Moving trees proves profitable for one landscape company

July 25, 2016 -  By
Large tree relocation requires specialty equipment and know-how.

Large tree relocation requires specialty equipment and know-how. Photo: The Green Scene

One landscape business owner has found a unique service in moving large trees.

Two decades ago, Drewe Schoenholtz’s clients were putting on a home addition that would require them to cut down a beautiful blue spruce. Schoenholtz, owner of The Green Scene, remembers thinking, “There must be a way we can move this tree.”

And there was. After some research on the process, Schoenholtz rented the proper equipment and moved the tree to the backyard, where it thrived.

Following that success, he realized he was on to something. More than 20 years later, Schoenholtz has moved thousands of trees. It’s become a profitable service for the West Windsor, N.J.-based business owner.

Reaching out to builders and pool companies, Schoenholtz first began promoting his large tree relocation service by letting contractors know they had the option of moving a client’s tree instead of cutting it down. His business grew by word of mouth, and he’s also run some print ads.

After five years of renting a tree spade, Schoenholtz had enough work to purchase a tree spade, a commercial truck and accessories—an approximately $330,000 set-up. When the housing market took off, he purchased two more. In his best year of performing the service, Schoenholtz moved more than 300 trees. When the Great Recession hit, business slowed.

“When new construction stopped, that really hurt the tree-moving business,” Schoenholtz says. “We were able to ride it out and in 2010 things did start coming back.” Now the company moves about 150 trees a year.

Moving a tree with a tree spade typically requires a two-man crew, but the work could require as many as eight men if the tree can’t be transplanted with a tree spade.
Pricing tree-moving jobs is complicated, Schoenholtz says. It varies based on how many trees; site conditions; whether the client wants clean-up, grading or rut fixing included; and other factors.

“Like any job, I really base the price off of experience of how much work is going to be involved,” he says, adding that moving a single tree with a tree spade could cost about $500, and it goes up from there.”

It’s taken Schoenholtz a long time to perfect both the pricing and execution of this offering. After all, there’s no training offered or school you can attend to learn this service.

“I figured it out as I was going,” he says. “You’d have to get a job working for someone who does this—that’s how you learn it.”

Hand in hand

Screen Shot 2016-07-08 at 4.07.45 PM

Photo: The Green Scene

Along with his tree-moving service, The Green Scene also has a tree growing operation, so it can supply mature trees to properties that need them.

“I can to talk to a client about a design and tell them they could have a tree that provides shade without having to wait 20 years for it to grow,” Schoenholtz says. “Their look of astonishment is still my favorite part of the job.”

Schoenholtz has been in business for 42 years, both moving and selling trees. He says the tree relocation business is a bit of an “unusual gig,” but it’s one that he thinks brings value to clients.

“A tree brings lasting value to a yard,” says Schoenholtz, adding that the largest tree he ever moved was a 55-foot cedar. “They can add beauty, provide shade, give families a place to play—and they can be around for generations. It’s not something that people just want to cut down.”

“This isn’t something that anyone can do,” Schoenholtz says. “Besides the cost of the equipment, there was a lot to learn. It took years to get good at moving trees. Now, I have a good sense of how much a tree weighs, the best fertilizer to use, how big the root ball should be and other important factors. I’ve become known as someone who can move a tree when others said it couldn’t be done.”

Photo: The Green Scene

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About the Author:

Payton is a freelance writer with eight years of experience writing about the landscape industry.

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