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Art’s Landscaping celebrates 60 years in business

Art Bourdeau came to Goderich from Windsor in 1962. He worked for Crump’s Landscaping, which was restoring the ditch where the pipeline was installed to supply water to the Bluewater Centre from the Town of Goderich.

It was the rainy season, and the work wasn’t progressing. Art was staying in a local hotel, and he needed work to support his family in Windsor, so found a job at Champion Road Machinery as an apprentice welder.

With this job at Champion Road Machinery, Art moved his family from Windsor and eventually settled into a newly built house on Maple Street, which he landscaped in exchange for rent.

The second house he landscaped was Kenny Hutchins’ house and he made a profit of $80.

As there were no landscapers in Goderich, people started asking Art to do work for them.

So, he took the night shift at Champion Roads, earning $1.40 an hour, and landscaped part-time during the day and on weekends.

He bought a house on Bruce Street for $8,300 and rented a shop on West Street behind Craigie’s Pool Room for $75 a month to store his equipment.

The shop had been rented by George Wraith Farm Equipment and became available when George moved his business out to Hwy 8.

The Province of Ontario was building new schools in the 1960s and Art was able to pick up landscaping over several counties from these contractors.

Douglas Point was expanding so there was a building frenzy in nearby Kincardine and Art picked up about 100 houses there to landscape. Art was off to a good start.

By 1968, Art had worked his way up to a supervisor position at Champion Roads Machinery, as well as President of Local 1863 of the International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers Union.

Many of his employees were co-workers at Champion who wanted to earn extra money. One guy had a tractor and he rented that until he was able to purchase his own.

Art eventually needed more space for equipment, and in 1969, he bought a large property on the south side Bennett Street East from George Feagan.

At that time, there was no Suncoast Drive, and the parcel included the current Bethel Pentecostal Church and Wendys on Bayfield Road.

George was asking $16,000 and Art thought the price was too high, so he didn’t buy it then. Several weeks later, with land prices rising fast, Art paid $25,000.

There is still a Copper Beech tree near the house on Bennett Street and it was under the shade of this big tree that Art placed his shrubs and trees.

Art purchased a shed from the Huron County Museum on North Street and moved it onto this property for storage.

He built his first shop for his equipment in 1972.

It was in 1974, when Art made the decision to quit his full-time job at Champion and went full-time into his landscaping business, and because landscaping is seasonal work, he got into snowplowing.

Art’s wife, Dorothy, remembers that the original garden center stored stacks of fertilizer, soil and chemicals used only for the landscape business, but customers started dropping in wanting to purchase the trees and garden supplies.

As there weren’t any other garden centers around, they decided to open the retail store.

Dorothy sat down with a Garden Supply salesperson who guided her through the catalogues and suggested garden products customers would want.

Dorothy attended conventions and seminars for garden centres and changed the store around 100 times trying to figure out how best to serve the community.

It was a natural transition to start selling flowers and hanging baskets.

The IGA and A&P stores sold only a few, so Dorothy brought in flowers to meet customer demand.

At first, she drove a one-ton truck to a London grower, loaded it up with geraniums, petunias and impatiens and returned to Goderich.

The flower sales grew, and three or four truckloads of flowers were delivered weekly.

Back in the day, hanging baskets arrived in time for Mother’s Day and flowers didn’t arrive from the growers until Victoria Day Weekend.

With the arrival of garden centres in the Big Box Stores, flowers are now being sold well before the last frost.

Over the years, Art’s Landscaping planted several flowerbeds around Goderich as there was no Parks Department yet, as well as businesses like Champion Road Machinery, and there were many faithful customers.

Art and Dorothy knew their customers on a first name basis, and they weren’t just customers, they became friends.

They enjoyed helping customers make their places look beautiful even if they didn’t have time to do that in their own backyard.

There were times when Dorothy had sold out of a certain flower in the garden centre, and Art would go and pull the plants out of her own pots to give to their customers.

Art and Dorothy were never too far to find.

The business phone was their home phone as well, and rang in the office, store, shop, house, and pool area.

There was a rubber hose across the driveway that rang a bell in the house to let you know that a customer had driven in, so they would stop their dinner and hightail it back to the store.

The legacy continued with Art and Dorothy’s son Rick Turner.

Rick has worked at Art’s Landscaping since 1977 when he was 14 years old - after school and on weekends.

He installed lawns and planted a lot of gardens. Rick remembers loading up the trucks with 100s of shrubs from the garden centre and at Art’s direction, setting up the shrub displays at customers’ homes and businesses, and then planting.

Even though there were no landscape designs drawn on paper, Art’s experience was recognized by the Ontario Association of Landscape Architects, and he received designation as a Landscape Architect.

Rick acquired his AZ Truck license when he turned 18 and attended many courses at Landscape Ontario, University of Guelph and Fanshawe College.

The business pivoted into construction work and Rick learned how to install fencing, retaining walls and irrigation systems.

Gord Rapson was closing his asphalt paving business in Holmesville. Art asked Gord Lavis for advice and Gord assured him that it was a trade that could be learned, so Art started to scout out equipment.

The City of Chatham advertised a tailgate asphalt spreader for sale by closed bids. Art thought a bid of $1,000 was fair, but he really wanted to get into the paving business, so he thought he would increase his bid to $2,000.

Just before submitting his bid, he settled on offering $2,800.

On the bid opening day, the city called Art and advised him that he had won the bid. He was happy until he found out that the next closest bid was $200.

And that’s how Art’s Asphalt Paving began.

Rick picked up the first load of asphalt from Lavis and by the time he pulled into the driveway of their first job, there was a storm coming up and Rick was sick – appendicitis attack.

Art looked at the storm and looked at Rick, his right-hand man, and said “I think the Good Lord is trying to tell us something”. They had a keen crew and managed to get the job done.

Growth is something that is achieved over time with a lot of hard work and determination.

Art and Rick never turned a job down – Art would get the work and Rick would execute it with his crew.

They put their heads down, worked hard for long hours and the company grew.

At one time, the company employed over 50 full-time and seasonal employees in the landscaping, asphalting, RAM equipment rentals, trucking salt, and garden centre divisions.

Rick is most proud of their work in the community like the boardwalk at Goderich Beach, pickleball courts at Columbus Park, and Lighthouse Park stairs to the beach.

Hundreds of summer students and seasonal employees have spent time at Art’s Landscaping learning skills that they used in their own homes and businesses.

In 2006, Rick became 50 per cent owner of Art’s Landscaping with Art and Dorothy.

He then convinced his wife, Joanne to leave her job as a Law Clerk to join their team.

Art and Dorothy retired in 2018.

Rick and Joanne continue to run the business.

This spring, Art’s Landscaping is pivoting their Garden Centre to a Landscape Supply Depot by focusing on the sale of landscape items – bulk and bagged soils, mulch, gravel, sod, and landscape supplies – pickup or delivery. Trees, shrubs, and flowers will be available by pre-order.

On its 60th anniversary, Art, Dorothy, Rick and Joanne would like to thank the community for supporting Art’s Landscaping, a family business since 1964.


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