Nursery branches out over 110 acres

Company specializing in landscaping, trees grows from two to 60 employees

April 24, 2000|By Stacey Hirsh | Stacey Hirsh,SUN STAFF

Ask Bob Haney about his '66 Pontiac, and he'll tell you the color is Town Creek blue and the vanity plates shout his nickname, "Big Tree."

"We sell big trees," he said. "We probably have more big trees in the nursery than anybody in Central Maryland."

Haney, 41, is the owner of Town Creek Landscaping and Construction Co. Inc. and Town Creek Nursery LLC. The two companies, which use blue as their signature color, grew from a two-person landscaping business started in 1992 in his Montgomery County home.

Now, the businesses employ about 60 and sit on a 110-acre Clarksville nursery, which Haney and John Beck, Town Creek's chief operating officer, believe is the largest in Howard County.

They sell more than big trees, though.

"Anything green, as we say," said Beck, 33.

That is, anything green or pink or yellow or purple.

Rows of pink cherry trees line the Town Creek nursery, along with white Bradford pear trees, red maples and bright yellow forsythia in bloom.

"You know spring's here when the forsythia blooms," said Haney.

To move trees from the nursery to the customer, workers at Town Creek use a $132,000, 90-inch, cone-shaped tree spade.

The bright blue spade snips the tree and a coneful of dirt from the ground, leans them onto a truck and lowers them into the freshly dug ground of their new owners.

About 90 percent of those customers are residential, Beck said.

"The homebuilding market has increased considerably in the Howard County area," said Haney, who works out of an old barn converted into office space.

More new homes in the area, coupled with upgrades, have provided fertile ground for Town Creek, which Haney said did more than $3 million in sales last year. From Annapolis to Baltimore to Washington, the company decorates yards with walkways, ponds, patios, pergolas, which are similar to gazebos, and big trees.

A former construction project manager, Haney climbed into the tree business selling Christmas trees from his front yard to raise money for the American Cancer Society and a friend who was dying of cancer.

Haney and his buddy, Mike Breslin, pick the trees at farm in the North Carolina mountains.

Haney could never resist picking the biggest trees off the farm, and Breslin would tell him, "Man, no one's going to buy that big tree, Bob," Haney recalled.

Hence the nickname "Big Tree Bob."

Although his business has branched out, moving to the Clarksville farm in 1995, Haney continues to sell Fraser firs from his front yard and from the nursery through a small company called The Perfect Christmas Tree.

"We still hand pick them," he said. "And it turned out that [Breslin] was wrong. A lot of people did want big trees, so that's one of our specialties."

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