In the midst of California’s historic drought, many homeowners have ditched their front lawns for alternative landscaping methods. Drought tolerant, water-wise gardens are a popular choice, but not necessarily appealing to those who prefer the traditional look of a lush, green front lawn.
Enter SYNLawn Central California.
For nearly a decade, the business has specialized in the installation of synthetic lawns for both home and commercial use. In the absence of rain clouds, the family-owned company has found a silver lining.
Brothers-in-law Matt Price and Blaine McQuown — both graduates of Buchanan High School — formed the company in 2006. Neither had prior experience in the industry but Price, while perusing magazines for franchise opportunities, read about the concept and knew it was unique. With few competitors in the area, the time was right to enter the field. He brought brother-in-law McQuown on as a partner and the two began the business in his parents’ garage.
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“We were doing all the sales and installs ourselves,” recalled McQuown. “I did it for the first 10 to 11 months and Matt did it the first couple years, and we hired our first installer after about 11 months.”
Now, as the Central Valley’s authorized distributor of SYNLawn products, the company employs nearly 30 installers. They’ve also moved out of that garage. Headquartered at 247 N. Minnewawa Ave., the company serves the Central Valley and beyond, having completed installations as far away as the Bay Area and Central Coast.
The majority of their clients, Price said, are residential homeowners, but they do sell their product directly to landscapers and contractors. They’ve also worked with developers and commercial clients.
Recently, they helped Elaine’s Pet Resorts upgrade their dog runs. Pet-friendly artificial lawns that keep paws clean, absorb liquids and control odors continue to be a popular product for both residential and commercial clients, even as the popularity of their other products has grown.
That’s because the drought has affected business — in a good way.
“We were big before ... and then the drought happened and we got bigger,” said Price.
“We went from three crews to six over a six-month period, trying to keep up with everything,” added McQuown.
Prior to the beginning of the drought, they said, the majority of their residential installations were backyards. Now, about half are front yards. That’s partially due to the drought they said, but it’s also because technological advances in the industry have resulted in a more attractive, natural-looking product.
“The look of them got better,” said Price. “It’s becoming acceptable. Our most popular is more of a fescue-style grass [with] a real tall pile height to it. It’s more natural-looking compared to the high-traffic product.”
As a distributor and installer, SYNLawn is involved in planning and installation of a new lawn from beginning to end. After receiving an estimate, McQuown said, new clients schedule their service. Right now, due to demand, they’re scheduling installations one-and-a-half to two months out. But a typical residential installation only takes a day or two.
Though Price acknowledged concerns that have been raised over the eco-friendliness of artificial lawns, he said those concerns primarily apply to older products or those manufactured in China. All of SYNLawn’s currently available products, he said, are made in the United States and are 100 percent recyclable by weight. So when the time does come to replace it, homeowners can breathe a little easier knowing their lawn isn’t headed for the landfill.
Beyond saving water in the short term, McQuown said their lawns provide financial savings over time, via reduction in maintenance and water use costs. Depending on the product and the project, said McQuown, clients typically see a return on their investment within five to seven years.
“For a product that’s warrantied for 10 to 15 years,” he said, “it could pay for itself two to three times over.”