Western Turf growing in new home

Western Turf and Hardscapes recently moved into a new 7,000 square-foot facility on Barron Way in Reno.

Western Turf and Hardscapes recently moved into a new 7,000 square-foot facility on Barron Way in Reno. Courtesy Western Turf and Hardscapes

The Great Recession that began in 2008, followed by a drought year in 2009, almost spelled the end for Western Turf.

Instead, Western Turf General Manager Laura Perry and Vice President Jason Perry turned what could have been a death-knell into what’s now the company’s largest product line by revenue by pivoting into selling hardscape and bulk landscaping materials rather than just turf.

“It was scary, and we had to do a lot of homework,” Laura Perry said of the change the company undertook. “We had to figure out a whole new product line, work the numbers, and determine what we needed to do to start this new endeavor. We had to completely educate ourselves on hardscapes – what products, colors and vendors we needed.”

The company was founded in 1978 as Western Turf, but today it’s known as Western Turf and Hardscapes to reflect the wider range of landscaping materials it offers. Western Turf and Hardscapes recently moved into a new 7,000 square-foot facility on Barron Way in Reno, yet another pivot brought on by growth – mostly in the hardscape business – since those dark days of the late 2000s and early 2010s.

After determining how to pivot, the Perrys drew up a comprehensive business plan detailing the company’s shift into hardscapes and discussed the plan over lunch with Western Turf and Hardscapes President Harry Fahnestock, Jr. and wife Joanne, the company’s secretary and treasurer and Jason Perry’s parents.

A modest investment of around $25,000 from the Fahnestocks ultimately saved the company.

Laurea Perry and Jason Perry

 "They had faith in us,” Laura Perry said. “We knew we had to do something. But there’s only so much you can do with pen and paper; after that came the real work. That move made us realize we never again wanted to have all our eggs in one basket, so we also moved into landscape rock, soils, aggregates, decking and lighting. We never wanted to just have one product dictate the path of our business.”

Prior to moving into its new facility, Western Turf and Hardscapes was shoehorned into an older building at 465 Tacchino Street. The brick building constructed in 1962 offered no onsite parking, cramped office space, and a poor flow of trucks through the materials yard. The move to a bigger headquarters facility was long overdue, Jason Perry said.

Western Turf and Hardscapes leased the Tacchino Street facility in 2010, moving from an even smaller location off 21st Street in Sparks when it just sold turf grass.

“This place is a showroom,” Jason Perry told NNBW in an interview during the company’s grand opening event earlier this month. “This is a place where customers can come and shop inside, but we also have 4,000 to 5,000 square feet of displays outside like waterfalls and water and fire features. Customers can let their creativity go wild with outdoor kitchens, pergolas, or anything else they can dream up.

“We needed to have a more comfortable place for people to shop,” Perry added. “We needed to increase our retail exposure, and our wholesale clients needed to be able to send retail clients to us. A lot of companies we compete with are nationally owned companies; we are pretty much the smallest business in town doing what we do – the next smallest company is 30 times our size. We are David in a Goliath world.”

Prior to the recession, turf sales were booming, Jason Perry said. Western Turf’s main concern at that time was running out of grass since it was shipping nearly three football fields worth of turf to Northern Nevada customers each day. However, the brutal double-whammy of unprecedented recession and extreme drought led to an approximately 70-percent reduction in revenue – and a surplus of about three-years worth of grass on its turf farm that required ongoing maintenance.

Perry turned to associates in the landscaping businesses to discuss architectural trends and discovered a shift of homeowners putting more money into upscale backyards than their front yards.

“People were not using their front yards anymore, but they had big plans for their backyards,” Perry said. “They had very grandiose ideas, and that cracked open a door for us. We realized our customers were changing – they were doing more than just plants and irrigation and started building things centered around outdoor living, such as shade structures, firepits, water features, and full kitchens, so we set out to supply everything they required.

“It turned out to be a good move, and that’s why we are still here today.”

The company began strengthening its relationships with paver manufacturers, including Basalite of Nevada, Belgard and Keystone Hardscapes, but it took a few years before its hardscapes business picked up.

“The economy (back then) was absolutely horrible, and no one was building houses,” Perry said. “It was a real struggle for quite a few years, but it started to come around in 2015.”

Although turf remains an anchor business line, it’s not the company’s core source of revenue anymore, Perry said. Turf sales account for about one-third of revenue, with the rest coming from the sale of hardscape products and bulk materials.

“Now we have so much more balance, and that’s what we were trying to do when we changed our name to Western Turf and Hardscapes,” Perry said. “We wanted to spread our sales over a broader spectrum of clients. Now we sell to masons and general contractors, although most of our clients are landscapers. We sell to a wider variety of people, and we sell them a wider variety of products.”

The new headquarters facility also allows Western Turf and Hardscapes to service more customers on a daily basis. At the Tacchino Street location, the company could only load five vehicles at one time. At the new location, it can service up to 15 vehicles at once. The new building also provides much more upscale offices for key employees.

“We have so much more room,” Laura Perry said. “We have about four acres of inventory space, and when our customers come in to visit they have a nice place to park. They can see a lot of ideas with our indoor displays. We are really a one-stop shop for customers’ landscaping needs.”

The Perrys credited Heritage Bank of Nevada for providing financing for the land and building.

Western Turf and Hardscapes also operates a 225 acre sod farm in Palomino Valley where it has grown turf since 1986. The turf farm was originally located in Winnemucca when founding member Harry Fahnestock, Sr. took an investment interest in Western Turf. Second generation owner Harry Fahnestock, Jr. moved the sod farm to Dayton for a time before relocating it off Pyramid Highway.

“It’s a big sod farm,” Jason Perry said. “Last year (sales) were off a little, so we didn’t plant as much grass because if we have too much, we kind of go broke mowing, watering and fertilizing it. You want just enough inventory to keep the quality level high but not have more than you need – it’s like produce: Once you it's ready, you want to cut it and sell it.”

Western Turf and Hardscapes employs approximately 50, including 12 truck drivers.

“We are a third-generation family-owned company, and the community has been wonderful to us,” Jason Perry said. “People can have balance in their landscapes, and you can get that here.”


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