It says a lot about a business owner when he attributes many of his company’s successes to the hard work, loyalty and talent of his employees. When I asked Chad Atkins of Atkins Landscaping about the great job his company does and the endless list of clients he serves in the Yakima area, I was excited to see how he would respond. He didn’t hesitate more than a second before answering, “I have been blessed with a great crew. Six of my colleagues have been with me for at least five years and my first employee, who I hired 15 years ago, is still one of my foremen. “You see, Chad knows that while he may run the company, without the dedication, teamwork and craftsmanship of his people, he would never be where he is every day. And for me that is not only a sign of a good employer, but also a sign of a great leader. But like many other small business owners, he spent a lot of time learning the ropes working for other employers and in other industries before branching out on his own.
Chad was born and raised in Gleed. In fact, he still lives a mile from his family home. During high school, he had seven jobs – including cinema-goer, construction worker, and supervisor at Albertsons. And he got his first taste of landscaping while working at Al DeAtley’s farm the summer before his senior year. After graduating from Naches Valley High School, he enrolled in the electrical program of the IBEW Local 112 Union. While on the waiting list, he pulled a green chain on Layman Lumber (“Where I learned how to work,” says Chad). After the electrical program opened, he spent two and a half years in training – and then hit September 11th. At the time he was working for Bailey Electric, and of the 70 employees who worked there prior to that tragic day, he was one of four who were employed until all of the employees were laid off for six months.
But instead of giving up or waiting for life to bring him something else, he started working for a local landscaping company. That one choice, that one decision became the first step in creating life, in creating the business that would become his future. In 2005, Chad opened Atkins Landscaping at the age of 25 after spending three years studying the ins and outs of landscaping. He ran the entire show himself for three months. Then he hired his first employee, Ronaldo, who would later become his first foreman. By five months he was busy enough to buy a Bobcat, and after saving his money the first year, he bought an enclosed trailer that he had built and repaired as his winter project. (Like many of his friends, Chad learned to weld in workshop class at Naches Valley High School, and then year after year he learned the pros and cons of working with metal, wood, and machinery in his spare time. His first Atkins landscaping dump truck was a 1994 Ford F-350 2WD Duel, which he bought for $ 3,500. He shortened the frame himself and built a dump box for the rig. At one point, he had three of these types of dump trucks that he and his friends had built to this day he prefers prefers to build everything he can in-house – a decision that many people don’t have the knowledge, time, or work ethic to make.)
In Chad’s second fiscal year, he hired two more employees. In his third year, he bought a dingo, backhoe, and dump truck (the first landscaper in Yakima to have one), both of which were vital to his business. During his fifth year of business, he hired a full second crew and also hired his best friend, Blaine Faris, who was and still is an extremely talented processor. “There’s pretty much nothing Blaine can’t build,” says Chad. “On a project with no limits, a guy like Blaine has no limits. He will really create paradise every time. “After a year of working with a crew, Blaine becomes Chad’s second foreman. By his 10th year, Blaine’s right-hand man, Jesus, became the third foreman for Atkins Landscaping. Now the crews have three excavators, four skid steer loaders and, from 2018, their own gravel pits and rock yards on their five hectare property next to the Pegasus project. (You may have seen the beautiful metal gate in the shape of a tree at the entrance to their property on your left as you headed towards Naches on US Highway 12. This was another winter project created by Blaine and Chad 24 feet and 11 feet 4 inches tall, it’s hard to miss – and absolutely beautiful.) Chad’s goal within the next year on this lot is to have a store that sells rocks, gravel, sand, PVC parts, and sprinkler systems sold to its clients and customers to the public. He is a huge advocate of homeowners running their own projects and wants to help them in any way possible.
Fifteen years after opening, Atkins Landscaping has grown from a solo exhibition to one of the most prestigious, beautiful and intricate outdoor projects in the valley. “We really enjoy doing landscape projects from scratch,” says Chad. “After we have established a trusting relationship with our customers on a basic level, we can expand to larger projects such as tailor-made gates, fences, water features and more.” The wishes, needs and visions of a customer always come first for the crew, which is why the customer base is likely to be full of repeat customers.
In his spare time, Chad goes to the mountains with his two sons and friends – hiking, dirt biking, jeeping or snow biking – or he stays closer to home, works on passion projects and builds them up in his business. “I love learning to build something new for the first time,” says Chad. His last big project was a jet boat. The next? Maybe an airplane. And when it comes to giving back to the community, Chad not only supports local sports teams in Selah and Naches, but also donated his equipment to build the bike course in Rocky Top and volunteers at the US Forest Service to help build and maintain the 4×4 -Community help and motorcycle trails.
His advice to his boys and everyone else out there who want to start their own business and live a life they love? “Don’t be in a rush, enjoy being small, having fun, not being stressed and finding some phenomenal staff. Plants, like a business, take time to grow. So enjoy the process. And don’t forget … life is a garden – dig it! “