Work Spaces

Work Spaces- Hazeltine NurseriesThe atrium-centered offices of Hazeltine Nurseries serve a dual purpose: to inspire employees, while working indoors, since many of them have windowless offices, and to serve as a visual showcase for visitors and customers. Michelle Hazeltine says they chose exterior teak furniture and landscape elements like a fish pond and arbors, so they could show customers their products and services without having to step out into sometimes hot and rainy elements.

Power Couples

Power Couples- Stephen & Michelle Hazeltine of Hazeltine NurseriesMichelle and Steve Hazeltine

Co-owners Hazeltine Nurseries
Married 24 years

Michelle and Steve met at the 4H County Fair in Sarasota. She was a sophomore at Riverview High School, and he was a senior at Venice High School; they were both showing steer. The rest is history.

Together, they started a plant nursery the summer after they met. They got their big break from Venice developer, Mike Miller. The Hazeltines were installing trees on the very first Waterford project for a landscaping contractor who was not making Miller very happy. He asked Steve and Michelle if they could do better. They said they could and have handled every single Waterford project ever since.

Hazeltine has donated or heavily discounted, consulting, design and installation work for numerous local projects, including the VABI Arboretum and Waterway Park, Venice City Hall, the Venice Area Chamber of Commerce, Habitat for Humanity and more. Steve serves on the Board of the Selby Foundation and the Florida House Learning Center, and both have been active in raising money for South County YMCA.

Steve is a fourth generation Venice resident; his grandfather was once the Venice Chief of Police and the Fire Chief… at the same time. The couple would like to see “a little life on Venice Avenue after 8:00 pm.” Michelle explains, “Our older son wants to come back and work here, but doesn’t know if he can live here.” Adds Steve, “I don’t believe in no growth at all. There has to be a little stimulation to keep this community going. If my grandfather had said ‘no growth,’ what would there be here?”.

Lawn and Landscape Magazine, June 2008

Hazeltine Nurseries- Stephen HazeltineHazeltine Nurseries – Venice Florida
President: Stephen Hazeltine

2007 Revenue:

Founded: 1983

Service breakdown:
21% maintenance
63% design/build/installation
16% irrigation

Client breakdown:
15% commercial
85% residential


With a focus on efficiency and daily review of profit and loss statements, Hazeltine Nurseries has doubled revenue without increasing manpower.

Stephen Hazeltine is a rare example of a landscape contractor whose business actually grew in the midst of the current housing slump. With sales up 47 percent from the first quarter of 2007, the president of Hazeltine Nurseries in Venice, Fla., knows how to make the best of a bad situation. “Not to go against the grain, but the slowdown in the housing market has done nothing but help us”, he says. It forced us to look in other directions to see what we could take on to keep things rolling.”

Part of what helped Hazeltine Nurseries thrive during the housing slowdown was the addition of more commercial landscape work to its service menu. But Hazeltine credits most of the company’s recent success to its new focus on efficiency. By streamlining processes and keeping a close eye on details, Hazeltine Nurseries has grown from $8.5 million in 2001 to $19 million in 2007 – all while working with the same 140 employees. “About seven years ago we were doing less than half the work we’re doing now with the same amount of people and just felt we had no control over where our company was going,” he says. “By focusing on efficiency we realized we could get a heck of a lot more work done with same amount of people and our revenues have gone up drastically.”

One task that has encouraged this growth is the review of profit/loss statements on a daily basis within each company division. Each day, a spreadsheet figures the amount of profit based on the level of job completion, then gives an option to correct any loss before it becomes a lost job. “If we’re doing a 10-day job, we’ll know two days into it if we’re profiting or losing,” Hazeltine says. “That gives us time to streamline or revise the job before it’s lost.”

