If you grew up in the 1980s, chances are good that you were familiar with one of the most iconic and widespread lawn care providers in the country – ChemLawn. The company had trucks in almost every neighborhood in the nation. Today, you won’t see their iconic logo anywhere, though. Given the fact that the company had such a massive operation, it seems strange that they could have disappeared overnight. What actually happened to ChemLawn?
History & Founding
ChemLawn actually got its start long before the 1980s, which was when most people in the US became aware of the lawn care service. In fact, it was founded back in 1968 as a small private company, an offshoot of the original sod farm and Duke Garden Centers founded by Paul G. Duke and his son Richard Duke. In the beginning, ChemLawn was very small – it consisted of a single truck and about 500 customers. However, it didn’t remain small for long. In fact, between its founding and the brand’s first sale, the company had grown to boast a presence from coast to coast.
In 1987, ChemLawn was sold to Ecolab and the Duke family was no longer in charge of operations. Ecolab built the brand further, cementing the company’s lead in lawn care services across the country, as well as exploring new areas, including landscape construction and more.
The sale to Ecolab wasn’t the last in the company’s history. In 1992, the brand was acquired by ServiceMaster, a company synonymous with professional services, which owned companies ranging from Merry Maids to Terminix and numerous others. It wasn’t a particularly happy marriage, though. ServiceMaster was plagued with problems, and ChemLawn also had its own share of issues. It began losing market share to other competitors, and the growing awareness of the potential for damage from toxic lawn care chemicals further degraded the firm’s image.
Not long after purchasing the company, ServiceMaster decided to try to change the company’s image. A complete rebrand was needed, they decided. The ChemLawn name was downplayed, replaced with the moniker TruGreen ChemLawn, and then finally just TruGreen. This is the name the company operates under today throughout the country. However, the name change wasn’t enough to stem the rising tide of discontent with the company’s service offerings, customer support and professionalism.
Over the past twenty years, noted industry experts have cited reasons for the decline of the ChemLawn/TruGreen brand. One of those is the rising awareness of consumers about the chemicals they put on their lawns. More and more homeowners are opting for more natural solutions, including organic lawn care. However, it’s not just the topical applications that have spurred the company’s waning.
Most industry experts claim that ChemLawn suffers from the same problem that many other nationwide companies do. They rely on providing the same range of products and services in all locations. Going to your local McDonald’s is pretty much the same as going to one in Florida, New York or California. That works fine with food, but it doesn’t work well with lawn care because there are so many location-specific variables. Ohio alone is home to an incredible range of different climates. The problem here is that there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, which is what companies like ChemLawn/TruGreen rely on.
More and more homeowners are now realizing that in order to ensure their lawns are healthy and green throughout the year, they need customized services tailored for their specific area, weather patterns, snow accumulations, summertime temperatures and more. As a national company, ChemLawn is unable to provide that type of solution.
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