WATERLOO — Professional Lawn Care has been mowing grass and plowing snow in the Cedar Valley for nearly five decades.
The business Dennis Lickteig started in 1971 from his two-stall garage on Butterfield Road is now undergoing a major expansion near the Waterloo Regional Airport.
Nearly 30,000 square feet of new buildings are going up on Wagner Road to house the company’s growing lawn care, snow removal, landscaping and tree service business.
“I started out with a pickup box and Mercury Colony Park station wagon,” Lickteig recalled. “I ran ads in the paper and started out tilling gardens.”
Formerly known as Lickteig and Sons, Professional Lawn Care relocated to James Street in the Riverview Neighborhood in the 1980s and has grown into one of the largest lawn care businesses in the Cedar Valley.
“I’ve been very fortunate,” Lickteig said. “I made it through the ‘80s when a lot of others failed.”
His daughter, Kristi Simmerman, and grandson, Andrew Lickteig, have assumed much of the day-to-day management of the company, which has seen four generations of the family sit on a mower or drive a plow.
“But it’s still Dad’s business,” Simmerman said. “This has been his dream for years and years and years.”
Simmerman remembers being a kindergartener sitting on her dad’s lap while they plowed snow from the former Schoitz Hospital parking lot on Kimball Avenue, while Andrew recalls mowing yards as a 7-year-old.
“We are definitely a family business,” Andrew Lickteig said. His father and uncle still help during busy times.
Professional Lawn Care acquired its new 4.4-acre site in a growing light industrial area the city developed on Wagner Road. A 14,000-square-foot heated shop and office is expected to be completed by the end of this year, while another 12,000-square-foot building and 3,000-square-foot salt storage facility are also in the works.
“As the equipment grew our needs grew,” Andrew Lickteig said. “We’re up to 16- foot snow pushers and we have a 12-foot door at the current location.
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“Everything finally aligned with the city to get started last spring,” he added. “We looked at several locations. We do a lot of work in Waterloo. We do a lot of work in Cedar Falls. This put us pretty centrally located.”
Professional Lawn Care has expanded beyond mowing — it currently cuts 530 acres of turf grass a week — and snow removal, adding design-to-build landscaping services and an emergency tree service.
“We’re definitely trying to diversify,” Andrew Lickteig said. “Anything outdoors, if you call, we’ll do it.”
The company also gets involved in the community, including helping out in emergencies. Professional Lawn Care ran five tractors for 50 hours straight to help the sandbagging effort during the flood of 2008 and also used its equipment to evacuate Russell Lamson residents.
“Dad’s instilled that in us: You help the community, you volunteer,” Simmerman said.
The company also supports the Cedar Valley buy running only John Deere equipment.
Dennis Lickteig believes the secret to staying in business for nearly 50 years included the support of his customers and lenders but also a commitment to quality work and being upfront and honest in business dealings.
“I don’t do anything without giving a quote,” he said. “I tell them what it’s going to cost and stick with that.
“Cosmetics and quality pays off. When we go to do a job, the customer knows what it’s going to cost before we start and people know that we’re going to get it done.”
Lickteig recalled times over the years working marathon shifts plowing snow during blizzards with little sleep. He received accolades in the 1970s for helping plow a road to rescue motorists trapped outside of Dike but also remembers quietly helping plow a road for a mother desperately needing medicine for a sick child.
Lickteig, now 76, is still happy to man a snow plow when the need arises.
“I enjoy it, I really do,” he said. “That’s what keeps me going.”