Lisa DeMelo Lamminen and Rob DeMelo, seen at Hyannis Country Garden, are the second-generation owners of DMelo Brothers Landscaping in Marstons Mills. Merrily Cassidy/Cape Cod Times
By Lorelei Stevens
Updated Mar 21, 2016 at 12:25 PM
MARSTONS MILLS – It was 40 years ago that Jose DeMelo, looking for a better life for his family, co-founded DeMelo Brothers Landscaping Inc.
Today, his son, Rob DeMelo, and daughter, Lisa DeMelo Lamminen, are in charge of the company, managing their staff to ensure that equal attention is paid to accounts ranging from small front yards to multi-million-dollar properties.
Much has changed since DeMelo was a boy, playing in the dirt beside his father as he worked. Lamminen has brought the company’s books into the modern age and DeMelo’s experiences have given him a passion for taking care of the Cape’s natural resources.
“We make our own compost. We make our own soil. We let Mother Nature do her job,” he says. “I love this industry for that. It’s amazing what’s around us that we take for granted.”
What is the most important thing your business does?
Rob DeMelo: For me it’s listening to customers and paying attention to detail. If you call me and want ideas for what to do with your property, I start with basic design, then make a full, detailed plan. Then, I build it for you and maintain it. I also focus on the science behind this industry, what makes everything work.
How long have you been in business?
RD: The company was started in 1976 by my dad, Jose DeMelo, two of his brothers — David and Norbert — and one brother-in-law, Angelo Medeiros. Our dad came from the Azores in the ‘60s and then his brothers followed. They were all builders. They worked for John B. LeBel Construction when that company was around and then got to the point where they had so much work that they started their own business.
Lisa DeMelo Lamminen: They were commuting from New Bedford. They wanted to move to the Cape because that’s where all the work was. My mom, Arlene, did all of the paperwork by hand and with a typewriter. My brother has worked in the business since he was five years old. I came on in 2001 when my parents decided they wanted to retire. They live half the year in Florida now and the other half in the house where we grew up in Hyannis.
What did you do before?
RD: When I tell people I have 30-plus years experience, I’m not kidding. I worked here all along. I took automotive at Cape Cod Tech to learn how to fix all the equipment here and graduated in 1993. Then I went to UMass in Stockbridge and got a two-year agriculture degree, and then to UMass Amherst for landscape architecture. I graduated in 1998.
LL: I graduated from Barnstable High School in 1988. I went to 4Cs for two years and then transferred to Bridgewater State and got a business administration degree. I worked for computer companies in Westwood and Waltham. One of them paid for me to get my master’s degree in business management from Cambridge College in Boston.
How big is your staff?
LL: It varies from 15 to 20, plus us. We consider that manageable. Some of the guys have been here 30-plus years.
RD: I like this size. I’ve learned it doesn’t matter how many managers you have, no one does it like you. I want to be able to tell my guys, “This is the way I want it to be.”
How has the market changed since your business started?
RD: Since my dad started it, it’s gone from planting a few shrubs and pretty flowers around the house to multi-million-dollar homes with outdoor kitchens, pergolas, pools, heated driveways and walkways and landscape lighting and from basic driveways to paver-stone driveways.
What are your plans for your business’ future?
RD: I want to do more design work. I want to create more landscapes around here. I want to see a difference in how we take care of the environment. Anywhere you’re surrounded by water you have to. I want to see more people transition to organic, and not just fertilization, but the whole landscape. It’s crazy what you can see with a microscope in a little dab of soil. What’s in there is what keeps everything living. If you’re putting chemicals down, you’re killing all of that stuff.
LL: I want to try to get to people who think they can’t afford a nice landscape. They can. We can do things in stages. We have payment plans. We work with people because we stand behind our name and every job we do is a showcase for us.
What’s your most memorable moment with this business?
RD: Mine is from before we took over, when we purchased the property across the street. That was a huge step. That’s where we do all of our recycling, composting and soil-making now. We collect all the leaves and grass clippings and turn it into dirt. It’s also a nursery where we allow plants to grow.
LL: The biggest thing for me in the office was transitioning all the accounts from paper to computer back in 2001. We had to get it all in and then we had to figure out how to do invoicing.
What advice do you have for someone starting out in business?
LL: If you want to do something, go for it, but make sure you talk to people in that industry who have experience so you know what you’re in for. And when people call, call them back. That goes a long way.
RD: The Cape is horrible for contractors not calling people back and for even taking money and not coming back. It’s disgusting. My advice is to be honest and, if you make a mistake, own up to it and take care of it, no matter what.
What’s the biggest challenge about having a business on Cape Cod?
LL: It’s seasonal. You have to save your acorns for the winter. It can be tough.
What’s the best thing about having a business on Cape Cod?
LL: It’s the people here and our customers. Everybody knows everybody, pretty much. And it’s being your own boss. If our employees have something to do with their kids, we can say go. We’re big on family here.
RD: Honestly, I’ve traveled quite a bit, and the Cape is an oasis. You have pure sand on one end, pure rocks on the other and a lot of trees and marshes in between. It’s the working with the beauty of the ecosystems we have here.