Written by Founder 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 steadfast 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 get 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 an owner, Vice President and office manager and wears many other hats, but is most active with outdoor power equipment. Jim 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 and enjoy the next travel experience.
Our son Eric is also an owner and general sales manager and like his big brother wears many caps. Eric is generally working on sales 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 was the autistic coordinator and active with special needs children throughout Gaylord, Cheboygan and Presque Isle Counties. At the close of the 2014 school year Barb retired again from education, but has transferred her organizational skills to Lappan’s and functions as Vice President Director of Operations.
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 first 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 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 John Deere product line allowed us to become 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 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 offer 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, losing forward progress within 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 strives to support all of our customers and their unique outdoor power equipment needs.
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 had continued to offer bulk garden mulches, fertilizer, and professional landscape advice, but in the fall of 2014, sold our delivery equipment and stopped offering bulk products.
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, backpack blowers, handheld 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 achieved the highest honor in Stihl as an Elite Dealer. In 2014, adding to our success and growth, we achieved Stihl distributors “Retailer of the Year” award. This milestone gave us great pleasure and pride.
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. Toro has steadily grown each year. In 2014 we made the decision to no longer stock Toro walk behind snow products.
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 quality products allowing us to grow.
We are fortunate to have Scott McLaughlin as our Service Center Manager. Scott has over thirty-eight years of knowledge and skill in the outdoor power equipment business. Scott’s Gold Certified with Stihl, which offers our customers an exclusive. Another mutual commitment to our service and sales customers. His service team is focused on continuing technical education and customer total satisfaction.
Each service technician annually attends webinars and service schools to assure our customers the best up to date knowledge in the outdoor power industry.
In December 2012, we began offering a complete lineup of Honda outdoor power equipment, which adds another quality to our growing product mix. With Honda, we are stocking generators, water pumps, snow blowers and walk behind mowers. Honda joins a full line of premium products for the homeowner and commercial operator.
2013 was without a doubt, a growth year within our service and sales divisions allowing Lappan’s to continue growth in Northern Michigan. Our 5000 square foot showroom expansion was completed in February 2014. Our bright and clean new showroom was truly a dream come true. The new facility on our existing grounds expanded us to operate under one roof (10,300 sq. ft.) and allows us to comfortably grow within all facets of the outdoor power equipment business.
Lappan’s continue to expand and grow to serve our widening customer base. Our family looks forward to improving our methods of service and sales for years to come.