R5 Jobsite Q&A: Ossining’s Manor Landscape and Design Owner Jeff Bassett

How did you first get involved in this business?
My father started the business in 1989 and closed it down in 2000. I started it back up again two years later, when I was about twelve. I started cutting my neighbors’ grass and shoveling their driveways, even as I attended college in Connecticut—I had a crew working for me and came home on weekends and for snowstorms. I formed an LLC in 2008 and graduated college two years later.

What are your earliest memories of helping your dad?
At five or six, I had a little shovel and I helped shovel sidewalks and got paid in toys. At about ten, I started getting some money.

What do you do in the off-season?
We do landscape design, installations, and masonry, including building stonewalls, patios, et cetera.

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Landscaping versus snowplowing: Which do you prefer?
Snowplowing. When a storm is coming, you’re constantly watching the weather, getting the equipment ready, and making sure your employees come in. The conditions are changing and the clock is ticking so there’s that adrenaline rush. And, at the end, it’s more rewarding—you get a feeling of accomplishment that you got everything done.

Which is more lucrative?
By the hour, generally snowplowing—although some larger landscaping projects have big price tags.

When was your busiest winter season?
It was 2010 to 2011. It started with a blizzard the day after Christmas that brought two feet of snow and basically for the six-week period after, every four or five days, we were out plowing. We had another twelve-inch snowstorm in January and, at the end of January, another two-foot snowstorm, for altogether seventy inches of snow in Westchester.

When do you start plowing?
For commercial accounts, if there’s any accumulation on the blacktop, we put salt down, and start plowing after an inch starts accumulating. For most residential accounts, we start after two inches of accumulation.

How often do you plow while it is snowing?
The best thing to do is to try and keep it clear every four to six inches with bigger commercial accounts and hilly driveways, where you can get stuck. You want to try and keep up with the snowfall. But sometimes it comes down two to four inches an hour and it’s just impossible.

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What’s your favorite source for reliable weather info?
I like the National Weather Service online, which is weather.gov, and the meteorologists at accuweather.com.

Does the media hype up impending storms too much?
Sometimes they hype up the storms too much, but there are still always people who don’t realize the seriousness of the situation and are on the roads when they shouldn’t be. They don’t have four-wheel drive and so they make one turn and they are stuck and they slow down the whole process.

Do people tip you?
Generally, no, although once I did receive a hundred dollars. And when we worked on one New Year’s Eve, people brought out beer and cookies.

What about ice?
Ice storms are always tough. Snow melts during the day and then it starts raining and then it freezes at night and you can’t predict that. And then you get a call at five in the morning that someone needs a parking lot salted.

Do you ski or enjoy any other cold-weather activities?
No. I really don’t like being in the cold and the snow—I just like getting rid of the stuff. If I had a vacation destination, I’d much rather choose a beach.

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