February 22, 2013
Bill and Joe DeLuca
Bill DeLuca said his father, Joseph DeLuca, was always ready for work until the day he passed away at the age of 87 on July 7, 2007.
“Right to the end he was still there (at the job site) pointing his cane and saying ‘that tree is out of place and you’re blocking the view over there,’” Bill said. “He always had that attention to detail.”
Joseph founded Aldershot Landscape Contractors (ALC) in 1952, a company that started with a staff of about 13. The staff has since grown to more than 500 people at any given moment as ALC began specializing in bigger, multi-million-dollar landscape installations. ALC’s portfolio includes the landscaping of the National Trade Centre at the Canadian National Exhibition grounds and the stadium at York University. The Burlington company is currently landscaping the Four Seasons Hotel in downtown Toronto.
Bill, president of ALC, said that his father was at first apprehensive about giving up the company reigns.
“I think the arguments came out of fear,” Bill recalled. “There was always that fear there was going to be a major mistake and that he was going to lose it all. There was always that fear that he was going to lose it for the family.”
But the arguments subsided as Joseph and Bill reached a mutual understanding of each other.
“Probably why I used to get angry is because he was always right all the time. And it used to bug me,” he said. “Sometimes you knew there was something wrong but you couldn’t quite put your finger on it. He’d come out and he’d pinpoint it right away.
“Even though he was hard on you, he had good eye sight and he had a good attention to detail.”
Joe and BIll DeLuca, Aldershot Landscape Contractors Ltd.
In 1994, Joseph received the Landscape Heritage Award for his legacy and lasting, positive influence on the industry. Horticulture Review had the opportunity to speak with Joseph in 2006, when he shared stories about how he established Aldershot Landscape Contractors Ltd. 1952.
Before got he got into stonework, Jospeh started out as a market gardener with his father, Florindo DeLuca. They rented 150 acres of land near the Aldershot GO station for more than 10 years.
When the landlords decided they wanted to develop those 150 acres, “They came to us and said ‘We need the land back again,’” Joseph said.
“I had to get some land somewhere,” he continued.
Joseph then embarked on acquiring the same 70-acre parcel of land where ALC is currently located at 166 Flatt Road in Burlington.
“I wanted to get (land) below the mountain. So I said to the real estate guy ‘find me some land,’ but the developers had bought everything...”
Fortunately, a woman who owned 60 acres resisted a deal with local developers.
Joseph’s real estate agent advised him to introduce himself to her and then offer her an additional $500-per-acre more than the developers offered.
“That’s what I did and that’s how I got it.”
Joseph’s new neighbour, Henry, was a war veteran who collected a pension and generated enough income off his farm to live comfortably. Three months later, Henry’s wife passed away.
Joseph saw an opportunity to acquire 10 additional acres next door as he watched real estate agents get turned away from his neighbour's home.
“I said to Henry ‘I’ll give you $100,000 and you can live here as long as you live,’” Joseph said. “He went for it.”
Just like the cost of land during the ‘50s, the cost of doing business was also a lot cheaper. ALC supplied itself frequently through the Cooksville quarry, which often discarded the coloured drywall stone that Joseph found attractive. For just two bucks, Joseph would stack about seven tonnes of stone onto his one-tonne truck. Today, an overloaded truckload like that would cost Joseph about $700 and, if pulled over by police, a hefty fine.
“I’ll always remember, I was coming back from Highway 5 and I had a big load of stone on. Big. Overloaded,” he said. “All of I sudden, I was coming down Waterdown Road, the police pulled me over. He (the police officer) said ‘Gee whiz, I think you’re overloaded’
“‘A little bit,’ I said. He took a look at the stone, said ‘That’s beautiful stone you’ve got there.’ I said ‘I can’t give you that stone, but I’ve got some at the house I can let you have.’”
The police officer, Officer Thompson, followed Joseph to his yard. The officer left to get a bigger vehicle.
“He’d come back about an hour later with a great big truck, loaded it all on, and that was it.”
Joseph remained lifelong friends with Officer Thompson, who passed away in 2005. When asked if that was considered a form of bribery, Joseph laughed, and said that run-in with the law was both the start of a new friendship and “just good business.”
And doing good business remains the staple of ALC.
“He never liked leaving a job dirty,” Bill said. “Every night we were forced to clean up and make sure that the homeowner didn’t feel as though he was walking into a work site.”
“We want to keep it that way,” Joseph said. “If a guy’s got a dead tree, go and replace it. Don’t give him hell or he’ll tell his neighbours ‘them bastards are no good.’
“That’s the only way to do it.”
Written by Stuart Service, with files by Chris Andrews