November 27, 2021

Landscapers eager to dig in

Only maintenance jobs are allowed as they wait to fully open

S.N. Briere/staff reporter

Dan Mones, an owner of Valley View Gardens in Cortlandville, pushes a wheelbarrow of mulch while working Tuesday on the landscaping of a house on Fulmer Road in Preble. Mones, like other landscaping company owners, cannot take on new landscaping jobs, but can provide maintenance for existing clients.

Men from Valley View Gardens in Cortlandville worked Tuesday afternoon around the yard on Fulmer Road in Preble, putting down wheelbarrows of mulch, removing weeds, sticks and other items.

“We’re only allowed to do maintenance,” said Valley View Gardens co-owner Dan Mones. “Fortunately, we have a large customer base for cleanup.”

Cortland County Farm Bureau President Jeff Perry said the state has not allowed landscaping businesses to fully open and begin working on new landscaping jobs.

“New installations are not allowed at the moment, although the farm bureau is working with the governor and legislature to encourage allowing them to open as the regions start to go back to work as this is prime season and worker/visitor density is typically very low,” he said. “That has not been decided on or announced as the regional adjustments are still an active discussion.”

Mones said the company has received about a half-dozen phone calls from people wanting landscaping done. However, Mones said “we’ll meet the people and we’ll do the plans,” so that when they can fully reopen they can get to work.

The company can go about another month before he would need the other landscaping piece, he said.

Brian Wallace of Wallace Landscaping & A Whole Lot More in Homer said he estimates he’s lost $35,000 to $50,000 in income this season.

“I’m a very aggressive person, so I don’t wait for the phone to ring,” he said. “I’ll drive by a person’s house and reach out to them. I end up 99.9% of the time getting the job.”

It’s how he would gain extra jobs during the year. But with the coronavirus pandemic, he said people don’t want to answer their doors, so he’s losing out on business.

“We usually pick up between 10 to 15 new customers a year,” he said. But not this year

He’s had to turn people down who have asked for him to do jobs and when he told them he couldn’t because of the restrictions they said they’d find somebody else.

In contrast, Perry said, florists are not considered essential but “any nurseries and greenhouses that are selling vegetable sets and food-related items can be open.”

That, in fact, has helped Valley View, Mones said, because its nursery on Luker Road in Cortlandville sells lots of fruits and vegetables.

Wallace said he recently spent $50,000 to build a new nursery at 31 River St. but can’t sell any of the sheds he has there because that’s not considered essential.

“They end up going to Lowes or somewhere else,” Wallace said. “It’s been really difficult.”

Wallace said he’ll be able to stay afloat after receiving $12,000 through the Payroll Protection Program. The payroll program provides forgivable loans so businesses can continue paying workers, utilities and rent for up to eight weeks.

But he needs business to pick up.

“Basically we’re starting 2 1/2 to three months behind schedule,” he said.

By the time they get going, he said, snow will be on the ground again.

“I’m optimistic that the restrictions on that end of it will be lifted in a couple weeks,” Mones said.