CJ LaRoche, owner of LaRoche Tree Service Inc., got the idea for his career when he was 15. “My parents had a guy come out and remove some trees at our home. I saw it that day, and I knew that was what I wanted to do,” he recalled.
His company has grown far beyond what that starry-eyed, budding professional could have imagined, however. In addition to the kind of residential tree service he probably envisioned as a teenager, the company does right-of-way and land clearing, commercial tree care, and mulch production. He has about 55 employees.
Land clearing accounts for about 70 percent of LaRoche’s business. The company primarily works in Ohio, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania but will travel for some jobs, including hurricane cleanup in Hilton Head, South Carolina.
Bellaire, Ohio based LaRoche Tree Service has been growing rapidly, the owner said, in part because of repeat business. “The work is there. It’s just whether you can handle the workload, do it safely and do a good job,” LaRoche noted.
To ensure the job is done well, he relies heavily on CMI mulching machines. In all, he owns ten CMI units: three C175 units, three 250’s, two 400’s and two C450’s. Four of the machines—two 250’s and the two 400’s—are outfitted with stump grinders, and the rest are used as mulchers.
LaRoche has been using the brand for more than two years. “CMI’s are well built machines. They are simple and rarely fail,” he noted. “They may not be the cheapest upfront, but in the long run they do a good job and justify the investment. The performance and reliability are definitely there.”
The smaller units are sometimes used for residential work, like clearing a lot for a house to be built. “The 175 or 250 can handle small jobs with ease and perform the work very quickly. This gives us an advantage in clearing smaller plots of land due to efficiency.”
The larger units are excellent for right-of-way clearing, LaRoche added. “I had a large right-of-way clearing project and Bob Stewart (Environmental Division sales rep) set up a brand new C450 for us to demo. We were surprised by the balance of the machine and its ability to climbs hills and handle adverse terrain. This was our first CMI purchase, and obviously not our last.”
It’s good for the operator, too. “The cab is roomy, and you can see out of it very well,” LaRoche said. “It’s a well-built, well-thought-out machine.”
The CMI C450 is also an extremely impressive mulcher, LaRoche said. “I was surprised by the speed, the size of the material, and the finished product. Versatility is the best way to describe the 450 as we use it to mulch brush, logs, uprooted stumps, standing trees and to fix ruts and dress up the work area upon completion.”
Previously, LaRoche used Rayco mulchers, but he tried CMI machines on the advice of other tree clearing professionals, and has quickly acquired a whole fleet of CMI machines.
“CMI’s are well built machines. They are simple and rarely fail. The performance and reliability are definitely there.” CJ LaRoche; Owner, LaRoche Tree Service Inc.
Another advantage to using CMI equipment is dealing with Columbus Equipment Company, LaRoche added. He has been happy with the customer service he’s gotten, whether it involves financing, sales or service. “There’s good communication from everyone,” he said. “If we call, someone calls us back. Everyone is very proactive.”
LaRoche has been a customer of Columbus Equipment Company since about 2012, when he purchased a U.S. Pride cone splitter at The Paul Bunyan Show. He has purchased a variety of equipment, including Komatsu excavators he uses to feed his Morbark chippers.
Recently, LaRoche became the first customer in Ohio to buy the new XT445L-5 Komatsu Forest feller buncher. “He demoed it and he liked the features, performance and financing,” Stewart said.
LaRoche attributes his company’s growth to several factors. As he has gotten more work from existing customers, he has focused on hiring good employees “from operators to managers.” Several relatives, including his father, a retired Ohio State Patrolman, work for him.
He has also diversified the business, including adding the production of landscaping mulch, to help weather any ups and down in the economy. “We work in various markets for an array of different customers, from mulch to snow plowing, tree care to tree clearing. Minimizing risk through diversification is one of our top strategic goals.”
Companies can experience quality issues when they grow quickly, but good employees, effective management and quality equipment have prevented that from happening at LaRoche Tree Service, LaRoche said. “As we’ve grown, our quality has gotten better. I don’t believe this is a common trend with companies growing at a rapid rate, so we are all very proud of this accomplishment.”
Did you know?
CJ LaRoche got interested in tree work as a teenager, but his love of motorcycles started even earlier. “I’ve ridden ATVs and motorcycles most of my life,” he said.
LaRoche entered the motorcycle road racing scene as an amateur in 2012. Since then has moved up to the professional level and has two top 10 finishes with MotoAmerica, which is considered to be the premier professional road racing organization in the western hemisphere.
With his work schedule, he doesn’t have much time for pro events, but he participated in several regional WERA races and five, four-hour team endurance races in which LaRoche’s team won all five events. In 2019, CJ had #1 finishes in 10 WERA Expert races in Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania, riding a Yamaha 600.