Vision and Mission
From humble beginnings in 2002, through present day, Choo Choo Lawn Equipment has been focused strictly on the needs of it's customers. With over 22-years
experience in both Landscape Maintenance and Lawn Care, Choo Choo Lawn Equipment offers customers the best of both worlds; quality lawn equipment from the
industry's best manufacturers, and expert advice and guidance in all aspects of Landscape Maintenance, and Lawn Care.
Vision and Mission
Our corporate vision &
Commercial Dealer Magazine -
June 2006 Article
"Dealing From Experience"
Danny Scofield was a bit surprised when Gravely called him to sit on a panel comprised of other dealers. After all, he was only five months into owning Choo Choo Lawn Equipment, his Plant City, Fla., dealership, and it was his first. "I first thought to myself,
‘Why on earth would they want me to be a part of this?’ since I was so new to the business," he says. In fact, Scofield spent the previous 17 years owning a
landscaping business, which at its height employed 45 people and grossed more than $1.5 million annually.
"They wanted my experience as a landscaper to help them," the 50-year-old Scofield says. He says this experience has been invaluable in serving the needs of
contractors. "When a landscape contractor comes in, I know what they need. I know what they’ve been through. When a mower goes down, they’re out of
But had it not been for Scofield’s wife, Teresa, he might not have gotten into the business at all. After all it was Teresa who bought a used push mower in
1986 and began mowing in the neighborhood. "She basically just got bored and was going to mow lawns," says Scofield, a mechanic by training. "I kind of
laughed about it at first, but then I grabbed a pencil and did the numbers." And he liked the numbers. Within six months, he sold another business he was
part of and concentrated on the landscape business.
Making the change
Fast-forward to 2002. Now, Choo Choo Lawn Maintenance,
as the Scofields' landscaping business was named, had 45
employees. "We grew fairly quickly," he says. But
Scofield was looking for something new. "I got kind of
burned out in the lawn business," he says. "You have a
lot of turnover." He felt he would have more control
owning a dealership than the contracting business.
He thought back to an experience he had as a new
landscape contractor. Scofield was eyeing a used Gravely
mower, with no more than 50 hours on it, at a local
dealership. The dealer told him if he bought that mower,
he would take care of Scofield for the life of that
mower and beyond. The dealer came through on his
promise. Scofield says the experience became the
framework for how he would operate his dealership.
He opened Choo Choo Lawn Equipment in 2002, but
continued to maintain his landscaping business.
Initially, at least, that made it hard to attract
commercial clientele. "When I first got into this
business, the landscapers would not come to me because I
was competition with them out there in the field,"
Scofield says. "So, they figured if they bought parts
from me, they were giving me money to go out there and
take their accounts away from them."
So, in order to get some cash flow going, he began
approaching mass merchants in order to secure their
repair business. When clients came into the stores,
those stores outsourced the repair work to Scofield.
There was about a year of overlap where he owned both
the landscaping business and dealership. He decided it
was time to sell.
So, he cashed out by selling the landscape business and
concentrated on the dealership. "When I sold my
landscaping business, that’s when the landscape
contractors started coming in," Scofield says. "I spent
a lot of time designing the building and making sure it
was customer-friendly," Scofield says. What he got was a
13,000-square-foot dealership, featuring a
4,800-square-foot showroom and a modern repair shop
outfitted with gadgets that only a tech would love, like
the $20,000 machine that sharpens saw chains in minutes.
He admits some people scoffed at the machine at first.
"At first, people looked at it and said, ‘There’s no way
you can justify buying a $20,000 machine," Scofield
says. Even though he does sharpen a lot of chains, it
would take quite a few sharpenings to pay off the
machine. But it wasn’t the allure of owning a high-tech
machine or bragging rights that propelled him to buy it.
"The machine will pay for itself by turning that tech
loose" on more important tasks and repairs, Scofield
says. "That was my reason in getting it." After all,
time spent sharpening a chain for $8 is time techs
aren’t working on larger equipment or issues. The
machine’s close proximity to the tech’s workbench makes
the deal even sweeter.
Scofield prides himself on operating a clean, modern
showroom and repair shop. Three techs make up Choo
Choo’s repair crew, though Choo Choo’s manager and
Scofield are also on-hand for repairs if the shop gets
swamped. All the techs have overhead air, grease and oil
dispensers for a clean, modern workspace. They also have
overhead cranes to lift equipment. The shop area
features a tagging system to track equipment brought in
for repair. All equipment is tagged and taken to a
holding area and as equipment is worked on and pulled
from the tables, more equipment replaces it.
"If it’s a commercial piece, it goes to the front of the
line," Scofield says. In less than 30 minutes, a
contractor will either know when the equipment will be
done or the repairs will be completed, or they’ll get a
loaner. "I try to guarantee a 24-hour turnaround for the
repair" once the contractor gets a
loaner, Scofield says. "We try to do everything we can
to get that mower turned around."
Scofield's (Gravely) dealer representative, Les Curtner,
praises Choo Choo's business. The facilities he
maintains are in impeccable order," Curtner says. "He’s
got the latest equipment in his shop." Of particular
note, Curtner says, are meters that measure every drop
of oil and fluid used during servicing, so Scofield has
an accurate detail on what products were used. At the
end of the day, Scofield has an exact tally of the
profit and loss for that day, instead of at the end of
the week or end of the month. "These are processes he’s
put in place in order to do this," Curtner says. He
tracks everything and sets goals for his service
department to achieve."
