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Piepers still help others plan, still in the green

Previously, Brian Pieper focused on helping others with their money, now he helps them with their surroundings at home.

In the process, Pieper has been pleased to trade a big-city job for self-employment in Ellsworth, his home town. Like his former profession, his present enterprise is based on establishing a solid foundation.

"We enjoy working with natural stone," he said about Rockworks, a local landscaping business now entering its fourth season.

The name was his wife Amy's idea, chosen from suggestions by family and friends, he said. She's an integral part of the operation, handling marketing and scheduling appointments.

Even when Pieper was still working in financial services in the Twin Cities, planning accounted for a lot of what he did, he said. Similarly, landscaping must be planned to be successful.

"People's homes are their prized possessions," he said of the contribution his business can make to others' lives.

The service originated with a project he did in his own yard, he said. Having grown up on a dairy farm east of Ellsworth, he was used to being outdoors and missed that while laboring in urban offices for 12 years. Soon, he was helping friends, neighbors and co-workers with their yards.

"When your weekend work is more fun that what you do weekdays, it's time for a change," he said.

Pieper said his father-in-law, Clarke Knudson, has been an influence on the business, in existence since 2003. Knudson's a master gardener and an early recipient of the service's efforts.

Plans for a yard need to be carefully thought through, Pieper said, and patience exercised because various aspects all take time. Specific purposes may be met, such as planting trees for shade or wind breaks, or a hedge of shrubs for privacy. Upgrading can also be done for personal enjoyment, creating a yard in which homeowners feel comfortable living.

"It's one of the best ways to improve the value of a home," he said.

The work is typically accomplished in phases, he said, including a phase or two that might be taken on by the owner, if desired. But the landscapers tackle most jobs from start to finish themselves, emphasizing quality throughout. They believe making an investment is necessary to achieve a good product.

"On our business card, we've put the line 'Professional results--reliable service'," he said.

The business offers more than just retaining walls and patios, also specializing in: design consultations, sod and seeding, outdoor lighting, garden renovations and ponds. They do a lot of paver patios and lots of planting. A yard may need a refresher; weeds can grow through and edging gets "out of whack." Or seed blows in and settles on rocks, into which roots grow down.

"Some of the trees we plant are ball-and-burlap, but many are potted," he said, noting stock comes from area nurseries.

The landscapers build grilling stations and fire pits, Pieper said. They also advise how to address areas around pools, for instance, which must be kept clean. Overall maintenance is another consideration and they're regularly hired for spring and fall clean-ups.

"Some people want their yards done in time for graduation parties," he said.

The service has grown to three employees, each assigned to a task like operating the tractor, though all part of a team, he said. Their season starts as early as late April and can extend into November, weather permitting. While residential jobs account for the majority of their work, there are some commercial customers, too.

He tries to stay within a 50-mile radius of Ellsworth.

"I'd say 90 percent of our clients are within 30 miles," he said.

In the off-season, Pieper does custom Christmas lights, he said. He has a supplier who makes lighting the right length for a house's peak. He also decorates roofs and installs deer or holiday figures in yards. Over winters, construction and remodeling services are available.

The 1989 graduate of Ellsworth High School said he favored music while in school, playing guitar and later being a member of a band. In fact, he met his wife (an '88 EHS grad) when they sat next to each other in the music room. He was a finance major at the University of St. Thomas and she was a music performance major at the College of St. Benedict's.

She now runs a piano studio, teaching over 20 students, besides doing public service and volunteer work, he said. The couple has three children: Rachel, age nine, Jack, six, and Leah, four. They spend their recreation time camping and riding ATVs.

For appointments and more information about Rockworks, phone 273-5415.