Creating a dream backyard: Local companies form a co-op of services

jrich@bradenton.comOctober 29, 2012 

ELLENTON -- Inside the bright yellow building on U.S. 301, the dream backyard has been created.

To the right is a putting green crafted from artificial turf, to the left an endless waterfall made from flagstone and recycled water. Straight ahead is a pergola and an elaborate outdoor kitchen and fire pit.

"We made it thinking 'If I had a backyard, what would I want it to look like,'" said Philip Yetzer, president/CEO of Drips 'n' Puddles, a pool company that is one of four firms that have joined together to form Backyards N More.

The business markets the pleasures of outdoor living in Florida, concentrating on the backyard. Pools, ponds, pavers, grills, even the kitchen sink are used to fashion a custom-designed backyard paradise.

Four local contractors are the main partners in Backyards N More: Pickhardt Professional Services, which provides pest control and lawn care; Prime Environmental Landscaping, which handles landscape design, irrigation and hardscaping for outdoor kitchens; Drips 'n' Puddles, which does pool and spa installation and renovation; and Traditional Air, which installs and maintains air conditioning and heating units.

Just Like Grass, Curb Appeal and USA Fence are support contractors, Yetzer says, offering materials like paving stones, artificial grass and fences.

Yetzer got the idea for forming a co-op of businesses when he saw a similar idea in a retail store in Minnesota.

He developed a business plan around the concept and in October 2011 bought the building on U.S. 301.

"We have created a one-stop shop"

for backyard design, Yetzer said.

Nov. 1 is the grand opening, but the first customers who have visited the showroom have been impressed, he said.

"They say, 'I want my backyard to look like that,'" he said. The showroom cost about $100,000 to create, a fraction of the actual cost since most of the work was done in-house.

The 1920s-style building's original tin ceiling tiles have been colored sky blue with white puffy clouds. French doors and a shingled roof create the look of the rear of a house but actually lead into offices for the staff.

"If you have a vision in mind, we can create it," said Chris Lockhart, a landscape architect who uses elements such as water, stone and woodwork to craft memorable waterfalls, ponds and outdoor kitchens.

"It is definitely a new idea and it's nice to have a place to show off our business," he said.

Lockhart, like the other contractors involved in Backyards N More, operates his own business as well, but hopes the co-op company will eventually provide 60 to 70 percent of his sales.

Kitchens can run from $2,000 to $25,000.

Pools and spas -- Yetzer's specialty -- can cost from $8,000 to $60,000 and sometimes more.

A retail shop is being carved out in the back of the building where customers can shop for pool supplies and equipment.

Vernie Pickhardt believes the $1.5 million revenues generated by his lawncare and pest control company will only be enhanced by joining in the backyard concept.

"I had never heard of anything like it before," he said. "And I think this concept will catch on."

Jennifer Rich, Herald business editor, can be reached at 941-745-7087.

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