Scofield believes dealers won’t survive if they look
like the dealerships of just a few years ago. He says
many were dirty, dank and uninviting. "We have a lot of
women come in here. If the facility’s not clean and
inviting, they’re not going to come back," he says.
Scofield admits he thought running a dealership would be
a little easier, because, like with many things, running
a business often looks easy when it’s done right and by
someone who is experienced. "You’ve got to stay on top
of things," he says.
Scofield credits Gravely’s Dealer Council Board, on
which he was invited to sit when he started the
business, for giving him a leg up. It was a chance to
meet 400 to 600 other dealers in Wisconsin four times a
year to talk shop and keep apprised of industry
happenings. He sat on the board from 2003 to 2004.
Dealers didn't worry about competing with each other and
talked candidly about issues. "We talk quite a bit. We
ask each other questions about all types of things and
say, ‘What are you doing about this?’" he says.
But Scofield says his biggest resource has come from
Curtner, his dealer representative. For the past four
years, Curtner has been assigned to Scofield’s business
to help answer questions and provide advice on a range
of topics. "They’re the best people who can help you.
He’s been very helpful," he says. "If I’m going to
tackle something new that I’ve never done before, I ask
him first," Scofield says. "If he doesn’t know, he’ll
get the answer for me." Curtner has been Scofield’s
dealer rep for four years. Curtner praises Scofield’s
work to get both institutional and governmental clients
to increase his repair business. Scofield has secured
numerous contracts whereby agencies outsource their
service work to Choo Choo. "He makes his services
available at any time," Curtner says. "It’s something
that some dealers overlook. It’s just another avenue
he’s looking to for revenue."
That revenue has come from several correctional
facilities in the Hillsboro County, Fla., area. Scofield
says it just seemed like a good idea to approach
institutional and governmental clients. "We just went
out there. Nobody seemed to go after that kind of work.
No one really seemed interested in it," Scofield says.
"We ended up getting quite a bit of work from them,"
adding Choo Choo secured the work of another
correctional facility in another county about a month
ago. "Once you do one of them, the other finds out about
it and they call us." Scofield says he accepts the work,
but only if the client is within a reasonable distance.
That's because Choo Choo's will pick up, repair, and
deliver the equipment.
Curtner helped Scofield get his first open house up and
running. Curtner offered advice on advertising as far as
where to spend it and how much to spend. "If I want to
bring in another line, I talk to him," Scofield says.
"Gravely is very family-oriented. I would not be where I
am today without Gravely." Dan Ariens attended Choo
Choo’s first open-house and spent the day there. "He
said, ‘Look, what can I help you with today?’" Scofield
remembers. "I know that if I had asked him to unpack
some chain saws, he would have done it." Scofield met
Ariens during the Wisconsin meetings with other dealers.
"I just got real close to him," Scofield says. "He would
eat lunch with us and we have a very good relationship."
At least one aspect of Choo Choo’s business has
literally been "door-to-door." It came during the height
of several hurricanes and tropical storms in 2005. "When
the storms are getting closer, I stock up on
generators," Scofield says. During one particular storm
that swept across Naples, he saw on the news there was
an immediate need for generators. Power was out. He told
his wife and the next morning they stocked up a truck
with generators and drove 175 miles south to Naples. By
the time they arrived, they found that people had enough
generators. As he was leaving Naples to return to Plant
City, he got a call from a local sheriff who needed
generators. Scofield brought receipts in order to show
what he paid and ensure the locals know he wasn’t trying
"I sold all those generators and went back to the
dealership and got more and went back," he says.
Urban sprawl reaches out
Choo Choo’s location near Interstate 4, between Lakeland
and Tampa, Fla., has been ideal. When he moved to the
Plant City area years ago, he was trying to get away
from urban sprawl and everybody else that comes with it.
Moving there did the trick. But Plant City has become
like many other communities along the interstates in
Florida and elsewhere in the country: They’re
essentially blending together into one large urban area.
Other than direct mail advertising and some radio spots
in the past, Choo Choo’s location is what drives
customers to the business. "In this type of business,
they tend to come to you," he says.
Choo Choo’s features Gravely, Cub Cadet (and) Cub Cadet
Commercial, Briggs & Stratton, Stihl and Kawasaki lines.
About 60 percent of the dealership’s business is
residential customers who are looking for
commercial-grade equipment, while the rest are
commercial buyers. "What I’ve noticed is that homeowners
are buying more commercial-grade mowers and equipment,"
he says. Homeowners who are shopping at his
dealership are craving the kind of expertise they can’t
get at big box stores or mass merchants, Scofield says.
"The guys on the floor know more about the equipment
than the mass merchants."
Scofield is planning a two-pronged approach to
expansion. On the traditional side, he’s looking to buy
out another dealer because it’s difficult to start a
business from scratch. He’s also looking to expand his
reach through satellite locations. The satellites would
feature a showroom with a parts room. Customers could
drop off equipment for repairs and that equipment would
be shuttled back to the main dealership.
Curtner says Scofield’s willingness to consider and
embrace new ideas has helped his business flourish.
"Danny’s very open-minded and willing to explore any
suggestion that might seem to give him an advantage."
Article courtesy of
Magazine, June 2006
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on 3.5 acres, in the heart of Plant City, FL. Our front
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Central Florida's most active railroads.
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