscape remodel — a landscape architect may be doing the whole backyard and will call me and say, ‘hey, we’d really like to do landscape lighting in this remodel.’ That said, I’ve gone out and done simple installations of five path lights, and, on the other end, 200-light installs.”

In other words, although architectural lighting is a high-end product in the world of landscape architecture, there’s typically something for every budget. Larkham said he often works within someone’s budget for an initial installation, but might put in a larger transformer if a client expresses interest in adding to the design later. “Maybe they’ll do the front of the house this year, and the backyard next year.”

With a budget in hand, Larkham then draws on his artistic side. “That’s my job as a designer — I show up, meet with client first, figure out what they’re looking to do on their property, and come up with a design using the proper fixtures.”

small, strategically placed lights bring out the details

This Illumascape project demonstrates how small, strategically placed lights bring out the details of a house and yard.

For example, the same kind of tree could be lit using completely different techniques, depending on the yard.

“We’ll go out and do a lighting demonstration before we ever sign a contract, with about 100 demonstration lights, to show you what the final product might look like,” he said. “We don’t have clients come out until it gets dark so we have that ‘wow’ moment. More than nine times out of 10, they come out and say, ‘wow, we had no idea.’”

In many cases, he added, a customer’s neighbors may have architectural lighting, but when someone sees it on their own property, it’s a much more impactful experience.

“You have to look at the key elements of what people are trying to accent and highlight, then decide how to use the lights,” Courchesne said. “Some people want it on the front door to highlight a wreath, using it as a spotlight. In some cases, they want to flood the area with some light. But the whole key is subdued lighting, not offensive lighting.”

He told BusinessWest that the results are gratifying.

“Some of the comments I hear are, ‘can you believe my house now?’ I hear that time and time again. I would say 75% of the folks who buy landscape lighting, accent lighting, buy it for the aesthetic value. The other 25% also want it for the security value because lights deter a burglar; they’d rather go to a house that’s dark as opposed to a house that’s lit up.”

Left to Their Own Devices

As landscape lighting becomes more prominent in the Northeast, customers are accessing some high-tech features not previously available. Residential Lighting magazine noted that, while low-voltage LED lighting is the key industry driver these days, linking lighting systems to smartphone apps, to control them remotely, is also a hot trend.

Other systems are timed to come on automatically, Larkham said, so that, “in the winter months, when it’s dark when you pull into the driveway, the house is warm and inviting already. That’s nice. Floodlights tend to be Fenway Park bright; obviously, what we’re doing is soft and subtle. That’s really what we’re looking for.”

Gary Courchesne

Gary Courchesne says the goal of any landscape-lighting project is subdued, artistic light.

Courchesne also stressed the importance of subtlety in a lighting plan. He said today’s LEDs can bathe their target with a soft, warm, white glow, as opposed to the harsh blue light with which some people associate earlier LEDs.

“Not everyone can afford this,” he stressed. “It’s cost-effective from an operational perspective, but there’s capital investment involved for a quality system. Like anything else, you truly get what you pay for.”

Larkham added that, as time goes on and LEDs become more universal, costs should come down, and are already starting to creep in that direction, which is a good sign for homeowners who want to add a little artistry to their landscapes.

“It’s becoming more popular, it seems the technology is advancing every year, there are always new things happening,” he concluded.

In other words, the future is bright.

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Architecture Sections

Lighting the Way

spray-chalk displays

The spray-chalk displays drawing people to the Holiday Market are one way to make an impact downtown with little cost.

Frank Sleegers wants his classroom to extend far beyond the UMass campus.

“For these students, it’s not just the work they do to get grades, but they actually care about what they do; they see their work is important and can make an impact,” said the urban design professor at UMass Amherst.

He was speaking of a recent project by a group of landscape architecture students, who worked with the Springfield Central Cultural District to improve the downtown pedestrian walkway known as Market Place and attract more activity there.

Morgan Drewniany, director of the Cultural District — an organization launched in 2014 to cultivate arts and activities and generate interest downtown — said the student “interventions,” as she and Sleegers called the work, involved bringing light to Market Place with paper lanterns and using spray-chalk designs on downtown sidewalks to get people thinking, and talking, about Market Place as a destination.

The short-term project was intended to coincide with the opening of the Downtown Springfield Holiday Market, a joint project of the Springfield Business Improvement District (SBID) and the Cultural District intended to boost retail sales downtown during the holiday season by bringing artists and vendors to spaces located between 1331 and 1391 Main St. and throughout Tower Square.

