FAMILY BUSINESS IS A CANADIAN SUCCESS STORY
By Peter Bailey
Now that summer’s here, many of us are striving to get our lawns and gardens in shape and to get weeds under control. But others are likely in the midst of remaking their front or backyards from the ground up, and they’re hiring professionals to do it.
When they do, some hire Coivic Contracting Ltd. – or they get contractors who deal with his other company, Coivic Specimen Trees. Indeed, as President George Coito is quick to say, although the core of his company does landscape design and construction, he also runs a specimen tree supply nursery. Eighty per cent of the nursey sales is to other landscape architects and contractors.
The tree nursery company is not a garden centre. He supplies large amounts of mature trees, shrubs and flowers to members of the industry through his specimen tree nursery.
“We are not set up to sell to a walk-in customer.” Coito was 14 when he began in the family business. His father Manuel started Coivic in 1980, and after Coito earned a degree in Landscape Architecture from Ryerson Polytechnic University, he eventually took over the family business.
The remaining 20 per cent of the nursery sales is allocated to Coivic’s own contract work with individuals who want high-end landscaping, which not only includes plants and lawns, but swimming pools, outdoor fireplaces and sports courts. Coito says homeowners are spending much more time in their outdoor spaces for relaxing and entertaining.
“People are spending more time outdoors having dinners, reading or entertaining. Perhaps the importance of this may have been realized due to the past Covid restrictions,” he said. “They want to build sports courts for their kids, and generally spend time outdoors. Many people are realizing that the space outside of the home is as important as inside for beauty and general well-being.”
When asked what advice he would give to first-timers who wish to hire a professional to remodel their home’s outdoor features, he smiles and said, do your research.
“Most people spend more time researching buying a TV or a car, than a contractor. I tell them to find a landscape designer who fits your style and a personality you can work with. Do reference checks on both the landscape designer or contractor, as well. The most important part of the process is starting with a great design. Beware if the price is too good to be true – you usually get what you pay for.”
All of the work at Coivic is through word of mouth, Coito says. Clients recommend them to friends, and so on. It also doesn’t hurt, he believes, that his trucks are often parked in front of some of the most prestigious homes in the Greater Toronto Area. Tasteful landscaping can help give a home curb appeal, but Coito said his company often finds clients aren’t ordering landscaping to sell their homes.
“Our clients are people that want to enjoy their gardens and they want to live there for a long time. A great design should make their garden an extension of their living space.” When asked about his typical client, his response is, “Many are senior bankers, hedge fund guys, small and large business owners, that sort of thing. They don’t have a green thumb, and they don’t have the time.”
Once the projects are completed, Coivic Contracting has a maintenance department that can also provide garden maintenance if clients desire. One great advantage his company enjoys is the experienced and knowledgeable designers in his office. They have the ability to take a great design and use technology to show clients near-photographic quality images of how their designs will look. Many other contractors don’t go beyond showing diagrams to customers, he said. But the computer graphics are surprisingly realistic, and can show views from above as well as panning from side-to-side.
The work to remodel a home’s landscape can take a full season to complete, but once finished the lawn and mature plants such as flowers, shrubs and trees can look as if they’ve been in place for years. When winter comes, Coito travels North America hand-picking unusual trees and shrubs that can live in southern Ontario. His travels take him as far as the West Coast, and as far south as Tennessee. He buys trees and plants along the East Coast and the Midwest of the U.S., all over Ontario and as far north as Quebec. “We are always looking for the mature, unusual specimen plants that will live in our climate.”
And his attention to detail is paying off. “We are booked two years ahead,” he says. “I love being in the business and being hands-on. I’m always visiting our work sites. And I love creating efficiencies. That makes it a win-win for us and the client.”