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Brand U: Big jobs, tight spaces

July 21, 2021 -  By
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Adam Bellas works on big projects — pergolas, outdoor living spaces, decks, retaining walls. When it comes to doing that work, however, he says he constantly has to think small.

“The areas we work in are primarily residential,” Bellas says of Bellas Landscaping, the company he founded with his identical twin brother, Justin, in 2003. “The lots aren’t very large. We’re getting into tight areas. There would be no way we could get a full-sized machine back there. It would just be impractical. You’d get no work done, and you’d do more property damage than it would be worth.”

Vermeer mini skid-steers allowed Bellas Landscaping to transform itself from a mowing and maintenance company in Bloomington, Ill., to a design/build operation. Bellas estimates that 80 percent of his revenue comes from hardscaping and design work with the rest split evenly between snow removal, mulching and maintenance.

He bought his first Vermeer machine in 2006 and now has five units, S925TXs and CTX100s, one per crew. The machines’ responsive hydraulics provide power and safety, Bellas says. When testing some mini skid-steers, he adds, they coasted to a stop when the driver let go of the controls. His Vermeers don’t coast.

“When you’re getting 2 inches away from a foundation or an outdoor living area with the machine and you let off, it stops,” Bellas says.

Crews like using the small machines because they can easily move materials to staging areas, pull out trees and bushes and till and cultivate soil. Most of his crew members are longtime employees with lots of landscaping experience, so making them more productive and reducing manual labor is critical, Bellas says.

“What we’re really doing here is selling skilled labor,” Bellas says. “We’re bringing the value of a guy that’s been in the industry for 20 years to put a $50,000 hardscape patio in your backyard. Customers don’t want to see somebody breaking their back on their property. They want to see us using the latest equipment.”

The Vermeer machines’ biggest fan, however, is Bellas Landscaping’s mechanic. “Within a minute, you have the hood up and sides off, and you’re able to clean it, look it over and service it,” Bellas says. “If there’s a problem, he knows within 30 seconds. He can have panels off and really look into the machines.”

The company has tested other companies’ machines, he says, but easy serviceability has kept it loyal to Vermeer.

Vermeer’s mini skid-steers allowed Bellas Landscaping to perform more design/build work.

Vermeer’s mini skid-steers allowed Bellas Landscaping to perform more design/build work. (Photo courtesy of Bellas Landscaping)

Attachments boost mini skid-steer productivity

“We’ve used pretty much every attachment known and a few that are new to the market — different types of buckets, forks, augers for footings for outdoor living areas,” Bellas says.

The Mini Beak hydraulic clamp from Daniel Mfg. allows Bellas to remove trees, bushes and concrete footers from old construction. He adds, “You’d have to see it to believe it. It makes the mini skid-steers do what a full-size skid can do.”

Crews also use Harley rakes for tilling soil and soil cultivation and a dozer blade with a rubber edge for snow removal.

“We don’t like to be out in the winter too much, but if we do, we’d rather not have to go out with a shovel.”

About the Author:

Robert Schoenberger is Landscape Management's senior editor. He holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from University of Houston. He has worked in magazines and newspapers since the late 1990s. Robert can be reached at rschoenberger@northcoastmedia.net.

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