A Brief History of Clement Bros. Lawn & Landscape (1977-1990)
Clement Bros. Lawn & Landscape traces its roots to 1977, when Roger Clement, Jr. secured jobs mowing the lawns of Florence Johnson ($2.00) and the Union Church in Naples village ($8.00). Other early customers included Inez Powell in the village, then Aunt Harriet, Nancy Bove and Rosie Bischoffberger. The Business really took off in 1980 when Roger turned 16, got his driver’s license, and bought his first pickup truck, a green ’73 Chevy.The $1,300 purchase price consumed all of Roger’s savings, so it sat in the yard for two weeks after he bought it while he finished a painting job that provided the funds to register and insure the truck. In 1981, Roger bought his first mowing Tractor—a (heavily) used John Deere model 300.
By 1981, younger brothers Brian (14) and Mark (13) were working very hard in the business. People were sometimes skeptical that such young boys could really do the heavy work, but that skepticism always melted into admiration for the heart and hustle that compensated for a lack of physical size. That winter brought heavy snowfall and a lucrative roof shoveling season. In the spring of that year, Roger would rise early to plant trees and shrubs at the newly built Bay of Naples Condominiums, then go to high school (his senior year at Lake Region), then work after school until dark, nearly every day. Weekends brought non-stop work.
Word of the Clement Brothers work ethic spread, and the phone rang constantly with new customers. Somehow, the business flourished despite the absence of a computer or cell phone, or even an answering machine! Our work and reputation were our only advertising. Mowing usually continued until after dark (the tractors had lights), and evenings were spent writing out bills by hand and planning the route for the following day.
Our business plan was simple: rise early, mow as many lawns as humanly possible until darkness made us stop, be honest and friendly and collect a fair price.In the fall of 1982, Roger went off to Bowdoin College, and Brian’s and Mark’s roles became even more important. The business continued to expand, growing to about 75 customers—many of them with very large lawns—in Naples, Casco, Bridgton, Raymond and Harrison.
In 1984, Clement Bros expanded via the purchase of another old (1972) Chevrolet pickup truck when middle brother Brian became old enough to obtain his drivers license. Most of the summer Roger and Mark worked together with two John Deere lawn and garden tractors hauled on the original tandem axle trailer built by Dad (Roger, Sr.). As a testament to Dad’s steel fabrication skills, the trailer he built is still in regular use. Brian purchased and towed a smaller trailer with another John Deere tractor. At this point the business was vibrant enough for Crew #1 (Roger and Mark) to exclusively mow but Crew #2 (Brian) also needed to paint, cut brush, and do other chores.
The following year Roger graduated from Bowdoin College and handed the baton to his younger brothers. There could be no better role model for the younger brothers to follow and they were well prepared to take the helm. Roger continued to help with advice and consulting for many years and left a successful mowing business with a large number of loyal clients to his brothers. The same year youngest brother Mark attained his driver’s license and purchased yet another old Chevrolet (1970) pickup truck and he and Brian rotated which truck was used each week. Whichever brother was not driving was in charge of making lunch that week.
Brian was the better driver but Mark made much better lunches!
Over the years Clement Bros. hired numerous part time employees for various functions but most frequently for Spring and Fall raking– all by hand in those days. Among the more memorable part timers were Roger Clement, Sr., Ken Ginder (now Roger’s law partner at Verrill Dana, LLP in Portland), David Kilborn, Alex Hutcheon, and Joe Ring. In 1986 the company hired its first full time non-family employee, Ted “Trimmer” Smith. Ted shared a similar work ethic and faith and worked in the business for several years. When Ted moved on years later he was replaced by Jeremy Ring.
Brian graduated from Colby College in 1990 and left the business in Mark’s capable hands. Around the same time Roger decided to go to law school and spent some time back in the business while studying for the Maine Bar exam. In 1990 the business was up to 100 mowing customers. The business had grown almost entirely from word of mouth advertising. The company name wasn’t even painted on the trucks, the bills were written and sent out by hand, and the employees knew very little about landscaping, but the business was successful enough so each of the three brothers was able to pay 100% of his own way through college.
