By Kinjal Dagli Shah
Gerrard Bouwmeister would be mighty proud of the lineage he left behind.
A landscape gardener in Holland, Gerrard immigrated to Canada along with his son Bernard in 1957. Today, two of Gerrard’s grandsons run an award-winning landscaping company out of Stouffville, keeping their heritage intact and their know-how within the family. Gary and John Bouwmeister are cousins and partners in Bouwmeister Landscaping Ltd, which has been in Town since 1981.
“My father Bernard started his own company called New Holland Landscaping soon after they immigrated. I worked with my father when I was in high school and developed a passion for the business,” said Gary. Armed with a diploma in Horticulture, Gary had a vision of an even bigger business and wanted to do it on his own. “My father was a great mentor and gave me a thumbs up. He taught me that service and follow-ups are the most important aspects of running this business and we follow his advice to date.”
Gary founded the company in 1981 and moved it to its current location the following year. His two brothers also run their own landscaping businesses and often work with him. In 2005, Gary joined hands with cousin John, who holds degrees from Humber College, Ryerson University and the Toronto School of Business.
Family folklore says that John began playing in the mud long before he could walk. “When following in our grandfather’s and father’s footsteps, we know they always believed in hard work, customer satisfaction and company accountability. Having our name on each job we undertake is a matter of pride, transparency and dedication,” said John, a father of three.
For Gary too, landscaping runs in his blood and veins. “I was always involved with my grandfather and father’s work. That’s all we talked about at the dinner table, and still do. I continue to be very passionate about it, as there is nothing better than creating something that’s so artistic and leaves a big smile on people’s faces,” said the father of two, adding, “We’ve expanded the business to include home renovation and have three designers and two architects on the staff. We love serving the community of Stouffville, and our clients now include the children of people whose landscapes we created 25-30 years ago.”
Judging by their success, it looks like a family-run business can thrive with the right combination. “I think it’s healthy and always interesting when you meet because there’s so much more in common,” said Gary, whose 14-year-old son has lately developed a keen interest in the business just like his father did as a teenager. John too, is a believer in the family recipe for success. “There is mutual trust and respect when you have a family business. You rely on each other for support and advice.”
Ultimately, as Gary believes, the Bouwmeisters are meant to be landscapers. “Our cousins are also involved in landscaping and our particular family has done very well in the industry. The Dutch are known for their green thumb and it’s definitely worked out for us.”