So many staples of spring and summer life in Rhode Island will be different, or absent, this year due to the pandemic.
Festivals, parades and fireworks displays have been called off, while it remains uncertain when summer camps, beach days and visits to parks can resume. Outdoor dining has resumed on a limited basis at many restaurants, but others remain closed or open solely for take-out.
What won’t change for homeowners is the desire to keep up, and spend time in, their yards and gardens. For many who have unexpectedly found themselves at home, the current crisis has afforded the small consolation of having a chance to catch up on overdue projects or previously unnoticed needs.
“We’re actually really, really busy right now because everyone is home and noticing things they probably weren’t paying as much attention to,” said Laurie Brandt of Coventry-based All Seasons Maintenance & Construction.
Brandt and her husband, All Seasons founder and president Don Brandt, provide a range of lawn maintenance, landscaping and outdoor construction services – the design and installation of walkways, patios and fire pits, mulching and planting, shrub trimming, “really anything” related to the outdoors.
The company mostly serves communities in the Kent County area – Warwick, Coventry, West Warwick – although it will go to cities and towns across the state for its patio and fire pit work.
While the business has seen steady business during the pandemic, Brandt said the kind of work being sought has shifted. There has been a “definite uptick” in construction projects, she said, while the maintenance side of the business has slowed down.
The reason? People who now find themselves at home are, in many cases, getting a lawnmower or other equipment and doing that work themselves.
“They don’t know when they’re going back to work,” she said.
As a result, Brandt said All Seasons has adjusted its workforce, using members of the lawn maintenance crew on the construction side for two days a week.
“Thank God the guys have been really understanding… They’ve been great,” she said.
Customers spending so much time at home has produced another trend as well. Places where people spend the most time outdoors – patios and fire pits in particular — “seem to really be the popular” projects for customers at present, Brandt said.
Those projects are a favorite of Don’s, she added: “He loves designing it and creating it and watching it really come to life.”
Kurt Wilcox Jr. at Hopkins Hill Nursery in West Greenwich said his business – which sells plants ranging from small perennials to large evergreen trees, along with mulch and soil, other landscaping materials and holiday décor — said he, too, has seen a surge in customer interest.
“To be honest with you, a lot of people are shopping. We’re having one of the best years we’ve ever had,” he said.
Asked what has been most popular among shoppers, Wilcox chuckled and said: “You want a laugh? It’s really blocking out their neighbors.”
As people spend more time on decks and patios, it seems, they are seeking ways to enhance their privacy – and Wilcox said screening plants have been in high demand. Flowers, mulch and other related materials are also moving quickly, he said, a testament to the new focus many have placed on their gardens.
In terms of the business of doing business, Brandt and Wilcox both said their approach has shifted.
Brandt said All Seasons is expanding its social media outreach, adding an Instagram profile to its existing Facebook page. And in addition to shifting their responsibilities to meet demand, workers have also adjusted to the current situation from a safety standpoint – wearing masks on the job and practicing social distancing.
Wilcox said it’s “tough being outside” in the current climate, and to do business without traditional customs such as handshakes. Hopkins Hill Nursery asks customers to wear masks and practice social distancing, he said, while one person at a time is allowed inside its office.
To learn more about All Seasons Maintenance & Construction, call 743-9991 or visit allseasonsnewengland.com.
To learn more about Hopkins Hill Nursery, call 392-3137 or visit hopkinshillnursery.com.