“It’s just more work,” said Lawns Unlimited owner Travis Price. “It comes with more headache, but I guess that’s just the line of business we’re in. Ultimately every year, with or without an ice storm attached to it, things get moving. Everybody wants their yards looking right for Masters, and spring is right around the corner so they’re getting ready for that as well.”
During a normal year, Price said his Masters-related business picks up in the middle of February, which coincided this year with a crippling winter storm that dropped nearly an inch of ice across metro Augusta. Price and his seven-member lawn care crew responded by working longer hours to pick up small trees and downed limbs before they could start spreading pine straw, planting flowers and laying mulch for homeowners wanting pristine yards in time for the famous golf tournament in April.
“It’s good for business,” Price said. “Of course, it’s devastating and people were without power. But, it does bring money to the local economy and businesses dealing in that kind of work definitely thrive.”
The ice storm damage has caused about three times more work for Phillip Smith’s Tru Cut Landscaping company.
“It backs us up,” he said. “It tires out our guys.”
About half the lawns Smith maintains fall in the Hill section, an especially hard-hit area because of its abundance of large, mature trees. Because the homes are located just down the street from the Augusta National Golf Club, Smith said residents seem even more eager to keep an immaculate lawn, whether for showmanship or rental purposes.
“Masters Week in Augusta is as much about the landscape is it is about the golf,” he said. “These three or four weeks before the tournament are like our Black Friday.”
Zac Bradford, who owns Augusta Grass Master, anticipates that by the end of March, the extra work caused from the ice storm coupled with his normal Masters activity will at least triple his revenue from this time last year. He’s added several subcontractors to his staff of four employees to assist with debris cleanup efforts and prepare properties for the Masters, now just three weeks away.
Bradford, who said he fielded more than 40 calls in a two-day span this week, added that his crews are working every day of the week, instead of their normal shifts four days a week.
“There’s really not a very wide window of sales area in this business, but this year it’s just been astronomically high,” said Bradford, who sees 95 percent of his business coming from the Hill area.
The full-service lawn company, however, has seen a lull in landscaping work, which can generate as much as $20,000 from homeowners looking to rent out their houses to Masters patrons, Price said.
Clients are more concerned with having a clean yard, he said.
“This is the first year I haven’t had a single call for a landscaping job,” Price said.
Jeremy Kelley, who operates Between the Edges Lawn Care & Landscaping Inc. with wife Tonya, said that like Bradford, he’s noticed a decline in yard installation work, although he expects his overall profits to say the same or slightly increase from last year.
In the weeks preceding Masters, Kelley said it isn’t unusual for his customers to spend an average of $1,500, and up to $10,000, on landscaping features for their yards.
Kelley blamed the wet winter for causing appointment headaches and a backed-up schedule.
“We’re working sun up to sun down,” he said.
Despite difficult weather conditions this winter, Bradford said he never forgot that Masters Week was just on the horizon, guaranteeing those in his trade a boost in revenue.
“That’s the beautiful thing about this city,” Bradford said. “It’s always kind of been recession-proof. We’ll have a bad winter every year, and it’s normal for this industry but then Masters always comes.”