Thanks to our parents (Roger, Sr. and Jacqueline), we had very low overhead—free room and board (all the baked beans and garden vegetables we could eat) and a good place to store and care for our equipment. Our father’s mechanical skills helped keep the equipment running on many occasions. Our mother deployed her terrific people skills to refer us some good customers, and prepared the mountains of healthy food that fueled us. More important, we learned our work ethic by watching the perpetual motion of our parents. They worked tirelessly to provide for the family. In addition to their “regular” jobs, they ran a summer cabin business, sold firewood, plowed driveways, grew and preserved vegetables, and raised pigs and turkeys. By watching them, we learned that hard work not only pays off financially, but also instills quiet self-confidence, builds character, leads to humility, and allows us to sleep well.
With Mark becoming the sole owner in 1990, the business underwent major changes in size, scope, and professionalism as he took it to a new level and era for Clement Bros. Mark studied engineering at Northeastern University before transferring to Southern Maine Technical College, where he earned a degree in horticulture. After taking over the reins from Brian in the Spring of 1990, Mark hired an eager high school student to replace him. It didn’t take very long for him to realize that he needed 2 more kids to replace the huge gap that Brian left. After all, Brian and Mark often logged 16 hour days and Mark was lucky to get an occasional 10 hour day from Brian’s replacement.
Even though that summer was full of trials and tribulations, Mark knew in his heart that he wanted to pursue a career in landscaping. In the fall of 1990, Mark enrolled in a horticulture program at Southern Maine Technical College. He decided on S.M.T.C. instead of University of Maine or New Hampshire so that he could be close to the growing business.
By the time Mark graduated in 1992, he had 3-4 full time, seasonal employees. The knowledge he had gained at S.M.T.C. was beginning to pay off. Up to this point, Clement Bros. had been mostly a lawn mowing company that also did spring and fall cleanups. He now wanted to expand the company by offering landscape design and installation and in addition to expanding maintenance services by adding plant and lawn care. After graduating, Mark had free time in the off season and he was able to explore another passion of his which was foreign travel.
Over the next few winters, he was fortunate to be able to travel extensively through Africa, Central America, Southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand. Every year, he would return in time to start up the business when the snow melted. Many customers looked forward to hearing about his travel adventures and by telling them all about it, it pushed him to work even harder in order to be able to travel the following winter.
In the spring of 1995 while cleaning out a customer’s garden in Bridgton he met Lindsay, who he married the following year. In the fall of 1995, Mark purchased his first brand new truck with a snow plow which allowed Clement Bros. to be a full service company. Through the next few years, the business grew rapidly. 25% - 30% growth in all areas was not unusual. By the end of 1999, Clement Bros. had over 200 clients in a 15 mile radius, 10 seasonal employees and Mark was “wearing too many hats”. Mark felt like the business was beginning to lose some of the founding principles due to the high rate of growth & many sleepless nights. Lindsay, who had been helping with the office work nights & weekends to this point decided to leave her current job to work full time for Clement Bros.
Lindsay spent the next couple of years developing a professional gardening division as well as streamlining the office duties before our son Ezekiel was born in 2000. That year also brought the acquisition of our first non-family year round employee (Mike Miller) who would help transition Clement Bros. into the next decade. Mike brought with him several years of valuable experience in the industry which enabled Mark to focus more on strengthening the core values of the company that his brothers instilled upon him years ago. With Mike’s knowledge, the business began to offer hardscaping services which grew rapidly in the ensuing years.Over the next few years, Clement Bros. continued steady & controllable growth. They focused on hiring knowledgeable individuals to develop & professionalize their services. They proceeded to add 3 more full-time people, who are still with them today.
Their hard work, continuing education and striving for excellence are a large part of where they are today. They also invested thousands of dollars in the best equipment to ensure the finest quality & dependability to their clients. Clement Bros. pride themselves on having virtually no equipment “downtime”. As of 2010, Clement Bros. staff of 13 maintains over 300 residential & commercial properties in the Sebago Lake Region area. They offer design, installation & professional maintenance all year long.