Written by Jim Lappan, Sr.
I have always liked things neat and orderly. Cutting lawns and offering other landscape related services had seemed to have some career possibilities. So in 1975 I bought a lawn tractor and all the equipment needed to start a lawn care business. At the time my wife Barb and I had been married three years and had just moved to Gaylord, Michigan for her new teaching position. I had a trailer custom made for the equipment and I was in business. My born to chat personality has never been a problem for me, thanks to my mother. Friends and customers always gave me the incentive to move forward as well as sharing some wonderful relationships.
Without a doubt those personal and business relationships allowed me to believe in myself even when my family wondered why I didn’t get a job when in fact I had always felt I was building my career. I took most everything related to business very serious and enjoyed feeling important owning a business, if only to myself.
The years have had many ups and downs, but during it all my stead-fast supporter, my wife Barb, was always there through the good and the bad. She has been my most ardent critic, even when I really didn’t want her advice.
Like any parent it was my aspiration to offer or see to it that my sons had an opportunity to improve their lives with a good job and security. As I spent countless hours building Lappan’s over the years it was always 'the business' that took time away from being a dad and husband. It bothered me to leave after dinner and not getting back home until after the boys had gone to bed for the night. Looking back now, each one of my sons has learned a solid work ethic and the rewards that they have gained by their dad’s hard work. Each son has made strides in their lives because of their relationship with 'the business'.
Our eldest son Jim is the office manager and wears many other hats, but is most active with outdoor power equipment. Jim is Vice President, part owner and is very involved in the day to day office operations. Jim and his wife Tiahia live with their daughters Sophia Margaret and Emma Jeanne and son Owen James enjoy the pace of the North.
Our younger son Eric is the parts manager and also wears an outdoor power equipment sales cap, like his big brother. Eric is generally behind the parts counter assisting parts requests throughout each week. Eric lives in Gaylord with his girls Scout and Reese.
Barb Lappan retired from education in the spring of 2006. In the fall of 2009 Barb returned to education, where she is the autistic coordinator and active with special needs children throughout Gaylord, Cheboygan and Presque Isle Counties.
The business plan really started, albeit premature, when my dad asked if he could help in any way with my business plan. He must have felt that after five years I was willing to stick to it. After some planning we decided the five acres where we are today was just perfect. With dads financial assistance we went to the bank and negotiated a mortgage and built our current store. Our name at the time was Lappan’s Landscaping and Garden Center.
From lawn care to landscape and then to a garden center and nursery we grew steadily. We’ve had some good years and some not so good years, but trust and financial support from the industry and local lending institutions have allowed us to grow and share. I always felt it would be much too easy to quit, so I pushed forward with no regrets.
The winter of 1981 was tough; we almost didn’t make it, even placing the land and buildings FOR SALE. Again with the assistance of dad, A. James Lappan, we inquired about John Deere dealerships and in the spring of 1982 we became a dealer. The dealership made us a twelve month business or at least the start of one.
In 2002 we expanded our equipment sales divisions by becoming an Ariens outdoor power equipment dealer and also added the Gravely side of Ariens to the list of available products.
In 2004 we continued to improve with the times and maintained a strong hold on our market share of sales. One historic change, after more than twenty-five years, was the closing of our landscape contracting division. We decided to no longer design and construct landscapes or plant nursery products. This change was primarily brought on by the inability to hire qualified seasonal staff, year after year, loosing forward progress with in the industry. It would be fair to say when the expansion of the national chain stores came to Gaylord, our retail nursery was effected.
Growth within the green industry, from plants to tractors has been fairly typical since our very humble beginnings. We have been offering quality products and services since 1976 and have learned so much over the years. The term "seasonal" can only be appreciated when, and if, you depend on the seasons of Northern Michigan to make a living. Lappan’s plan budgets and lives for the season and support our customers in all their outdoor living requirements.
In the fall of 2008 we made the decision to no longer offer trees, shrubs and other nursery products. Since 1976 it has been enjoyable to support the Gaylord area with a large variety of nursery products. With an overabundance of local nursery products, it was our choice to begin closing our nursery. We have continued to offer bulk garden mulches, fertilizer and professional landscape advice as the need arises.
The spring of 2009 Lappan’s became a full service and sales STIHL dealer. This evolved from a partnership that was developed through John Deere to encompass the entire network of Deere. Stihl manufactures chainsaws, string trimmers, and hedge trimmers, back pack blowers, hand held blowers, Kombi-systems, Yard Boss tillers and cut saws. We realized how important the brand name of STIHL was to outdoor power sales very quickly. In 2012 we acheived the highest honor in Stihl as a Elite Dealer.
In October of 2010, Lappan’s became a Toro outdoor power equipment dealer and accepted our first winter snow products to offer the Gaylord area. The spring of 2011 we received a shipment of Toro Zero Turn Mowers and walk behind mowers.
My sons Jim and Eric as well as wife Barbara are testament to my hard work and assure our customers that "We are the Ones to Count On". Our service team of dedicated staff and their continued support has allowed Lappan’s to get through the tough times. Since 2007 national, state and localized economic instability has forced the hand of many small businesses, yet Lappan’s continues to offer our customers fair and honest service and products of quality allowing us to grow.
We are fortunate to have Scott McLaughlin as our Service Center Manager. Scott has over thirty-five years of knowledge and skill in the outdoor power equipment business. Another mutual committement to our service and sales customers. His service team is focused on contining education and customer total satisfaction.
In November 2010, we introduced a new website format that included the ability for our customers to look up and order parts on line.
In December 2012 we began offering a complete line up of Honda outdoor power equipment, which adds another quality to our growing product mix. With Honda, we'll be stocking generators, pumps, snow blowers and walk behind mowers.
2013 will, without a doubt, continue to show growth within the service and sales divisions allowing Lappan's to plan for growth in Northern Michigan.
Without a satisfied customer . . . growth stops.