Seth’s Cut: Cruising along with Frank Mariani

June 15, 2023 -  By
Photo: Tim Klein Photography

Frank Mariani (Photo: Tim Klein Photography)

This issue of Landscape Management is always a special one, as every June we celebrate the largest lawn care and landscape companies in the nation with our annual LM150 list — sponsored by our friends at Aspire Software, Ewing Outdoor Supply and Weathermatic. This issue is also special to me personally, as it gave me the opportunity to travel to Chicago to visit industry icon, Frank Mariani. 

Frank had just flown in from Florida when we met for dinner at a great steakhouse, Sophia Steak, near the Mariani Landscape headquarters in Lake Bluff, Ill. Over the following 24 hours, I got a glimpse into Frank’s life. We scheduled a photo shoot with Chicago-based photographer Tim Klein the next morning. Frank offered me a ride, and we drove to three different picturesque spots around Chicago, for this issue’s photos.

As I cruised around in Frank’s SUV, I noticed a few things. He makes a point to wave at all his crews as he passes them by — and there are a lot of crews he passes by. He gets a ton of calls on his cell phone and takes about half of them, letting the others go to voicemail. And he has no filter — I could ask him anything, and he’d speak straight from his heart, disregarding the voice recorder that was on.

Over dinner, I asked Frank for a fond memory of his dad, Vito, who started the company with a single truck in 1958. (Frank’s response to that question appears in my 5 Questions interview with him) November will mark 50 years since Vito passed, leaving Frank to pick up the pieces and run the company since he was 19.

I also asked Frank what he thought the best thing about being a dad is. “I have a beautiful son and daughter-in-law and a daughter and son-in-law that I would take a bullet for,” Frank told me. “And I have the best grandchildren that life could ever bring.”

For my contribution to this issue’s four LM150 profiles, I report on the newly formed Mariani Premier Group, what Frank calls “a family of family-owned residential landscape companies.”

The word ‘family’ is used often by Frank and within his company. “Family first” is one of their mottos. But Frank did tell me that when his kids were young, he didn’t spend enough time with them. He was so driven to make Mariani Landscape a company that could support the families of his employees that he missed out on a lot of at-home time. He wanted to make sure his father’s creation, tragically handed to him when he was right out of high school, was on the right path.

Every time Frank got a call as he drove, he would either take the call or he wouldn’t. But there was one call when he took the time to say, “Sorry, this is important,” as he took it.

That call wasn’t from Bryan Christiansen, the CEO, or Mary Beth Kercher, his executive assistant. That call was from his grandkids — Joseph Francis, 5, and Anthony Vito, 3. He also has a granddaughter on the way.

It’s a call he gets every morning. That morning, the boys wanted to let him know that they decided that “Pops” (Frank) is the best on the grill of anyone in the family … and would he be grilling that weekend?

The answer was a resounding yes. While I grilled Frank, I learned that grilling is calming for Frank. And there is no one Frank would rather grill for than his grandsons (ribs are his specialty). Frank might not be able to get back that time he lost when his kids were young, but he takes full advantage of being a grandpa.

This month we celebrate the LM150 list. This month we also celebrate Father’s Day. Mariani Premier Group is No. 11 on the LM150 list, with the largest year-over-year growth of any company in the industry.

What do you think Vito would say, seeing his son — now a grandpa, now a leader of a family of family-owned companies — on the cover today?

Read more LM150:

To view the complete list, breakdowns and company profiles, check out a PDF version here.

Seth Jones

About the Author:

Seth Jones, a graduate of Kansas University’s William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications, was voted best columnist in the industry in 2014 and 2018 by the Turf & Ornamental Communicators Association. Seth has more than 23 years of experience in the golf and turf industries and has traveled the world seeking great stories. He is editor-in-chief of Landscape Management, Golfdom and Athletic Turf magazines. Jones can be reached at

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