“One group of students incorporated spray chalk, directing people to the Holiday Market and Market Place itself as well, and really getting people talking about walking and walkability downtown,” Drewniany told BusinessWest. “The other group utilized a series of paper lanterns to bring light to the space, to create more of a welcoming environment, somewhere people really want to linger and spend more time checking out the shops.”

A third group project is working on a longer-term project downtown to be unveiled this spring, she added, giving no details but calling it “an innovative, moveable park.”

Market Place, also known as Market Street, is a pedestrian-only walkway running parallel to Main Street from Falcons Way to Harrison Avenue. A bustling space in the days of Johnson’s Bookstore, today, the walkway typically gets little use except as a cut-through between the downtown towers and the MassMutual Center.

Drewniany said Sleeger’s students had been working on city-improvement ideas for several years through the Office of Planning and Economic Development, a partnership supported with a small Community Development Block Grant. Since its formation, the Cultural District now oversees the projects, which typically take place twice a year, during the fall and spring semesters.

“This year the city planner was able to loop me into the students, to really make their plans a reality,” she said. “Whereas a lot of the students’ ideas in the past had been incorporated into future city plans, we were able to do an independent project where students were able to see their ideas realized. The city has the capacity to make things happen in a few years; we, as a cultural district, are able to focus on it and make it happen in a couple of months.”

Real-world Experience

Sleeger said the Springfield projects usually involve undergraduate students in the fall and graduate students in the spring.

“We’ve worked in a number of neighborhoods that needed some help, that were disadvantaged, where sidewalks were crumbled, things like that,” he told BusinessWest. “Last year, we did an intervention downtown with high-school students from Putnam [Vocational Technical Academy]. Because the city liked our approach, we were able to do some short-term interventions.”

Indeed, last spring, students from the UMass Graduate Urban Design Studio — after consulting with Springfield residents, city Planning and Economic Development officials, the Cultural District, Focus Springfield, small entrepreneurs, and Putnam students — staged six installations throughout downtown Springfield using what Sleegers calls ‘tactical urbanism,’ an emerging form of urban design that seeks to enliven cities with temporary interventions that are inexpensive and easy to install.

The ongoing partnership between the UMass program and the city is “a great idea that also educates the students who come to Springfield,” Sleegers said. “They see what’s here — a city with great potential. We can do something with very little money that has a high impact. That’s typical of other cities as well; parts of the country are struggling, and cities don’t have big bucks, but we can make them better.”

For discussions of longer-term improvements, students have worked with entities ranging from planning officials to the SBID to DevelopSpringfield. In one project, they developed ideas to enhance safety at the X neighborhood in Springfield, aiming to improve pedestrian crossing and making aesthetic enhancements.

“We’re proud of these contributions, and we have a great working relationship with the city,” Sleegers said, noting that the Springfield Design Center — which opened in Court Square in 2009 as a collaboration among UMass programs in Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning, Architecture and Design, and Agriculture — is now housed in the UMass Center at Springfield, located in Tower Square.

“We continue to work on other ways to make our work more visible,” he said. “These interventions have positive effects, and we get a great response.”

Art and Commerce

Sleegers said too many people have yet to discover the potential of downtown Springfield, and that his students are only helping to showcase it. “Our conversations with the shop owners of the Holiday Market were most inspiring. Their presence transformed the place immediately. I want to get our students involved and embraced. These experiences make them grow and succeed.”

Drewniany said she would like to see the connection between the Cultural District and UMass continue to grow.

“For Springfield to continue its growth and success, we really need to capitalize on all the relationships we have, and work with students who have some real ideas to help bring us to the next level of being a really innovative city,” she said, calling her organization “economic development through arts and culture,” which includes landscape design.

“Young people — and employers who have employees who are young — are really looking at the amenities a city has, not just how cheap rent is. They want to see we have galleries, that we have cool events happening, public art you can walk around. We really see that as something necessary for the future of the city.”

In a sense, those luminarias and chalk designs are just another way to light the path to that goal.

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Landscape Design Sections
Landscapers Transform Backyards, Public Spaces into Recreational Areas

Stephen Roberts

Stephen Roberts shows off a gas firepit that Elms College recently installed in a courtyard.

Last summer, a successful businessman asked Stephen Roberts to construct an edible forest on several acres of his backyard property.

“He said he wanted to go home after work and have a place where he could ‘devolve.’ He grew up on a farm and loves gardening and the outdoors,” said the owner of Stephen A. Roberts Landscape Architecture and Construction in Springfield.

The design Roberts created includes fruit trees, a trail, and a woodland area with plants that range from elderberry and pawpaw to wild ginger and wintergreen, that can be picked throughout the growing season.

