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Nothing but the Best Profile: Christopher Rosa, Owner and President, Alpine Landscape Company

Interview by
Leslie McGuire, managing editor

Right, inset: Christopher Rosa, Owner and President, Alpine Landscape Company.
Images courtesy of Alpine
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Established in 1985 Alpine Landscape Company Inc. specializes in custom design and expert installation of interlocking pavers, segmental retaining walls, landscape design and installation, irrigation and landscape lighting for both residential and commercial applications. Their reputation, knowledge and expertise has earned them respect and recognition throughout New England as one of the leaders in the Interlocking Paver and Landscape Industry.

Christopher Rosa, owner and president of Alpine Landscape Company remembers that, "When we first made the change to hardscaping, we sent every employee to be certified as ICPI installers for interlock and NCMA for retaining walls, and I just became a ICPI certified permeable instructor. We intend to get all our staff certified as permeable paver installers as well. That's the next level
of expertise."

Owner and President, Christopher Rosa, has countless years of experience behind him in all aspects of the paver and landscape industry. Says Rosa, "I started by helping my grandfather at age 10. He came from Italy when he was 18 and was a landscaper and mason by trade. After his death when I was 12, I kept on. When I was 16, I bought my first pickup truck and did landscaping after school and on weekends. After high school I went to Essex Agricultural and Technical Institute and took up horticulture while still maintaining
the business."

"Our favorite projects are the outdoor living projects," explains Rosa. "Making a backyard into an extension of the home with outdoor kitchens is very popular. People want to put more money into their homes right now."

"My biggest challenge was staying in college full time while growing the business at the same time," he continues. "It meant a lot of long days and long nights. Fortunately, I had a crew I could depend on. One employee has been with me for 24 of the last 25 years. Another has been here 18 years, and one for 20 years. I take care of them and they take care of me."

"The great thing about my staff is they all live by the philosophy of the company, which is that the customer is most important. Without the clients, we wouldn't be able to come to work. We've always been focused on giving the customer the best possible job."

"I've found that merging with other companies is a very good way to grow a company," Rosa observes. "Right now, we have three offices--one on the North Shore, our original corporate headquarters out of Metro Boston in Malden, and Medway, which is our Metro West office. The largest is Malden."

"Alpine does design as well as installation. All our designs are done by Sean Green, who is my vice president. He does a lot of freehand with the shading and the coloring because people seem to prefer freehand presentations. He used to do a lot of CAD, but the freehand makes for a better presentation," Rosa explains. "Sean used to have a company out of Medway called Environmental Land Work. A year ago we merged together which brought us a second location with their customer base. We are actually working on another merger right now on the North shore. That will give us coverage up in that area."

"Alpine has three divisions, our maintenance division, our landscape construction division and our interlocking pavers and segmental retaining walls division," Rosa states. "The largest division is the interlocking pavers and retaining wall division. For construction such as retaining walls and interlocking pavers we travel all over Massachusetts, Rhode Island and southern New Hampshire."

"We want to spearhead the permeable paver movement in the North East by educating people, giving them options like getting the water back into the ground and replenishing the aquifers so we can stop runoff and waste and damage to the ecosystems." Rosa points out, "If we don't move into sustainable landscapes, we're going to be
in trouble."

"We run Ford trucks and they vary from pickups to large dump trucks that each carry our logo and branding. We have between 28 and 34 employees at any given time. They include both seasonal and full time people," Rosa explains. "We do have a snow division, but it is only commercial, not residential. Our trucks are too big to do residential snow removal. We have both standard and V-plows as well as pushers for our machines which are a mix of Bobcat and Caterpillar.

"The larger municipal jobs present the biggest challenge," Rosa says. "There are so many people involved: The general contractor, usually a site contractor too, the architect, the state plus the project owners. Sometimes there are eight people ahead of us before we can get in and do our job."

"The great thing about my staff is they all live by the philosophy of the company, which is that the customer is most important.
--Christopher Rosa

He continues, "We have the standard machines for landscape installation and maintenance -- mowers, trimmers, plate compactors, concrete saws, and small equipment of varying brands We do all our vehicle small maintenance in house, but all the major repairs get sent out."

"The present economy is the biggest challenge right now," Rosa maintains. "The first things people cut back on are nonessential services and landscaping is nonessential, especially in the residential market. If people want to beautify their property, they'll still do it and spend the money, but they want it to last a lifetime."

"Our Optimas machine is very specialized, and there are not very many in this country. We're the only firm in New England who has one. It can lay 9 to 14 square feet at a time, and gets us away from hand laying of pavers for large commercial projects," says Rosa. "That allows us to go in on commercial paving projects and do a job in one quarter of the time, making it possible to compete with asphalt installations.

"We can do a job and still be friends with the customer after five years," Rosa notes. "They refer us to other people, and they send us Christmas cards and gifts for years afterwards. The most important aspect of what we do is that we do exactly what we tell them we'll do. We show up on time, we fulfill the contract and give them exactly what they're paying for. We make sure they're 100
percent happy."

He adds, "As far as sustainability is concerned, installing permeable paving is one of the best ways to cut down runoff into storm systems. We put the water back, which replenishes the ground water. We can also install Aquascapes water recapture systems for irrigation. If we don't take care of the earth it's not going to be here much longer. We're trying to lead the charge. The permeable paving also counts toward LEED credit."

"We apply sustainable principles, water reclamation systems for irrigation, low maintenance landscapes, permeable pavers, organic fertilizers, native plantings, and non-invasives to cut down on pesticides. All our fertilizer and insect control services are subbed out to a company that specializes in all organic products."

"Our most important tools for success are our employees, and we try to educate them as much as possible. If they're educated they can pass the knowledge on to the customers," Rosa states. "The information we present helps them make the best decisions for their projects, and then we all get a much better landscape."

"A big tool for us is our relationships with the manufacturers and suppliers. We started with Unilock in 2000. They give us their support and marketing, and the education they give us means they stand behind us. Without them, we wouldn't have had the ability to succeed in the permeable paving business. They stand behind us every step of the way and have reps on every site."

"The most important machine we presently have is an Optimas, which is a machine we use for mechanical paver installations. On large projects where we have the accessibility--in other words, 2,500 square feet or more--we use the Optimas. In good conditions it can lay 5,000 to 10,000 square feet per day with just a driver/operator and
a laborer."

"For some contractors in general, it's all about making money. Some want to do everything, but again you have to master one skill before you move on to the next. A good contractor should be able to do everything they take on well, not take on six different divisions and do a half-baked job," observes Rosa. "I'd rather have everything we put our name to be great rather than doing something I know isn't right. That's why we don't do certain projects and that's also why we've been in business for 25 years."

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November 18, 2019, 10:34 am PDT

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