At a glance, it would seem that Suncrest Gardens has always been a staple of the landscaping and horticulture community in northeast Ohio.
But in fact, founder Ric Haury began the company with a friend 40 years ago in 1976. When he started the business, Haury says he knew very little about the industry. He was 22, a recent graduate from the University of Akron and just relinquishing dreams of becoming a professional golfer.
Despite their experience, Haury and his friend made a good team—Haury had studied accounting, and his friend knew about horticulture.
“There was very little capital in our early years,” says Haury. “We borrowed a few bucks and bought two trucks and equipment and went at it.” Little by little, one account at a time, Haury learned the trade through building retaining walls and planting grass, trees and shrubs.
From the field to the office
After six years, Haury and his partner parted ways. While that was challenging, Haury used the opportunity to create the company he always wanted.
“I always had vision of [Suncrest] being a corporate-like entity,” he says. “I wanted it to grow. I didn’t want to stay the guy in the blue jeans, the guy walking behind the mower or driving the tractor. I wanted to run the company.”
For Haury, that meant carefully structuring the company with three departments: development, management and the retail garden store.
“It makes Suncrest unique,” he says. “There aren’t a lot of organizations that have all three groups under one umbrella.” The benefit of this system, he says, is that customers will use Suncrest for all their horticultural needs instead of having to go to different businesses for each of those services.
Through better organization, resilience
This departmentalization has helped Suncrest Gardens weather a tough economy. “When the recession hit,” says Haury, “our development was slow.” So Suncrest relied on maintaining existing properties and steady merchandise sales from the garden center to ride out the storm.
Haury says the rationale behind the three-tiered approach comes from his background in accounting. While studying the subject at the University of Akron, he says he learned the importance of keeping a mixed portfolio.
“The professor would say you don’t want to be all in stocks, you don’t want to be all in bonds,” he says. “You want a nice mixture of some high risk and some low. For some reason, that fit my sense of a business model.”
Today, Suncrest designs, installs and maintains outdoor living areas. Its landscape architects build everything from decks and pools to outdoor kitchens. Suncrest also maintains commercial and high-end residential properties throughout the year, offering services like tree care and pruning, shrub bed care, mulching and turf grass maintenance, as well as snow and ice removal in the winter.
“We want to take care of your property throughout the entire year,” says Haury, “not just during the summer months like some competitors.”
Suncrest Gardens also has a beautiful garden center that offers boutique items and specialty gift store merchandise on its eight-acre facility. “We want you to come and purchase your flowers, decorative pottery, and statuary to enhance and personalize your home landscape at our garden store,” says Haury.
Though expanding, one focus is local
Suncrest is often employed by local establishments. This summer, Suncrest completed an outdoor gallery for the Akron Museum of Art, a local hub that is used for many types of events, not just exhibitions.
In addition to displaying art, the newly created space, called the Bud and Susie Rogers Garden, will be used for concerts. “The project turned out beautifully,” says Haury, who grew up in the Akron area and appreciates that the space is free to the public.
“We were extremely pleased and gratified to create such a beautiful cultural area for the community to enjoy,” says Haury
Suncrest Gardens is also working on several high end residential projects. These include outdoor kitchens, gazebos and pavilions.
“One such project, at the request of the customer, has sound, lighting and water features that can be controlled from an iPhone,” says Haury. “The technology today allows for this to happen and we were glad the customer was progressive enough to think of us doing it,” he says.
As a former president for the Ohio Landscape Association, Haury is attuned to landscaping throughout America. “Not only am I proud of Suncrest Garden’s growth, but also with the growth and development of landscape businesses across the country,” he says.
In the future, Haury hopes to establish satellite businesses in other Ohio areas. “There are still certain markets we would like to work in, but logistically it would be a little challenging,” he says. “We will continue to set our goals, to meet our needs. My role now in the company as I develop my succession plan is to work on business development and administrative duties.”
Haury also plans to revisit the pastime that took a backseat when he started the business. That means, after 40 years, Haury is once again focusing on his backswing.