Landon Reeve loves plants. Always has. That?s a continual thread that runs through his life, despite the challenges he has undertaken. While in high school, he had a part-time summer job working in a perennial wholesale nursery. After graduation, he went to the University of Maryland, again pursuing his love of plants, majoring in horticulture. Consequently, his career followed a garden path, and out of college he got a job with a local landscape contractor. Soon after, he and a partner took their know-how, and went into business together. Four years later he went solo, starting Chapel Valley Landscape Company in 1968.
Thirty-eight years have gone by, and the company that he started in 1968 has grown substantially. The $46 million company has been a study in continuity amid change. It has expanded into a multi-aspect exterior design/build/manage landscape firm.
?Starting from scratch, we established a reputation by doing a good job,? Reeve says. ?We began Chapel Valley as a design/build company for residents while the region was growing.?
Reeve saw further opportunities in 1975. Chapel Valley began to focus on commercial accounts. At about the same time, several headquarters for major national firms were relocating to the Maryland and Virginia region, to be close to the centers of power in Washington D.C.
?We got a few large accounts,? Reeve says, naming Martin Marietta, Marriott Corporation and Mobile Oil. But just as sure as Marriot Hotels began as a root beer stand, Martin Marietta became Lockheed Martin, and Mobil is now ExxonMobil, things change, and change was again coming to Chapel Valley.
In 1980, the company added landscape maintenance services for their commercial clients. Still ahead was yet another change. A few years later, in 1987, Reeve says, the company got into irrigation and landscape lighting, and focused back on the residential market by offering them maintenance services. ?The past five or six years we?ve had rapid growth. We?re now in a catch-up mode,? Reeve says, ?managing it at a slower pace.?
?When I began, the industry was still in embryonic stages. It was a mom-and-pop business,? says Reeve. ?There are plenty of mom-and-pops, and they?re very good, but the whole market has become more professional, more sophisticated over time. The people getting into the business are better educated. It?s just a different world.?
World influences have driven another major shift that the green industry has undergone. ?The Latino influx wasn?t there 30 years ago,? Reeve stated. ?With Latinos being the major workforce, it forced some major cultural changes upon our company. And you know, it?s all been good.?
It?s changes like that, Reeve says, that keeps them working to be better managers. ?You have to keep learning and searching and getting better.?
Reeve has managed Chapel Valley like one of the landscapes he services. The areas that have shown opportunity for growth under changing conditions have been nurtured and thrived. His care and management ? spot feeding and pruning to let light hit under-performers, timely introductions and improvements, controlling growth ? have provided him with a growing green company that will endure.
The growth for Chapel Valley is assured through the Reeve?s succession planning: son James and daughter Deonne are key corporate officers. James Reeve was appointed as president and CEO in January of 2003. Deonne Wollman is a co-owner, and member of the managing board of directors involved in safety programs, training and education.
Having his children play instrumental roles in the business was the result of a plan begun about 15 years ago, Reeve said. His first wife, Janet, who passed away in 1994, was a beginning partner and played a substantial role the newsletter and training program.
?She was vital to a lot of our success,? Reeve said, ?critical in the founding years and in our development.? He has remarried and his wife, Dallas, has three children from a previous marriage. They have regular trips planned to visit them in Austin and Italy.
Their interests have expanded their horizons, traveling with University of Maryland alumni groups of his, and for efforts associated with the Daughters of the American Revolution for her ? in addition to their more recreational vacations.
Some travel is green industry- related. Now that Reeve has turned over the day-to-day operation to his son, he?s taking advantage of his position as chairman to mentor and offer support to the green industry as whole, in addition to taking that role on specific projects and personnel within the company.
Reeve joined the Associated Landscape Contractors of America (ALCA) in 1969, attending his first meeting in 1975. Though ALCA is now Professional Lawncare Network (PLANET), the group remains a focus for Reeve.
One of the elder statesmen of PLANET and a president in ?84, Reeve has been fundamental in the group?s educational efforts, serving on the certification committee and organizing awards programs. He?s a donor to the scholarship program of the ALCA Educational Foundation.
His group activities have expanded over the decades, too. He?s now a board member of the American Horticultural Society, as well as serving as president of the Maryland Nursery Association from ?77 to ?79. He has actively worked with the Associated Landscape Contractors of America and Landscape Contractors Association MD-DC-VA. He?s a Charter Certified Landscape Professional, one of the original founders of the program.
Reeve is a true believer not only in the educational value of belonging to trade organizations, but the networking and friends you make along the way.
Linked by business and a love of plants, a life in the green industry has afforded Reeve the opportunity to ?get to know lots and lots of people and build life-long friendships.? All these years later, Reeve still is personal friends with the family who hired him for summer work at their nursery while he was in high school.3/06