Whether you’re an aspiring gardener unsure of what to plant or a homeowner looking to spruce up your property, Rutgers Landscape & Nursery has everything you’ll need. A word of caution: If you’re only looking for a typical plant or two, we recommend a local store. But those in search of a unique botanical experience should follow the two 20-foot high yellow lawn chairs on Highway 202 to a nature lover’s dream.
A desire to provide quality customer service and a professional workplace drove Jim Brophy, a then 19-year-old student at Rutgers University (hence the name), to start a landscaping business with a lawnmower and some friends. What could have been just a summer gig turned into a full-time endeavor that has grown exponentially over 30 years.
Brophy continued growing his business after he graduated, and the time and effort speaks for itself. Rutgers Landscape & Nursery now boasts a 12-acre retail nursery, a staff of up to 75 people, a wholesale farm where they grow their own plants, and a growing reputation that attracts people from across New Jersey, New York City and Pennsylvania.
“[Some guys and I] were working part time for other people that were just not reliable; we weren’t treated well, we weren’t paid on time,” Brophy said over the phone from his 62-acre farm in Stockton. “I decided I want to do this and control it.” The payoff came in profits but also in the gratitude from customers whose lives were positively impacted.
Located in Ringoes, Rutgers Landscape & Nursery offers traditional services like landscape design and installations but also has an extensive selection of homegrown trees, seasonal plants and plant materials. They provide garden coaching classes, plant maintenance tips and even warranties. Even with so many options, landscaping is still their most popular service.
People come in and select plant material and we install it,” says nursery operations manager Jeff Dallensander, who’s been with Rutgers since 2010. “We provide a 1-2 year warranty on that tree. We also have a customer care program where we keep in touch with the customer. If anything goes wrong with tree, we’re there to coach them through it. We visit the site to make sure they’re doing everything they need to. We want them to be successful.”
A culture of caring — about customers, staff and what they do — is what Brophy believes has allowed the nursery to evolve. The proof is in the extensive employee training and loyal customers who keep coming back.
This same culture fed the desire and need to become a multifunctional space for the community that Rutgers serves. “We needed to partner more with the community. We’re just getting more and more involved and becoming a resource for people,” Brophy said.
Brophy and his staff are proud of the changes they have ushered in, making the nursery a “lifestyle destination;” along with landscape services and plant maintenance classes, children’s story time and yoga classes are also part of their regular schedule. Recent events like Animal Adoption Day and a Potting Party are slated to become the norm. If you can’t make it to a class, the Good Roots Café lets you experience this secret garden while sipping a latte with friends.
Plans for the future of Rutgers Landscape & Nursery include building their events business as well as “raising our horticulture game and knowledge,” according to Brophy. “We have great stewardship and management, and all these unique varieties that are hard to source around the country. A 12-acre nursery is just the beginning.”
The response to the changes thus far has been a positive one. “Customers are always looking for what you’re doing next, giving suggestions on how to use the space. It’s exciting,” marketing manager Karen Diaz said.
Living up to its motto — “like no other nursery” — is easy with the amount of attention, energy and vision that Brophy and his crew have invested into creating the one-of-a-kind locale.
Learn more about what’s happening at Rutgers Landscape & Nursery by visiting rutgersln.com.