“The WA320s move loads with ease”
Myron Kukuk has always loved dirt – from how it smells to the way it feels – but his affinity for landscaping took a little longer to develop.
“I hated it,” laughed Kukuk. “When I was in high school, I helped the neighbors with their landscaping, and I hated every minute of it. There’s no other way to say it.”
Despite that, the work eventually grew on him. Kukuk is President of Landscape Direct, a year-round, full-service landscape operation based in Washington Township, Mich. He even built his family’s house on the 25-acre property. It’s safe to say that his aversion toward the industry has disappeared.
“I have come to appreciate the business,” he admitted. “I’m glad I started doing it back then, because I really enjoy what I do today. I get to play in the dirt; now I hate paperwork.”
Kukuk eventually realized that landscaping offered more than the chance to work outside – it gave him a path to a successful future in which he could develop a great, secure client base for his company. In 1982, he started Myron’s Yard Care and focused on installation and lawn maintenance. Eight years later, he purchased an acreage in Washington Township and then opened Landscape Direct in 1992. The new location gave him the opportunity to add retail and wholesale operations.
Today, the company has 13 employees, including Kukuk’s wife, Elvira, who is the Center’s Account and Relations Manager, and son, Tom, who serves as the Distribution Manager, in addition to longtime employees Inventory and Equipment Manager Luis Alvarado as well as Nursery and Product Sales Manager Steve Susalla.
Landscape Direct continues to service both residential and commercial landscaping customers with a huge selection of landscaping supplies and 36 years of knowledge.
“We have everything from plants to bulk aggregates, and our customers include everyone from homeowners buying a plant to large contractors looking for boulders,” noted Kukuk. “We’re here for everyone.”
The Mulch Guys
Bulk mulch is one of the top sellers for Landscape Direct. From its Supply Center location approximately 40 minutes north of Detroit, the company sells five different colors of mulch, along with three hardwoods and another six varieties. With high demand for the product, Kukuk was building a relationship with Mike Deming and developing a better understanding of processing mulch in large quantities.
“Mike and I worked together a lot,” recalled Kukuk. “His company was called The Mulch Guy, and he had a great product – it was always clean, and his crews did a terrific job. He was originally based in Saginaw, but opened a Detroit location in 2014. Mike’s goal was to grow the site, and he needed more resources, so we teamed up to allow for expansion. Now we’re The Mulch Guys.”
“Myron’s been in business for a long time; he has a great reputation and a lot of knowledge,” said Deming. “I was growing so quickly that I needed assistance. It was great to be able to have him help me get to where I’m at.”
Deming’s move to the 16-acre location in Detroit has proven to be a game-changer as he estimates his operation, which has five employees, has grown 30 percent each year.
“We’re the only mulch producer in the city of Detroit,” stated Deming. “For a significant population, we are the closest spot that will accept wood; and the same goes for selling mulch. Most producers are up north, so our location allows customers to do three or four loads in a day, compared to one or two. I would say most of the wood that comes in is cut within 15 miles of here.”
The Detroit yard produces more than 200,000 yards of mulch annually for wholesale distribution. The key to its success is strict dedication to a clean product.
“We watch everything that comes in here very closely,” shared Deming. “We only accept virgin wood waste – no treated wood, pallets or two-by-fours. We don’t want the garbage and other items that are unavoidable with those loads. We pick through the material before grinding it because we are committed to producing a clean product.”
While The Mulch Guys and Landscape Direct don’t have an exclusive relationship, Deming does use Landscape Direct to test-market mulch colors.
“Part of our process involves coloring the mulch we produce,” explained Deming. “We can do up to 20 colors, including several shades of brown. If we want to gauge how one will do for us, we’ll ship some up to Myron, because he has the room and the customer base to gather good feedback. He lets us know if people like it or not.”
With business booming at both operations, downtime means serious losses. That is why Kukuk turned to CEC and Sales Rep Greg Doyal for a quartet of Komatsu WA320-8 wheel loaders.
“Greg sold me my first new piece of equipment when we were developing a 40-acre sports site in 2005,” said Kukuk. “It was a D39 Komatsu dozer; at the time one of the first enclosed cab units.”
Since then, Doyal and CEC have continued to deliver.
“We recently needed a machine that could operate in tight areas, which are full of hazards. The WA320s are amazing. They are able to get around the yards and move loads with ease.
“The primary material we move is mulch. That isn’t terribly heavy compared to topsoil, so our main focus is on efficiency,” he continued. “The 320s check all the boxes. They handle well and don’t burn a lot of fuel. They run all day, and we typically refuel every other day and only have to add DEF once a week. They save us a lot of time and money.”
CEC also helped customize the wheel loaders so they are equipped to thrive in the hazard-rich environments in which they work. A logging package that includes extra guarding reinforcements and skid plates was added. All four are outfitted with Tink roll-out buckets and solid rubber tires.
“Adding the Tink buckets was the best thing we did,” Deming said. “These high-tip buckets give us the extra lift to fill trucks and reach the hoppers without having to build loading ramps. This allows us to keep piles anywhere and operate more efficiently.”
In addition to excellent equipment, the service and attention they receive from CEC has been outstanding, noted Kukuk. He went through Komatsu Financial to purchase the wheel loaders and trusts Komatsu CARE, which provides complimentary service maintenance on Tier 4 machines for the first 2,000 hours or three years of machine operation, to keep his equipment running.
“From using Komatsu Financial to purchase the equipment to CEC’s service technicians taking care of our machines through Komatsu CARE, Komatsu and CEC continue to add value to their equipment,” stated Kukuk. “They’ve gone above and beyond for us. They get it. That’s why we continue to call on them again and again.”