Although the request was unusual and most people aren’t looking to create their own forest, local landscapers say a growing number of clients are spending money on backyard retreats that provide them with a place to entertain and enjoy the outdoors.

“Nature is very important to people’s well-being, and they travel great distances to experience mighty landscapes with mountains and oceans,” said Roberts. “But travel takes a lot of time and energy, and since people can create attractive spaces in their backyards where they can relax and spend quality time with families and friends, they are continuing to invest in outdoor rooms with amenities.”

Justin Pelis agrees.

“People are bridging the gap between their home and the outdoors,” said the co-owner of North Country Landscape and Garden Center in Westhampton. “Years ago, people simply planted shrubs and mowed their lawns. But today, they want to spend more time outdoors and are moving away from aesthetics to the experiential.”

Justin Pelis

Justin Pelis says people want the experience of growing fruits, vegetables, and herbs in their backyards with their families.

He added that an increasing number of young families want to grow vegetables and fruits with their children, watch birds and feed them, and cook outdoors in spacious kitchens boasting built-in, stainless-steel appliances.

“People are also looking to create wildlife habitats, and many want to grow wine-bearing grapes and hops,” he said. “Due to the large number of local microbreweries, people are being inspired to produce their own wine and beer, so we have been holding seminars in our garden center to teach people how to grow grapes.”

He noted that participants are taken on a tour of the nearby Blackbird Vineyard, where all of their questions are answered.

“Organic gardening and composting is also becoming popular, and we get many requests from people who want to grow their own food,” Pelis continued. “They are looking for an experience that begins with planting seeds and ends in harvesting what they have produced.”

Steve Prothers, who owns Amherst Landscape & Design Associates and has designed more than 3,000 commercial and residential landscapes, agrees that people want their backyards to be as pleasing, attractive, and fruitful as possible. Natural landscapes are in style, and he said swimming-pool areas are being updated by replacing concrete with natural stone or Travertine tiles, which come in white, tan, cream, and rust-colored varieties.

“They give the area an Old World look,” Prothers said, adding that his company specializes in hardscapes that includes patios, retaining walls, walkways, and pool surrounds. Many clients ask for a pergola, because its mini-roof gives an outdoor space the definition of a room.

“It’s a very decorative feature that frames in an area and creates an intimate space. But a pergola can also be functional because it can provide shade,” he said, noting that roof rafters can be placed close together to block the sun, or the structure can be planted with scented vines, such as wisteria or bougainvillea, that give it a tropical feel.

Pelis has built pavilions with roofs over patios that people use as sitting areas. “They put TVs in them, and the patio can extend beyond the sitting area,” he said.

In fact, patios are becoming more popular than decks because they require less maintenance. “Patios give people more flexibility to expand and can be built with pavers, which come in a wide variety of contemporary styles. Some look like wood, others look like granite, and some are very modular,” Pelis said.

Since landscaping is an ongoing process, many people have their yards done in phases and add a new area each year. However, the work often begins with creating new entryways to the house.

“Permeable pavers are being used to replace concrete,” Prothers said. “They have a softer look than concrete and allow water to be absorbed and carried away from the home.”

Nic Brown and Steve Corrigan

Nic Brown and Steve Corrigan say many towns and cities are adding spray parks for children and adults to enjoy.

Plans with a Purpose

The desire to create a backyard oasis gained momentum in 2008 when the economy tanked and so-called ‘staycations’ became a household word. But local landscapers say many people held off on projects due to uncertainty over jobs, and pent-up desires are more apt to be realized this summer than they were in the past.

“The recession impacted landscaping projects, but now that the economy is improving, I think we will get more requests,” Roberts said.

Coveted plans typically include backyard areas designated for specific activities. “It’s not unusual for a family to want a cooking area with a built-in grill, a place to sit and eat, a firepit, and another space with an outdoor couch and a coffee table,” Roberts said.

Stephen Corrigan agrees. “More and more people are spending money to create outdoor kitchens and living areas with TVs in a protected area,” said the owner of Mountain View Landscapes and Lawncare in Chicopee.

In fact, interest in outdoor cooking is heating up, and Roberts said his firm has built outdoor kitchens that include granite or faux-stone countertops and built-in appliances such as refrigerators, grills, and rotisseries. “People are taking grilling to the next level.”

Firepits have burned brightly for some time, but today, many people are turning to gas to light up the night. “People love to gather around a fire, and if they use gas, all they have to do is press a button,” Roberts said, adding that Elms College recently had his firm redesign a central courtyard that now includes a large gas firepit with Adirondack chairs. “It is turned on every afternoon and has become a popular gathering place for students and staff members.”

