Alex Cembalisty says he was never an A or B student in high school. “I just wanted to put on my boots and go have fun in the dirt,” he says. “I developed this passion for trees, plants and grass. I guess you can say I’ve always had a green thumb.”
Today, Alex is the owner of Bay View Turf Specialists in Dighton, Massachusetts. The company provides lawn care and maintenance services for a broad spectrum of clients throughout southern Massachusetts.
Alex first started mowing lawns in 2010 on a part-time basis. His initial customers were family and friends. Soon he began adding some of their neighbors to his route. Alex’s passion for lawn care grew right along with his customer base. So did his desire to learn more about it.
“It’s a funny story,” Alex tells. “One day my mom said to me, ‘You know, you can go to school for this.’ I said, ‘School for what?’ My mom said, ‘Grass. You can actually go to school to learn about grass.’”
Cembalisty did a little research and discovered The Stockbridge School of Agriculture at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He applied for the turf science program. “I didn’t get in at first and I was heartbroken,” Alex says. But he persevered and knocked on the door again. He was accepted in 2011.
“I’m not sure what I value most from my experience in college, the education or the folks I met,” Alex says. “I met so many great people who became my mentors. If you can surround yourself with people who’ve done the same thing, and you put in the hard work, the world is yours.”
After graduating college, Alex’s professional world consisted of selling fertilizer for a Florida-based manufacturer. He enjoyed it, but didn’t feel the same passion he did when working on lawns.
“I still had my lawn care business on the side,” he points out. “When you have this thing on the side that just won’t seem to go away, that’s a sign. I needed to focus on my lawn business because that’s what I really wanted to do.”
Alex’s short career selling fertilizer is also what connected him to Will Humberstone, one of his two valued employees. He gave a presentation to students of the same turf science program he had graduated from. Will was one of those students.
The other employee, Mac Monteiro, happens to be Alex’s uncle. Mac is a retired truck driver who grew tired of sitting around the house. Now Mac sits on a Walker Mower every day. “Mac’s favorite word is, ‘OK,’” Alex says with a smile. “Mac loves working outside and will do just about anything.”
As a lawn care company, Bay View Turf Specialists will do just about anything, too, at least to a certain degree.
Finding the Right Mix
On the day Walker Talk visited, Alex and Will harmoniously trumpeted the fact that standards matter most to Bay View Turf Specialists. When a lawn care company remains in relentless pursuit of a higher standard, everything else can fall into place. The full-service lawn care company provides mowing and maintenance, fertilizing, and weed, insect and disease applications for both turf and ornamentals. Clients range from lower-end residential properties to estates, commercial accounts and even some athletic fields.
“We touch a lot of bases and the quality standard is attempted to be matched across the board,” Will points out. “Even on a lower-end residential property that isn’t treated, we can go in there and make it look pretty darn good with our mowing and edging,” Alex adds. “That’s where our three Walker Mowers come into play.”
Bay View Turf Specialists’ professionalism is also held to a high standard across the board. Alex says his commitment to professionalism is one of the things that drew Will to his company. Both Alex and Will have golf course backgrounds. They strive to bring that same polished image to lawn care contracting, right down to the khaki pants and polo shirts they wear while servicing properties.
Versatility is another key principle of Alex’s business philosophy. Having a good mix of clients and services not only diminishes business risk, but also helps keep him fresh and upbeat. The Bay View Turf Specialists crew typically schedules applications Monday through Wednesday, and then switches over to mowing for the remainder of the week.
“I don’t see how somebody can do nothing but applications all day, or do nothing but mow every single day,” Alex relates. “For some people, I’m sure that is just fine. But for me, it’s good to be mixed. A good mix keeps you good.”
Speaking of mixes, Alex and Will leverage their turf science education to come up with some unique lawn care applications.
“There is a lot more to the game than NPK,” Alex says in reference to the popular lawn fertilizer formula of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. “Think about how many nutrients there are that plants and grass need. Boron. Copper. Nickel. Magnesium. Manganese. When has a lawn care professional shown up to spray a cocktail on your lawn? When you start using these different products, you can see the difference. Plants want that.”
As Alex and Will each learned in college, lawn care truly is a science. The same can be said about mowing and maintenance.
There is a Science to Beautiful Mowing, Too
“Every time we step onto a property, Will and I talk about what we want to do that day,” Alex says. “Should we mow to 3-1/2 inches, or maybe bump it up to 4? When did we put a treatment on? How hot is it going to get over the next week? We don’t want that lawn to get stressed. Proper mowing and maintenance is a key part of the value we bring to clients. There is even a bit of a science to good edging and string trimming.
“To make that happen, I want the best,” Alex continues. “I want the best equipment, the nicest truck and best people. I want to be surrounded by the best. The Walker Mower brings that all to the table.”
Bay View Turf Specialists has three Walker Mowers, all 48-inch GHS models. Alex’s earlier purchases were Model C’s geared toward residential properties. He has since stepped up to the Model T for the extra grass-handling capacity. Alex can’t imagine himself, Will or Mac mowing with anything else. Will agrees.
“With my golf course background, I’ve mowed with everything from stand-ons to big greens mowers,” Will relates. “The speed of the machine says it all, and nothing quite compares to the cut of the Walker. You can get into tough areas with a pristine quality of cut that leaves the turf in a really good standing. You can walk on a lawn after you mow and see how clean those blades of grass are. They aren’t all chewed up. They are healthy, and that’s what we want.”
Setting a High Bar Sets the Table for Growth
Alex Cembalisty is happy he went to college for turf science. He is happy he left his job as a fertilizer salesman to focus on his lawn care company. Most of all, he is happy with where his company is at.
“We could probably be bigger,” Alex says. “But if you grow it, you have to feed it. We want to stay focused on maintaining that standard we have set. But that doesn’t mean we aren’t growing in other ways. You always have to keep learning and striving to get better. That’s how we keep bringing value to our customers.”
Alex also brings value to his lawn care customers by taking winters off. He has attempted both tree care and snow removal. No thank you. “I can’t stand those long New England winters,” Alex says. Come spring, it’s back to Massachusetts to start doing lawn care again.
“When you love what you do, you’ll never be lazy,” Alex says. “I love this. We’ll finish up a long day of mowing and I’ll tell my guys that I’m going home to mow my own lawn. Mac says, ‘Are you crazy?’ But I love it. I’m going home to sit on my lawn mower, a beautiful Walker, to mow nice stripes so it looks like a million bucks. I just fertilized a couple days ago. Perfect.”