by Len Lear
Sam Mills, 50, who has lived in Mt. Airy since he was a 7-year-old student at Houston Elementary School, spent almost 20 years up in trees with his own company, Arbor Care Services, until he realized his future lay on firmer ground. “The tree work just got too physically hard,” said Sam, “so I figured I better get into something else.”
As a result, three years ago Sam started MulchyMulch.com, based in Wyncote, although Sam still makes his home in Mt. Airy. He still does a little tree work (“I still have my truck and chippers”), but most of his tree calls he passes along to Schectman Tree Care, an Abington-based firm with an excellent reputation.
Working up in tall trees every day is obviously not the safest job in the world, but Sam avoided a major injury and wants to keep it that way. “Once I cut my leg while in a tree about 40 feet in the air,” he said. “I cut through my jeans with a chain saw, but the cut itself was superficial.”
Needless to say, starting a new business with lots of competition is also very risky, so Mills decided he would compete by charging lower prices than the competition. Even though there would be less profit with each order, Sam hoped the very competitive prices would spark word-of-mouth business among both individual homeowners and landscapers who work with multiple homes.
“I previously paid over $110 at a big lawn company in Glenside,” said Mary Collins, of Wyndmoor. “That was for two cubic yards of mulch, which they delivered to my house. I got the same two cubic yards of mulch recently from Mulchy Mulch, which Sam delivered to my house, and the total cost was $70. That is a major savings. And if I had picked the mulch up myself, it would only have cost $50.”
Mills’ mulch comes from local tree services, run by people he has known for years because of his own tree work experience. It is made up of wood chips from entire trees as well as leaves and tree parts. It is all local and organic and is ground up and aged for six months to a year without the use of dyes, which gives it its natural brown color. (Some mulches contain ground-up pallets which are then dyed.) “It has that good mulchy look and feel, which makes you want to walk in it barefoot.”
(For non-gardeners, mulch is applied to the surface of an area of soil. Its purpose is to conserve moisture and/or improve the fertility and health of the soil and/or reduce weed growth and/or enhance the visual appeal of the area. Mulch may be applied to bare soil or around existing plants. Mulches of manure or compost will be incorporated naturally into the soil by the activity of worms and other organisms. When applied correctly, mulch can dramatically improve soil productivity for both food crops and gardens.)
The name MulchyMulch, by the way, was suggested when Sam was drinking beer with friends, which of course is how many great ideas originate. “My friend, Pete O’Conner, takes credit for the name,” said Sam. “I’m not really sure he is the one who suggested it, but people do say it’s a very catchy name.”
About half of Mills’ business comes from individual homeowners and about half from landscapers. The average customer purchases between three and seven cubic yards of mulch at one time. The busiest time of the year is early in spring when people are getting their gardens ready. Then it tails off somewhat each month until the fall, when it picks up again. However, there is virtually no business in November, December, January and February. “During the four winter months, I mill logs,” said Sam, “and I hire out my Mulchy Mulch truck and Bobcat.”
In his spare time, Sam, who went to Central High School for one year and then an alternative high school (but not college), volunteers and sails on the Gazela, a tall ship docked at Penn’s Landing. He was introduced to it by another local arborist, Bob Sawyer. (Sam politely declined to answer a question about his family life.)
For more information, call 267-307-2364 or visit www.mulchymulch.com.