Growing with the times
Birchwood Equipment expanding; name change planned next month

By Dave Fidlin - News Graphic Correspondent

Sept. 16, 2014

AJ Burton, president of Equipment Garage, said the new name better
reflects the services offered by the company.
Photo by Mark Justesen

CEDARBURG - Tucked away in an unassuming light industrial area along Pioneer Road, Birchwood Snow and Landscape Equipment could possibly be one of Cedarburg’s best-kept secrets.

The growing company has more than doubled its employee roster in the past two years and is expanding its operations. A new online division has given the company an opportunity to interact with people across the globe.

Birchwood’s managers are now hoping to take some of the positive buzz within the company’s 221,000-square-foot building and transfer it out into the community. The first step: A name change. Birchwood is in the process of undergoing a metamorphosis to Equipment Garage.

“Birchwood was a confusing name for everyone,” said AJ Burton, president of Equipment Garage. “We’re in the process of rebranding, and we’re open to making this a national brand. We want to take this to the next level.”

A certified small engine mechanic works on a snowblower.
Photo by Mark Justesen

Burton said the Birchwood name was somewhat of a hindrance because it oftentimes is associated with the landscaping end of the business. He said customers were not always aware of the company’s other services, including snow removal, equipment sales and repairs, and its storage facilities.

The Birchwood-Equipment Garage name switch will be completed by mid-October — just in time for a grand opening celebration planned for Friday, Oct. 17 and Saturday, Oct. 18.

While most of Birchwood’s clientele has historically been wholesale, Burton said the company’s arrival in Cedarburg two years ago broadened its base to residential customers as well. Eagle-eyed locals inquired about the company’s offerings.

“We’re definitely looking to offer more in the residential category, which is different for the type of mom-and-pop store that we are,” Burton said.

As part of the upcoming name change, Birchwood’s retail landscaping store is being separated from the rest of the business. Burton said it will be phased out, over time, as Birchwood’s owners “bow out respectfully” in that category.

About 75 percent of the company's orders are online and come from around the nation.
Photo by Mark Justesen

 Birchwood is new to Ozaukee County, but the company has roots going back four decades. Initially, the operation focused on snow removal. As that end of the business grew, Birchwood’s services eventually were offered to commercial property owners in cities frequently hammered by winter conditions.

The company has long had a presence on Milwaukee’s northwest side, operating stores at 11911 W. Silver Spring Road and 5115 W. Good Hope Road.

Birchwood’s entry into the e-commerce arena began more than a year ago and has skyrocketed. By Burton’s estimation, about 75 percent of the company’s sales are through online orders. It has resulted in a 400- to 500-percent increase in business.

A call center team fields requests from across the globe, including all 50 states. Burton said equipment owners – many living in rural areas – have called Birchwood and placed orders for parts that cannot be readily acquired within their own locales.

“It’s really been fascinating watching how that end of the business is growing,” Burton said. “We’ve discovered that there has been a need for the kinds of services we’re offering.”

The online component of the company’s operations plan is perhaps best represented in the new logo. Alongside the words “Equipment Garage” is the phrase “.com.”

With the e-commerce end of the company becoming a well-oiled machine, Burton said a renewed focus is being placed on residential customers. He said this will be demonstrated during the upcoming grand opening celebration at the Cedarburg store.

Envisioned as a meet-and-greet with the community, Burton said the company’s relaunch will include such festivities as a bistro offering an assortment of refreshments. A number of raffle prizes also will be awarded to visitors.

“We’re trying to get closer to the community,” Burton said. “One way of doing this is by educating people about things such as lawnmower care. There a lot of ways we can educate people. We’re going to be putting blogs and videos on our new website.”

Regardless of the clientele, Burton said the new Equipment Garage will hold steadfast to a principle he attributes to the company’s growth the past 40 years: personalized, customized service. He said it is one way it sets the company apart from the traditional big box, mass-market rivals.

“We pride ourselves on knowing our regular customers by name,” he said. “It’s one of the reasons I believe the company keeps growing. You’ll get our time and attention when you’re with us.”

Additionally, Burton said Birchwood sets itself apart by ordering more niche products — a likely reason for the rise in Internet sales — and giving customers and contractors the opportunity to purchase items in large bulk quantities.

As he looks to the future, Burton said he is excited about the growth possibilities that lie ahead.

“We’re definitely not looking to cut employees,” he said. “We’re looking to add them.”

Birchwood Snow and Landscape Equipment
(transitioning to Equipment Garage)

N143-W6049 Pioneer Road, Cedarburg