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An Ultimate Calling
Lessons Learned from a Success Story 50 Years in the Making


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Incorporated in Connecticut in 1971 by a teenaged John Chiarella, who continues as the owner today, Ultimate Services is a grounds management company that not only provides lawn and tree care, irrigation installation and integrated pest control, but also offers many specialized services including designing and installing hardscaped areas, water features, formal gardens, golf greens, tennis courts; even setting up and caring for bee hives and tapping trees to extract maple syrup for customers.


"I love what I do. I love the customers. I love my employees. It is a great feeling to do what we do," proclaims John Chiarella, who as owner of Connecticut-based Ultimate Services for 46 years has had plenty of time to confirm that assertion.

His stint enhancing the outdoor beauty in the area actually spans longer than that. As a young teenager, a few years before Chiarella formerly established his company, he would call, each spring, every doctor, lawyer and real estate agent in the phone book to offer his services. Those efforts, and one push mower, became the foundation for a landscape maintenance realm.

Bracing for Growth
In 1971, while he was still in high school, Chiarella incorporated for $50, an amount that seemed large at the time but is now looked on with amusing nostalgia. Studies at the University of Connecticut were next with the eventual goal of a career in the legal field, but in the meantime, Ultimate Services carried on, with weekday work being completed by the company"s first employees who were assisted on weekends and through the summers by their boss.

After receiving a bachelor"s in liberal arts, Chiarella decided to wait a year before law school to bank some money. But plans are meant to change.

"I never went back," he admits with not even a hint of regret. "I just continued working."



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This truck lot is at the company"s headquarters, which comprises about 40 acres in Wolcott. Branch operations are located in Branford and Greenwich. After landing his initial big commercial job, a local utility, Chiarella purchased his first truck. The company now has 60-65 dump trucks, rack body trucks and box trucks, and load all maintenance equipment in them as they learned over the years that the inconveniences of towing and parking trailers outweighed their usefulness. Chiarella says that he started using Isuzu trucks a while ago and found that they last the longest. In-house mechanics service the vehicles but they outsource major repairs. For fueling purposes, there are large, aboveground tanks for gas and diesel. Tankers come in every week to fill them up.


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Chiarella started with one walk-behind mower while in high school. The first machine he bought was an edger for $250 from the father of one of his earliest employees. Ultimate Services now has hundreds of mowers and has such a strong relationship with Hustler that they are a dealer of that brand. Also, the company used to service all the equipment of another brand in the area but now only services their own.


In the Company of Good People One of Chiarella"s earliest influences was Donald Giampietro, a man he describes as a brilliant designer and builder who was way ahead of his time. His company, Westbrook Nursery, created advanced irrigation systems and, uncommon, at the time, water features like waterfalls. (Donald also was the father of Matthew Giampietro, who was featured in the July issue of LC/DBM in Smart Stream Building.)

Besides being a patient teacher, or as Chiarella puts it, "my mentor," the senior Giampietro would send work his way. One of the company"s first employees, who became a fireman, continued to work at Ultimate services for "40-something years and he still works here as does his son."

Chiarella has supervisors that have been with him over 20 years. His oldest living customer has been with him for 42 years. His first big account, at $10,000/year, was a local phone company that 40 years later is still on the client list.

"Forty-six years in business nowadays is a feat in itself," Chiarella reckons.



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Ultimate Services also has its own 33,000 square feet nursery. Besides growing plants to install on customers" properties, the company also rents out palm trees and citrus trees and then stores them in the offseason.


"We Service the Client Period."

It's a simple motto but one that says much in a short space. Ultimate"s basic services include lawn and tree care, pest management and irrigation. The company also offers many specialized ones: they have fine gardeners that do specialized pruning, they install hardscape, water features, elaborate putting greens and tennis courts for residential homes.

Their own 33,000 square foot nursery allows them to rent out palm trees and citrus trees and then store them in the fall. Customers hire them to decorate with seasonal color and holiday lighting.

Installation and maintenance of orchards, vineyards, vegetable gardens, and pumpkin patches are part of Ultimate"s offerings. The company even has an apiary division that installs and maintains beehives, extracts the honey, jars it and private labels it for customers, who can also get their maple trees tapped for syrup.

"We really do anything the client needs," Chiarella admits. "My work staff is a strong group of people that can do almost anything."



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The number of employees fluctuates between 70 to 120 depending on the time of year and the jobs that they have. This includes about seven office staff and three to four mechanics.


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As part of their integrated pest management services, Ultimate offers organic programs as well as more traditional ones. The company holds licenses in the states of New York and Connecticut to do so.


Tools of the Trade
The first machine that Chiarella bought was a used edger for $250, for which the seller agreed to be paid in installments. His initial truck was purchased after landing his first big commercial account. The company now has around 60 vehicles.

A typical property maintenance truck is outfitted with a zero-turn and walk-behind mowers, trimmers and blowers. Ultimate Service's bigger machines include backhoes, skid steers, bucket trucks, chippers and bigger trucks that you need a CDL license to drive. They do rent machines such larger backhoes and cranes as needed.

Gasoline and diesel supplied by aboveground tanks that get filled weekly, are the main sources of fuel though Chiarella's fleet does include propane-powered skid steers.

"We are going into electric," he admits. "Some of the places we do business with don't want noise. We are seeing more of that." In the past, the company used to depend on Locke gang mowers, which were designed with a reel in front and one on each side. "We were one of the first, and probably longest-lasting users of the mowers," recalls Chiarella. When he first started acquiring them in the 1980s, they cost about $1,600. "I bought six of them every year to beef up our inventory," he says. The last one cost $5,400. They provided the best cut a lawn can get."



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Bigger machines in the company's inventory include excavators, skid steers, bucket trucks, wood chippers and bigger trucks that require CDL licenses to drive. Chiarella says he buys whatever brand the staff seems to like best. When needed, the company does rent larger equipment such as when installing rooftop gardens where trees and shrubs have to be brought in by a crane.


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Other special services that Ultimate offers are installation and maintenance of orchards, vineyards, vegetable gardens and pumpkin patches. And they are an official dealer of artificial turf supplier Southwest Greens.


The Fruits of Labor
The company's present location in Wolcott, Connecticut, comprises about 65,000 square feet that includes the nursery. There are also branch offices in Branford and Greenwich.

Depending on the year and the jobs on the books, the employee role has ranged from 70 to 120. The present staff numbers about 100. Besides seven office staff and four mechanics, the rest are field workers.

Chiarella does use the H2B program, hiring between 25 to 75 from year to year. He thinks it is a very good program though for a couple of years, found it difficult to participate.

"We're trying to work through those issues," he says. "Being in business so long, I know there are challenges every time I turn around but I just chalk it up to business and we just deal with every challenge and stay focused."

To further increase his knowledge base, Chiarella has taken horticultural classes at University of Connecticut. One former professor was a turf specialist who had a connection with Wimbledon and got Chiarella consulting work there where he got to see what kind of seed they used and how the soil gets prepared for what is claimed to be the finest turf in the world.

A Look Backward
"It's just interesting to watch the progression of the company," Chiarella muses. "I love what we do. It's a customer-based business and when I say never save for tomorrow what we have to do today, I truly live by it."

Chiarella admits that it is a little bittersweet when he considers the time gone by. But he seems full of gratitude and gratification about his extensive, productive career. "I wouldn't trade it for anything. It still gives me great pleasure so I think it was a good move for me many years ago."



As seen in LC/DBM magazine, September 2017.






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October 16, 2017, 3:01 pm PDT

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Last Updated 10-16-17
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