While Pete DeHertogh’s childhood friends were indoors playing video games and watching TV, he was outside – mowing lawns, raking leaves and
doing yard work.
Today, at age 21, the West Hartford resident owns and operates a successful landscaping business.
Pete’s Landscaping is a new but thriving business. DeHertogh performs general lawn work, tree pruning, snow removal, landscape design and masonry. The young entrepreneur runs the business with one regular employee, but relies upon friends to lend hands in the busy springtime.
In the spring, summer and fall, it’s not unusual for him to work 12-hour days – every day of the week. If the winter is mild with little snowfall, like last year, he keeps busy clearing brush, doing yard work and teaching himself new trades, such as light carpentry.
DeHertogh, who is Peter III in his family, comes from a long line of landscapers. His great-grandfather Peter owned a landscape business in Rhode Island for several years. He later expanded to New York, where, among many places, he serviced the mansion of the president of U.S. Steel.
When Pete’s great-grandfather died suddenly of a heart attack, his son Kenneth took over at age 20. When he had a son, Peter II, he worked in the business until he decided to become an engineer. But when Peter II had a son, he encouraged him to learn how to mow grass and taught his son about caring for trees, clearing brush and yard work.
“My dad believed in hard work and not sitting idle,” said DeHertogh. He credited both of his parents for instilling in him a solid work ethic.
“I started getting jobs mowing lawns at age 13,” DeHertogh recalled in a phone interview from his home in West Hartford. He lives with his parents, Peter and Anne DeHertogh, while he saves money to find his own place. “I used to get dropped off around town by my mom while she sat in the car doing work as I mowed lawns all summer.”
At Hall High School, DeHertogh found time to play on the varsity football team, running out after practice to rake leaves. But his high school years were a difficult time. He was juggling his business and school work, although he was able to maintain good grades. He left Hall High before his graduation date of 2010 and finished coursework at Capital Community College. By that time, he was working 30 hours a week.
Last year, he took a break from actually running his business to learn more about the trade and to pick up additional skills. He took a job with City Services, where he was involved with yard design and learned more about masonry.
Since last fall, he’s returned to running his company. Business is going well, but he is always looking for new clients. And when there’s no snow, that greatly affects his income.
“People don’t realize that landscaping is not an easy job,” explained DeHertogh, citing the costs of fuel (for his expensive Dodge truck and equipment), taxes on his company and the purchase and maintenance of equipment. In addition to these costs, he has to pay for storage space for his landscaping tools. “My profit margin isn’t that high after all these costs,” he said.
“Every year, I have to prioritize what new machines to buy,” said DeHertogh. This past year, he bought new snowblowers. He’d love to purchase a snowplow, but they cost $6,000 or more, so that plan is on hold for now.
DeHertogh said he charges an average $35 for lawn service, but he negotiates depending on the size of the lawn and condition of the grass. He offers group rates for neighbors. His average for snow removal (street, stairs and driveway) is $65 for the job, but he charges more if the snowfall is more than six inches. “When it comes to a trade job, you really do get what you pay for,” DeHertogh noted.
“Too many people in West Hartford have been abused by contractors,” said DeHertogh. He reassures customers he is reliable, conscientious, will pay attention to the smallest details and will not take advantage of them. So far, he’s been successful by word-of-mouth and hasn’t had to advertise. Although his jobs are mostly residential, he is getting insured soon to be licensed to work commercial.
Encouraged by his parents to continue his education, he is also working toward an associate’s degree in criminal justice at Tunxis Community College. He attends night courses and expects to finish next December. As a fallback career, he’s thinking about becoming a policeman or state trooper some day.
But the landscaping business is in his blood and he has no plans to stop, even if it means being self-motivated to go to bed early, get up early and constantly look for work.
“You have to give up a lot of free time,” DeHertogh acknowledged. “But I’ll be doing this for years to come.”
Peter DeHertogh, owner of Pete’s Landscaping, may be reached at (860) 463-3661.