Innovative ideas, hard work lead to growth

Spring is always in bloom at the Winter Street Depot. Now the showroom for Advantage Lawnscaping Service, the former site of the Candy Caboose teems with color and ideas. From brightly painted birdhouses and wind chimes to wooden rain barrels and...

Left to right, Advantage Lawnscaping Service owner Jim DeMeyer and general manager Kaleb Barrett stand in the business' landscaping yard full of mulch, topsoil, gravel and rock for garden projects in this 2010 file photo. Barrett said the yard is being expanded, as is the showroom inside the Winter Street Depot. Customers can expect to see more landscaping displays this spring featuring products offered by Advantage at the full-service lawn and garden center. Advantage offers landscape design, installat...

Spring is always in bloom at the Winter Street Depot. Now the showroom for Advantage Lawnscaping Service, the former site of the Candy Caboose teems with color and ideas. From brightly painted birdhouses and wind chimes to wooden rain barrels and rakes, the store is alive with promise.

"Even in the depths of winter we want people to come in and feel like it's spring," said general manager Kaleb Barrett.

The business, coupled with Advantage Energy, swapped places with the Candy Caboose two years ago. The sweets shop set up in the former Fagerlin Fuel building at North Sixth Street and the Advantage team moved to the depot.

"We're very excited," Barrett said. "We've been growing every year and this just makes sense for us." Putting a full-service lawn and garden center at the depot takes advantage of the beautiful historic building and provides a great showcase for the products.

The business -- which provides landscape design, installation and maintenance as well as the new lawn and garden center -- has flourished since 2006, when Jim DeMeyer purchased it.


"I don't like heartless, soulless corporate America," DeMeyer said. "I come from a small business background. Small business is in my blood."

Four years later, Advantage is much bigger than it was. DeMeyer credits Barrett's innovative ideas and hard work for the growth.

"All these guys take personal pride in everything they do out there," DeMeyer said. "They aren't just doing it for a paycheck."

Advantage now encompasses a greenhouse stocked by Wentworth Gardens and a landscaping yard full of the mulch, topsoil, gravel and rock needed for projects.

"Our goal is to be the only full-service landscape yard in Superior," Barrett said.

Advantage offers unique products, from custom made concrete edging and pondless water fountains to reclaimed oak wine barrels for harvesting rain water. This is no big box store, Barrett said, but a business that focuses on individualized service and knowledge. It also promotes sustainable practices. Green products include compost bins, water timers for hoses, efficient sprinklers that use one-third less water and moisture meters to prevent overwatering.

"We're really trying to get people to understand the easy, simple things you can do to conserve water and decrease runoff," Barrett said. Not only do such measures protect the area's rich water resources, he added, they pay for themselves.

The company has made a big impression on clients. In 2009, Advantage designed landscaping for neighbor business Superior Shooters Supply.


"They were polite, courteous and prompt," said co-owner Pat Kukull. "I was really happy with the work they did."

Barrett and his crew brought versatile ideas to the plate, showed up when they said they would and had the project finished on time.

"I would definitely recommend them," Kukull said.

Advantage is involved in designing and maintaining planters for the Business Improvement District. They built a community garden at Cooper Elementary School and created a mural garden for the Douglas County Historical Society. The business even donated reclaimed Flint Company bricks from the old Chicago-Northwestern Train Depot for the historical society project.

"(Barrett) has donated a lot of time," said Cooper Principal Brett Brodeen. "He sat through a lot of meetings with us, planning things out." And he worked side-by-side with teachers and students, building 10 raised gardens.

Kaye Tenerelli, executive director of the BID, said Advantage is reliable and very creative.

"They do everything they say they'll do and then more," she said.

The small business follows the golden rule, treating customers the way they would like to be treated.


"I just believe that if we do great work and treat our clients well, that will come back around," Barrett said. "I think that's how we've been able to grow and keep growing because in the end that's the most important part of business."

And, DeMeyer added, small businesses like Advantage are the backbone of the American economy. They stick together and look out for each other, allowing each a chance to grow.

Advantage Lawnscaping Service is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday at 1615 Winter St. For more information, call (715) 399-2754 or look it up online at .

Maria Lockwood covers news in Douglas County, Wisconsin, for the Superior Telegram.
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