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Updated: July 27, 2020

Winterberry Garden’s diversification play leads to fertile growth

Photo | Contributed


Category | 76-199 Full-Time Employees — Southington-based Winterberry

It was Thanksgiving eve 2018 and Winterberry Garden employees were working late into the night, assembling garland with bulbs and decorations so they could be loaded onto trucks and driven north to MGM Springfield.

The casino had just opened that August, weeks after orders for holiday decorations typically are placed with suppliers. Because of the late timing, the garland and the accompanying trimmings could only be shipped to Winterberry unassembled.

But employees did what they needed to do to deliver on Winterberry’s promise to have the decorations up by the Monday after the holiday.

“We ended up pulling all of our office staff into the greenhouses,” recalled Chief Financial Officer Bryan Stolz. “Myself and about a dozen others were there until 10 o’clock at night, wrapping up the last of it. We were able to get it done on time and it looked fantastic.”

That kind of commitment is what has kept Winterberry in business — and growing — since brothers Scott and Al Leavitt founded the company in Cheshire in 1985 with just “a pickup truck, some shovels and an old tractor,” said Stolz.

Since moving to Southington some 20 years ago, the landscaping and construction company has expanded and diversified, bringing on a third owner, Chris Daigle, a licensed irrigation professional.

Today, the company offers services that include landscape maintenance, fertilization, residential and commercial landscaping and design and golf course irrigation and service in addition to its retail garden center on West Street. The company has grown 60% in the last three years alone, to 175 team members at peak season, Stolz said.

Much of the recent growth has been in the golf course irrigation business, where Winterberry has made a name for itself with clients in several states, including Nebraska, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Florida. Maintenance service has also grown organically through word-of-mouth, said Stolz.

“A lot of our clientele really appreciate the fact that we can do so many things in-house,” he said. “Because we’re organized into departments, you’re always getting a specialist.”

Stolz said the company is proud of the way it re-prioritized its business during the COVID-19 pandemic, launching an online sales tool and curbside pickup at the garden center.

Another point of pride is the company’s commitment to employee growth.

Stolz himself started as a junior designer 13 years ago after graduating from UConn School of Business, and worked his way up to CFO. His career trajectory is not unique at Winterberry.

“Our retail manager started here working a shovel in the garden center and now he’s one of our senior managers.” Stolz said. “We try to identify star performers and let them guide their own career.”

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