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Wall Street & Winglewich - A Breakup Story


It's not me. It IS you. Sorry national and multinational corporations, WE ARE DONE!


Effective 2024, Winglewich Landscape Contracting said goodbye to any supplier, subcontractor, or vendor who did not match the following criteria.


  • Must be a local brick & mortar, or small business like ourselves.

  • If it's a "chain", it must be based in or exclusive to CA.

  • No publicly traded companies.


Why would we hobble our competitive advantage in the market? Because it's the right thing to do.


Every week we see a local business or storefront we love disappear. They can't compete with big business, despite offering better solutions or better service.


In the past five years I've seen four of my closest allies in the landscaping and construction trades start up, then either go bankrupt, close, or scale back so far they practically don't exist. I'm one of the only ones in my circle left.


Sonoma County is one of the most prolific and wealthy counties in the US. There is no reason why everyone who follows the rules and has a good business doing good work should struggle in this region.


Why Buying Local Is So Difficult For Contractors


It's cost. And availability.


Most small supply houses are Small. If we need thousands of feet of lumber or pipe, or 45 giant potted trees, they often have to special order it. Contrast this to large national supply houses with the economic muscle to rent vast warehouses and keep these supplies on hand at all times, and you can see why these corporations are so addictive to contractors, especially in the outdoor beautification sector where rain, heat, and choosy customers and designers can throw the best laid plans out the window in an instant.


Nationwide supply firms like (redacted) can run at hideously low margins in a high cost of living area because they can float the cost by having locations in lower cost of living areas selling at the same or similar prices. These locations usually have the biggest quantities at the best rates. This is unsustainable.


And when profits get slim, big companies look for ways to "trim" costs without raising prices. This could be as simple as letting questionable materials slip onto the shelves. We found this to be widely popular with irrigation parts. There was not a single irrigation job performed in 2021 where a job did not get a bad-out-of-box part from a national chain supply house.

This could also mean comparatively weak wages or benefits for the employees. We learned many managers for the supply houses were making less than our journeymen in the field. How can you be an expert on all you sell and a guiding force for consumers if you aren't compensated enough to care? These people don't go home to Nevada or Texas, they go home to apartments in Santa Rosa or Windsor. They're your neighbors. And they deserve better.


Go in Indeed right now. Compare the wages that CA owned Devil Mountain Nursery is offering for plant sales reps to the wages offered by Lowes or Home Depot for garden center reps. There's a notable difference in the quality of pay you are offered.


We found our local supply houses to have three great things we didn't find in the big corporations.


  1. Better Quality Control, even from the same brand names. We found considerably less wierd, wonky, and inferior components on the shelves of stores like local chain Friedman's Hardware or supply house and garden center Harmony Farm Supply than we did at the national supply houses in Santa Rosa. The delivery, packaging, and quality control definately seems a little more precise on every product from lumber to pipes to electronics. In 2024, since relying solely on locations like these, we have gotten one Dead On Arrival part - a single busted outdoor light - that was promptly exchanged. Compare this to 2021 and 2022 where there was one each job, and the choice is clear. Small business cares what they put on the shelf.

  2. The Staff Is Better At What They Do. I asked every store rep or staff I asked for help what they did before working at their location. At the big national supply houses I got answers from "I washed cars" to "Nothing much" to "Why does it matter". At SBI Irrigation And Light, both men at the desk had decades in the trade before they worked at the local mom & pop, and were eager to spin a yarn. What does this show? The smaller companies are paying at least a little more than poverty wages, and treating people like people, to the point they can recruit top talent, and may be able to snag a grizzled foreman or veteran of the industry based on their fair treatment alone. How does this help contractors, and you as an extension? We can get the parts we need, have tough questions answered in a pinch, and feel like we have more people in our corner when we approach a tough job. And when we're supported, you, the customer, are even more supported.

  3. Your Money Stays In The Community. When everyone from the CEO, to middle management, to trainees lives and works in the neighborhood you live in, the neighborhood and community has more money. Say you pay us $10,000 for a sod job. The $3000 in materials goes to growers and supply houses in the area, and becomes spending money for the employees and the company, who buy local produce, hire local services, and eat at local eateries. The $4000 in labor goes back to our employees, who do the same. And the $3000 left over as gross profit? That's staying in the business, who elevates the lives of small shops who keep our equipment running, local law, tax, and bookkeeping services whose offices and homes we drive by almost every morning, startup advertising and printing companies who make the uniforms and ads we use, and, (my favorite) the owner's salary, where I buy whatever I want from whatever's left. And you can bet I'm keeping my personal expenses local too. A Word On Ethical Consumption, or the lack thereof There is no truly ethical consumption, unless you're off grid and making all your tools, clothes, and meals yourself from things you grow or create. Not all products can be made in CA, or made ethically from local materials. Although we try to push locally mined, grown, and manufactured components whenever we can, we know the option isn't always available, especially for goods such as tools, lubricants, or petroleum based landscaping materials. But if we buy a truckload of PVC pipes made from Saudi oil, a set of garden tools made in the CCP, or god forbid, a nasty bottle of solvents made by some of the grimiest megacorps out there, we're buying it from an independent supply house who keeps more of the money in our community! - S.W







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