Take 10: Steven Clark’s Chatham business holds onto its niche

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Steven Clark joined T.W. Nickerson in the early 1980s after graduating from college. After a couple of years at the Chatham business, he started his own landscape operation in town.

In 1997, Clark bought T.W. Nickerson and has owned and operated the business, which supplies landscape materials and provides excavation and construction services, ever since.

What’s the most important thing your business does?

We provide a service — supply and landscape materials. And excavation services.

How long have you been in business?

I purchased it in 1997. (The business itself was founded 50 years ago.)

What did you do before?

I actually worked here in 1981, left (a couple years later) and came back in 1997 and bought it. I owned a landscape business in Chatham. It was the right opportunity at the right time, and I 1bought this place from a second cousin and ran both businesses for a couple years. It was too much, so we dissolved the landscape part of it.

How big was your staff when you started? How about now?

It was pretty beat up when I became owner. There were probably five people here. Now, there are nine people.

How has the market changed since you started?

Huge. It is a very competitive market — more mom-and-pop stores ” more people renting equipment. Everybody is in a hurry; things happen very quickly. Before, there was a lot more lead time on a project. Now, if you get a bid, it has to be done, like, now. We do just the best we can. With increased competition, your percentage of awarded jobs are less and less.

What are your plans for your business’ future?

Nothing radically changing. It is a pretty tried and true business. The biggest advantage we have is this location. We have basically a 50-acre facility that can’t be replicated in today’s world. We couldn’t do it without this space. We have a sand and gravel pit. Green waste recycling. That is probably the biggest change I made here. This is basically a giant composting area. Nothing was every processed before. Now we are harvesting it all out. Any green wood waste, it used to be just buried, now it is all ground up and made into some sort of product. The equipment had come along and the space had gotten full. That is probably the biggest change since I got here.

What’s the best thing about having a business on the Cape?

It’s a great place to have a business. There is plenty of business, it just gets divvied up more and more all the time. I live less than a mile away. I pretty much work with all folks I know anyway. It’s a pretty small community here.

What’s the biggest challenge to having a business on the Cape?

The biggest challenge is we are still a seasonal economy, it’s making it through the winter and paying folks what they need to make to live here. We do the best we can. We try to work year-round, but in all honesty, in the wintertime, there is not a lot that can be done, especially in a winter like we just had. Previously, we have made it through the winters pretty good. It is tough times when you have three or four months of subzero weather. That is probably the hardest, the challenge of paying people when they are not really producing (since there is reduced business during the winter).

What has been the most memorable moment with the business?

They are all good days. There are better days than others, but they are all good days.

What advice do you have for someone starting a business on the Cape?

There is plenty of work here, just make sure you are willing to work. There is plenty of work.

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