These Apples Don’t Fall Far from the Tree
Based in Manahawkin, New Jersey, Kline Brothers transforms dated outdoor areas into fabulous and fresh entertainment spaces replete with fire pits, outdoor kitchens, bars, in-ground swimming pools and a variety of games courts like bocce and basketball. Whatever your heart desires can be made a reality by Kline Brothers’ professional landscaping team.
What started as two guys with a pick-up truck and a broken shovel has become an extraordinary service provider perpetually filled with the joys of Spring. Kline Brothers’ four locations and 125 employees serve clients along the New Jersey coast with great enthusiasm and a wealth of creativity, just as they have done since the company’s inception.
The business operates primarily in Ocean and Monmouth Counties, as well as Atlantic County. This pioneering mid-sized company is no stranger to hard work and its dedication is palpable. Vice President John Kline assures me that the company outdoes its competitors simply by outworking them. “As leaders of this company, our workdays are long,” he shares. “My brother Josh is really the driving force behind this. He never stops and works 24/7 – all the time. He sometimes calls me at 1 am with a new idea. He’s never afraid to try out new ideas,” John says. “Some of our riskiest ideas become disasters; others are our masterpieces.”
One of the company’s masterpieces was recently completed at a luxurious $5 million+ home in Loveladies on Long Beach Boulevard. It is the kind of outdoor play area of which dreams are made. “It’s just unbelievable. It looks like a Disney resort,” says John. The home is one of the best on the coast and Kline Brothers installed two swimming pools, bocce, basketball and pickleball courts, a fire pit, an outdoor bar and an outdoor grill – all with porcelain tiles and travertine underfoot. The team constructed a handmade walkway out of bluestone that had to be painstakingly ground down to fit together perfectly. The result was magnificent, featuring a fire pit and swimming pool on the rooftop.
What makes Kline Brothers’ work unique is the fact that every job is treated as if it is the team’s own home and as such, real consideration is given to details that are often overlooked by the average service provider. This has become the company’s mantra and is instilled in every employee from the ground up. Even its salespeople approach each project as if it were their own, showing true integrity throughout – especially when it comes to making tough decisions. Every time a curveball comes up, whether elevation issues or other challenges, the same question is asked: “What would we do if it were our place?”
At Kline Brothers, the team believes that outstanding customer care comes from providing exceptional service at a reasonable price and being relentless about making the client’s vision a reality. Here the old adage rules and has stood the company in good stead: The customer is always right, and Kline Brothers’ greatest compliments are in the referrals that keep new customers calling regularly.
Apart from excellent service, the company also offers its clients a smorgasbord of variety. Its outdoor living spaces, pools and games courts are complemented by a fencing division, wide-angle landscaping that includes anything and everything a garden could possibly need, and lawn maintenance. Its hardscaping offering also features fresh new trends like travertine and porcelain tiles that lend a sophisticated look to any outdoor area. Kline Brothers also offer a fresh cut flower service via its website, and a cornucopia of garden and other supplies are also for sale.
Having grown up in the landscaping business, the brothers Josh and Jeffrey started the company in 1997. “Our father had a very small business many years ago. My mother runs the office for us and she’s one of the hardest-working people I know. I think our work ethic comes from her. She starts most days around 4:15 am,” says John, who often reports for duty around 5 am to get the drivers on the road. Their sister Jillene is also a hard-working member of the team and does the work of three to four people every week. The family sometimes doesn’t leave the office before 10 pm, six days a week, except at Christmas when they take a well-deserved two-week break. Not that winter brings a quiet season, though. While the ground is frozen, the team spends the cold months buying new equipment and doing maintenance – a relentless task in itself that lasts until the soils thaw.
As big as it has become, for Kline Brothers and its team, business is about family. When a call comes through and one of the brothers or their mother is around, they take the call – be it a holiday or workday. The brothers are first at work every day and last to leave. It’s an open, hands-on approach and an attitude that permeates the entire enterprise.
The Kline brothers put their first pool in the ground in 2004 and were skeptical about the concept’s viability, but before they knew it, they got their formula right, continued to improve and now install up to four pools a week – all while working 16-hour days until everything is perfect. John knows what it takes to build up a business and is generous with his advice for startups. “Customer service is key,” he says. “And the secret to success is the old-fashioned grindstone – just keep on working. You’re going to make mistakes; every young person does, so just add them up to experience. Every time you encounter something new, take the mistake and try to correct it to avoid it in the future,” he says. For John, it is imperative to respond to errors and to correct them as quickly as possible, because not adjusting or adapting costs many companies their success.
Kline Brothers is very proud of its 150-strong team, where it is perfectly usual to find women as foremen landscaping and running crews. “When we started doing that 15 years ago, you didn’t see much of that. It works really, really well,” says John. Continually adding to its workforce, getting to know everyone and making sure that everyone is happy is very important to the company. And it is doing a great job because most of its original employees are still employed, giving it their all. Another of the company’s non-negotiable standards is its employees’ experience levels. When Kline Brothers does a job, the client is assured that the person running it has often laid millions and millions of feet of floor coverings, while being a foreman on this crew means having a minimum of five to seven years’ experience – and it shows in the quality of the work. Clients are lining up and the business is growing exponentially.
John attributes the decision to invest as much of the company’s earnings as possible back into the business to his brothers, Jeffrey and Josh. By doing this the company eliminated the need to borrow, avoiding wasting money on the interest that comes with taking loans. This brought stable growth and the accumulation of a significant number of resources, including over 50 trucks, a number of properties and more, all paid for. Kline Brothers’ lack of debt allows the company the flexibility to purchase when good equipment or property comes along.
Looking ahead, the company is focused on growing even further – especially in its in-ground pool installations division, as well as its locations, as it is fast becoming a household name in the area. Its iconic billboard branding is part of the happy memories people associate with arriving in Long Beach Island. “My kids can be playing in a Lacrosse tournament in Pennsylvania, wearing one of those sweatshirts and someone will say, ‘hey, I know you guys – you worked on our summer house, or I saw that billboard you have at the entrance of Long Beach Island,’” says John.
The company is busy transitioning and will soon welcome the next generation of Klines to the operation. Josh’s daughter, Ashley, will be interning this summer and there is talk of some of his sons perhaps joining the team in the future. “We’ve done a good job in getting the business to where it is and we want to leave our children in a good place so they can build on it,” says John. Maintaining the quality associated with the brand is the company’s top priority. As with the ancient olive trees of the Mediterranean, this business is planted to have its quality, success and style harvested by generations of clients and children to come.