Domenick Voce sees signs of a rebounding landscaping and nursery industry, so much so that he and two partners purchased Atlantic Nursery in Mays Landing in February, a business where he worked for 10 years.
"I see the turnaround," said Voce, 43, of Egg Harbor Township, who had been a manager at the long-running nursery off Cologne Avenue. "I attend a lot of trade shows, I talk to a lot of people in the industry, and they're under the impression it's about to really pick up again.
"We've noticed it here with an increase of landscaping job bids that come through, more so than in the last couple years," he said.
Like other industries, this one took a major hit from the recession and prolonged downturn.
Voce said retail sales had dropped by nearly half during that time, as the numbers of landscaping jobs went down and the average amount of money spent on them.
Voce, who bought the business with his brothers Mark and Matthew Poolake, did not disclose the purchase price.
"We think we're buying at the proper time, with interest rates, property values rising, and business appears to be getting back on solid ground," he said.
In a survey released in May, the Vermont-based National Gardening Association reported that retail sales at lawn and garden businesses grew $688 million, or 2 percent, from 2011. This followed several years of declines.
"I'm not going to predict the economy," Voce said, "but I think the momentum is going to build here, reaching more people, getting them to come in and look at the place. That's my challenge, reaching out to the people who don't know we're here."
Of course, there are more challenges to running this type of business than the economy and marketing.
While a stretch of good weather can bring people out to work on their homes, bad weather can crimp business.
There are also the physical demands.
"You've got to be able to jump out there at 8 on a cold March morning and empty a West Coast truck that might take you four to five hours," Voce said. "When we get to the summer and 100-degree days, you have to be willing to get out here and lug a 50-pound hose and water all day long. And then comes the winter. It's a challenge."
The business sits on 20 acres, about 10 of which are currently in use, Voce said.
Voce said the business relies on the knowledge and expertise of its employees to help customers as they undertake their own projects.
"Most people will come in with an idea of what they want. They'll come in with pictures and look for advice on what to put where or they'll have trouble keeping something alive in a spot and we'll offer them choices," he said.
Contact Brian Ianieri:
Location: 3072 S. Cologne Ave., Mays Landing
Owners: Domenick Voce; Matthew Poolake; Mark Poolake
Founded: 1980, present ownership since February
Revenue: Not disclosed
Phone: 609 965 2553