Another advantage of a firepit is that it can create a focal point in an outdoor living room. “People put furniture around it in the same way they would put it near a fireplace inside their house,” Prothers said.

Steve Prothers

Steve Prothers says many homeowners and businesses use pergolas to create an outdoor room, which can be aromatic if covered with flowering vines.

Water features are also in demand, but instead of swimming pools, most people are choosing simple but soothing options such as waterfalls. “They are beautiful and attract birds, but don’t require much maintenance,” Roberts said.

One client with a back problem installed a hot tub surrounded by beautiful plants with a waterfall a short distance away that could be lit up at night. “He could sit in the hot tub in the evening, enjoy the sight and sound of the waterfall, and get relief from his pain,” he noted.

Roberts added that small ponds or plunge pools are still popular. “But people don’t want to use chemicals in them. They want biological filters,” he said, explaining that the ponds he installs are typically four to five feet deep with ledges that people can sit on.

Pelis said his clients are getting away from ponds, but do want water features that look natural, and often choose a fountain or pondless waterfall that pours into a rock filtration system. “They want the sound and sight of water without having to do a lot of maintenance,” he explained, adding that another option is to have water flow from the undersides of raised patio walls into a decorative bed of stone, which filters it into a concealed basin, where it is recycled.

Plantings play an important role in landscape design, and Prothers said ground covers and plants that provide seasonal interest throughout the year are in fashion.

“But landscaping is an ongoing process, and many people do their yards in phases,” he said. “They establish an area, live with it, and then grow their plan. A good landscape design takes into consideration what things will look like five to 10 years down the road.”

Pelis added that native plants such as milkweed, which attracts Monarch butterflies, along with wildflowers and species that attract bees, have become popular as people seek to create natural environments.


Natural Alternatives

Local landscapers expect the season to begin late this year due to the volume of snow. “Spring is in the air, but people have just started to come out of hibernation,” Roberts said.

Corrigan agreed. Although his company is often working by mid-March, this year, the timeline will be pushed out until mid-April.

Most of his business is commercial, and trends are also emerging in that arena, with water conservation and stormwater runoff among the ingredients that weigh heavily in public projects today.

“Permeable pavers are an attractive, green solution that take the place of concrete and asphalt; they allow as much water as possible to be kept on the site,” said Project Manager Nic Brown.

In some cases, it is funneled into rain gardens, said Corrigan, adding that Mountain View has built parking lots with rain gardens at the perimeter where very porous soil absorbs and holds water before any overflow goes into the sewer system.

He cited the Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center in Holyoke and a new science building at UMass Amherst as examples of structures where water drainage has been curtailed, and said some systems are designed so rainwater and melting snow from the roof are channeled into a filtration system of tanks that feed rain gardens.

His company recently won a regional award for its work on the town square in Mansfield, Conn., in conjunction with the architect who designed it. The area is the focal point of a newly created neighborhood that contains four five-story podium buildings with 414 rental units and 101,553 square feet of commercial and retail offerings at street level adjacent to the University of Connecticut.

“We used gray and black permeable pavers in the park,” Corrigan said, showing off a photo of the attractive design. “Traditionally, pavers are installed tightly together over a gravel base with two inches of sand. These were placed three-eighths of an inch apart over a 12-inch base of crushed stone.”

Another growing trend is spray parks, and new ones will be built this year in Agawam, Springfield, Greenfield, and Northampton.

“Cities and towns are replacing swimming pools and wading pools with spray parks; they have become more and more popular in the last three to five years,” Corrigan said, adding that they provide safe, cost-effective areas where people can congregate and relax during the hot summer months.

The spray features can be programmed to go off during times set by the town, city, or organization that builds them. When someone presses the mechanism that activates the system during the specified time, the features begin to spray water in a preset sequence, and children quickly learn to run from one station to another.

“Some sprays come up from the ground, while at other stations, buckets set ten feet in the air fill with water and dump it on people beneath them,” said Corrigan. “There are hoops with water sprays that kids can run through, sprays that spurt like a geyser, and ones that look like flowers. They have come a long way in recent years.”

Growing Desire

The desire to spend time outdoors in public and private spaces continues to grow, and whether someone is planning a commercial or residential project, environmental concerns are taking an expanded role in today’s landscaping projects.

Roberts said his customers are requesting blueberry bushes, strawberries, and herbs as well as small plots where they can grow vegetables. Other landscapers report similar requests and agree that enjoying a backyard involves far more today than it did a decade ago.

“Whether people are outside watching birds, picking berries, or watching TV with their friends, they want an experience,” Pelis said. “It’s been a long, cold winter, and although we may get a later start on landscaping than we have in the past, we expect these trends to become more prevalent than ever.”