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The Siebenthaler Family—Cultivating Success Across Six Generations

Page 2

By Mark Martel

An early company slogan was “Let’s make Dayton the city beautiful.” It seems to have worked. Bob accepted two beautification awards at White House ceremonies in the 1960s and 1970s.

Siebenthaler landscaped high profile sites such as the NCR Country Club, careful to avoid a monoculture of identical plantings so as to minimize threats like Dutch elm disease. “You never know what will get you,” Bob says, explaining the prudence of genetic diversity. In the 1950s retail operations began, and the firm built its second garden center in 1958. Suburbia provided a changing market for Siebenthaler’s landscaping services. By the company’s centennial it had expanded in Beavercreek to 432 acres. “20 acres short of a square plot,” as Bob describes it.

As the region grew, new concerns arose for the preservation of natural areas and recreational parks. The late Marie Aull of Aullwood encouraged Bob to get involved in the county-wide MetroParks organization.

MetroParks served the whole Dayton region, and has grown to include urban parks, extensive nature reserves and former farms like Aullwood and Carriage Hill.  The Englewood and Germantown reserves alone constitute close to 20 square miles. Bob served for 21 years as one of three MetroParks commissioners, and was instrumental in the site selection of Weygerzen Gardens. He feels the Park District was very efficient. “Either decisions were unanimous or it didn’t happen.”

Bob and his wife Joan stayed interested in the business “by finding something different to do,” serving on professional boards. As he reached retirement age he stayed active by giving back to the community through the Dayton Rotary, the ISUS (Improved Solutions for Urban Systems) the Youth Board, Salvation Army Board and the Board of Shiloh Cemetery.

Bob is perhaps proudest of the firm’s 1995 contribution of Siebenthaler Fen to the Beaver Creek Wetlands, a mixed purchase and gift from the firm’s Beavercreek operation. “I made them buy it to make sure they would take care of it.” The firm funded an observation tower that overlooks Siebenthaler Fen, 130 acres where native species are rebounding.

“Who would have thought there were still beaver?” notes Bob. “It proves that man probably isn’t going to be the last critter on this earth.”

The firm remains vibrant, with $6 million in annual revenues, two garden centers, two nurseries in Beavercreek and Centerville, and some land in Moraine. The main offices in Dayton house their landscaping services. A full-time staff of 60 includes many professionals in landscape design, construction and customer service.

Bob’s children, Jeff and Laurie now manage the company as president and retail manager respectively. Grandsons Robert, and Colin are now working full-time as the family business' sixth generation.

The Siebenthaler Company played an important part in the development of the US nursery business.

Bob is optimistic about the region’s future. He was quoted in a Dayton Business Spotlight video: “There are people inventing things here in Dayton that I think will have those sorts of effects many years down the line…From the innovation standpoint I think it is almost just starting. Between Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and the University of Dayton, Research Park and other private things that are going on, I don’t see it slowing down.”

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Like a mighty oak sprung from an acorn, the Siebenthaler Company’s success depended on fertile ground, an early start and flexible growth in the face of changing surroundings.

•  Siebenthalers came along at a time of rapid population growth and urbanization, creating a fertile market.

•  The founders entered the nursery field early and established a strong position to flourish against later competitors.

•  The knowledge explosion improved agriculture, developed new varieties, established landscape architecture, and invented powered vehicles to deliver plantings across town or across the country.

•  The family reinvested its growing success in better education, more farmland and better equipment for long-term advantage.

•  As their customer base shifted, Siebenthaler branched out from marketing fruits and berries for farm and garden, to retailing decorative plantings for homeowners, to high-end architectural landscaping services for larger customers.

•  The family itself seemed suited to business; archives  donated in 1976 to Wright State University mainly detail the company’s financial, employment and operations records.

•  Unique traits kept some of each generation willing to mold their abilities to serve the group success. Ownership was periodically concentrated back to one line of descent from the founders.

•  The family actively supports and leads trade associations on local, state, and national levels

•  6 family members have been president of Ohio Nursery and Landscape Association

•  4 family members have been president of national nursery and landscaping organizations

Citizens Legion of Honor Award- Dayton Area Presidents Club 2010
Hall of Fame Award- National Landscape Association
Distinguished Contribution Award- Ohio Nursery + Landscape Association
Outstanding Citizen Board Leadership Award- Ohio Parks and Recreation Association
Finalist- Better Business Bureau National Torch Award
National Volunteer Award – Nursery Association Executives
Entrepreneur of the Year finalist – Ernst&Young
National Conservation Award- Daughters of The American Revolution

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