After 40 years, Shumway and Sons Tree and Landscaping of Belchertown is shutting down, owner retiring
BELCHERTOWN — After 40 years in the tree and landscaping business, Earle Shumway is retiring, closing his operation, based on Federal Street, and referring longtime customers to a Northampton competitor.
Shumway and Sons Tree and Landscaping Corp. is wrapping up tree work this week and will finish plant health care and lawn care jobs by the end of the month when an auction will be held at 1111 Federal St. to sell off the equipment.
Of his 20 longtime employees, some will be retiring themselves, others taking a break, striking out on their own or pursuing other jobs, he said.
“It’s time,” Shumway, 73, said in an interview Tuesday. “My wife retired seven years ago and she’s been waiting for me to do this.”
Shumway, who also has an outlet in Northampton, sent out letters to 5,000 customers, including Amherst College, last week thanking them and referring them to C.L. Frank and Company in Northampton. He said he researched the area tree service businesses and believes C.L. Frank will be the best fit for those he served. Also, two of his employees, Shawn Smith and Jim Staples, each will be buying one of Shumway’s trucks and doing business on their own. Smith will continue doing lawn care and Staples, plant care.
“Above and beyond our professional connections, the friendships many of us have established over the years, your generosity, consideration and kindness toward me and my employees, have all been gifts that I can never repay but will always treasure,” he wrote in the letter.
Shumway, an Amherst native, began the business in August of 1973 by himself. His sons, Andy and Kary, were just toddlers, and though they, and his daughter, Lani, have all worked in the operation, they focused on other careers when they grew up. His wife, Jeanne Shumway, taught English at the Amherst Regional Middle School.
“When I started I wanted to pick a name that made it sound like the business had been around for a long time,” he said explaining the addition of “and sons” to the name. His daughter came along later. She got a truck named after her.
“She was little at the time, so she was happy with that,” he said.
Shumway said many of his accounts are longtime customers, some from his earliest days.
One, Suzzy Morin of Hadley, has had Shumway doing work at her property since 1980. She said she originally hired him to install an irrigation system for her sandy lawn and has had the business taking care of her yard and trees ever since.
“One of the things I really like is that they are very conscientious about being green,” she said. “They’ve been using organic products for years,” she said. “They use seaweed. You can smell it.”
Shumway, she said, has become a friend.
“We’d call him in December to do winter tree work and then he’d come in for tea,” she said. “That became a tradition.”
She said Shumway’s crews were at her home promptly after the freak snowstorm in October two years ago.
“He’s a real pal,” she said. “He’s bent over backward for me.”
Hope Crolius, chairwoman of the Amherst Public Shade Tree Committee, said Shumway has always provided useful information when she’s had questions. “I truly sensed he loved trees and was willing to share what he knew about them.” she said.
Shumway said he’s resisted retirement not only because he loves the work but because of his longtime connections to his employees, many who have been with him for 20-plus years, and his customers.
“Spending your day with good people around you is enjoyable,” he said. “I’ve been having a lot of fun doing this.”
But he is finally ready to turn his attention to his five (seven if you count close family friends) grandchildren and more leisurely activities. One son lives in New Hampshire and his other son and daughter live in the eastern part of the state.
He said he has spent the entire past year tending to all the details involved in shutting down. “It takes a long time to close a business this size,” he said. “But I knew my wife was waiting, so I’d better start working on it.”