Nine years after the merger, the Garrick-Santo team keeps racking up wins

Garrick-Santo Landscape Co.

Principals: Rick and Anita Gottschalk and Rob Santo
Headquarters: Malden, Mass.
Markets: Boston and northeast Massachusetts
Employees: Approximately 30 full time
Services: Landscape maintenance, installations, design/build, outdoor lighting, custom lawn care services, aeration, spring and fall cleanups and snow & ice management

Opening day at Fenway Park, Boston. Perfect weather: 65 degrees Fahrenheit, crisp blue sky, 75,000 rabid fans – minus one. Robert (Rob) Santo, former minor league player for the Baltimore Orioles and self-described “Big Fan” of the home team, who, inexplicably failed to offer him a contract back in 1985, will sit this one out.

“I’ve got to work, it’s our peak season,” says the guy who once had a chance to face the “Green Monster.”

But, Santo’s facing a more pleasant monster of his own – more than 400 customers expecting the excellent service that Garrick-Santos Landscape Company has come to be known for these past 31 years. He has a lot more on his mind than baseball these days.

Anita Gottschalk, Jose Velez, Sybil Velez, Mike Emmanuele, Rob Santo and Rick Gottschalk are the professionals behind the success of Garrick-Santo Landscape Co.

“Sure I miss opening day, the tradition of 100 years of baseball in that cathedral downtown is something I miss seeing,” he says. But, the Boston-based “team” that he and partner Richard “Rick” Gottschalk manage numbers 25 full-time technicians, 150 pieces of specialized power equipment, and 12 customized truck/trailers (including five “Super Trucks”). Santo’s busy scheduling the work to be done.

A new game

After a brief baseball career, playing determinedly in towns like Newark, N.Y., and Bluefield, ., the prodigal son returned home, and, with the help of his brother, started a landscape business in the Boston area.

“After a few years it became evident that my brother didn’t want to make landscaping his career, so I decided to sell the business. I had a lot of great customers and I wanted them to get the best service in the area. I did my homework and decided to ask Rick Gottschalk at Garrick Landscape if he would be interested in buying me out,” says Santo. “Rick had a better idea.”

The two formed a partnership in 2003, combining Santo’s skills at running the operations and Gottschalk’s 22 years of experience and abilities in the administrative field; soon, the team had broken through into the major leagues.

“We know our roles,” says Santo. “I’m the outside guy handling the day-to-day stuff, including small construction projects, and Rick takes care of the inside stuff – buying equipment, staffing, all the business end things that make us successful.”

The pair also has another asset that few competitors can match: on-deck is Anita Gottschalk, Gottschalk’s wife and business partner. She brings impressive credentials of her own to the company: Massachusetts Certified Landscape Professional, Landscape Industry Certified Manager and ICPI Certified Paver Installer. If you’re keeping a landscape box score, that’s CLP, LICM and ICPI rolled up into a clutch-hitter.

Anita oversees the day-to-day construction of major build projects and creates the team’s design work, using Pro Landscape Software with its 3-D capabilities. The software and her experience allows her to design beautiful and easily maintainable projects, while also accurately costing them. Garrick-Santo’s installation crews complete 50 to 75 projects a year.

When accepted, she will then discuss a maintenance contract. “We love what we do and our reputation is extremely important because we rely on references to help build the business,” says Anita.

Both Santo and Anita share sales duties, while Gottschalk handles the finances.

Drafted onto the Garrick-Santo roster this year Gottschalk’s son, Ricky, and daughter, Kimberly, who will help out when school is over. “They’ll both be working full time,” says Anita. “Kimberly will help out in the office and Ricky will work with the crews.”

This landscape bed at Wallace Monument shows tribute to breast cancer research with it’s pink ribbon design.

Since the partnership formed 12 years ago, Anita has continued to add to her landscape education and expertise. “It’s very competitive in our area, about half of our business is residential and about half is commercial. You’ve got to be flexible and creative at the same time. Only about 20 percent of our business is in design/build areas, but it’s a growing part of who we are,” she says.

Santo handles the approximately 80 percent that is maintenance, although there is some overlapping of responsibilities when it comes to maintenance, indeed in all areas of the business.

“You’ve got to check your ego at the door,” says Santo. “It’s all about getting the job done.

A culture of care

“We’ve got a good group; we run one- and two-man crews, except with the larger estates where the crews range from two to three.” It’s all about care, says Santo. “We show care to employees, clients and the environment each and every day.”

Anita says, “Our guys take on a lot of their own responsibility out in the field. We trust our people to keep current with their work. They’re accountable for maintaining their own routes and seeing to it that the properties are handled with care.”

In fact, the company’s mission statement emphasizes that clear point with “We Care” anchors the words, which include the team’s characteristics, such as safety, trust, respect and service.

Among the many awards Garrick-Santo Landscape has won is “No Lost Time Accidents/No Illness or Injuries Award” presented by the Professional Landcare Network (PLANET) and CNA Insurance. When the award was announced, Gottschalk proudly proclaimed, “Safe work environments show our employees and clients that we care. We have always been committed to properly training our team members.

“Our business relies heavily on the use of power equipment, some of which can be quite dangerous if the person is not properly trained. We will continue to promote safe work habits by our employees on a daily basis because we recognize the importance of safety in the workplace. This recognition of our good safety record will put Garrick-Santo Landscape Company head and shoulders above the competition.”

Many in their build division are certified hoist operators who run equipment such as Bobcat loaders and power equipment; other employees are PLANET-certified, as well as receiving Homeland Security’s TWIC (Transportation Worker Identification Credential) designations, which means they are granted “unescorted access to secure areas of Maritime Transportation Security Act (MTSA) regulated facilities and vessels.”

In addition, the company also has a certified pest control applicator on staff. “Our employees are well-trained professionals, each in uniform, and all of our equipment is clearly marked with the company logo and name.”

Santo says, “Our Super Trucks are practically moving billboards for us, and they save a lot of time in getting ready for work in the morning.” The team has weekly safety meetings where safe driving and care in handling equipment is stressed. In addition to lawn and garden maintenance, Garrick-Santo features complete design/build, outdoor lighting, spring/fall cleanup service, edging, pruning, aeration and snow and ice removal.

“Outdoor living, featuring things like outdoor kitchens and entertainment areas with big-screen television are still big sellers,” says Anita.

Adds Santo, “More and more people are staying in their homes longer because of the downturn in the housing market. This works out well for us because we can create more living space for our clients and increase the value of their homes at the same time.”

The company promotes the use of attractive native plant material in its installations and relies on nursery professionals at Northeast Nursery, Shenin Nursery and Mahoney Garden Supply to stay abreast of the latest introductions and trends.

The success of the partnership between the Gottschalks and Santo has caused the company to alter its growth plans.

“Initially, Rick thought he might grow the company by assimilating smaller landscape companies, the one- or two-guy operations,” says Anita. “But since we teamed up we’ve been able to steadily increase sales, and our business is flourishing without having to expand by purchasing other businesses. We can train our people to do things our way and not absorb people that might have acquired bad habits.” The staff is proud of their Better Business Bureau award for having zero complaints for over 36 months.

“It’s a tribute to our employees’ work ethic,” adds Santo.

Team Garrick-Santo has a pretty good game plan laid out. Like venerable Fenway Park, this company just keeps getting better and more popular as time rolls on. Don’t be surprised if you see this team branch out into all of northeast Massachusetts and beyond.

Mike Ingles is an experienced writer and editor who lives and works in Columbus, Ohio. Contact him at