Anyone at The Greenery will tell you that the company stands oak-solid on their motto: “A growing tradition.” As the landscape company celebrates its fiftieth anniversary, it is evident that The Greenery has maintained a long tradition of growing plants, trees, and grass. Also evident is the growth of the business since 1973 when Berry and Ruthie Edwards opened a small nursery with six employees, a couple of pickup trucks and the desire to do something different.
Today, The Greenery has over 750 employees, a fleet of vehicles, and is ranked the thirtieth largest landscape company in the industry, proving it can and will outgrow even big conglomerates. But more important to the ESOP (employee stock ownership plan) company, they are also growing the careers of their employee owners.
“If you had told me 12 years ago that I would be in this position with this type of company, I would have looked at you like you were crazy,” said Melissa Brock, director of business development. “I do not even have live plants in my house. When I came to The Greenery as an office administrator in construction, I had no clue about landscape.”
Jerry Ashmore, director of work force development and safety has also risen among the ranks. “I graduated from Clemson and met a Beaufort girl while working for a small landscape business in the upstate. I started coming here on the weekends, and then a friend told me to talk to The Greenery,” he said. “I ended up having lunch with Tom Van Hise, Billy Gray, and Clay Kinard at Fiesta Fresh, and they offered me a job as an account manager. That was 22 years ago, and I still go there for lunch and think, ‘This is where I started.’”
Jim van Dijk, who is now the regional manager of Hilton Head and Greenville also found an early opportunity with The Greenery, starting as a summer intern. “In 1995, Clay Kinard came to Clemson University to talk to our horticulture class,” he said. “He told the story of The Greenery, and I spoke to him afterward. He said, ‘Since you are interested in the story and the company, I’ll give you an opportunity over the summer. It was a small crew with guys that had been there 10 to 15 years, like Alfred and Leon. Clay Kinard was the supervisor. We had great camaraderie and a great work ethic. They remind me of my Greenville branch now.”
“We share a lot in common—Jerry, Jim and I,” Brock said. “We all want to grow our business. We all want to grow as people. And we all want our people to grow. The only difference between Jerry, Jim and me is that I’m not a Clemson fan,” she joked.
As all three continued telling their stories, more similarities surfaced including two character strengths: resilience and innovation. “When I started, I knew how to talk to people. I knew people in the construction industry,” Brock said. “And, after about a year, I decided to pave my way and grow The Greenery’s construction division. Opportunities did not fall in my lap. I worked my way up.”
Noting that both landscape and construction are male-dominated industries, Brock continued, “I do not hunt or fish. I had to find creative ways—ways The Greenery had not done in the past—to develop relationships. I had to earn people’s trust.”
To do so, Brock leaned on the support of The Greenery community and executive officers, who very much believe in motivating, not micromanaging, their employees. “I decided to focus on the property managers,” Brock said. “They are mostly women. They like manicures, pedicures and lunch. I also focused on getting to know people and personal information like how many kids they had, where they were from, and what they liked to do. I like to build a friendship. People trust you if you get to know them.”
Ashmore has built his career by wearing many hats. “Back when I started, you did whatever was needed to be done, spray yards, plant flowers,” he said. “I knew I wanted to grow in my career and create my own opportunity. I worked hard, and as the company has grown, so have my responsibilities.”
“When I started, I was focused on enhancements,” van Dijik said. “I did not want us to do the bare minimum. I thought, ‘What if I got more material? What about concrete work? What about a small garden install in this small space?’ and The Greenery was like, ‘Okay, let’s do it.’”
In 2002, van Dijik told the company he could make enhancements and maintenance successful on Daufuskie, and he did. He also admits to facing some professional challenges. “In life and in business, not everything is rosy. The Greenery believes in promoting from within, and when mistakes, mishaps or challenges arise, it is not about demeaning or removing someone but rather to coach, lead to improve, and get ready for the next challenge.”
Brock, Ashmore and van Dijk then touched on the Greenery’s emphasis on legacy—preserving it, honoring it, and communicating it to create a culture of excellence.
“My favorite memory at the Greenery was an annual meeting we had at Hampton Hall,” Brock said. “The meeting was really inspiring because it was then that I really got a sense of The Greenery’s story.” Linking the pride she felt for the company’s past to the present, she added, “I will see one of our properties and the sun is shining on it and it is so beautiful, and I think to myself, ‘We did that.’”
According to Ashmore, to create a culture, you need to pass down tradition. “Here, the older employees pass it down to the new ones. We may have grown, but we still have that small company feel. Our values are on display every day,” he said.
Van Dijk agreed. “Part of what I’m focusing on now in emerging markets is to tell the stories from the past as well as to know that every time we bring a new person in, they are bringing a new element into our culture. Their visions continue to evolve us,” he said.
All three also agreed that the current company culture began when the Edwards set out to do something different for Hilton Head. And it is this culture that enables The Greenery to accomplish its purpose statement, “Enhancing people’s lives through beautiful landscaping.”
Ultimately, this culture creates a legacy of growing opportunities: opportunities for individuals and their families, opportunities for business expansion and economic growth, and opportunities for our communities to be better both aesthetically and intrinsically.
“Growth is part of our culture. We want our employees to exceed their goals,” van Dijk said.
“Our people are our greatest asset,” Ashmore added. “And I tell people all the time, if you want to be fulfilled, this is the place to do it.”
February 1, Berry and Ruthie Edwards buy a small nursery with six employees, a couple of old pickup trucks and the desire to do something different.
Ruthie, Berry and Lee (age 6) purchase a circa 1873 church and move it by barge from Ridgeland to Hilton Head to begin what is now the Antiques & Collectibles Shop.
The Greenery expands and opens a maintenance shop on Arrow Road.
The Greenery expands to serve Bluffton and the surrounding area.
Lee Edwards opens a branch in Charleston.
Berry Edwards creates an ESOP. The Hardeeville office opens to serve Bluffton, Beaufort, Sun City and Savannah.
Lee Edwards becomes president of The Greenery.
The Greenery opens the Beaufort branch.
The Greenery receives a national award for landscape work in Palmetto Bluff.
The Greenery opens the Savannah branch.
The Greenery launches the Daytona branch.
The Greenery launches the Greenville branch.
The Greenery acquires Martex Landscape serving Amelia Island and Jacksonville.
The Greenery celebrates its 20-year ESOP anniversary and 50-year business anniversary and now has over 750 employees.