Charles “Chuck” Staton, owner of Staton’s Landscaping Inc. prepares to plow after the 15th consecutive snow event during the brutal New England winter.
One couldn’t blame Charles “Chuck” Staton for taking a couple of days off in Florida after 13 consecutive, 15-hour-day, snow-plowing marathons in January through March.
“I mark them in my book,” said Staton of the storms and the hours.
There were just as many storms in the winter of 2013 to 2014 as this year, but relentless recurring blizzards kept six-foot snow drifts on the streets and sidewalks of New England for two solid months.
Chuck Staton, the owner of Staton’s Landscaping Inc., celebrated 35 years and counting during these storms. He established his company in Warren, R.I., his hometown, in 1979, seven years after graduating from the local high school just down the street from his Chestnut Street equipment yard.
“My dad encouraged me to work outside. He showed me what to do and I liked it. I was cutting grass and weeding beds in our yard and for money, starting when I was 10 years old,” said Staton. “That turned to summer jobs while I always had a few steady clients. Then, when I went to the University of Rhode Island (U.R.I.), I was unsure what to major in, but drifted to horticulture”
That direction led to dealing with snow drifts, and landscape maintenance, cleanup, mowing, weeding, pruning tree work, fertilization and later expansion into full site work enterprises of construction, excavation, grading, planting, installing entire landscapes start-to-finish, masonry of patios, walks and walls, Bobcat services, drainage and repairs and snow removal.
Educated in the Field
Staton owns what is now an award-winning design-build firm. He served as the president of the Rhode Island Nursery and Landscape Association. He also is a certified horticulturalist, a licensed arborist, a Rhode Island Tree Steward, as well as being a member of the Rhode Island Tree Council, the Warren Tree Commission and the Children’s Gardening Network.
Staton has established a company that has built a reputation for professional excellence. He has achieved this by creating landscapes that connect people to the beauty of nature, and by expanding the boundaries of home, in order to realize the full potential that our surrounding landscapes have to offer.
Staton attends ongoing educational programs to increase his knowledge of the latest technological advances in the field. With focus in such topics as landscape, turf science, masonry, storm water treatment, pest and disease control and low impact techniques, Staton utilizes his years of experience and knowledge to achieve outstanding results, while staying committed to environmentally sound practices.
“I have learned to do this work more precisely, to tackle more complicated jobs and bigger jobs in 36 years,” Staton said. “You have to plow a lot of snow sometimes, but then, there is earth underneath.”
Staton leases two acres for his shop on Chestnut Street. His business office is two rooms in his home on Prudence Lane, also in his hometown of Warren, which he has only left to do earth-moving jobs nearby and that occasional two-day mental health break in sunny Florida after a 13th local snowstorm.
His business has quietly, steadily grown.
“Our gross sales have risen slowly each year. We have 11 steady full-timers and, in-season, about four more people who also work 30-45 hours per week,” he added. His wife Pat runs the office, of course, while oldest son, Chucky, eschews an interest in horticulture, but does help part-time with establishing the company Web site, Facebook page and IT/computer needs.
Middle son, Denny, has worked on Staton crews during the summer. Denny also graduated from U.R.I. a year ago, majoring in landscape architecture and is currently attending the Rhode Island School of Design, obtaining his master’s degree in the same field.
“This keeps him very busy all day and into the night,” said Staton. “He does also help with the Web site. When he graduates in one more year, he will want to work for a big landscape architecture firm. After he is established for a few years, he may want to reach into my company and put his own stamp on it.”
Youngest son Sam is working at Harbor Animal Hospital to be a veterinarian tech at New England Tech. Another family member, cousin Marilyn, also works in the office.
On site, Staton will work about half a day, setting grades, setting up the men step-by-step and then visiting the other crews on smaller jobs to make sure “that things are okay.”
If the job requires it, his crew will work with a landscape architect, contractors, plumbers irrigation companies and lighting companies in special designs.
“They usually work for us and are included in our bid, but sometimes the architect will get some of these subs.” said Staton. “What is satisfying is when everything comes together nicely.”