To help employees adapt to the changes within the company, Hazeltine staff partook in a 25-hour, on-the-hour, on-the-clock training program. The training started with the company supervisors and worked its way down to the crew members until every employee received the same training. While it was difficult to devote one hour each day for 25 days to training, Hazeltine wanted to establish and implement the new efficiency standards as soon as possible. The program is expected to result in a 50-percent efficiency correction by the end of the year, which Hazeltine says is well worth the investment. “We didn’t like doing it the way we did because we know how much people cost to operate,” Hazeltine says. “But we knew the return would be staggering.”

Establishing such defined processes and procedures is what Hazeltine says grew his business to where it is today. Keeping everything on track is the next step. “After 25 years in business we finally realized we had to take control of what was happening around us in order to grow the way we wanted to,” he says. “It took too long to get here, but it’s our past experience that has pushed us to move forward.”- Emily Mullins

Michelle Hazeltine and Hazeltine Nurseries Featured in Scene Magazine / August 2009

Michelle HazeltineMichelle Hazeltine has a sign in her office that says, Embrace the Challenge. During these times, that is just what she and her team at Hazeltine Nurseries have done. For many years, their business grew an average of 37% until 2000 when they made a conscious effort not to get larger, but become more efficient. That strategy has proved key to capitalizing on the current market and protecting their 150 employees.

Meeting her future husband in the horticultural program at Vo-Tech, they started their business as wholesale growers in 1983. Michelle is a certified Landscape and Irrigation Designer. They ranked in the top 75 landscaping companies in the country by Lawn and Landscape Magazine. They design everything for the exterior of the home, including maintenance, design, sodding, pavers, fountains, swimming pools, irrigation, night lighting, and arbors. Since they can do total installation, they have the ability to drive the schedule to complete the jobs on time.

With her two sons now in college, Michelle has retired from volunteering at their schools, but is still active in the South County YMCA, Habitat for Humanity and All Faiths Food Bank.

Hazeltine Makes Top 100 / June 2008

Hazeltine Nurseries- Lawn & Landscape Magazine Best CompaniesThis year is a special anniversary for Hazeltine Nurseries, 2401 North River Road. As they celebrate their 25+ years in business, owners Stephen and Michelle Hazeltine recently received national recognition with their company being inked one of the 100 largest landscape companies in the country. It’s wonderful to know we are as successful as the large companies – a small, homemade company, competing with the bigger city businesses”, Michelle said.

Hazeltine Nurseries took the 80th spot in its first appearance in the listings compiled by Lawn & Landscape magazine of the 100 largest landscape companies. According to Marisa Palmyra, Senior Editor, “the submissions ran to several hundred; however, that number doesn’t necessarily reflect the prestige of the list. Many companies don’t apply, knowing they won’t make it because the threshold is around $15.5 million. The competition is more research-based, making it the most comprehensive list of its kind in the industry. This is the 11th year the magazine has ranked the largest companies headquartered in 24 states based upon top revenues. The report offers a map-shot of unique business strategies and achievements of entrepreneurs. The Hazeltines were recognized and featured in the magazine as one of 10 companies in the list, obeying exceptional quality in residential and commercial landscapes across the country.

After graduating from Riverview High School, Michelle met her husband, a graduate of Venice High School, at vocational school in Sarasota 1982, when they were taking agricultural classes. In 1980, they started the business, and in 1984 they were married. Hazeltine Nurseries started at Stephen’s home off Laurel Road, then moved to Curry Lane off Pinebrook Road. The business grew; needing more space, they moved to River Road. They have 160 full-time employees, including their fathers and during the summer, their two sons. Their son, Michael, will join them when he graduates college, bringing new technology to the business.

From their 90-acre nursery in South Venice, they provide landscape, gardening, patio, and driveway installation, irrigation and lighting services from Longboat Key to Boca Grande. Recently, their installation teams went as far south as Miami and north to Knoxville, Tennessee. The company has just completed the landscape design and installation for the new Coral Creek Club clubhouse in Placida. “Ninety-five percent of companies our size do not do any residential, preferring commercial, but we like dealing with people”, said Stephen. “Our goal is to grow in technology computer designing up front, expediting job planning and scheduling. We will be ready to roll once the economy turns.”