|By DENNE GOLDSTEIN|
Stan Hoglund knew he was never going to be a scholar. “My first day of school was my last,” he said, at least in terms of his interest. He remembers the teacher dragging him by the ear across the playground for going down a slide backwards. She sat him down on a rug for a ‘time out’ facing the corner. He adds, “I remember sitting there, thinking, ‘This is no fun.’”
Throughout his school years, Hoglund seemed to always be in trouble. “There was a permanent chair by the principal’s office with my name on it,” he quips. To say he hated school is an understatement. Upon graduation and a brief flirtation with college, to please his parents, Hoglund was done. “I never liked it; it just wasn’t for me. I’d rather have been out on the tractor, plowing.”
Perhaps that was his restless pioneer blood expressing itself. Born in Fargo, North Dakota, in 1953, he’s a fourth-generation Fargoite. “My great-grandfather came here from Sweden in January of 1870, along with two friends who were brothers.” The arduous trek involved cross-country skiing and surviving the winter by digging a cave in a river bank.
Though Hoglund and his two older brothers worked their “butts off” on their father’s farm, he loved it. At seven years of age, he was already out in the field, helping to bundle grain. “We had cows, pigs, chickens and sheep. We never got paid anything; it was what you did.”
Hoglund’s dad later became part owner of a Fargo clothing store, where he also worked, until age 19.
But young Hoglund felt the need for speed: “I used to race snowmobiles all over the country.” On January 1, 1974, Hoglund headed out for a race in Alaska. He picked up the notoriously car-destroying Alaska- Canada (ALCAN) Highway at Dawson Creek, British Columbia. “It was 1,500 miles, in ice and snow, to Anchorage.
In those conditions, I did it in 21 hours. I’m sure I still hold the record,” no doubt because he went 105 miles an hour!
Upon his return to Fargo, he got a job managing a stockmen’s supply. “I was like a veterinarian’s assistant. I’d go out on the farms and do everything from dehorning cattle to castrating hogs.” Later, he started doing carpentry work. “Weathered wood was really big back then. I took wood off old barns and made herringbone cabinets out of them.”
Working at a house one day, he happened to spot a pile of oak railroad ties. “I asked, ‘When are you going to get the former owner to get those out of here?’ But the people said, ‘Oh, no, we want someone to build us a deck and patio out of them. We can’t find anybody to do it. Do you want to?’” That was the official beginning of Hoglund Landscape and Biobarrier, Inc. For the next 14 years, Hoglund worked exclusively with railroad ties, becoming known around the world for his techniques. Later, he expanded into working with six-by-six cedar timbers. “That was like a whole new business,” Hoglund said. “We started building raised patios using the cedar timbers with concrete pavers.”
When new construction materials come along, Hoglund is always open to trying them. “When rock-faced block came in, we were the first in our area to build retaining walls with them. We also began to use high-density Styrofoam behind our retaining walls as well as underneath our patio pavers, because there’s no freeze/thaw with that type of installation.” When treated geotextiles for weed and root control were introduced, he became one of the first installers and distributors.
You’d think Hoglund might have picked up his construction skills on the farm. But he says no, that he ‘just kinda figured out’ how to do hardscapes. “People ask me to this day, ‘What school did you go to for your landscape architect’s degree?’ I say, ‘HLU—Hoglund Landscape University.’” Hoglund insists that, “It’s just common sense. I’ve come up with ways of doing things where I’ve had architects tell me, ‘That’s never going to work,’ but the structures are still there after 39 years. My retaining walls are built like nobody else’s. I’ve even tried to get them to change the landscape architecture books, because my system is better.”
Over the years, Hoglund expanded his business to include landscape installation. He credits his dad for getting him interested in the “green” part of the green industry. “I think I got a lot of my landscape knowledge from him. He knew how to lay things out. Our backyard was like nothing anybody had ever seen, with scalloped corners, and lots of trees and plantings all around the house. It was nice, really different. So I’ve always liked that.”
At one point, Hoglund had four crews, and all the problems that come with managing them. “My foreman’s been with me for 28 years. One day, he said, ‘All I want is two guys.’ And with just us three men, we’ll do jobs that would normally take seven people, and we’ll get it done twice as fast.”
Besides his natural talent for construction, Hoglund credits his 39 successful years in business to standing behind his company’s work. “I always tell people that we do it right the first time. It’s all about quality. We’ve had such great success that we offer a three-year guarantee. If there’s a problem, we fix it the same day.”
The still-growing business averages a half-million dollars annually. During the worst year of the down economy, Hoglund still grossed $350,000. “We’re so busy now, I wish we still had those four crews.”
Of Hoglund’s five children, only 23-year-old Roth works in the business with him. But he’d better not be planning on taking over anytime soon. “I probably won’t ever retire,” said Stan, “because I enjoy what I do. I’m a creative spirit.”
“Other people don’t see what I see. Whether it’s a little ten-by-ten area, or several acres, I can just look at it and know what to do. It’s a God given talent.”
Stan Hoglund still has that pioneering spirit and the work ethic that goes with it. The dedication of this self-taught man to quality work will keep his business thriving for many years to come.