Business celebrates 50th anniversary

Grasshopper Lawns is owned by two brothers and was started by their father in 1964.

March 19, 2014

As Grasshopper Lawns enters its 50th anniversary as a local, private, family-owned business, co-owners Michael Kravitsky IV and Shawn Kravitsky reminisce on how the lawn care company got its start.

When Edwardsville Chief of Police Michael Kravitsky Jr, grandfather to the two brothers, wasn’t overseeing police affairs and dominating at handball, he was running an aluminum awning business. Once the awning business began to decline in the early 1960’s, Kravitsky Jr’s son, Michael Kravitsky III, saw it as an opportunity and nursed the business back to health. In 1964, he added lawn care to his repertoire by purchasing two Lawn-A-Mat franchises from his aluminum supplier, the first one in the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton territory and the second in Allentown. The initial Lawn-A-Mat franchise offered services to approximately 300 customers. “For two cents a square foot, a technician would spray on weed control, aerate, roll, and apply seed and fertilizer in one pass,” says Kravitsky IV.

Kravitsky IV also comments on his father’s go-getter attitude, “He didn’t have an office space when he first started, so he worked out of a phone booth next to a driving range in Allentown. I was five years old when I started going with him. He’d get me a couple baskets of balls while he stood in the phone booth and made his appointments for the day.”

While most teenagers skip school with the notion of getting into things parents wouldn’t approve of, Kravitsky IV skipped school to go to work. In 1980, he officially joined the business. Then in 1984, Shawn joined in the growing family business. The family operated the two franchises until Lawn-A-Mat (the corporation) ran into financial difficulties in the mid-1980s. At this time, the Kravitsky’s changed their company name to Grasshopper Lawns, a local private family business. With the new name change, different services accompanied the nomenclature.

At first, customers were offered a wide-ranging weed-and-feed program that also included aeration, seeding, lime, grub control, and two applications of fungicide. Later, when the market became more competitive, a pared down “Maintenance Program” that included weed, feed, and aeration was added, followed by an even more economical program- weed and feed only. “Times have changed,” Shawn Kravitsky says. “We have thousands of customers today, employ 20+ people, track our crews with GPS, and everything is computerized – even the handheld units that our technicians use to record their work in the field. Instead of offering three lawn care packages, we offer one, a weed-and-feed program that customers augment by selecting from a menu of services.”

Fifteen years ago, Grasshopper Lawns added Christmas Décor to level out seasonality of the business and give their employees some income during the off-season. The winter business offers services such as tree, roof, window and stake lighting, making it an effortless option for homeowners who don’t have time to decorate for the holidays themselves.

With Michael Kravitsky III gearing down in the business, he sold his remaining shares to his two sons, Michael and Shawn, in 2009.

The brothers agree that one thing hasn’t changed over the years: “Our team members continue to make us successful. How can business owners sleep at night without having a solid unit to back them up? We are so fortunate to have built loyalty, respect, and overall good rapport with our team. In fact, we’ve watched many of them grow up in the business from the time they started with us 10, 15, even 25 years ago to today. It’s the old adage; treat people the way you want to be treated. Our family was raised with a good work ethic and the understanding of the value of a dollar. We carry that upbringing over into our business operation and hope to continue until the next generation takes over.”