Over the years, Staton Landscaping Inc. has been working on more involved masonry and landscape projects.
“To do this, my awareness of interpreting contour lines, elevations, using a laser level, the importance of excavating and preparing a proper base to end up at the desired finish grade has increased. Many of our landscape construction jobs now include a lot of underground drainage work, conduits for water and electric, etc.”
Staton said that one of the benefits of his business is getting a call to examine challenging landscape situations and having to provide solutions. Sometimes, the calls are astonishing.
“A woman called me. She had about 15 cats and many neighborhood cats hung around. The house was overgrown and infested with weeds outside,” said Staton. “Inside, the rooms we went into were full of packages, canned goods and trash all over the place. The cupboards were open and you could not see the counters because of all the stuff piled on them. I was worried about bugs crawling on me.
“She wanted to make her landscape look nice. I figured her budget was kind of small. She took me to every side of her house to explain what she wanted to attack. To my surprise, we ended up installing a new veneer on the front steps, new front masonry walk, all new beds and plants. She spent about $14,000 and sat in a chair outside every day and gave the men coffee and drinks and was very nice.
“I really thought it was going to be a waste of time planning and estimating, but it was a very rewarding situation to see the end result,” Staton said.
At a more conventional job recently on the east side of Providence, a client hired Dennis Diffley Co. to put in a new sewer line, which Staton is not licensed to do. Again, Staton found the unexpected.
“They went down about 12 feet and found a dump site from the 1700 to 1800s, with hundreds of bottles, silverware and pieces of plates. I was given a few, and I have found some old bottles over the years in the earth,” said Staton.
There also is a technique to stay in business for four decades. The most valuable lessons he has learned in 36 years include, gaining experience working with another company, putting the right people in place to carry out the work, being ready to put in long days and business planning.
“Being a seasonal business, the busy spring is a drain on your checkbook and the bills you send out are paid slowly,” said Staton. “You have to mark the time in a book.”
Staton, a longtime friend of local safety officers, has always tried to give back to his community. He has put in fields for Warren Little League on Water Street, landscaped the newest Warren Police Station and worked for churches, often gratis.
“Usually they have a little budget that covers 50 percent or less or sometimes they have zero money,” Staton said. “I always try to take care of them by rounding up the materials and doing the work. Some of them, we give sponsorships or donations to.”
In 2013, the priest of his own church, St. Mary of the Bay, approached Staton to landscape the front of the church. He did not have a budget.
“Along with a core group of volunteers and my son Denny’s landscape plan, Staton’s Landscaping did some wrap up work and came back a few times in 2014 for maintenance,” said Staton.
Civic pride and history always take precedence to an extra dollar.
“This fall, I re-landscaped the front of the Warren Town Hall. Again, Dennis drew the landscape plan. I had four guys working there for three days,” said Staton. “There was no budget, except the town purchased some of the plants. We used all native plants because I wanted an educational component to the project. Also, I wanted the Town Hall to look up to date and environmentally friendly.”
As a member of the Warren Tree Commission, Staton helps to protect trees in town that he usually has planted himself.
“I like to do my small part to help to make my town a better place to live,” Staton said.
In a small, but competitive area like the East Bay of Rhode Island, it pays to know everyone, too. Word of mouth pays is a vital part of advertising.
“I try to treat each client with a caring and personal touch so that they have a pleasant experience,” Staton said. “The most fun is my relationship with the clients and the men, creating a nice solution for someone’s site problem that will benefit them for many years.”
His company has won many awards since 1995, including the Rhode Island Nursery and Landscape Association Professional Excellence Award for a job performed in June in Wickford, R.I. The award might just as well have been for ingenuity.
“The job was at Wickford Inn, built in about 1763. As my worker walked over the septic system, it collapsed and his leg fell in, but he did not get hurt,” said Staton. “We worked around the area for three weeks waiting for the homeowner’s contractor to repair the cap of the septic system. Finally, the owner hired us to construct a brick cap for the system.”
“We try to do a good job without going overboard.”
For more information on Staton’s Landscaping Inc., call 401/247-2227 or visit www.stationslandscapinginc.com.