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Almstead Tree & Shrub Care Co. has grown from a one man operation into a full service arboriculture firm over the span of nearly 50 years.
When he began his arborist career in 1960, 16-year-old Richard E. Almstead thought tree care was simple. "Someone told me that all you need to start a tree care company is a chain saw, some rope and a truck," recalls Almstead. So with a chain saw, some rope, a station wagon and a couple of years of experience, he founded Almstead Tree Company in 1964. Almstead began taking tree care jobs in the lower part of Westchester County, NY. "I was successful right away," says Almstead. "There was great financial risk at first, but I quickly learned that if I gave the clients more than they expected and did everything as a professional, I would survive." Almstead further developed his tree care expertise by studying arboriculture at both Cornell University and the New York Botanical Gardens.
The business continued to grow throughout the following decades, despite occasional obstacles. During the 70's, gas shortages plagued the country and long gas lines appeared throughout the Northeast. Ever the intrepid entrepreneur, Almstead turned a challenge into an opportunity. "We converted our trucks over from gas to propane, so we would have a steady fuel source," says Almstead. Before long, people were asking for propane to fill the tanks on their gas grills. That resulted in the formation of a new business, Almstead Propane, which still sells propane gas to area residents.
In 1993, he created a new division, Almstead Environmental Experts, to specialize in utility line clearance and vegetation management. The operation grew to extend throughout New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Connecticut. In 1998, Almstead sold the successful utility division in order to focus on the tree and shrub health care end of the business. That core business, now called Almstead Tree Shrub and Lawn Care Company is a full-service firm that offers tree and shrub care as well as plant and lawn health care. Customers vary in size from single family homes to the Central Park Conservancy.
The tree care industry has changed since 1960, and Almstead has changed with it. Arborists at Almstead now are required to pass certification exams proving they have mastered pruning and tree care techniques, insect and disease identification and management, and safety procedures that protect their crews and customers. A truck, a rope and a chainsaw no longer suffice: Almstead arborists now also use sophisticated tools such as Air Spades ™ and Resistographs ®. We understand the subtleties of plant health care and design programs to control insects and diseases using environmentally responsible and minimally intrusive methods.
Almstead Tree, Shrub and Lawn care now has over 100 employees and a fleet of specialized trucks and equipment. We are at the forefront of organic care, including a laboratory for analyzing and preparing customized compost teas.
Though the company has expanded over time, it remains a family business. Richard E. Almstead’s sons, Kenneth (CEO) and Michael (VP) are trained arborists who oversee four regional offices. Almstead Tree, Shrub & Lawn Care now provides residential and commercial services throughout Westchester & Putnam counties in New York, northern New Jersey and Fairfield County, Connecticut as well as much of New York City. The opportunity to work with his sons has made Almstead's success all the more satisfying. "It's been great working with my family. I would not be successful without the people who have worked for me over the years. Not just the family, but all the employees. If I have one piece of advice to offer, it is: choose good people."
The past president of the New York State Arborist Association, Almstead now spends most of his time "meeting with people, finding new clients, and safeguarding the reputation of the Company." His latest project is managing and expanding the company's newest venture, Almstead Mulch, which produces environmentally friendly mulch and compost.